Published: 15 May 2012 06:30 PM

Riverside’s seven mayoral candidates are entering the home stretch, meeting Tuesday for a final forum hosted by a downtown business group.

After the opening stump speeches they’ve been giving for at least six weeks, candidates answered questions about how they’d support the arts, balance eco-friendly goals with economic development, and retool the downtown development plan.

The election to replace five-term Mayor Ron Loveridge is June 5. The candidates are former councilman Ed Adkison, Councilman William “Rusty” Bailey, nonprofit CEO Peter Benavidez, community volunteer Aurora Chavez, Councilman Mike Gardner, Councilman Andy Melendrez and teacher Dvonne Pitruzzello.

Tuesday’s event was at the Marriott hotel and sponsored by the Riverside Downtown Partnership. It drew about 35 people.

Candidates gave the most specific answers to how the downtown plan should be tweaked. Chavez said public transportation should be improved so people can get to and from downtown. Melendrez said where the city puts a planned transit center will be important.

Bailey, Gardner and Adkison all mentioned housing, with Bailey pointing out that young people are waiting longer to marry and start families, and some are looking for amenities such as loft-style housing and an arts colony.

Gardner said the downtown plan doesn’t allow student housing, but it should. Adkison said higher-density development is a must for a successful downtown.

Benavidez and Pitruzzello criticized the introduction of parking meters a few years ago, which some people think have discouraged business.

Regarding the arts, Benavidez suggested privatizing the Fox theater.

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