Mayor Garcia Says Housing Need Requires "Densifying" Downtown, Along Midtown Specific Plan Area, Parts of Central LB And NLB (Where "It's Appropriate") But Not Parts Of "Suburban Communities" (He Doesn't Define) Hours Before Politically-Potent Neighborhood Push-Back At Planning Comm'n; A Day Later, He Moves To Temporarily Delay Council Action On Land Use Maps That Would Advance What He Said He Supports
|(Aug. 19, 2017, 11:35 a.m.) -- Mayor Robert Garcia told an August 17 public meeting that the need for additional housing requires what he called "densifying" downtown LB, along the Midtown Specific Plan area [along LB Blvd.] near transit and in portions of North Long Beach where there's appropriate space. Mayor Garcia said most of Long Beach is suburban and "we're not going to be putting a lot of housing in suburban neighborhoods" but he didn't say what neighborhoods those are.
LB city staff has recommended re-writomg LB's Land Use Element proposes to enable and invite increased density with higher building heights and "mixed use" developments (with residences above businesses) in taller buildings in various parts of the city.
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Mayor Garcia made his statements (with members of his Mayoral office staff present) at a midmorning meeting of LB's Parks and Recreation Commission at ELB's El Dorado West Community Center. Commission members allowed the Mayor to interrupt their proceedings to deliver what turned into roughly fifteen minutes of remarks delivered without notes) by the Mayor, most of which weren't about parks or recreation matters but enumerated reasons why he feels the city is [in his words] "doing great."
In a portion of his remarks dealing with housing, Mayor Garcia said it was a statewide issue facing multiple cities and stated:
Mayor Garcia: Long Beach is a community that is built out. Most of Long Beach is suburban and so we're not going to be putting a lot of housing in suburban communities. We're just not going to do it. We can't and we shouldn't do it.
A few hours after Mayor Garcia made this statement, LB's Planning Commission received firm (near unanimous) push-back from representatives of neighborhood groups and individuals opposed to increased density and building height increases. [LBREPORT.com coverage here.]
The day after the meeting (Aug. 18), Garcia released a statement indicating he's asked staff not to bring its increased density/building height maps to the Council until staff seeks additional community input [sought in testimony by a number of neighborhood groups and recommended by the Planning Commission's voted action,
The Mayor' Aug. 18 action effectively creates a new timeline on the hot button issue, delaying City Council consideration and voted actions on city staff's proposed density increase/height increase maps for months, possibly beyond the filing period for candidates and perhaps even beyond April 2018 elections.
Campaign committee and "officeholder" reports for Mayor Garcia and several of the five Council incumbents seeking re-election show contributions from a number of commercial real estate and development interests. (See LBREPORT.com's "Follow the Money" coverage with access to this data at this link.)
In 2012, then-Councilman Garcia voted for the "Downtown land use Plan" that pleased developers but has now drawn complaints from nearby neighborhood ewaiswnra because it allows increased density with less parking than the City previously required. The Council voted to accompany its Downtown Plan with a "program EIR," a special type of EIR that stymies neighborhood challenges to individual proposed developments as they occur, by reciting that the Council already considered such impacts within the plan area and deemed them acceptable.
City staff proposes to use this type of "program EIR" to address future impacts of increased density/building heights citywide under its now proposed Land Use Element revision.
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