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Editorial / With Audio

Selective City Hall Secrecy on Proposed 2nd+PCH Development

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July 11, 8:10 p.m. UPDATE: Councilman Gary DeLong saw our editorial (text below, published at the start of the July 11 business day) and asked city staff to provide us with whatever information they can provide, including caveats, cautions, possible flexibility needed and the like. At about 5:40 p.m., LBReport.com received the following emailed statement from Jacqueline Medina from Long Beach Development Services Communications Division:

"It is premature to state that there will be a hearing on the 2nd + PCH project on August 18. Staff is currently reviewing all the comments received (over 100 received) to the Recirculated Draft EIR to be incorporated into a Final EIR.

"In addition, staff is reviewing requests to amend the zoning (SEADIP) and Local Coast Program on this project site that requires information from the EIR. August 18 would be the earliest possible date, but no date has been set at this time.

The final EIR must be made available at least 10 days in advance of any public hearing and any action on amendments to the zoning regulations and Local Coastal Program require a minimum public notice of 14 days.

"The actual hearing date will be contingent upon completion of the Final EIR document and the noticing and circulation periods required to place the item on the Planning Commission agenda."

(July 11, 2011) -- On July 7, LB's Planning Commission shrugged when two taxpayers indicated that City Hall appears to have shared information with the 2nd+PCH developer that's being kept secret from the public.

On July 12, at least one City Council member needs to insist on openess and fairness and ask city management publicly to confirm or deny whether city staff plans to bring the 2nd+PCH project -- including City Hall's final EIR responses and developer-sought zoning changes and variances -- to the Planning Commission for voted approval on August 18.

This has become an issue because the developer's machinery told project supporters roughly a week ago by email and via their website and Facebook (not exactly a secret) -- while City Hall has told the public nothing -- about an August 18 hearing date.

Either the developer received access to inside City Hall information that the public didn't get (the date hasn't been officially confirmed or denied) or the developer is hallucinating or trying to manipulate a hearing date.

Giving the developer notice of the hearing date this far in advance enables it to activate its base while leaving the impacted public in the dark with the possibility of receiving as little as ten days notice of the EIR hearing. In our opinion, this indicates a City Hall thumb on the scale in favor of the developer.

When taxpayers Kerrie Aley and Melinda Cotton put this issue on the record on July 7, city staffer Derek Burnham could have, and in our opinion should have, simply confirmed or denied the August 18 hearing date. Unfortunately, he didn't...and instead offered a non-responsive response.

Likewise unfortunately, not one Planning Commissioner stood up for the public's right to know by asking the obvious question: "So...is staff planning to bring this item to the Planning Commission on August 18, yes or no?"

Instead, the Planning Commission's chair pretended he couldn't do anything when all he had to do was just get a straight answer on a scheduling matter.

Mesdames Aley and Cotton received similar circumlocution when they asked that the public be given at least thirty days to review city staff's responses to public comments on the final EIR. They also requested that the hearing on certifying the EIR -- which involves evaluating multiple impacts and proposed mitigation -- be held separately from the developer's requested land use variances/changes. Ms. Aley said (correctly) that too often, EIR hearings on complex long term impacts get short shrift when they're combined with the question of whether to support the project or not (these are factually related but legally separate issues).

To hear the exchange, click here.

We hope that at least one Councilmember will stand up for the public's right to know by asking the City Manager publicly during New Business at the July 12 Council meeting if city staff will be bringing the 2nd+PCH project to the Planning Commission on August 18...and insisting on a responsive response (like "yes" or "no").

We think it also makes sense to give the public more than the minimum ten days to review City Hall's final Environmental Impact responses on a development that will bring impacts for decades to come.

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