WATCH: District 2 debate outlines candidates differences in policy as March election nears

Candidates for the 2nd District City Council seat laid out their positions on everything from parking to the Queen Mary Thursday night at a candidates forum co-hosted by the Downtown Long Beach Alliance and the Long Beach Post.

All seven candidates that have officially filed campaign paperwork with the City Clerk’s office filled the stage inside Elinor, a beer and wine bar on Pine Avenue, where they were asked to lay out their reasons for running for the soon-to-be-vacant seat and what specific solutions they propose to solve the Downtown district’s issues.

Candidate Jeanette Barrera, a social worker, asked voters to take a chance and break from who has been typically elected to represent the district.

“Historically we continue to vote in the same business professionals,” Barrera said. “We continue to vote in property investors, retired police, teachers, and what would it hurt to take in electing the first female mental health provider in social work to the City Council? We are in a social crisis and yet we have nobody up here, or elected, who has served the thousands of hours in your home or in your streets assisting in this crisis.”

Parking, long a bane of 2nd District residents, was a topic that drew differing views. The Broadway Corridor should be turned into a one-way street with head-in parking being added to bolster the city’s parking stock, said candidate Nigel Lifsey.

But candidate and YouTuber Ryan Lum called the corridor’s protected bike lane a wonderful and safe cycling experience. “I may be the sole supporter of the Broadway Corridor here,” he said.

Candidate Robert Fox proposed that the city dedicate funding to building parking lots, while Cindy Allen said she preferred pursuing parking solutions that could include underground robotic parking.

“At the end of the day, what I care about is making sure that this is safe for the community,” Allen said of the Broadway Corridor road diet, which recently reconfigured the design of the street. “I’m all for bikers; I want them to have bike lanes, but this idea was a terrible idea so we need to revisit that.”

While most candidates agreed that an inclusionary housing ordinance—which requires developers to meet certain affordable housing benchmarks—was something that the City Council needed to adopt, some went further than the currently proposed 10% mark of units set aside for below-market rents. Lifsey said he would want to up that to 40% in any new projects constructed in the district.

Fox said that inclusionary housing ordinances are part of the issue but that the city needs to take measures to prevent corporate interests from swallowing up “mom-and-pop” landlords and pushing them out of the rental market. Fox is a landlord who owns multiple buildings in the city as well as in Hawaii.

Now that the Los Angeles Angels are set to stay in the city of Anaheim, candidates also debated what should become of the Elephant Lot, the site that had been proposed for a stadium development during the city’s brief flirtation with the baseball club.

Some candidates deferred from taking stances until the city’s visioning plan is completed. Others, school safety officer Jesus Cisneros, proposed keeping the site a parking lot or even building daycare centers on it.

“How about a dog park?” Cisneros said. “Let’s give it back to the people.”

Candidate Eduardo Lara, a teacher, said whoever decides what goes there needs to consideration the impacts of noise, traffic and parking on the surrounding neighborhoods, but he was open to a sports franchise possibly calling the site home.

“Now, in terms of what I’m open to, affordable housing could go there,” Lara said. “What else could go there? I really like this idea of minor leagues moving there. Minor leagues, I think, create a better fit for the city of Long Beach in terms of who we are if a team is willing to move there with community benefit agreements.”

Nearly all candidates other than Cisneros—who declared “The Queen is dead”— agreed that the city should play a role in helping restore the Queen Mary.

“I 100% support keeping the Queen Mary here,” said Lum, who added that he and his wife were married on the ship. He said he’s open to exploring all options. However, some candidates were skeptical about how the money has been spent in the past to keep the ship afloat.

Allen was asked by moderators about the percentage of her campaign donations that came from outside of Long Beach and the role that outside influences should play in a city election.

Nearly 50% of her donations have come from outside the city.

She said that her family, which has roots in Kentucky and other states, could account for some of those donations but added that her broad past experiences could account for the wide swath of support that was demonstrated in the most recent campaign finance disclosures.

“I have friends all over and the benefit of having served in a lot of different ways,” Allen said. “I’m not surprised that there are donors outside the city.”

She was also asked about her ties to Mayor Robert Garcia who is a close friend of Allen’s and how she differs from him on policy.

Allen said of the Broadway Corridor: “I know he likes it and I think it was an absolutely horrible idea.”

In addition, she said, “Inclusionary housing should have been in the original Downtown plan and I disagree that it wasn’t.

The primary election is March 3.

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