Council Approves Boeing Realty's Douglas Park Project; Kell Dissents On Inclusion Of Housing
(December 15, 2004, updated from earlier posts) -- In a marathon six hour hearing -- during which Boeing Realty announced it would provide an additional $1 million in infrastructure funds to be used at the City Council's discretion, and Boeing and City Hall announced an agreement to create a local Jobs Initiative on infrastructure and residential construction -- the LB City Council voted (motion by Councilman Frank Colonna) to approve Boeing Realty's Douglas Park development.
The Council action, which came shortly before 11:30 p.m. overruled an appeal by Candace Robinson (owner of the LB Flying Club) and involved a series of votes, most of which carried 9-0. Fifth district Councilwoman Jackie Kell, in whose district the project is located, said she supported job-creation aspects of the project but opposed inclusion of housing, which produced some 8-1 votes.
In making the motion to move forward with the project, 3d district Councilman Frank Colonna said:
I really feel that Boeing stood up to what this Council put in terms of pressure to get this project done and done in the right fashion. They reduced the housing from when they first came into this...well over 50%. There's going to be a significant amount of open space added to this...Instead of just having this concentrated effort downtown, I think that we will see a renaissance of significant activity in the northern part of our city...And as far as the issue of housing, of the need for housing, it's an absolute necessity. I can't tell you how many times I've had people call my office and say that they can't find the type of housing that they'd like to have here...and they move on to Irvine or south Orange County...
Councilwoman Kell said she liked the business, commercial and jobs aspects of the project "but the housing at the airport is problematic." She added:
In the 1980s we had six crashes at the Long Beach Airport. In the 1990s, we had four crashes at the Long Beach Airport. So we'll see what the future brings...You cannot sign away negligence [to avoid negligence lawsuits]...I do think we'll have a HUSH3. You're going have five Council districts now -- you're going to have the 8th, the 4th, we have the 7th, we have the Councilmember in the 9th who doesn't like the noise at the airport either -- and now in the future you're going to have somebody who sits in the 5th district who's going to be putting up with complaints about the airport, a HUSH3, and pretty soon you're going to have five Council people voting against anything at the airport and that's going to happen in the future and that's why I'm not supportive...I myself don't like the housing so that's the part I can't support...
Declaring that "houses and airplanes don't mix," Phyllis Ortman, president of the Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association testified against inclusion of housing at Douglas Park:
98% of our neighborhood is against the residential component...We are having a hard time understandiung why anybody would want to put houses that close to the airport. We don't get it...
...We ask that you not let the spin on facts and attack on motives divert you from the fundamental fact that is proposing to put houses next to and directly under the flight path of the fifth busiest general aviation airport in the country. That doesn't make sense, regardless of whether it complies
with minimum regulations,...it flies in the face of logic...
Brian Hack [sp?], Lakewood Village resident said:If the aviation community is telling us we have got to maintain a buffer around the airport for the safety of our community...then I think that that ought to be considered. These are the experts and we ought to consider that as important for the safety of our entire community.
Some private pilots cited safety considerations. 20-year licensed pilot Elliot Fried, a professor emeritus at CSULB and former member/chair of City Hall-appointed "Airport Advisory Commission" said:
...Because take off and landings are the high risk elements of flight, most crashes occur within or close to the airport environment...It is clearly not safe to place residential housing in an airport environment, especially one that has thousands of operations involving low-time pilots on training flights. An 18 year-old student pilot in a thirty year old Cessna 150 on short final for 16-L in low instrument conditions will be skimming over the rooftops of this development with absolutely no margin for error. AOPA [Airline Owners and Pilots Assn]...is strongly opposed to this project. The city's own Airport Advisory Commission...voted against the project because of the residential component. How can City Council ignore the collective wisdom of all these people? Sure there are other ways of providing revenue that do not involve a catastrophe.
...The residential component of Douglas Park is nothing less than a blueprint for disaster. With the large number of operations we have at Long Beach Airport, the law of averages dictates that sooner or later, a plane will slam into these houses and apartments. Destruction from the impact will be massive...What I'm telling you in no uncertain terms is that if you vote in favor of this project, knowing what you know, you will be responsible for the inevitable aftermath.
Noting that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a December 13, 2004 letter (separately reported by LBReport.com) that the Douglas Park proposal technically meets FAA rules and despite caveats the agency does not consider it incompatible with LB airport operations, Boeing Realty said Douglas Park also meets regulations set by other applicable airport-related government agencies.
Boeing also said roughly eight in ten responses to its postcards and emailed questionnaires showed community support for Douglas Park.
Some LB residents -- including LB realtor and LBHUSH2 supporter Joe Sopo -- supported the project. Mr. Sopo, who served on a citizens task force that met with Boeing representatives for roughly two years, told the Council:
[At] one of the...initial meetings two years ago, Boeing people took us to the construction site and asked each one of us, "Do you think the jet noise is too loud for housing? Would you live here?" And we stood there, and I could not believe how quiet it was where they're constructing homes. I watched commercial planes land and takeoff and I could barely hear their plane noise. It's not like the airplane noise in the 4th and 8th districts...
John Royce, a member of the Cal Hts. Neighborhood Association and a member of the western neighborhood task force, also testified in support of the project:
There's no doubt in my mind that a 100% commercial build out will have much more impact on the local community, negative impact from traffic and noise...I certainly don't want to live across the street from 200 acres of warehouse units and parking lots...Residents in a mixed-use neighborhood...will have a vested interest in the community that's being created here versus people that will be visiting as workers or shoppers alone. Run of the mill business parks are a dime a dozen in southern California.
Charles Hokanson, an attorney representing Ms. Robinson and the Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association, challenged the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR). "There are facts that should have been in the EIR that weren't there," he said. Referring to a power point presentation by CSULB Economics Professor Joseph Maggadino backing the project's housing component and asserting its ability to bring jobs, Mr. Hokanson asked, "Where's the data? Where's the statistics? How do you reach these numbers?" He said a SCAG report showed there is no additional need for housing...and added "unsubstantiated conclusions are simply unsubstantiated conclusions."
Councilwoman Kell and LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill credited Lakewood Village area residents with producing positive changes as the project went through various incarnations (including "PacifiCenter"). At one point, the company proposed up to 3,800 housing units with only two acres of park land.
As approved, Douglas Park will include 11 acres of park land amid mixed uses combining light industrial, commercial, retail and 1,400 housing units (most for sale, not rental) on the northern half of the former Douglas aircraft plant site west of Lakewood Blvd. between Conant St. and Carson St.
City staff supported the project and indicated it that without a residential component, the project would likely not be economically feasible. Boeing Realty also indicated that it would be willing to allocate a portion of the housing component to senior housing, reducing the number of apartments from 400 to 250 to produce approximately 120 age-restricted (at least one person 55+) units.
Boeing's announcement that it was putting $1 million in infrastructure funds on the table drew audible gasps from the audience. During Council discussion, 2d district Councilman Dan Baker said the sum shouldn't be a surprise. "That was asked for by the City Council. I specifically, in our last [public Council] study session [on the Douglas Park project] asked Boeing to come up with that money to help us with more infrastructure needs...That was part of the negotiation process...I think that's a good thing..."
The $1 million sum is in addition to $7 million in traffic improvements, roughly $40 million in other citywide items plus neighborhood road funds under a Development Agreement negotiated between Boeing and City Hall. Boeing Realty will also give the LB Unified School District roughly $8 million to construct a new school to serve Douglas Park residents, planned for a site on Redondo Ave. at Hill St.
City Hall project manager Amy Bodek said the $800,000 Jobs Initiative announced at the hearing (half the sum from Boeing, half from City Hall) would create a "first source" hiring program for contractor job openings on infrastructure and residential construction on the Douglas Park project.
One speaker, LB resident Dave Dennavan (knowledgeable in LB park issues) raised a subject that, to our knowledge, has been reported only by LBReport.com: the name "Douglas Park" already refers to a City of LB park -- unmarked by any signs but officially maintained -- at the southwest corner of Clark Ave. at Conant St.
"It's not right for Boeing to be allowed to take the park's identifying name, putting two Douglas Parks on the city maps," Mr. Dennavan said. He added, "While we may have to change the name of the public park on Clark Ave., I want a commitment that a park identification sign will be placed in the public park as a condition of approval for the Boeing development."
The Council listened but took no action in response to Mr. Dennavan's testimony.
Earlier this year, LB's Director of the Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Marine, Phil Hester, said the 3.24 acre greenspace at the southwest corner of Clark Ave. and Conant St. is referred to as "Douglas Park" in the city's Open Space Element and is among the areas dedicated by as park land. However, to date, no record has surfaced showing it went through LB's official park-naming process as "Douglas Park." Mr. Hester said the open space area appears on some maps as early as 1958 but not specifically as "Douglas Park." That name apparently came about at some subsequent time -- exactly when or under what circumstances is presently unclear.
At the time, Douglas Park development manager DeDe Soto told us in an emailed statement:
"We were aware of the park’s existence prior to choosing the name Douglas Park. But, we believe the name Douglas Park can represent a broader area and commemorate its rich aviation history and feels more connected to Long Beach. In fact, Douglas Park was a name we heard through various input."
There is no visible monument or marker at Parks & Rec's "Douglas Park, which fronts the west side of Clark Ave. from Conant St. south to Fire Station 19.
The small park is well kept, with manicured green grass and several Jacarandas and other trees.
A web page on LB's Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Marine web site refers to it as "Douglas Park."
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