Councilwoman Mary Zendejas represents Long Beach’s First District, which is an area that extends — under recently redrawn district boundaries — south to the Waterfront and includes portions of the Port of Long Beach, as well as the Queen Mary across Queensway Bay; west along the Los Angeles River; north as far as Pacific Coast Highway; and east along Alamitos Avenue up to the Latin American Museum of Art and Craftsman Village neighborhood.
With Downtown Long Beach at the core of the First District, it is a business-heavy, densely populated area of the city that presents unique opportunities and challenges. Ms. Zendejas, one of the city’s nine elected council representatives, has kindly responded to some recent questions from DLBA about her time in office regarding redrawn district lines and critical issues facing the First District.
Note: This article was developed several weeks ago as an update on city redistricting. As you may know, a local primary election is scheduled on June 7 representing the City’s first since it implemented redrawn boundaries. As has been standard practice, DLBA does not endorse candidates.
Can you please explain how the First District has changed under the new redistricting lines?
Redistricting has brought together 52,781 residents to one diverse district and has united the Downtown area under one district boundary. On top of having some amazing neighborhood associations with some of the most engaged community leaders, the First District now includes the lovely Ocean Boulevard residents and the vivid shoreline Rainbow Harbor, including the Shoreline Marina Boaters who form part of our new residents to the First District family.
What is your vision for the First District and specifically for the Downtown?
I envision a First District that is thriving to residents and businesses alike. For the Downtown area, I want to focus on revitalizing empty storefronts and bringing strong local small businesses. I strive to ensure that resources and developments reflect our community goals. Our residents deserve access to first-class amenities and international programming to highlight the diversity of our beautiful city.
What do you see as the biggest strength of Downtown Long Beach?
Our residents, without a doubt, are the biggest strength of the Downtown area. I am so proud to see their resilience persevere through community power during these past difficult times. They have advocated and organized and today they form not only a strength but are the true heart of Downtown Long Beach.
What is the biggest issue facing Downtown Long Beach?
One of the biggest and most critical issues that our Downtown is facing is public safety. Therefore, it has been important for me to work with the different stakeholders to bring more community policing and other resources to continuously address this issue and bring impactful solutions. Downtown Long Beach is also facing a homeless crisis, and while this is throughout the City of Long Beach and the state, our area is severely impacted because of the geographic nature. We need to make sure we provide compassionate short-term solutions to house individuals and get them the help they need, with a pathway to permanent housing. We need to provide long-term solutions to prevent homelessness. Downtown Long Beach deserves to be safe and clean for residents and visitors alike.
What have been your legislative priorities during this, your first term in office?
My first term in office was impacted by the pandemic, so my focus these past two years was to pass legislation that helped constituents survive the crisis. I led efforts to secure hero pay for grocery workers who are essential to our community. I am now focusing on business recovery, attracting more small businesses to the Downtown area to surpass pre-pandemic numbers. Housing, homelessness, and public safety will continue to be a priority.
What news can you share about any current or upcoming city efforts to improve the Downtown area?
There are multiple development projects currently in place for the Downtown area. These are both housing and business developments to continue to build on the greatness of DTLB. Housing developments include affordable housing for residents with ample parking. We want to continue to improve our area by focusing on neighborhood clean-ups and target illegal dumping in alleyways to ensure our community continues to improve for years to come.
Where do you see opportunities for DLBA and the Council Office to partner and tackle issues facing Downtown?
The DLBA is a huge asset to our council office! We love the DLBA and together we will be able to ensure Downtown is taken care of. Our office can partner to do community events together, help fill up storefronts through grants and collaboration, and ensure that our residents are taken care of with cleaning efforts.
What value do Business Improvement Districts bring to the community?
The DLBA brings tremendous value to the community as do other business improvement districts. PBIDs are tools to help both commercial and residential property owners fund services. The DLBA provides our residents and business owners with a safe and clean downtown area.
Do you see areas where DLBA and City leadership can work more closely together?
Yes, David Bright is our Council Office Business Liaison, and he was hired to work with businesses in the Downtown area. I’ve specifically told him to work on policy and legislation between the DLBA and the city. In addition, we can work together on critical issues like homelessness, safety in the community, and keeping our downtown clean.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I am honored to represent the First District and such a diverse range of residents and businesses and have them all be part of this wonderful community. Thank you for allowing me to be your representative. My team and I will continue to work hard every day to ensure we make the Downtown Long Beach you want and deserve.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
As a Polio survivor and a first-generation college graduate, I owe my life to this country. Therefore, I have dedicated myself to serving my community for the past 30 years. When I was elected in 2019, I made history by becoming the first Latina wheelchair user elected to office in the nation.
Please tell us a little bit about your staffers and the work you do in the First District?
Our staff is a wonderful asset to the First District. The team is led by our Chief of Staff Eboney Pearson. She is a longtime resident of the First District and adds tremendous value to our office. Eboney has been essential in creating new events for the community, bringing back our community check-ins and running our team on the day-to-day office activities.
Working directly with the community is Janine Solano, born and raised in Long Beach. She is the Community Affairs and Field Deputy for our office. Her primary goal is to do outreach in the community and connect residents to resources as well as helping residents resolve issues.
David Bright was also born and raised in Long Beach and is working directly with businesses as our Business Liaison. His goal is to help revitalize the business community throughout the district following the pandemic.
Celeste Sanchez is our Legislative Assistant and lifetime resident of the Washington Neighborhood. Being born and raised in Long Beach’s First District, she is very aware of the issues and impacts of our community. Her primary goal is to ensure our legislation reflects the needs of the community.
Together our office is listening to our residents and advocating on their behalf. Our team is prepared and ready to make a positive impact in our district.