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Commentary: Douglas Park: Can We Do Better?


Opinion brought to you by Gary DeLong. To email Mr. DeLong, click here.

(Sept 23, 2004 w/ E-Feedback updated) -- City Hall appears to be satisfied with the deal Boeing Realty has offered on the Douglas Park development project. Essentially, if the City will allow Boeing to build 1,400 homes on 100 acres (out of 261), Boeing in return will commit to investing $20 million in commercial infrastructure.

What does this mean for Long Beach? Following is a brief analysis of the benefits and the concerns regarding the Douglas Park redevelopment.

Benefit: Boeing Realty will invest $20 million in streets, curbs, sidewalks, etc. in the commercial portion of the project.
Concern: Adding 1,400 homes next to an airport will add fuel to an already divisive issue in our community. Additionally, there is no commitment to build a single commercial building. There is only a commitment to develop infrastructure.

Benefit: Jobs -- The development as designed (partial commercial) will provide up to 11,000 jobs.
Concern: Fewer jobs in the future. Every acre that is converted from commercial / industrial to residential is giving up - for all time - the possibility of a job-producing enterprise on the land.

Benefit: Tax Revenue -- Although the housing portion of the plan will probably lose money for the City (the cost of providing services exceeds the tax revenue), the commercial portion is expected to generate $1.3 million to $3.8 million annually after all facilities are built and occupied.
Concern: Less Tax Revenue -- If 160 acres will generate $1.3 million to $3.8 million annually, then 261 acres of commercial/industrial could generate $2.1 million to $6.2 million annually. And although there is concern regarding whether or not Long Beach could absorb this much commercial/industrial space, a recently issued General Plan Update states, "There is an estimated demand for an additional 1 million square feet of office, 3.5 million of industrial, and 432,000 of retail development through 2010."

Even more important is the matter of schools. The current neighborhood school is full; therefore, children will have to be bused to a school scheduled to be built within the next few years at Hill and Temple.

The timeline of the project is as follows:

  • On July 14th the Economic Development Commission voted to recommend that the city approve the project, but advocated less housing.
  • On August 19th the Airport Advisory Commission voted to recommend that the city approve the project, but without any housing.
  • The Planning Commission will be discussing the project in October.
  • The City Council has several meetings scheduled to review the project in October and November.

However, the critical question remains: Will the Douglas Park development optimize the financial potential to the City, if built as currently designed?

Although Long Beach may need more housing, what about that important real estate maxim -- location, location, location? Does it make sense to develop new housing in such close proximity to an existing airport?

Like any well managed business, Boeing seeks to make a profit on their Douglas Park venture. If it isnít profitable, Boeing wonít move forward with the development. But the desire to maximize profit must be balanced with the Cityís long-term strategy of creating high paying permanent jobs and creating new and positive revenue streams.

In light of the current city budget deficit of $100+ million, if the City doesnít find ways to increase revenues through economic development, we will be facing tough options such as increasing taxes or cutting expenses even further. Our community is taxed enough already.

Make no mistake; Long Beach has made great progress over the last decade. We have a world class Aquarium that grows more popular each year, a bustling Towne Center retail development and record setting restaurants at the Pike. It is imperative that we develop projects that work; projects that the community will be proud of -- now and in the decades to come.

E-Feedback

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E-Feedback results as of Oct. 15, 8:00 p.m. (caveat: not a scientific poll)

YES = 16.6%
(The City Council should approve the project as currently designed.)

NO = 83.3%
(The City Council should improve the project by eliminating the housing.)



Other commentaries by Mr. DeLong

See them here as Mr. DeLong's commentaries grow


Mr. DeLong sponsors this page to foster discussion of public issues in Long Beach. An East Long Beach resident, Mr. DeLong is the President & CEO of The RTP Group, Inc., a Long Beach based telecommunications consulting and software development firm. In addition to serving on several local Boards of Directors, he is also a member of the City's Economic Development Commission. The views expressed in this column are in his individual capacity. To learn more about Mr. DeLong, click here.


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