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(Dec. 16, 2017, 6:23 p.m.) -- On Dec. 13, 5th district Council incumbent Stacy Mungo (facing two challengers in April 2018 elections) sent a hyperventilating mass emailing to her constituents and thereafter went to NextDoor trying to portray the Planning Commission's Dec. 11 LUE recommendations as a "huge victory" for which she claimed part of the credit.
What actually happened isn't something about which any Council incumbent should boast. Despite overwhelming public testimony urging the Council to "receive and file" the LUE, the Mayor-picked Planning Commission recommended saying "yes" to LUE maps that propose to increase density in every Council district with some Planning Commission tweaks/reductions to some staff sought density increases in some parts of four of nine Council districts.
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To portray what took place as a "huge victory" is silly, akin to claiming a touchdown by moving the goal post to the 30 yard line after fumbling the football. The non-binding recommendations of a half dozen Mayor-picked appointees matter less than the recommendations of large numbers of LB residents who urged receive and file. They took the time and effort to come downtown -- in the middle of the holiday season -- with many more watching what transpired online and on TV, many with orange lawn signs in their yards declaring "Say NO to the LUE." Their recommendations are what should matter.
In our view, the City Council has multiple good reasons on the merits to receive and file the LUE. They include the following:
(1) The LUE's underlying numerical assumptions haven't received serious scrutiny. This basic threshold examination hasn't seriously taken place. This is irresponsible on its face. In addition, some residents have cited detailed grounds (beyond the scope of this editorial) for questioning the LUE's numbers. We're agnostic at this point, but we've seen correspondence alleging some LUE figures are inconsistent, inaccurate or implausible. At minimum, the Council should know if LUE's housing figures are the absolute minimum LB must do to satisfy Sacramento dictates and what the city's options are for doing it. Long Beach has especially good reasons for minimizing any additional density after it allowed crackerbox apartment density in the 1980s that damaged neighborhoods and brought persisting negative impacts. Long Beach needn't and shouldn't invite any density beyond what it absolutely must legally allow. Is the lengthy LUE time period to 2040 legally required? Sacramento's agency overseeing city planning documents statewide indicates on its website that there's no statutory prescribed time period and some cities have adopted planning documents covering only five years. What's the rush to invite developer-desired to 2040?
(2) The public and the Council deserve an agendized airing of why the City didn't oppose Sacramento legislation (including SB 35) that affects local land use decision making and is clearly relevant to the LUE. The City's action wasn't an oversight; it was deliberate. It's not credible to believe that City Manager Pat West or Government Affairs Director Diana Tang lost their brains and decided to usurp Council policy setting authority. We suspect it's more likely that some LB elected(s) quietly let it be known that they didn't want the City to oppose the package of housing bills that Sac'to Dem leadership supported. Whatever happened, the net result is that in a number of now statutory circumstances, the public lost CEQA rights to be heard on major impacts; city staff and the Council lost certain land use decision making authority; and the City lost the force of some of its laws, in some cases losing the ability to require developers to provide LB desired parking. The public -- and Council members themselves -- deserve to know exactly how this happened without any opposition from the City of Long Beach. In this, the public and the Council deserve the full truth and the Council needs to go where the facts lead regardless of toes on which it may step.
(3) The public and the Council deserve a detailed discussion of exactly how multiple Sacramento laws enacted in 2017 (including bills beyond SB 35 reported by LBREPORT.com here) will impact neighborhoods if the Council enacts the LUE as currently proposed. On November 27, the City Attorney's office issued a three page memo summarizing SB 35 (published by LBREPORT.com here.) In Dec. 11 Planning Commission colloquy, City Attorney Mike Mais summarized the summary memo and City Advance Planning Officer Chris Koontz offered his non-lawyer opinion on one aspect of SB 35. That's clearly insufficient given the consequences of the multiple new and complex Sacramento housing laws (whose enactment the City didn't oppose.) That public and Council discussion needs to happen on matters including allowable or required density, parking requirements, public input, developer demands for project approval and what remains of city staff and Council decisionmaking authority...and it needs to happen BEFORE the Council votes on the LUE.
(4) The City hasn't conducted meaningful public outreach matching the magnitude of the LUE. City staff hasn't even provided a notice in city utility bills telling the public what's taking place and why it matters. At the Planning Commission meeting, multiple speakers testified that they learned about the LUE through lawn signs, fliers and online social networks...and several said their neighbors remain in the dark. The Council should explicitly direct city management to send notices to residents via their utility bills explaining what the LUE proposes in their areas and citywide...and the notice's content should be approved by voted Council action before it's sent out (to avoid any euphemisms or spin.)
Long Beach is currently in the midst of the largest citywide uprising against a City Hall proposed action in the past 25 years. Under the circumstances, it would behoove LB Councilmembers (and staff) to grasp that it would be smart to receive and file the LUE until the public is satisfied that the City has seriously addressed serious outstanding issues, not simply belittled them.
The Planning Commission testimony showed that the public has long memories about the City allowing 1980's "crackerbox" density. At that time, residents of one Council district threw out an incumbent backed by LB's establishment. This time, the increased density affects all of Long Beach. We believe the public will long remember which Councilmembers voted to approve the LUE without minimizing density as much as possible and protecting the City and its neighborhoods to the maximum extent possible.
Of course, LB electeds can ignore all of this and rely on City Hall machinery that many LB residents distrust on the LUE and other issues...and they can assume that the iceberg ahead is nothing to worry about.
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An early morning arithmetic error resulted in our typing ninety, not eighty speakers.