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.

When the Long Beach City Council begins conducting meetings out of the new $600 million Civic Center later this year, it could be doing so out of the Bob Foster Civic Chamber.

A proposal set to be considered at the March 12 City Council meeting is requesting the city forward a request to the Housing and Neighborhoods Committee and the Port of Long Beach—the new port headquarters will be located on the same block—to name the new chambers at the site after former Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster.

Foster was elected mayor of the city in 2006 and then re-elected in 2010 and helped shepherd the city through the financial crisis. He oversaw austerity measures that saw services cut citywide, but also helped keep the city afloat.

A letter signed by three dozen community leaders, chief executive officers, non-profit directors and union representatives called for the city to honor Foster for his work in the city, which included initiating the process to build the soon-to-be-completed civic center.

“Few Californians can match Mayor Foster’s achievements or the breath and depth of his service,” the letter said. “We think naming the new chamber the Bob Foster Civic Chamber is a fitting tribute to his lifetime of service.”

If the chambers are eventually named after him, Foster would become the second politician in Long Beach to have his name put on a building that was built through a public-private partnership.

The George Deukmejian Courthouse was constructed under a similar financial model in which private entities build the structures and the city leases them for a period before taking over full ownership.

Deukmejian served Long Beach in the state legislature before being elected governor of California. Former Mayor Beverly O’Neill was also honored in 2015 by having the Terrace Theatre named after her.

In defense of the new Long Beach Civic Center

To do that, the city had to amend its previous policy that allowed it to name buildings and public assets after people only once they had passed away. That change also opened the door for Foster’s name to be considered for the new civic center chambers.

“It’s a humbling gesture,” Foster said in an interview. “I really enjoyed my time as mayor and it’s gratifying to see Mayor Garcia and the City Council recognizing the work I did there. It’s really a nice gesture.”

The item was proposed by Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, who said that the new civic center will be a place that “encapsulates what democracy can be” and praised Foster for his work in helping bring a new civic center to downtown, the gateway to the district she represents.

“This was made possible by Mayor Foster’s Leadership, and the grand vision that Long Beach is deserving of a breathtaking and thriving downtown,” Pearce said. “The P3 [private public partnership] funding mechanism he championed allowed us to have the beautiful courthouse, our new Main Library, a Port Building alongside our city hall. For this reason, I support sending this item to Housing and Neighborhoods Committee, and the Harbor Commission for a full discussion to be brought back to council.”

If the City Council forwards the request Tuesday night, it will have to pass votes from the Housing and Neighborhood Committee— Vice Mayor Dee Andrews, the chair of that committee, co-sponsored Pearce’s request—and the Harbor Commission before returning to the City Council for final approval.

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