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What Were They Thinking At 2nd/PCH?

(Dec. 20, 2011) -- Some years ago, Jay Leno asked Hugh Grant -- whose then-girlfriend was Elizabeth Hurley -- why he had cruised Sunset Blvd. to rent a companion. Mr. Leno began by asking, "What the hell were you thinking?"

In our opinion, the City Council should pose some similarly blunt questions in a different context tonight to the owners of the 2nd/PCH parcel. (A familymember representing the corporate entity testified at the Planning Commission hearing that's the subject of tonight's Council appeal.)

When you bought the [Marina Pacifica hotel] property at 2nd/PCH, did you know it isn't zoned to allow what you're proposing to build? What were you thinking? That the City of Long Beach would change its zoning laws to suit you? Did anyone inside City Hall lead you to believe the City of Long Beach would do that and if so who are they?

George Orwell once said (in another context) that sometimes things reach a level where one's first duty is to restate the obvious. As we see it, reduced to its essentials tonight's Council item involves a private entity asking the City's elected representatives to change the public's zoning protections to suit the private entity's business interests. It speaks volumes to us that some have portrayed this as a matter of being competitive with other cities. To us, it is nothing of the kind and is a race to the bottom.

In our opinion, a city willing to erase laws that protect the public to appease private interests isn't on the road to prosperity; it's inviting inevitable decay and decline. It's alarming to us that a slim majority of Long Beach's non-elected Mayor-chosen, Council-approved Planning Commission acquiesced in such appeasement publicly last month. The question tonight is whether a majority of LB's City Council will do likewise.

Of course there are proper ways to change how land in our city can and can't be used. That process is now taking place regarding downtown area land uses (scheduled for a Council vote on Jan. 10, 2012). A few years ago, a similar process proposed making changes in SEADIP zoned areas that include the 2nd/PCH property...and much of the public opposed the kinds of development intensities being sought ad hoc now.

Land use policy doesn't just affect one property owner. It affects property owners and taxpayers citywide. Some of the same types of arguments we hear now (including the mindless "we have to do something") were invoked to approve the "Pike" development. All of Long Beach can see what that produced.

There's no assurance of which we're aware that the proposed 2nd/PCH development will include all of the trendy-sounding businesses now being mentioned as prospective tenants. The current property owner may or may not even own the property at some future time if/when a development is built. However, the land use entitlements and development intensities being requested -- with EIR indicated impacts requiring a "statement of overriding considerations" -- will persist for residents, including what we believe will be de facto precedents inviting increased intensities on nearby properties.

We simply don't support letting another developer's "vision" decide what Long Beach should become. On tonight's votes, Long Beach will see which incumbent Councilmembers do.

[Editor's notes: For a viewpoint supporting the 2nd/PCH project, we invite readers to view the development's website at

Disclosure: The Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust, which is an appellant in tonight's Council proceeding, has an advocacy ad on's front page. Its website can be viewed at]

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