|(Oct. 6, 2017, 4:45 p.m.) -- A crowd variously estimated at from 400+ (LBREPORT.com) to 700+ (Councilman Supernaw's Oct. 6 e-newsletter) far exceeded the capacity of Whaley Park's social hall on October 4, with overflow directed in and around an outdoor event tent with an audio feed, for the second of four city staff conducted workshops on staff's proposed Land Use Element revisions/density increases. Staff conducted the meeting as a hybrid, with the majority of attendees focused on the Town Hall event (residents voicing their views and questions publicly to city staff, and city staff responding publicly) with "information stations" available for one-on-one questions and answers if residents so desired.
LBREPORT.com has extended VIDEO coverage below. The event ran well beyond its scheduled 6:00-8:00 p.m. time, extending to 10:20 p.m., and our batteries captured the salient portions in the first two and a half hours. (We then switched to backup video recording for the remainder which was mainly less newsworthy.)
For extended VIDEO of the Oct. 4 session, click the links below:
[Scroll down for further.]
Among attending the event were Councilmembers Daryl Supernaw (welcomed the audience, said "we hear you") and Stacy Mungo; retired Vice Mayor/Councilman/retired Harbor Commissoners Doug Drummond; 5th dist. Council candidate/former Harbor Comm'r Rich Dines; Eastside Voice founder/5th dist. neighborhood advocate Corliss Lee; CONO Exec. Dir. Robert Fox; Wrigley area neighborhood leader Alan Tolkoff; parkland/neighborhood advocate Ann Cantrell; NLB community leader Dan Pressburg,..and Janet West, a LB taxpayer who alerted the public (and LBREPORT.com) to the potentially serious land use implications of SB 35 with her testimony regarding city staff's proposed land use density increases at the Aug. 17 Planning Commission meeting (further below.)
Ms. West's testimony prompted Dir. of Development Services Amy Bodek to commend her [not necessarily agree with her on policy] for grasping the significant land use and housing mandates of Sacramento legislation including SB 35. At the Oct. 4 Town Hall, Ms. West was the second person to ask a question, and was then audible at several points during the meeting, insisting that city staff address the implications of SB 35 in its answers...and audibly objecting when she disagred with city staff's responses.
Development Services Dir. Amy Bodek was staff's primary speaker, fielding nearly all of the questions from the floor as well as those submitted on cards from the outdoor event tent. Senior Planning Dept. staffers Christopher Koontz and Linda Tatum were also on stage throughout the more than four hour meeting and were at times asked by Ms. Bodek to address some residents' questions.
The Oct. 4 hybrid format resulted after LB's grassroots Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO), led by Robert Fox, took control of the first city staff event (Sept. 30 in Wrigley) and turned city staff's planned "information-station-only" format into a Town Hall session on the issues. Faced with a room-revolt (LBREPORT.com coverage here), city staff acquiesced, and when CONO indicated they'd do likewise at the second and subsequent meetings, city staff adjusted the format of the second and future meetings accordingly.
City staff opened with a short presentation, indicating that density increase maps (updated and released in July-August) had not been changed at this point, but may be revised by staff after considering public comments received at its four added public outreach sessions. Development Services Director Bodek said residents' comments would be most helpful if they cited issues at specific geographic locations, and commended residents who did so...but as the meeting progressed, some audience members wondered why no city staffer was tasked specifically to take notes of proceeding, and others attendees suggested that the city record the meeting to provide a record of what residents suggested. Development Services Dir. Bodek said both of these were good suggestions that might be implemented at the two upcoming meetings.
City staff indicated there's no precise timeline or deadline for what comes next; that staff would discuss the next steps with Councilmembers and the Mayor, and at some point staff would bring revised maps to the Planning Commission for its voted recommendation(s) and sent to the City Council...where Councilmembers could revise the maps further. The Council's vote would decide what maps staff would use to prepare a revised program EIR and LUE text, which would again come to Planning Commission before possible revisions and final enactment by the City Council. [Ed. note: Regarding the timeline: elections in Council districts districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 and for Mayor are scheduled for April 2018 with runoffs if necessary in June 2018.]
The four public outreach sessions weren't supposed to happen at all. City staff released its proposed draft Land Use Element in February 2917 for Planning Commission recommendations before sending the Lan Use Element revisions to the Council...but when Wrigley residents objected to density increases in their area, the Planning Commission recommended (and staff agreed) to hold a study session in April on possible revisions (an event held at the Michelle Obama Library in NLB.) That led to a June 13 Council study session on the LUE (general discussion) followed by a more detailed Planning Commission study session on June 15, after which staff sought a Planning Commission voted recommendation, one way or the other, at the August 17 Planning Commission on maps that staff further revised to allow increased density (building heights and mixed comemrcial and residential uses) in parts of ELB.
Staff's revised maps triggered a forceful public reaction in opposition at the August 17 Planning Commission meeting. Responding to a call to action by CONO, nearly thirty people (many from ELB but also beyond) testified against the revised density increase maps, some on the substance of the changes, others saying the City hadn't provided sufficient public notice of the major changes. The Planning Commission voted to recommend that staff conduct further public outreach before sending the revised increased density maps to the Council, but staff indicated it planned to bring the revised maps to the Council regardless of the Planning Commission's recommendation (which staff said it would convey),..and added that an October hearing date had already been set for Council action.
The net result infuriated the leaders of a number of neighborhood groups who voiced their dismay on social media. Within 24 hours, Mayor Garcia released a statement indicating he'd asked city management to conduct additional public outreach before bringing the maps back to the Planning Commission for its recommendations and then sending them to the Council.
That's what led to the first two public input sessions (Sept. 30 and Oct. 4) with two more to follow (Saturday, October 14, 11-1 PM at Best Western Golden Sails Hotel, 6285 Pacific Coast Hwy; and Wednesday, October 18, 6-8 PM at Expo Arts Center.)
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