A new advisory group of nearly two dozen local business owners and community leaders will advise Long Beach on when and how to lift the city’s stay-at-home order and reopen the local economy following the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Tuesday.

The members were chosen by former Mayor Bob Foster, who was asked by Mayor Robert Garcia to lead the effort.

The Economic Recovery Advisory group will work with city staff in transitioning Long Beach back to more normal operations once leaders feel is it safe to lift the current health orders.

Long Beach and the state implemented health orders in mid-March requiring people to stay at home as much as possible. The orders shuttered nonessential businesses, leaving only retailers such as grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and other outlets open. The city plans to keep the orders through at least May 15.

Even when the orders are lifted, it’s unclear what rules will remain in place if COVID-19 continues to be a lingering threat.

Garcia in a statement said the city will need “innovative ideas and a smart approach to restarting the local economy.”

“We are committed to getting people back to work in the safest way possible and guided by medical science and data,” he said.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Foster said he chose local leaders that would represent a diverse group from various sectors.

“We’re going to give our honest and candid advice to the mayor,” he said.

Mayor Bob Foster served two terms as the leader of the city. Photo by Brian Addison.
Mayor Bob Foster served two terms as the leader of the city. Photo by Brian Addison.

While many local businesses are hoping to reopen soon, Foster advised caution.

“Every decision will involve the best medicine and science information that’s out there, and it will also be informed by the need to get things going again,” he said. “But we have to do it in a way that does not cause a second wave (of the virus). That would be the worst thing we can do.”

The Long Beach Health Department will ultimately make the decision to lift health orders and will work in alignment with Los Angeles County and the governor’s order, which would also have to be lifted for normal life to resume.

The Advisory Group will include the following local leaders:

  • Blair Cohn, Economic Development Commissioner and Executive Director, Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association
  • Bob Foster, former Mayor, City of Long Beach
  • Caroline Choi, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Edison International and Southern California Edison
  • Griselda Suarez, Executive Director, Arts Council for Long Beach
  • Jeremy Harris, Incoming President & CEO, Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
  • Josh La Farga, Planning Commissioner, and Director of Government Affairs, Laborers’ International Union of North American Local 1309
  • Josh Lowenthal, President, freeconferencecall.com
  • Kerstin Kansteiner, Restaurant/Small Business Owner
  • Kraig Kojian, President and CEO, Downtown Long Beach Alliance
  • Lou Anne Bynum, Interim Superintendent-President, Long Beach City College
  • Luis Navarro, Restaurant/Small Business Owner
  • Mario Molina, Doctor/Healthcare Professional
  • Randal Hernandez, Chair, Long Beach Economic Partnership
  • Ryan Choura, CEO and Founder, Choura, an Experience Company
  • Sean Rawson, Co-Founder, President of Residential Division, Waterford Property Company
  • Sharleen Higa, President, Long Beach Century Club
  • Steve Goodling, President & CEO, Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Steve Neal, Harbor Commissioner and Clergy
  • Tommy Faavae, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 11
  • Vic La Rosa, CEO, President and Co-Founder, Total Transportation Services (TTSI)

The city will also feature an online forum for businesses and residents to provide input on what sectors of the economy are most in demand, and ideas on how businesses can safely resume.