Four candidates, including one incumbent, are running for two open seats on the Tustin City Council during the Nov. 8 election. Incumbent Mayor Austin Lumbard and Rebecca “Beckie” Gomez are both running for mayor, while Ray Schnell and Frank Gomez are running for the District Three City Council seat.
Common themes throughout all four candidate’s goals included ensuring that Tustin stays safe and prosperous. Frank Gomez and Rebecca “Beckie” Gomez also discussed pushing for more affordable housing in Tustin.
There are no propositions on the ballot for this election for Tustin specifically. All propositions on the Tustin ballot are statewide.
Editors’ Note: This dispatch is part of the Voice of OC Collegiate News Service, working with student journalists to cover public policy issues across Orange County. If you would like to submit your own student media project related to Orange County civics or if you have any response to this work, contact Collegiate News Service Editor Vik Jolly at email@example.com.
In a Voice of OC survey sent out to all Tustin candidates, here is what they had to say on some of the issues in the city:
Question: What are your top three priorities?
Ray Schnell: Keeping Tustin safe, affordable, and prosperous.
Frank Gomez: My top three priorities are community safety, prosperity for all and designing a vision for the future.
Rebecca “Beckie” Gomez: Homelessness and housing, public safety and economic viability and stability
Austin Lumbard: Public safety, balanced budget and improved quality of life.
Question: What do you think is the biggest issue in your city?
Schnell: Ensuring we have a plan to preserve Tustin’s amazing quality of life, even as communities around us grapple with increasing crime, homelessness and cost of living.
Frank Gomez: I believe the biggest issue in the city is affordable housing. It is important to find ways to offer incentives for the development of housing types by thinking about the housing type(s) these incentives will be designed to encourage.
Rebecca “Beckie” Gomez: Housing: Tustin has designated 20-25% affordable units for new projects, but we need to develop more reasonable housing options. More workforce housing will allow our middle-income earners to live and work in our community. To have a viable community, we must assist unhoused people by investing in safe, temporary housing and resources.
Lumbard: As your current Mayor, I have supported completing the development of the MCAS Tustin base (“Tustin Legacy”) faster and using proceeds from those land sales to improve our city services throughout the entire community. We were able to hire more police officers last year because of that. We must continue on that path.
Question: What changes would you like to make in order to support small local businesses post COVID-19?
Schnell: We should do everything in our power to unburden small businesses, cut onerous red tape and encourage entrepreneurs and job creators, instead of getting in their way.
Frank Gomez: Some strategies to support local small businesses might include: 1. Getting zoning right. 2. Setting aside space for local businesses in new development. 3. Facilitating adaptive reuse of vacant buildings. 4. Giving preference to local businesses in purchasing. 5. Reorienting economic development incentives. 6. Expanding access to capital.
Rebecca “Beckie” Gomez: Each type of business has its unique challenges. For example, restaurants might need the ability to expand outdoor dining, and other businesses might need signage for pick-up spaces or additional parking due to expanded outdoor dining. Evaluating existing ordinances or creating temporary uses would help respond to the needs of the companies.
Lumbard: During my tenure, we have administered nearly $4 million in grant funding to our local businesses and non-profit organizations. As Mayor, I will continue supporting programs that provide resources to our residents and businesses and exploring creative policies like the permanent outdoor dining program Tustin approved in Sept. 2022.
Question: What plans do you have for including/incentivizing more affordable housing being built in Tustin?
Schnell: We must keep the cost of doing business in Tustin as low as possible. It is also imperative that we have a careful and deliberative planning process to ensure any new development fits with Tustin’s unique character.
Frank Gomez: Opportunities for more affordable housing include developing more multifamily housing, single-room occupancy units and/or accessory dwelling units as well as examining our development approvals process and environmental review process, rethinking our development fees and/or examining our tax abatements or exemptions for a specified time.
Rebecca “Beckie” Gomez: I would like to see more public-private partnerships to achieve more housing options throughout the city. Additionally, I would like to pursue grants to help develop various types of housing to meet the needs of our residents.
Lumbard: Tustin is a model for diverse housing options. That is part of why we were just recognized by Fortune Magazine as the ‘Best Place to Live for Families’ in the state of California. We will continue to provide diverse housing options and to support sustainable development projects only where appropriate in town.
Question: How do you plan to improve roads and public transportation?
Schnell: By ensuring Tustin’s finances are run properly, so that we can adequately fund basic city services for infrastructure, law enforcement, transportation and more.
Frank Gomez: Recommendations include designing for pedestrian safety by splitting long blocks and improving sidewalks with trees and lighting, identifying streets by extending existing bike lanes, providing bike racks at park entrances and in town in major thoroughfares and integrating bus services and shuttle facilities near train stations.
Rebecca “Beckie” Gomez: We should continue to use matching funds to improve roads and transportation throughout the city and pursue regional solutions. I would advocate for a city shuttle between city landmarks, such as the library, city hall, Old Town, The Marketplace, The District and the train station, to minimize routine trips and reduce traffic.
Lumbard: Tustin has a rotating repaving program that keeps our roads in very good shape, especially when compared to some nearby cities. Smart budgeting and proactive planning make this possible. We must continue to maintain that program and to support other transportation/mobility options (rideshare, train, etc.) as we move into the future.