Stephanie Gonzalez, the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) Placemaking Manager, is continuously focused on improving Downtown public space and public assets. Over the past year, she has been working diligently to help Downtown businesses adapt to Health Orders imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the restrictions begin to ease, Gonzalez is ready to continue many pre-pandemic projects that were designed to make Downtown Long Beach more inviting and easier to navigate.
“People are eager to get out in Downtown and interact with each other,” said Gonzalez. “We’ll have lots of opportunities to play off that in the next few months and push for activation of public spaces in ways that may have taken more convincing prior to COVID. Now, the decision-makers are more open to establishing a pop-up park, outdoor dining, or street closure for events. It is definitely an interesting and exciting time for opportunities in Downtown.”
Gonzalez is currently working on adding signage to Pine Avenue and the Promenade that will encourage people to continue wearing their masks and maintain social distancing. She has also been working on the final stages of the Pedestrian Wayfinding Signage project, which will bring contemporary-looking, informative signs to a dozen various locations in Downtown. “While this project has been in progress for quite a while, I’m happy to be able to bring that home, Gonzalez said. The final stages of fabrication and installation will be happening in mid-April.”
Gonzalez began cultivating her interest in Placemaking while growing up in Arroyo Grande, near San Luis Obispo; Her parents, owners of construction businesses, took several weeks off each year to travel with the family. “This is something that instilled in me a love of cities,” she said. “I always thought I wanted to be an architect. I took architecture prep courses at Arroyo Grande High School, but as I got into it, I found that it was a little more strict and rigid than I liked. I discovered that I wanted to work more with people, so I ended up studying Communication because I knew that was something I’d always use.”
After graduating high school in 2008, Gonzalez studied for a year at University of California, Santa Cruz, then returned to the central coast to earn her Associate of Arts degree from Cuesta Community College. After spending some time working in the Bay Area, she moved to Long Beach to study at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies in 2012.
After CSULB, Gonzalez worked at jobs in print and social media for a few years, then returned to school in 2018, earning another Bachelor’s Degree — this one in Urban Planning — from Arizona State University Online, while continuing to work full-time.
In January of 2020, Gonzalez worked as the Placemaking internship at DLBA. “This internship contained all the elements of urban planning I was interested in, and pulled in creative aspects as well,” she said. “I was able to apply my imagination. It felt like a breath of fresh air.”
When the Placemaking Manager position opened last year, Gonzalez was asked to apply, landed the job and started working full-time. “My top priority has been the implementation of the Open Streets Initiative, assisting businesses with outdoor dining and parklets, helping with permitting, and looking for ways to improve Downtown public space in general during the pandemic,” said Gonzalez.
“Getting to know my colleagues has required some additional effort to fully understand what everyone else is doing so we can work as a team,” she continued. “It has been a really great experience so far. I value all the work that DLBA does.”
When she’s not working, Gonzalez enjoys being “out and about.” She loves traveling and seeing new places (she mentioned Melbourne, Australia as a go-to for Placemaking inspiration), but also spends time exploring local places with her husband, Adam Gonzalez,, friends, and family. “We have picnics at local parks,
playing tennis and random sports we’re not necessarily good at, but it’s a chance to be together.”