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State Lands Comm'n Staff Says 18-acre QW Bay Entertainment/Comm'l Uses Do Not Violate State Tidelands Statutes

Advises Comm'n To Take No Further Action

(April 10, 2001. updated April 11 with report excerpts and link to full report) -- State Lands Commission staff has issued a report advising the Commission that land uses proposed for "Phase II" of the QW Bay Development Plan (the 18 acre retail/commercial/entertainment project including restaurants, retail venues, a movie theater) are not barred by tidelands granting statutes or the Public Trust Doctrine. has posted the report's Executive Summary (3 pages) and the full report (46 pages) verbatim, below. We have also posted excerpts of salient portions below on this page.

The Executive Summary says staff "found no documentary evidence of fraud, collusion, ultra vires acts or other actions that justify further investigation or Commission action." It indicates the CA Attorney General's office "has informally reviewed this report and concurs in its analysis and conclusions."

Staff advises that the Commission take no further action on the matter. The Commission itself will decide, likely at its next meeting later this month.

The report's Executive Summary can be viewed at: State Lands Comm'n Report Executive Summary

The full report can be viewed at: State Lands Comm'n Report (complete)

Excerpts of the staff report follow:

...The Commission has oversight authority, which may be carried out in a variety of ways. The CSLC [California State Lands Commission] has only limited responsibility to affect the decisions of grantees. In most cases the CSLC staff conducts its oversight by commenting on projects, such as the CEQA process, or by consultation and advice. Unless the legislative grant provides for specific duties to the Commission, its only remedy to overturn an action taken by a grantee, which the Commission believes is inconsistent with the grantee’s trust responsibilities in managing its granted lands, is through litigation.

While this is not an exhaustive description of the jurisdiction of the Commission involving trust grants, it does provide a summary of the extent of the jurisdiction and provisions relating to appropriate public trust land use issues. In summary, while the Commission has broad discretion and authority to review activities of local trustees, it also has limited mandatory responsibilities and authority to stop an action or decision by a grantee.

City of Long Beach Jurisdiction

...As the Legislature’s delegated trustee of these lands, the City of Long Beach has the primary responsibility and authority to manage its granted lands and to select which uses among competing public trust uses are appropriate for a particular site. In the statutes affecting Long Beach granted lands the Legislature provided no specific authority for CSLC review of Long Beach’s management of granted lands, other than projects involving expenditure of oil revenues. The Commission has the same general statewide oversight previously discussed.

These City trust land use decisions remain subject to additional statutorily adopted statewide regulatory legal processes, such as the California Environmental Quality Act and the Coastal Act, which allow public input and review.

Except for statutory provisions specifically involving the CSLC, the California Legislature has transferred legal title to the City of Long Beach and the City, as trustee, has the primary responsibility of administering the trust on a day-to-day basis.

Background on the Queensway Bay Development Plan

The project area for the Queensway Bay Development Plan is 319 acres in size [exhibit citation]. Due to its location on filled and unfilled tidelands granted to the City of Long Beach by the State of California, the entirety of the project site is subject to the terms and provisions of the granting statutes and the Public Trust Doctrine, in addition to the various City land use controls and regulations. It is also subject to state and federal regulatory authority.

Historically, the area was a resort area involving the water, public beach and a large privately operated commercial attraction known as the Pike Amusement Park. The park attracted thousands of people to Long Beach in the first half of the last century. In the early 1960s, the City filled approximately 113-acres of the waterfront. This fill moved the shoreline south and further separated the downtown from the waterfront. Except for the convention center and the arena, a significant portion of this filled land has remained vacant for over 20 years.

In 1978 to assist the City in developing a Local Coastal Program (LCP), a LCP Citizens Advisory Committee comprised of representatives of neighborhood groups, housing advocates, environmentalists and business representatives met 133 times over a two-year period. At the completion of the two years, this group presented to the City Planning Commission and the City Council its recommended LCP. In 1980, the City of Long Beach adopted and the California Coastal Commission certified the LCP for the waterfront.

The LCP required that all public parks and beaches within the City’s granted tidelands be "designated by the City as permanent public parks or beaches." It further required that "no parkland which has been dedicated or designated within the Coastal Zone shall be committed to another use unless the City replaces such parkland on an acre-for-acre basis within or adjacent to the Coastal Zone with the approval of the California Coastal Commission." Shoreline Park, within the Queensway Bay Development Plan was designated by the City Council as a permanent park. Within the Queensway Bay Development Plan area, the LCP called for a new downtown marina and marina green, hotels and shops, and a new elevated pedestrian promenade to link downtown to the waterfront.

The City implemented provisions of the LCP, but as of 1992 there were still significant areas of vacant land and an uninviting connection between downtown and the waterfront. During that same year the City started a second major citizen planning process to create the Queensway Bay Development Plan. The Mayor and the City Council appointed 23 citizens as representatives from all areas of the City. These citizens worked with the consulting firm of Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn to prepare the Queensway Bay Development Plan.

The Queensway Bay Citizens Advisory Committee met 25 times over a two-year period. Public testimony was received at each meeting and each speaker was recorded in the minutes (available from the City of Long Beach). In addition, the Chairman and several committee members attended neighborhood association meetings throughout the City to discuss the Queensway Bay Development Plan.

The Queensway Bay Development Plan was reviewed by both the City Planning Commission and the City Council. In May of 1995, the California Coastal Commission unanimously certified the Queensway Bay Development Plan as an amendment to the LCP of 1980...

Over the past six years at least 24 agendas of the City Council have contained items relating to the Queensway Bay Development Plan. The plan and its various amendments were also noticed to the public 14 days before being heard by the Planning Commission. Over the same time period, the director of the Queensway Bay Development Plan reports that he sent out 18 newsletters to over 300 community leaders.

According to the City of Long Beach the goals of the Queensway Bay Development Plan are as follows:

1. To create the premier world-class urban waterfront attraction for Southern California.

2. To strengthen the position of downtown Long Beach as a major center of commerce, entertainment and recreation within the greater Los Angeles region.

3. To increase convention and tourist visitations, promoting Long Beach as a visitor destination from which all other regional attractions can be easily accessed.

4. To create an environment and mix of private and public attractions which has a strong Southern California ambience and a specific identity, which is unique to Long Beach.

5. To create a family destination attraction which appeals to a broad range of age groups, income levels and ethnic backgrounds and which engages the visitor in a variety of wholesome and uplifting recreational and educational activities.

6. To achieve a level of quality and design, construction and operation which evokes a sense of permanence of value and which creates an environment in which the visitor feels welcome, comfortable and safe.

The Queensway Bay Development Plan as proposed includes:

  • Phase I (largely publicly funded with emphasis on infrastructure and public facilities; completed in June 1998):

    -- The construction of a new commercial harbor which would be the home to historic ships, dinner cruises, whale watches, fishing boats, diving boats among other vessels

    -- The south shore, where the Queen Mary and the old Spruce Goose dome are located, linked to the heart of the plan via a water taxi system

    -- Retention of the Queen Mary in place

    -- The construction of an events park and the construction of a boat launch ramp

    -- An aquarium and parking structure on the west-end of the harbor

  • Phase II (a privately funded tourist orientated commercial development):

    -- Restaurants, retail and entertainment uses, on an 18-acre site, between downtown Long Beach and the waterfront

    Phase II, the issue at hand, involves the development of approximately 500,000 square feet of restaurant, entertainment and retail uses on the four acres along the waterfront and 14 acres located northerly of Shoreline Drive. Phase II totals 18 of the 319 acres of the Queensway Bay Development Plan. Phase II calls for constructing a public street to provide a connection from downtown to the waterfront. According to the City of Long Beach, Phase II "should not be seen as an independent project, a mall or a gated attraction but rather a public area with public streets, public metered parking on the streets, wide sidewalks, and open plazas." The proposed Phase II land uses include movie theaters, an IMAX Theater, a bookstore, a world market, restaurants, entertainment venues and parking areas. The leasing for the area will be approximately one-third restaurant, one-third entertainment venues and one-third specialty retail.

    The City of Long Beach expects about 7.5 to 10 million visitors each year to come to Queensway Bay to enjoy this urban waterfront. The market study by J.B. Research Company concludes that the Queensway Bay Development Plan will serve as a regional visitor destination and not as a shopping mall. The study projects that 44% will be overnight visitors (tourists) and that more than half of the day-use visitors will travel more than ten miles to reach the attraction.

    Analysis of Phase II of the Queensway Bay Development Plan

    There are three main contentions from concerned citizens in relation to Phase II of the Queensway Bay Development Plan. These contentions include:

    1. The State Lands Commission is required to review and take action on the Queensway Bay Development Project.

    2. The location chosen for the Phase II development, by law, is to be used solely for park purposes.

    3. The Long Beach statutory grants and the Public Trust Doctrine do not allow for uses depicted in Phase II land use plans.

    Testimony at the workshop alleged that the Commission is required to review and take action on the proposed Phase II development. There is no such requirement. Neither the legislative grant statutes, nor the Public Resources Code, nor any other laws require review of this project by the CSLC. Chapter 138, enacted in 1964, requires the Commission to review expenditures by Long Beach of oil revenues from tide and submerged lands but such expenditures are not proposed as part of the Phase II development. Staff surmises that confusion exists as to the Commission’s role because of its past review of hundreds of projects involving oil revenue expenditures or projects that were voluntarily submitted by the City for Commission review under PRC §6701, et seq.

    Citizens have questioned whether the location chosen for the Phase II development may solely be used for park purposes. It is true that this location may be used for park purposes. Public parks were added to the allowable land uses with the 1925 granting statute. Public parks are listed along with ten other uses, as well as public uses and purposes consistent with the trusts upon which such lands are held.

    This would include both the 1911 statutory trust and the common law Public Trust. The City of Long Beach has the responsibility and authority to select which trust uses among competing public trust uses are appropriate for a particular site. The CSLC oversees the City’s administration of the legislatively granted tidelands, however, the CSLC has no authority to substitute its judgement for that of the City regarding choices of land uses among those authorized by the granting statutes where no abuse of discretion is apparent.

    The next concern is whether the land uses proposed in the Phase II development are consistent with the Long Beach granting statutes as amended and with the Public Trust Doctrine. Staff has reviewed the proposed project in light of the approximately 23 legislative acts which govern use of the City of Long Beach tide and submerged land. Staff has also reviewed Phase II uses in the context of the Public Trust Doctrine, pursuant to both case law and statutory provisions. When looking at the Queensway Bay Development Plan, it is important to look at the development as a whole, as opposed to its individual parts, and how it promotes the Public Trust Doctrine. Uses within multi-use projects that may be characterized as public recreation or commercial recreation may be deemed necessary, incidental or ancillary to trust uses because they draw large numbers of the public to the waterfront, where the public may then enjoy amenities that fit within the core of acceptable trust uses.

    The Queensway Bay Development Plan provides for a variety of uses, which are clearly consistent with accepted public trust uses. They include a marina, yacht harbor, wetland, aquarium, public walkways, parks, a viewing deck, and other trust related amenities. The Queensway Bay Development Plan also provides for hotels, restaurants, parking and other uses which are necessarily incidental to the public trust. "Necessarily incidental" means that these uses are necessary to accommodate visitors to public trust lands.

    On a relatively small portion of the area covered by the Queensway Bay Development Plan (3-4 acres out of 319), the City proposes to locate a movie theater complex, a bookstore and an import store. Such uses are not traditional Public Trust uses, however, they also may be necessarily incidental to promote the Public Trust. The specific context for them in the Queensway Bay Development Plan leads staff to conclude that they are not barred by the granting statute or the Public Trust Doctrine. Staff reaches this conclusion based on the public nature of the uses, their functional integration into the other trust uses, their practical contribution to the public visitor serving attraction of the development and the relatively small area occupied by of these uses. Other important factors, which argue for the inclusion of these uses within the project include the apparent low demand or need for traditional public trust uses north of Shoreline Drive as evidenced by the decades of under or non-use of the area. The isolated location of these uses inland from the waterfront, separated from the shoreline by a four-lane expressway taken together with a proposed pedestrian walkway across the expressway also indicates to staff that the City of Long Beach intends to draw the public to the urban waterfront experience as opposed to creating an additional barrier to such use.

    It should be noted that Long Beach Harbor, today, is one of the world’s great ports and its operations have developed primarily on lands consisting of filled tide and submerged lands lying southerly and westerly of the subject area and separated from this area by the relocated Los Angeles River mouth. The development of non-harbor related uses for these lands clearly does not interfere with "the requirements of commerce and navigation of said harbor."

    Finally, staff notes that other waterfront projects throughout California have included uses, which provide non-marine recreational opportunities and have included visitor/ tourist shops selling clothing, books, and other merchandise.

    Such uses, when planned as an integrated and contributory part of a public trust project, may be an appropriate use of filled tide and submerged lands. Our conclusion is therefore that Phase II land uses are not barred by the provisions of the granting statutes and the Public Trust Doctrine.

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