LB Area Chamber Backs Housing @ Boeing PacfiCenter (SW corner Lakewood @ Carson) While Some Airport Business Leaders & Lakewood Homeowners Want Housing Out
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(March 27, 2004) -- In dueling March 26 press events, the LB Area Chamber of Commerce backed the inclusion of up to 2,500 housing units at Boeing Realty's proposed PacifiCenter mixed-use development at Lakewood Blvd./Carson St. while leaders of an airport area business group and some Lakewood residents called for no housing in the project.
The LB Area Chamber's Board of Directors voted to back the alternative designated as preferred by Boeing in a now-circulating draft Environmental Impact Report...although the Chamber also indicated it would support the less dense alternative of up to 1,400 housing units also being evaluated in the draft EIR.
The LB Chamber cited economic benefits, job creation and new housing opportunities in favoring up to 2,500 housing units with 3.3 million square feet of office, commercial and retail space in the proposed community on the 260 acre site west of Lakewood Blvd.
"Long Beach needs high-quality, high paying jobs, which PacifiCenter would deliver while revitalizing a community asset that is currently contributing very little to the community," said Chamber President and CEO Randy Gordon in a written release. "We were also impressed by Boeing’s eagerness to find solutions that contribute to the community, as they have done with schools and traffic," he added.
Meanwhile across town, leaders of the LB Airport Association (president Candace Robinson of the LB Flying Club & Flight Academy and secretary Kevin McAchren) and a representative of concerned Lakewood area homeowners, Gene Lassers, urged removal of housing from the proposed project.
In a statement distributed to area media by members of a Lakewood County Club area citizens task force, Mr. Lassers said the group did not consider it appropriate to put apartments and homes next to the airport. The statement also expressed concern that the project as proposed might impose costs for additional city services on LB's already strained budget.
"5,000 additional vehicles at the corner of Lakewood & Carson...cannot be mitigated without impact, or the pollution they will cause," the statement said, adding that "density and the heights of the apartment buildings have long been a flashpoint with our group. The word apartment is not even in our vocabulary."
Also attending was Phyllis Ortman, president of the Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association, who told LBReport.com via telephone after the event that she supports the Task Force statement although her organization has not date taken a position opposed to all residential units but does oppose the density now proposed. She indicated it's unclear if her group will address the issue further at its upcoming meeting on March 29.
Boeing's mixed-use preferred project (3.3 million sq. feet of commercial uses, office R & D and development, a hotel and up to 2,500 homes (single family units, townhomes, condos and apartments) and roughly 10.5 acres of park land is a substantial reduction from earlier plans for up to 3,800 homes and 7.3 million square feet of commercial use. It also roughly quintuples the amount of park land originally proposed.
As legally required, the draft EIR also evaluates other alternatives which include less dense housing of up to 1,400 residential units with 11 acres of park land. The Chamber indicates that while not its first choice, it would support this alternative as well.
Another alternative, neither company nor Chamber preferred, notes the project's location near the Port and freeways and evaluates the property's use for 4 million sq. ft. of warehouse distribution [our translation: a container yard] plus 1 million sq. ft. for big box retail.
Chamber officials directly discussed the housing issue at their March 27 press event:
Mr. Neary: Housing is important...People talk about housing in all aspects. Affordable housing gets a lot of press. What doesn't seem to get a lot of press is also quality housing...In order to get businesses to relocate here, they're looking for housing for their entire workforce...And frankly, we're not trying to attract to low paying jobs, we're trying to attract high paying jobs...And we frankly don't have a whole lot of inventory in that regard, we certainly need that.
Mr. Gordon: We have a desperate need for quality home inventory. The inventory is [currently] far too low. The other day, the Mayor made a comment at the Chamber about she was talking to a group of realtors, and there was one particular day in the last month, I don't remember what day, he said there were 14 homes for sale in the city of Long Beach...The inventory is critically low. This is the place that this mixed use will give us what we desperately need in residential and high end apartments.
And the apartments that we're talking about, they're high end apartments. It's not like we may think of apartments...These are apartments with appliances, upgrades...These are [like units rented by] executives, young couples [in the downtown Camden development]...That's the type of apartments that we certainly envision would built here is the quality apartments that the executive that's in-between homes but is not quite ready to buy, and that's what we need on the eastside. We don't have that kind of housing available on the eastside.
Mr. Neary:...The issue why don't people want housing? And obviously [to them] it's the proximity to the airport. But if you take the time to truly investigate the mitigation that's being done, and the types of construction, the proximity of the housing compared to the runway and the noise, with the noise contour, it's less affected than a lot of other areas within the city...
[Regarding schools for the new residents]...[Boeing] is putting in 150% of their required school fees in order to build another school in the areas that are really more impacted in the downtown area. That's a big plus for the rest of the city, and if you don't build housing, you're not going to get that...
...We really just think that Boeing's done a great job of taking a look at the concerns of the community and have addressed them...
Mr. Gordon:...[T]he demand [for housing] is so strong, and the inventory is so small, that's what's continuing to keep home prices up there and I think with that will be the demand for a thousand apartments; the plan that we endorse has a maximum of a thousand apartments.
And let me make this point again. I think people, when they think of apartments, the mind thinks of the apartments that we all used to live in when we grew up, when we were single. But that's completely different [in what's proposed]. These are more like model type condos, I mean, if you walk into [Camden downtown development] you don't think of it as an apartment. You think of it as a really nice place to rent...
Mr. Neary: ...We have something to replace the [former Boeing enclave] that has suffered with...another magnet for our community, and that's an opportunity that our Chamber wants to...help support, to make happen, to make that dream a reality here.
...We think housing is a key component and if it's done right, and this is a quality product, then you make it the highest and best use of what you can provide there...The community's needs currently are for quality housing.
Members of the Lakewood Country Club area citizens task force are urging Boeing not to include housing and to pursue a commercial project similar to developments next to Van Nuys Airport, in the City of Carson and the former North American plant site in Downey. The LB site "could be a wonderful location for a port trade free zone or some other imaginative approach for commercial use, if serious attention was given to this matter," their statement says, adding:
The reasons are obvious why residential apartments and homes are not appropriate at PacifiCenter as proposed...Speaking as a member of the Lakewood Country Club Task Force I do not want to be redundant by talking about building next to the 32nd busiest airport in the country, or building on remediated toxic ground, or the additional cost of providing services to PacifiCenter which if not covered by the General Fund of the City will impact the cities
So much has been said about the intrusiveness of the jet airplanes and the oblique way it is measured that it is senseless to bring that up here...
...Is it fair to the buyers and renters of the units to force them to sign an "acknowledgement covenant" releasing their rights to sue the City...for the right to live there? Is it fair to the citizens of Long Beach if the covenant does not hold up in court?...
The decisions that are made about PacifiCenter will design the quality of life and its safety for the next 100 years or more...I will leave you with this thought, a quote from the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook which states: "The cost of eliminating incompatible uses (of land) is usually much greater than the cost of avoiding it in the first place."
Asked by LBReport.com if the Airport Area Business Council (AABC, a Chamber subcommittee) had taken a position on the project, Mr. Neary indicated the AABC is in general still taking a look at the project and "there's a lot of support there [but] they have not come out specifically [with a position] independently of the Chamber as of yet, and I don't know if they'll do that or not. As far as any other [Airport] group, we're not affiliated with them and it would be appropriate to comment."
On the issue of putting more housing near an airport:
Mr. Neary: Personally, I grew up around airports. My Dad worked for the airlines and we were always in the flight path. I think that, yes, there are people that absolutely don't want to live anywhere near an airport. There's other people, they don't mind it...
It seems to me that part of the issue is, people were either unaware or misinformed when they bought some of the houses that they live in now that an airport might exist. It's extremely clear in what Boeing has presented to us that people will be made well aware of the fact that an airport's there, it will be operating at capacity at the time that they walk through the process...[Buyers] will be signing off on abrogation easements that say yes, they realize we're next to an airport, it's going to be noisy, and we relinquish any right to sue the city from this point on.
So there are certain people that aren't bothered by that, and they're going to be the people that buy these homes and they're going to be well informed.
...The contour of the noise as it occurs is for the most part on the ends of the runway, and this project is off to the side of the runway. It's outside of the noise contour, and if you were to compare it to what the FAA suggests, they're outside of all their suggested radiuses from a noise standpoint to build homes...
Mr. Gordon: If the people that are going to buy that homes near the airport, it is obvious those homes are near the airport...And these are the kinds of folks that are going to most likely work at Boeing and they're going to work in this new environment...And Dave's exactly right, there are some people that are not bothered by the fact that they live near an airport. They will be able to walk to work, get to work in two minutes, a whole different group of people.
LBReport.com also asked the Chamber if LB City Hall had dug a deep hole by not having enough police to handle current population before increasing density further:
LBReport.com: If you invite 2,500 housing units, maybe 4 or 5 thousand people, that's another 10 cops or so they'd have to add just to keep the ratio of police to population where it is.
Mr. Neary: That's one reason why we support the higher, denser use, because eventually the city will benefit from the tax revenue that will allow them to hire some more people to do that. We have other issues that we certainly hope that City Hall is able to take a look at through their budgetary process to really...be effective overall in operating and being able to reduce the General Fund [expenditures] in other areas that allow us to provide more fire and police.
Ms. Soto: And that's all studied, addressed in the EIR.
LBReport.com: ...Does it mention the property tax increase that's expected form this when it's built out?
Ms. Soto: That would be in the physical analysis which is not attached to the EIR at this point in time but it will be when the final EIR is circulated...
Mr. Gordon: [following intervening colloquy] Keep in mind, the impact of high quality jobs. This whole thing's about jobs and the high quality jobs. It's hard to measure the impact of high quality jobs of people living and working and the retail sales effect as that comes back to the economy...
Prior to the Chamber's Board vote, Chamber President/CEO Randy Gordon, Chamber Board chair Dave Neary and PacifiCenter development managers Jim Schulte and DeDe Soto made a presentation to the Chamber Board, following-up on a 10-member Chamber task force, established in 2003 and chaired by Mr. Neary, that reviewed and evaluated the mixed use project.
"Because the [mixed use] project provides a unique combination of major economic benefits and was driven by a philosophy of leveraging mitigation expenses to benefit surrounding neighborhoods, we felt PacifiCenter exemplifies innovative and sensitive development," said Mr. Neary. "Boeing’s community task forces, presentations to various community and business organizations, and other outreach efforts have contributed to a plan that is balanced and reflective of the area’s diverse needs," he added.
The Chamber added that Boeing Realty's funding contribution would hasten installation of an Adaptive Traffic Control System to reduce congestion on arterial routes to area freeways...and the firm will also pay 53% more than state-required school fees to help fund a new school in the greater downtown area, freeing up capacity in schools near PacifiCenter.
"Because the project provides a unique combination of major economic benefits and was driven by a philosophy of leveraging mitigation expenses to benefit surrounding neighborhoods, we felt PacifiCenter exemplifies innovative and sensitive development," said Mr. Neary in the Chamber's release. "Boeing's community task forces, presentations to various community and business organizations, and other outreach efforts have contributed to a plan that is balanced and reflective of the area’s diverse needs," he added.
Boeing Realty has provided information about the project on a specially dedicated web site: www.pacificenter.com.
The LB Area Chamber of Commerce is L.A. County's largest membership Chamber and has posted its advocacy materials regarding PacifiCenter at www.longbeachadvocacy.biz/pacificenter.htm.
Those opposing housing in the project have established a web presence at www.dangerouspath.com.
As reported in January 2004 by LBReport.com, Belmont shore resident Gary Biggerstaff has launched a web site to press his campaign to invite the NFL to bring a football team to Long Beach at a stadium he'd like to see built on the PacifiCenter site. To view our coverage, click here
LB City Hall says written comments on the DEIR must be received by April 12, 2004. LB's Planning Commission will then hold several workshops discussing aspects of the project, which will also be open to the public.
Procedurally, two items will come before the non-elected, Council approved Planning Commission: certification (approval of) the DEIR and zoning changes needed to facilitate the project.
Planning Commissioners will hold a formal public hearing(s) on both, make changes as they see fit and vote on both. The Planning Commission's certification of the DEIR can be appealed to the elected City Council...and the zoning changes will go to the elected City Council under any circumstances. Then the elected City Council will receive further public input before taking a publicly recorded Council votes on the project.
LB City Hall has posted the DEIR online.
Caveat: You'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader version 6.0 to view the DEIR and older versions may not be able to properly read and display these documents. Fortunately, Acrobat Reader 6.0 is available free and City Hall provides a link on City Hall's DEIR online link above.
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