The Center Theatre box office undergoing construction. Photos: Jason Ruiz

Former Mayor Beverly O’Neill’s name will grace the outside of the Center Theatre after the city council voted last night to amend its current policy of only posthumously naming public buildings and assets after people.

The unanimous vote will allow for the change to take immediately due to the fact that construction is currently ongoing at the theater. Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal said that although the tradition had been to wait until people had passed away, O’Neill’s contributions to the city validated the city’s desire to make an exception. 

“It is customary for the city to name parks and other city assets after individuals no longer with us, but the policy does allow for exceptions in cases where council deems it appropriate on the basis of a significant contribution to the nation, state or City of Long Beach,” Lowenthal said. “Former Mayor O’Neill fits into this category. For all of us that have benefited from her years of dedication to education, through Long Beach City College and Cal State Long Beach, and her leadership as mayor during some of Long Beach’s most difficult years as the city and its economy struggled with the departure of the navy and aerospace jobs.”

The honor was first proposed by the board of directors for the International City Theatre because of her numerous contributions to the city, especially in the area of nonprofits and the arts. With the vote, the changes will be incorporated to reflect the name change to the “Beverly O’Neill Theatre.”

centertheatretwocaryn desai, an artistic director at the theatre, said that it was a fitting tribute to a woman who has loved the City of Long Beach for so long. O’Neill is credited with playing an integral role in the birth and development of the theatre.

“Her appreciation and support of arts and education, her understanding of what it does for our community, our children and our future are truly noteworthy, especially as it applies to renaming the theatre,” desai said. “Theatre is art and theatre is about education. Theatre supports a more educated and more harmonious society.”

An administrative memo known as AR8-7 outlines the policies for naming city buildings and property after people, in most cases mandating that the person be deceased. A provision allowing for the council to make the exception that Lowenthal articulated was exercised to allow for O’Neill’s name to be placed on the theatre.

O’Neill served the city in many capacities during her 30 plus years of public service, acting as a faculty member, administrator and superintendent-president of Long Beach City College, as well as becoming the first person to serve three full terms as mayor of the city. The recommendation will be sent to the Housing and Neighborhoods Committee for final approval.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.