' Council Votes To Advance Density Increase Maps BUT Further Pares Down Density Increases Sought By Staff, Adds Periodic Reviews On Equity/Affordable Housing Plus Five Year Update


Council Votes To Advance Density Increase Maps BUT Further Pares Down Density Increases Sought By Staff, Adds Periodic Reviews On Equity/Affordable Housing Plus Five Year Update

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(March 7, 2018, 9:30 p.m.) -- As carried LIVE on LBREPORT.com, the Long Beach City Council voted 8-1 (Supernaw dissenting) to advance Land Use Element density increase maps to future public comment, hearings and a final Council vote in about a year that would finalize a Land Use Element (LUE) inviting increased density and growth in a number of Long Beach areas but at less intense levels and with less-high building heights than city staff had previously sought. [Asked by LBREPORT.com for the reasons for his voted dissent, Councilman Supernaw's office said he plans to comment in his Friday weekly newsletter.]

The Council motion also specified a five-year time period for a City Council review of the LUE and possible update [but not a formal five year planning period] with reports during the intervening years to the Planning Commission and City Council on matters including affordable housing plus an "equity" analysis.

[Scroll down for further.]

The vote came at 12:10 a.m. Wednesday morning (March 7), capping a more than seven hour March 6 hearing. The net effect effectively invites increased density in a number of areas across the city but reduces density increases on maps recommended by the Planning Commission in December 2017 which rolled back some density increases on maps proposed by city staff in November 2017 following October 2017 "Town Hall" meetings that drew some of the largest LB crowds (mainly opposed to increased density) in the city's past 25 years.


Public testimony (over three hours, even when shortened to two minutes and later ninety seconds) came from residents in multiple Council districts (not ELB alone) and was overwhelmingly opposed to increased density citing traffic, parking, inadequate infrastructure and unrealistic transit expectations. Many speakers cited damages done when City Hall enabled developer-propelled "crackerbox" apartment density in the 1980's that destablized single family neighborhoods.

Following public speakers (initially three minutes per speaker, then reduced to two minutes, then ninety seconds without Council objections), Mayor Robert Garcia invited Councilmembers, district by district. Each Councilmember offered amendments to Land Use Element maps for his/her Council district. Nearly all of the Councilmembers' amendments reduced staff's proposed density increases and building heights increases. [The public was unable to speak to the Councilmembers' amendments, prompting an objection by 5th district Council candidate Rich Dines during his testimony.]

In the closely-watched 5th Council district (a hotbed of anti-LUE density activity where Councilwoman Stacy Mungo faces three ballot opponents in April), Mungo amended her district's maps to replace all remaining areas where staff proposed "mixed uses" with commercial uses, lowered a number of commercial building heights, changed Towne Center from five story mixed uses to two story commercial and retained commercial uses at Parkview Village/Lakewood Village area.]

No Councilmemebrs objected to the amendments sought by his/her Council colleagues. LBREPORT.com is working to transcribe details of all nine sets of the Councilmembers' map amendments, which we'll add here, and city staff has indicated it will do so and provide revised maps shortly.


The Council motion also directed staff to provide periodic reports (annually or in some cases in two years) on affordable housing, an "equity analysis," coming state law changes, the City's future "community outreach process and community involvement in the planning process" [Councilwoman Pearce and some density proponents said renters weren't sufficiently represented], traffic studies and information, plus information on parking, historic districts and future development and the feasibility of adding an "education" element to the General Plan (proposed by Vice Mayor Richardson.)

The City Council also directed the preparation of an annual report to the Planning Commission and City Council on the status of the General Plan implementation, a review of the General Plan with the City Council every two years, and the opportunity for a major revisit of the General Plan after five years.

City staff will now revise and recirculate a Program EIR accompanying the revised maps which will go to the City Council for final adoption [where impacts can be The next steps for the General Plan update include revising and recirculating the Program EIR. The LUE, UDE and Program EIR will then go before the City Council for final adoption in spring 2019. Additional opportunities for public input will be provided throughout each of these steps. Following its adoption, City staff will begin the process of updating the Zoning Code to implement the updated LUE.

Speakers in opposition to increased density included Robert Fox (Exec. Dir of LB's grassroots Council of Neighborhood Organizations [position paper reported here], 5th dist. Council candidates Corliss Lee and Rich Dines (Mr. Dines raised procedural issue, above); Bruce DeMille, President of LB's Lakewood Village Neighborhood Association (displayed bag of ballots opposing mixed use density), retired LB Councilwoman Rae Gabelich, Citizens About Responsible Planning (CARP) and Neighborhoods First leaders Joe and Linda Sopo.

A smaller number of speakers testified in support of increased density. They included the Downtown LB Alliance (via Board member Michelle Molina [separately a Mayoral appointee to City's Economic Development Comm'n], Michael Clemson [Mayoral appointee, LB Transit Board]; LB School Board member Meghan Kerr; former Mayoral office staffer (under Garcia) Daniel Brezenoff; and representatives of LB's Commercial Real Estate Council and "Building Healthy Communities Long Beach."



No Councilmember(s) sought delay based on impacts of 2017 state laws. Several Councilmembers (first explicitly by Price) sought initial five year period for LUE; Pearce and Richardson also sought reports/review at shorter one or two year periods to include what they called equity issues. Motion as restated by Ass't City Mgr. Modica prior to Council vote sets major Council check-in at five years but not formal five-year planning horizon (which Mr. Modica said would require restarting lengthy process of full LUE revisions.); instead would provide annual reports to Planning Commission and Council, every two years a larger look and within five years revisit LUE issues. Council also directs staff to prepare Program EIR [one public speaker objected, urged Master EIR instead.]



Although City Hall began efforts many years ago to update its Land Use Element (last updated in 1989), the LUE update process escalated with the election of Mayor Garcia and a new City Council majority in 2014. In May 2015, city staff released an entirely new "PlaceType" version of a proposed LUE with accompanying maps designed to allow ncreased density and invite commercial property turnover to encourage "economic development" (a shift in the 1989 LUE's frequent focus on preserving neighborhood quality of life after City Hall's 1980's crackervix density" debacle.) LBREPORT.com reported the May 2015 new "PlaceType" LUE and proposed density increase maps at the time, which drew public attention in SE LB (3rd district, with involvement by Councilwoman Price) and Wrigley (6th and 7th districts, mainly grassroots responses) and city staff made some adjustments to its proposed maps in response.

In February 2017, the maps came to the Planning Commission for its recommendations to the full City Council for what might have been quiet Council approval a few months later...but a number of Wrigley residents objected to staff proposed density in their neighborhood, which led the Planning Commission to encourage city staff to shift more density eastward. ELB resident [now 5th district candidate] Corliss Lee (who'd been active in efforts to oppose international flights at LB Airport) attended those Planning Commission meetings and in late April tried to inform Councilwoman Mungo of the coming changes. To Ms. Lee's dismay, Councilwoman Mungo denied her accurate information at a late April Mungo-held community meeting and Mungo made no objections to then-public LUE maps at a June 13 City Council study session.

Two days later (June 15, 2017) city staff released new maps with significantly increased ELB density. Ms. Lee brought the new maps to the attention of the Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO); CONO issued a citywide call to action. An unusually large crowd appeared and blasted the newly revised maps at an August 2017 Planing Commission meeting, which in turn led the Commission to recommend increased public input.

However city staff (then-under now-exited Development Services Director Amy Bodek) said that regardless of the Planning Commission recommendation, city staff planned to advance the maps the City Council for an October 2017 decision since a hearing date had already been set (by someone she didn't identify). The resulting public uproar caused Mayor Robert Garcia to cancel the October 2017 planned Council hearing and call for more public input, in response to which city staff scheduled public "workshops" on the LUE...but staff's "workshops" used a format that didn't allow "Town Hall" style public testimony.

That prompted a CONO "room revolt" (led by CONO's Robert Fox) at the first workshop at Wrigley's Veterans Park (Sept. 30, 2017), after which city staff agreed to allow "Town Hall" type public testimony at three remaining meetings. The "Town Hall" meetings drew crowds of several hundred people to ELB's Whaley Park, the SE LB Golden Sails Hotel and Scherer Park (8th dist) and city staff pared down its desired density increases in November. The Planning Commission held a December 2017 meeting and, with another large public turnout opposed to density increases, recommended further density decreases in some areas, setting the stage for the Council's March 6 voted actions.

In the interim, on January 11, 2018, CONO leader Robert Fox completed paperwork to run for Mayor but a day later on the deadline filing date (Jan. 12), Mr. Fox declined to file the paperwork after a meeting with Mayor Robert Garcia. After the meeting, Fox announced [rough paraphrase] that Mayor Garcia had agreed to hold private meetings with residents in each Council district on the LUE and also agreed to oppose rent control. The Mayor issued a statement opposing rent control and the Mayor's office proceeded to organize, with Fox's assistance, privately conducted roundtable discussions with the Mayor and city staff prior to which each district's Councilmember was invited. [Roughly a dozen to two dozen invited residents were present at each roundtable.]

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