Following Large Public Turnouts in SE LB, ELB and Wrigley-WLB, Final City Staff Workshop (Town Hall Public Statements/Q & A + Individual Staff Info Stations) on Proposed Land Use Element Density Increases Will Happen at Scherer Park, Atlantic/Del Amo Weds. Oct. 18
|(Oct. 14, 2017, 5:15 p.m.) -- Following large and overwhelmingly anti-density public turnouts in Wrigley/WLB, ELB and SE LB, city staff will hold its final public workshop (with Town Hall style public statements/Q & A plus individual information stations) regarding staff's proposed land use changes/density increases on Oct. 18, from 6-8 p.m. at Scherer Park (adjacent to LBPD's North Division station, SW corner 4891 Atlantic Ave @ Del Amo Blvd.)
Saturday afternoon's turnout (Oct. 14) at SE LB's Golden Sails hotel numbered almost 600 (nearly filling a large ballroom) plus several dozen more in an adjacent meeting room at individual information stations offering one-on-one contact with city staffers.
City staff agreed to include a "town hall" component to the workshops after Robert Fox (a veteran neighborhood advocate who in recent months set out to revitalize LB's long-dormant Council of Neighborhood Organizations/CONO) staged a room-revolt at staff's initial land use density workshop (Sept. 30 at Wrigley's Vets Park. Mr. Fox and CONO supporters brought chairs into the room and effectively turned staff's planned information station-only format into a de facto town hall that let the public speak publicly (despite no microphones at that meeting) and question staff publicly, who fielded pointed and frequently barbed public questions.
City staff's second and third workshops have since included a microphones, and upcoming Oct. 18 workshop will do so as well.
[Scroll down for further.]
There's no publicly stated timeline for what comes after the final Oct 18 workshop. Staff indicated in previous meetings that it plans to take into consideration what it heard from the public at the workshops. Staff may, or may not, make revisions or other changes to its proposed maps, and the extent of changes, if any, is presently unclear. However at some point, city staff will re-agendize the issue for recommendations by LB's non-elected Planning Commission. The Planning Commission (Mayor chosen/Council approved) has no enacting powers of its own on the issue. It can offer voted recommendations to the Council on whether to approve, or make changes, to staff's recommendations, in sending the proposed maps to the City Council.
When the maps reach the Council, a five-vote majority (subject to a Mayoral veto that six Councilmembers can override) may or may not make further changes before approving the maps as the basis for a recirculated draft programmatic EIR and revised LUE text...which will then return to the Planning Commission for further hearings and recommendations before coming back the Council for possible additional changes and a final decision.
In the interim, a citywide election is scheduled in April 2018 (June 2018 for runoffs, if any) for five of nine Council incumbents (Gonzalez, Price, Mungo, Uranga and Richardson), plus LB's incumbent Mayor (Garcia) and City Attorney (Parkin).
The politically incendiary timeline wasn't anticipated. In February 2017, city staff agendized its proposed density increase maps for Planning Commission recommendations that could have sent the maps to the City Council...but a number of Wrigley area residents strongly objected to increased density affecting their historically challenged neighborhood. Some Planning Commissioners shared the view and requested a Planning Commission study session on the issue, which staff conducted in April 2017. Among those in the audience were ELB residents Corliss Lee and Ann Cantrell and a few weeks later, Ms. Lee tried to bring the staff-proposed density increases and potential further density increases to the attention of 5th district Councilwoman Stacy Mungo. At a late April 2017 community meeting, Councilwoman Mungo shouted down Ms. Lee, denying facts that Ms. Lee was accurately trying to convey. (Ms. Lee has since gone on to form "The Eastside Voice," a grassroots residents group focusing for now on density impacts on the 5th and 4th Council districts.)
At a June 15 Planning Commission study session, staff unveiled maps proposing significantly increased building heights with mixed uses (commercial operations with residences above) in various parts of the city, including traditionally low-rise parts of ELB. LBREPORT.com reported it; word spread on social networks, primarily NextDoor.com and swiftly reached Robert Fox, who was in the process of revitalizing LB's grassroots Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO). Mr. Fox, a veteran LB neighborhood activist, was familiar with the long-term neighborhood damages done by now-discredited 1980's City Hall actions that let developer-driven "crackerbox" apartment density do long term damages to hat were quiet single family neighborhoods surrounding downtown LB. Grasping that the now-proposed density would affect neighborhoods citywide, Fox and CONO sounded the alarm.
So did Neighborhoods First leader Joe Sopo, Los Altos neighborhood group leader Joe Mello (who publishes a 4th district blog read beyond the 4th district) and quality of life-protective LBHUSH2 leader/retired Councilwoman Rae Garbelich. All three had been active in organizing opposition to a JetBlue desired, city staff-supported recommendation ("received and filed" with no action taken in Jan. 2017 but not conclusively voted down on motion by incumbent Mungo) that sought to allow international flights at LB Airport.
On August 17, city staff brought its June-densified density increase maps the Planning Commision to send to the City Council...and roughly thirty speakers from multiple LB neighborhoods -- now including ELB -- testified in opposition to the proposed density increase maps, objecting to their substance and to a lack of public notice in unusually unified terms. Planning Commissioners responded by recommending that staff get further public input before sending the maps to the Council, but staff said an Oct. 3 Council meeting on the maps was already scheduled [without saying by whom; Mayor Garcia's office normally controls Council agenda items.]
And another major issue surfaced, first raised by LB resident Janet West, who spotted and described the loss of the public's CEQA rights and City Hall decisionmaking authority on certain land use matters under then-advancing SB 35. Responding to Ms. West's testmony, LB Director of Development Services Amy Bodek publicly commended Ms. West and, speaking generally, noted that Sacramento land use legislation has significantly affected what the City can and can't do. (That exchange alerted the public (and LBREPORT.com) to SB 35, which has now become a major issue in connection with staff proposed density increases.)
At the Aug. 17 Planning Commission meeting, city staff said it would bring the maps to the Council on Oct.3 along with the Planning Commission's recommendation, which further riled already riled residents and within hours ignited social networks.
Hoping to quell a firestorm, Mayor Garcia asked management to withhold bringing the maps to the Council until staff had conducted further community outreach. City staff responded by scheduling four "workshop" sessions...but when residents learned (via CONO) that staff planned to use an "information station" format (instead of letting the public speak in a "town hall" type format), a second uproar ensued. The result was a room revolt at the first workshop session (Sept. 30 at Vets Park in Wrigley.)
CONO supporters entered the room, arranged chairs for a "town hall" format and CONO leader Fox basically took control of the meeting and turned it into a "town hall" and invited city staff to respond to the public's questions (despite a lack of microphones) and city staff reluctantly acquiesced.
Following that encounter (and CONO's warning that it would do so again at the subsequent workshops), staff agreed to use a "town hall" format (with microphones) at the three remaining workshops. The second one at ELB's Whaley Park drew somewhere between 400+ (LBREPORT.com) and 700 residents (Councilman Daryl Supernaw. Saturday's (Oct. 14) workshop at the Golden Sails Hotel in SE LB drew nearly 600. The meetings now conclude with the Scherer Park workshop this coming Wednesday Oct. 18, 6-8 p.m.
What comes next remains to be seen. Developing.
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