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|(December 21, 2011, updated from front page reports) -- Following a more than five hour agenda item (carried LIVE on LBReport.com), the City Council rejected 3-5 (Yes: Garcia, DeLong, Gabelich; No: Lowenthal, O'Donnell, Schipske, Andrews, Neal; Johnson absent) a motion by Councilman Gary DeLong that sought to approve a 2nd/PCH (Seaport Marina Hotel site) owner/developer-sought zoning change and development entitlements for a mixed use proposed development. The Council also voted 4-4 (motion failed), declining to certify an Environmental Impact Report on the proposed development.
The Council voted 8-0 (motion by Councilwoman Schipske) to ask city staff to return within 60 days with way to begin a process of revising SEADIP (southeast area zoning).
Barely two hours before the start of the Council meeting, LBReport.com learned of a Dec. 19 letter from the CA Coastal Commission's Long Beach office to City Mgr. West which disclosed that "[i]n discussions with city staff over the past year, Commission staff has "consistently stated concerns relative to the proposed project at 2nd and PCH." The letter stated in pertinent part:
[Coastal Commission] staff has recommended that any significant changes to the use and development standards for this parcel should be considered only as a component of a comprehensive review and LCP [Local Coastal Plan] update of the existing SEADIP [overall zoning plan for the nearby SE LB areas]...
The fact that the Coastal Commission had raised those issues with city staff wasn't disclosed by city management during the EIR comment period, or Planning Commission proceedings (in October and November) which produced a sharply-split vote and began appeals...which city management scheduled to be heard on Dec. 20 (just days before Christmas).
The letter concluded: "We are hopeful the City Council will consider our comments [items cited in letter text linked below] and delay action on the proposed project in order to allow City and Commission staff to continue discussions on developing a comprehensive LCP [Local Coastal Plan] amendment for SEADIP."
LBReport.com obtained the letter and immediately published it on our front page. To view letter text, click here
No mention was made of the existence of the Coastal Commission staff's letter until members of the public began speaking. Some speakers referred to the letter...but city staff continued to remain mum about it until roughly four hours into the hearing, after public comment had ended, when Councilman Patrick O'Donnell asked about the letter
Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal then pursued the point, asking Development Services Director Amy Bodek directly what issues Coastal Commission staff had raised with city staff, and Ms. Bodek summarized the points listed in the Coastal Commission staff's letter.
That bombshell was eclipsed by another. During public testimony, Lyon Communities (which roughly six months ago purchased the "Pumpkin Patch" property on PCH) testified against Council approval of the project and urged a comprehensive zoning plan for the area. Represented by government affairs advocate Mike Murchison, Lyon representatives offered to advance the costs of a SEADIP zoning revision for the "four-corners" PCH/2nd area.
Supporters of the proposed 2nd/PCH development bristled, calling Lyon a late-comer to the proceedings while the 2nd/PCH property owner had invested millions of dollars to pursue his project over a period spanning four years in its most recent iteration on top of four years previously under another developer.
Asked by Mayor Foster for its position on the Lyon Communities offer, the 2nd/PCH developer indicated it was willing to pay a share of the SEADIP revision costs but wasn't willing to have its project covered by that SEADIP revision.
The Lyon Communities position was detailed in December 16 letter from Lyon Communties Chair/CEO Frank Suryan, Jr., who wrote in pertinent part:
As you know, Lyon Communities and the City of Long Beach have a strong and successful history of working together to bring thoughtfully planned development to the City. Lyon is committed to continuing that collaboration and has recently acquired interests in several properties in the immediate vicinity of the proposed 2" d PCH project (the "Project").
Councilman Robert Garcia was first to speak in Council discussion. He asked that the developer consider including a theater (for live performances) that the developer initially proposed but removed when the Planning Commission downsized the project. Garcia also asked about LEED [environmental] certification for the project.
Councilman Gary DeLong said that he wanted to have an up or down vote on something, said his decision was based on what he believes the public wanted at the location regardless of what he prefers. Councilwoman Gabelich then spoke in support of the project.
When the vote was called on rezoning the parcel and approving the development's entitlements, they were the only Councilmembers in support.
In October, a sharply split Planning Commission narrowly supported the proposed 2nd/PCH development, including a 12 story (150 ft.) building in an area now zoned for 35 feet. Project opponents, including the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust, called the proposed development "spot zoning" and (through two attorneys) said the zoning changes first required changing the underlying SEADIP zoning with Coastal Comm'n approval. Among those testifying in opposition were appellants LCWLT Trust Exec. Dir. Elizabeth Lambe; EgretsNotRegrets.com publisher Heather Altman; and Mary Parsell (El Dorado Audubon); Jeff Miller; Melinda Cotton; and Kerrie Aley. Also in opposition: Gary Shelton Ann Denison, Gordana Kajer and Joe Geever.
Testimony supporting the development came from former Mayor Beverly O'Neill (statement read into the record) and retired City Mgr. Jim Hankla (PressTelegram letter cited by project supporter/former Harbor Commissioner John Hancock; area investor Steve Conley; Belmont Shore businessman Bill Lorbeer; CPA/former LB Chamber Bd. Chair Blake Christian. Further to follow.
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