Long Beach City Council members Suzie Price (left) and Rex Richardson (right) debate inside The Grand Friday April 8, 2022. Photo by Jason Ruiz

Long Beach mayoral candidates clashed Friday morning over housing policy, how they will address the city’s homelessness issue and the future of the Queen Mary during a Friday morning debate hosted by the Long Beach Real Estate Council at The Grand in East Long Beach.

While there are six confirmed candidates for the race to replace Mayor Robert Garcia, who is running for Congress, the stage for the hour-long debate only included the presumed frontrunners, Councilmembers Suzie Price and Rex Richardson.

On the housing front, both candidates said they opposed additional rent control measures in Long Beach, but Price took exception to Richardson’s claim that they both have the same voting record on tenant-landlord issues.

Price pointed to policies she opposed in 2019 regarding tenant relocation assistance that she voted against and Richardson voted for. It required landlords in the city to pay two months’ worth of rent in relocation assistance if the tenants’ rents were raised by more than 10% in one year.

“The bottom line is I’m not in support of rent control, I haven’t been in support of rent control, and when the protesters were on my front lawn asking about canceling rent, my response was, ‘We can cancel rent as long as we can also cancel mortgage,’” Price said, to small applause from the audience.

Richardson said that affordable housing, and building more of it, would be a priority of his from his first day in office.

Richardson said he wanted to create a program that works like the city’s College Promise program that would see educational institutions in Long Beach partner with the city to create and provide affordable housing to every household with a child receiving free meal benefits at school.

“I love our Long Beach College Promise,” he said. “It talks about education, but guess what? It’s time for us to have a Long Beach housing promise.”

A $298 million housing bond measure that Richardson proposed in 2019 to address affordable housing and homeless in the city failed. It would have taxed property owners $25 per $100,000 of the assessed value of their properties.

Price was one of the five council members who voted against it, and on Friday she referred to the policy as “half-baked.”

To address growing homelessness in the city, the two offered up different approaches. Richardson said that in addition to building more housing, Long Beach’s Health Department needs more control over mental health services in the city.

Price said that the city needs to have more REACH teams, which comprise a public health nurse, a mental health clinician and two outreach workers to make contact with the unhoused and connect them to services. There are currently two REACH teams in the city, and Price said each of the nine City Council districts should have its own.

On Tuesday, Richardson authored a council request for the city to look at expanding the REACH program in the next fiscal year.

One of the city’s biggest fiscal challenges, though, is the Queen Mary and the hundreds of millions of dollars it could cost to salvage the aging tourist attraction. Richardson said he was in the “Save the Queen camp” and that the ship needs to be viewed as an asset for the city’s future economic development.

The property tax and sales tax generated through development on the land around the ship could help pay for the basic services that the city provides to residents, Richardson said.

“Where else do you see 40 acres of open space in a downtown between San Diego and San Francisco that’s ripe for development?” Richardson said. “In Long Beach.”

Price, the lone member of the council who voted against the city’s lease agreement with Urban Commons, which lost control of the ship during bankruptcy proceedings last year, said she was in the ”fiscal prudence camp” and that street repairs and public safety investments might outrank the Queen Mary on residents’ priority lists.

“I think that before we start talking about investing $250 million in an asset, we need to ask the public,” Price said.

Both candidates said they would work to speed up the process for businesses to pass city inspections and for developers to build in the city by cutting red tape. They also pledged to dedicate a position in City Hall to promoting and attracting businesses to Long Beach.

Richarson said he’d do that by creating a deputy mayor position that would focus on economic development, while Price said she’d continue her practice of having a staff member fill that role.

The mayor’s seat is among a host of city seats up for election in the June 7 primary including five City Council seats, along with citywide offices like city auditor, city attorney and city prosecutor.

Councilwoman Suzie Price announces she’s running to be mayor of Long Beach

Councilman Rex Richardson announces he will run for mayor of Long Beach

The field of candidates is set for the June 2022 primary election in Long Beach


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