New City Council chambers to be named after former Mayor Bob Foster

When the new Long Beach City Hall opens this Summer, its council chambers will don a name from the city’s political past: former Mayor Bob Foster.

The new home of City Council meetings will be called the Bob Foster Civic Chamber thanks to the council’s unanimous vote approving the decision Tuesday.

The item was initially proposed earlier this year by Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce and was referred to the city’s Housing and Neighborhoods Committee for consideration in March. Before last night’s vote, Councilman Dee Andrews, chair of the committee, read a prepared statement praising Foster for his work.

New civic center council chambers could be named after former Mayor Bob Foster

“Bob is the reason why we’re having our civic center being constructed next door,” Andrews said. “He led the city of Long Beach through the darkest days of the great recession. He’s been a friend of mine, a mentor, and my mayor. In short, Bob holds a space in my heart and in my esteem.”

Putting Foster’s name on the new council chambers couldn’t have happened without another Downtown property being named after his predecessor, Beverly O’Neill.

The City Council voted in 2015 to exercise a seldom-used provision in city policy regarding naming buildings after living people to put O’Neill’s name on the Center Theatre. That vote paved the way for Foster’s name to be placed at the soon-to-be-completed civic center, something Foster has been heralded for helping initiate before leaving office in 2014.

While the vote to approve the public-private-partnership deal to construct the new civic center wasn’t taken until December 2015, the process was well underway while Foster was in office.

Foster was not present for Tuesday’s vote but said in March that the idea of having his name on a portion of the new civic center was a “humbling gesture”.

He’ll become the third Long Beach politician to have a downtown building named after him or her, joining O’Neill and former Governor George Deukmejian, whom the Downtown courthouse was named after. Mayor Robert Garcia recommended late last year that former Mayor Ernie Kell have his name affixed to a portion of the Long Beach Convention Center, but the item has yet to be voted on.

Garcia was also absent for the vote Tuesday, but in a social media post Garcia said the honor was well deserved after everything Foster had done for the city.

“He was tough, fair, and led with integrity,” Garcia wrote. “He guided the city out of financial turmoil and created a pathway to the fiscal stability we enjoy today. He made our city more efficient, demanded excellence, and created the model for the public/private partnership we are using to build the new civic center. He was a great mayor and I’m proud of the city for honoring him in this way.”

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.