Mayor launches series of forums to hear concerns from business owners across city • Long Beach Business Journal


On Wednesday morning, dozens of Bixby Knolls business owners gathered inside Lola’s Mexican Cuisine for a Q&A with Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson about the state of business in the city.

The event is the first of seven or eight similar meetings the mayor has planned over the next few months as part of “100 Businesses on a 100 Day Tour.” Future events will include businesses from other parts of the city as an opportunity for owners to share their concerns directly with Richardson.

“Having an engaging mayor’s office ensures a flow of communication between citizens, the community, …[the city council]and city administrators,” Richardson told Business Journal. event.

A major focus across business owners has been safety, including pedestrian safety on the streets and business safety from intrusions.

Dutch brewhouse owner Jason Van Fleet noted that cars frequently slowed down Atlantic Avenue, causing many serious accidents.

“During the pandemic, it became even more of a speedway,” Van Fleet told the mayor. Said it was helpful.

In response, Richardson detailed his years-long efforts as District 9 Councilor to approve and fund a major overhaul of Artesia Boulevard. He said the entire Bixby Knowles must unite and be on the same page and work with the city’s public works department, especially Director Eric Lopez.

Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson (right) walks Atlantic Avenue in Bixby Knolls with 5th District Councilman Megan Kerr and Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association Executive Director Blair Cohn on Wednesday, February 15, 2023 . Pictured is Brandon Richardson.

Van Fleet said he favors a permanent return to the road diet, including the introduction of bike lanes. However, Van Fleet said some residents and business owners have complained about reduced parking during the road diet.

“Parking is fine. It should be life-saving,” he said. “And we’re getting people walking again to support restaurants and stores. If we have more walking business, we can have more retail outlets here.”

Laserfish employee Wiley Strout said random and violent behavior by people with mental health and addiction issues has raised safety concerns in the area.

Richardson noted his administration’s dedication to putting the homeless at the forefront of its agenda, but also said the city is almost entirely at the mercy of the county when it comes to mental health services. rice field.

“We have to work through the provider that the County of Los Angeles chooses to operate in our city, and there are not many requirements for them to coordinate directly with our city,” Richardson said. , added that city staff are actively engaging with county and state officials for better solutions.

The difficulty of working with different city departments was another common concern when it came to attracting new business anywhere in the city. Mike Gillespie, owner of Van Fleet and The Merchant, said it took years to open operations in Long Beach due to various delays in development services, health and fire departments.

“People are talking to each other,” said Kelly Bray, an independent contractor for the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, on the forum. “I know people who have told friends they want to start a business here, but it’s not easy.

Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson introduces himself to Bixby Knolls business owners at the forum on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. Brandon Richardson’s photo.

Richardson says working in the private sector has taught him the value of “easiness, speed and predictability” when a company enters a new market. His office is dedicated to improving the city’s processes in various sectors to attract more businesses from other cities, he said.

After the event, Cohn said it was important for business owners to feel that someone in city hall was listening to them. That’s why he asked Bixby Knolls to host the kick-off of the ‘100 Business Tour’. But according to Cohn, just answering a few questions isn’t enough.

“We will stay on top of it,” Cohn said after the event. “Holding[staff]accountable is part of[the business improvement district’s]responsibility.”

Van Fleet said he was grateful for the meeting with the mayor, but agreed with Cohn that words without action mean nothing.

“The city is known for ‘listening to us’ and then forgetting all about it,” he told Business Journal after the event. “But I’m very excited to work with new people who may have fresh ideas.”

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