Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia talks homelessness, housing, short-term rentals

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A few weeks ahead of his inauguration, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia stopped by the ABC7 studio to talk about how he plans to visit every district in his city to get input from residents.

Tell us about your plan - you will visit all nine districts. Who will you be visiting specifically?

So we're going to spend one week in every district. It's called the Go Long Beach Tour. I'm going out of City Hall, so it won't be at City Hall at all. We will be knocking on doors at every neighborhood just talking to families and neighbors about what they want to see in their city and what we can do to make Long Beach better.

How did you decide where to go and what is your goal?

It is important for us as this next term starts to get back to basics with the community. There is no better way of finding out what's going on in the community than knocking on people's doors, talking on their porch, meeting them in coffee shops. I'm not just bringing myself, but also the managers, the chief of police, the public works director. We're going to go around and talk to folks in senior homes, apartments, their homes and really talk about the future of the city. It is our best way to reconnect.

What about the issues that are facing Long Beach? What do you think are the biggest challenges?

The biggest issues facing not just Long Beach, but I think any city in California, is really around housing and homelessness. It has reached crisis levels across the state of California. That's a big issue. Housing - making sure there's housing affordability. But at the end of the day, people care about the bread-and-butter issues, which are: is my street safe? Is my street clean? Are my schools in good shape? Those are the issues we expect to talk about.

Do you have any plans to tackle homelessness?

Absolutely. So we're fortunate in Long Beach that we've got a really great system around homelessness. We've built thousands of units for homeless veterans, for example, in the last few years. We continue to build more housing for homeless so I think we have a very good system. But the challenges are still there for every city so I think we'll continue to work on those and other big issues.

We hear you are having a meeting tonight on short-term rentals, such as AirBnB. You see the policy changing. How does that work?

We do. Short-term rentals aren't really well-regulated across the state of California, as well as in the county, so we are trying to come up with a policy that is reasonable. We understand that short-term rentals oftentimes take a lot of units off the market, but it's also a source of income for a lot of families. So we want to strike the right balance and so we want the community to come out and tell us what their viewpoints are.

You immigrated here as a child. Now you are a mayor for a major California city. What do you think about the immigration debate?

I always say I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 5 years old. I'm mayor of my hometown now, and I just want every kid in America to have the same shot that I did. I went to school. My parents worked hard. I got a good education. I just hope one day we can reform immigration and create a path to citizenship for all the kids who are here like me.

If you want to learn more about what is going on in Long Beach, you may visit the city website at longbeach.gov.
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