' When City Hall Fears A Town Hall '


When City Hall Fears A Town Hall

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(Sept 28, 2017, 1:30 p.m.) -- Some people inside Long Beach City Hall seem to fear an American tradition rooted in a constitutional right eloquently portrayed by Norman Rockwell during the darkest days of WWII.

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As LBREPORT.com reported in detail yesterday, city staff doesn't plan to hold "Town Hall" style meetings -- where the public can speak and be publicly heard -- on city staff's proposed revision of LB's land use system that invites increased density. Instead, city staff plans to employ a technique that, in effect, tells the public to be quiet and proceed in sheeplike order to city staff-staffed "stations" to quietly ask questions and hear official truths dispensed without public oversight without allowing the public to speak and be heard publicly.

Below is the format that city staff plans to apply at meetings that Mayor Garcia yesterday (Sept. 27) urged the public to attend:

[Description by LB Development Services spokesperson Kevin Lee, Sept. 27]

The General Plan workshops will all be set up with several workshop stations. Stations will have themes -- everything from "General Plan Basics" to "Placetypes" and "Housing Needs" to "Sustainability," and more.

At each station there will be City Staff/representatives to engage in dialogue and answer questions. There will also be Staff available beyond the stations to discuss anything related to the General Plan. Staff will be taking note of the comments and discussions, and there will be surveys and comment cards also available. The one-on-one style of workshops and pop-ups have been useful as it allows for those who don't like to address a large group of people the chance to be involved and have their comments heard.

Throughout the workshops there will be large boards/signs identifying the different workshop station topics, and there will also be large land use maps. This way if people have questions about a specific area or street, the maps can help guide those conversations.

The City is looking forward to engaging with as many residents and business owners as possible, so that together, we can make the General Plan even better. Each workshop is two hours long, and people can come and go as they please within those two-hour time blocks. There will be no presentations, so people have the flexibility to show up when they want and leave when they want, while getting the information they need and asking the questions that are important to them regarding specific elements of the General Plan.

The first of these "workshops" is scheduled for Sat. Sept. 30 in the Wrigley area, 3-5 p.m. at the Veterans Park Community Center, 101 E. 28th St.

They've tried this before. In the SE LB rezoning proceeding (SEASP), residents figured out what was going on and ultimately disparaged consultant-run "workshops," some calling them a "divide and conquer" technique. When another consultant tried the same thing regarding LB Airport international flights, residents revolted, refused to do what they were told and demanded and ultimately received the microphone to be heard Town Hall style.

City staff planned to have the Planning Commission recommend staff-proposed density increase maps in February 2017 and send them to the City Council for approval shortly thereafter. That didn't happen, because a number of Wrigley residents objected to proposed increased density, some Planning Commissioners agreed with them and city staff returned with revised maps in August.

The August maps hit like cold water on a hot pan. They proposed increased and unprecedented levels of density in parts of ELB (while still leaving parts of Wrigley density impacted.) That brought nearly thirty people -- from areas spanning riled Wrigley to roused ELB -- to an August 17 Planning Commission meeting where they strongly objected to the revised density increase maps.

Adding fuel to the fire, the public also learned that LB City Hall remained "neutral" as LB's Sacramento lawmakers Senator Ricardo Lara (D), Senator Janet Nguyen (R) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) voted for SB 35, a bill that creates significant statutory consequences to a city's decisions on its land use element and zoning. Under SB 35, those decisions can open the door to near rubberstamp approval for multi-unit housing projects and strip many of the public's current CEQA rights to object to neighborhood-impacting projects, Those include developments fueled by incentives for below-market subsidized "affordable" housing with reduced parking requirements in cities like LB where building permits lag regional housing dictates.

LB's previously-dormant Council of Neighborhood Organizations has re-awakened. Two separate entirely new ELB grassroots groups have formed. Wrigley residents remain riled.

In our opinion, it speaks volumes that some individuals currently running L.A. County's second largest city apparently can't stand, or can't withstand, publicly clashing but ultimately strengthening Town Hall freedom to speak...and be heard.

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