Survey: Long Beach wants outdoor recreation, but large gatherings can wait

A majority of Long Beach residents who responded to a city-run survey believe that some spaces can be safely reopened, but what those spaces are largely depended on who you asked.

Over 50% of all groups surveyed believed that beaches, parks and other outdoor recreation could be re-opened safely with some guidelines in place.

However, a divide exists between business owners and those who identified as workers or unemployed residents with about 60% of business owner respondents supporting reopening things like car dealerships, small retail, personal grooming and office spaces, while under half of workers and residents supported opening them.

The results were made public this week after the city received more than 15,000 responses to a survey it circulated to residents and business owners last week to gauge the public sentiment on reopening closed sectors of the economy.

Here’s a look at who filled out the survey and what they felt would be safe to reopen when the city begins to take strides in that direction.

Who responded?

The number one respondent by ethnicity were white residents of the city, who accounted for over half of all respondents at 7,768 submissions. The next-closest ethnicities were Hispanic/Latino (21.8%), Asian (6.7%) and African American (4.9%). Ethnically anonymous submissions accounted for 10% of responses.

According to data from the Census Bureau, Long Beach is about 28% white, 42.5% Hispanic/Latino and about 13% of both African American and Asian/Pacific Islander.

Women accounted for nearly 64% of all responses. The remaining block was made up of males (32.7%) or those that responded as non-binary, other or chose not to disclose their gender.

Over 64% of respondents were under the age of 50 and nearly two-thirds were either workers or residents who are not employed. Just 14% of respondents were business owners.

While being disproportionately represented in survey responses people of color in the city have been some of the hardest hit by COVID-19. African Americans have accounted for nearly 29% of all COVID-19 deaths reported in the city and Pacific Islanders, who make up just 1% of the city’s population have accounted for 4% of the city’s hospitalizations.

What do Long Beach residents feel comfortable opening?

As the city begins to re-open sectors of the economy that have been forced closed by COVID-19, it has enlisted the help of advisory committees, followed the guidance of city and regional health officials and now has reached out to residents to see where trust lies with the public.

Beaches (59.2%), outdoor recreation (61.3%) and parks (65.9%) had large support across all three groups surveyed, however, those were the only three categories to have over 50% positive ratings from the workers and resident groups.

Business owners supported opening up office spaces (59.3%), personal grooming (58.6%), car dealerships (56.6%) and small retail (61.3%). Workers and unemployed residents supported opening those areas at a rate of less than 50%.

The areas of the city that all groups felt least comfortable reopening were those that could draw large concentrations of people like public gatherings (12%), public events like concerts (11.6%), movie theaters (18%), large gyms (19%) and senior centers (11.2%).

Less than one third of residents and workers thought that dine-in restaurants could be safely reopened while 43.5% of business owners supported reopening them.

In the memo published by the city along with the survey results, Long Beach Economic Economic Development Director John Keisler wrote that input from the public was extremely valuable but that decisions to reopen would be in alignment with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home order.

What’s opening and when?

The city could be days away from bringing some of those stores and activities back online. The county announced Wednesday afternoon that florists, hiking trails, golf courses and retail stores that sell clothing, sporting goods, music and toys could reopen with safety precautions in place.

A few hours later Mayor Robert Garcia said that small retailers and car dealership showrooms, golf courses and trails could start to reopen Friday but would push off the reopening of the beach bike and pedestrian path, tennis centers as well as parking lots adjacent to parks until Monday.

“Our beach, gathering at the beach, swimming at the beach will not be allowed,” Garcia said. “But you will be able to cycle or walk along the beach path in the city.”

Retailers would have to provide curbside service to patrons as in-store shopping would still not be allowed under the amended rules that will go into place Friday Garcia said during his Wednesday press conference.

“Even if Long Beach wanted to open that it’s not allowed in the statewide order,” Garcia said.

While park parking lots will be reopened Monday, gathering in parks will still be forbidden. Garcia said that the city was not at a place yet where its health officers thought it was appropriate or safe for parks, playgrounds and team sports where balls are touched by multiple people during the activity to restart likely because of the ability for the virus to infect multiple people if one of them were infected to begin with.

All of the activities being approved by the city for reopening have been approved by the state for resumption. Garcia said that further guidance on what business operators would have to comply with in order to open would be issued Friday.

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