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    LB Activists Try To Exclude State Wetlands Grant Area From QW Bay Land Swap; Grabinski & Taboada Duel; Grabinski Motion Fails for Lack of a Second

    We post extended transcript excerpts

    Note: The events described below occurred on August 21, 2001, one day before public release of a State Lands Commission staff report detailing a proposed QW Bay tidelands designation swap, basically confirming salient portions of reports previously posted on In essence, the proposed swap involves removing state tidelands designation from roughly three acres of certain commercial footprints in the QW Bay retail and entertainment area in exchange for putting tidelands designation on roughly 10 acres in the vicinity of the L.A. river roughly between Broadway and the Shoemaker bridge near 7th St., part of which (near the bridge) extends to the river but part of which is a currently land-locked and inaccessible freeway median. Details on the State Lands Commission QW Bay staff report to follow separately.

    (August 22, 2001, nonsubstantive formatting and transcription additions Aug. 24) -- In an indication that a proposed swap of QW Bay tidelands property -- originally meant to address public and political concerns over putting certain retail uses in state tidelands -- could possibly backfire and escalate opposition as a statewide tidelands issue, LB activists turned an August 21 City Council item on a welcomed wetlands grant application into a battleground, urging that wetlands grant areas not be part of any QW Bay tidelands exchange.

    Salient portions of a possible tidelands swap -- removing state tidelands trust designation from parts of QW Bay's retail and entertainment site in exchange for placing tidelands designation on city owned property near the L.A. river -- were previously reported on

    City Manager Henry Taboada told Councilmembers the wetlands grant applications are independent from any tidelands designation swap and promised a report on the tidelands deal at next week's Council meeting.

    This prompted a heated exchange and a substitute motion by Councilman Ray Grabinski to explicitly de-link the wetlands grant areas from a QW Bay tidelands swap. It failed for lack of a second [Councilman Shultz absent for the entire Council meeting.]

    Meanwhile, activists vowed to move the battle to Sacramento and potentially statewide.

    And opposition to a tidelands-L.A. river exchange gained a significant voice as Joan Greenwood, a LB board member on the regionally influential Friends of the Los Angeles River, told the Council (speaking individually, not indicating for FoLAR) that while she supports the wetlands grant, she opposes using the L.A. river project to remove tidelands designation from QW Bay land.

    The tidelands transaction, terms of which were negotiated in secret between city and State Lands Commission staff, will be brought to an open session of the City Council for approval, City Attorney Robert Shannon told today.

    Specifics of the deal were not released by State Lands officials as of the Council meeting, but had reported the swap would likely remove state tidelands designation from certain QW Bay commercial footprints (roughly 3 acres) actually in the tidelands in exchange for putting tidelands designation on two city owned (or soon to be owned) areas: a freeway median currently inaccessible to the public and L.A. river property surrounding a freeway bridge, neither of which are in the tidelands (new areas roughly 10 acres).

    A Council vote, with public input, could come on August 28, one day before the State Lands Commission meets in Sacramento and could approve the exchange.

    The transaction would effectively facilitate a City Hall desired but publicly controversial retail and commercial development on parts of the 18 acre QW Bay retail and entertainment site, removing tidelands designation from footprints of certain commercial uses.

    City Hall's chosen developer, Developers Diversified Realty (DDR), is not a party to the transaction. As previously reported on, DDR says any dispute is between City Hall and the state, the firm has the entitlements needed to proceed and is moving forward apace.

    Most Councilmembers said nothing publicly, watching the escalating events in icy silence. provides extended transcript excerpts, below (not an official transcript; not all speakers or their comments are reproduced; deletions are indicated by ellipses.) Immediately after the clerk and Mayor announced the item, public testimony began.

    Bry Myowm

    ...We all are very aware of the need for more parkland, and I think we're all very pleased about this application for monies for parkland...

    ...So when this project is done, the City of Long Beach will own a public wetlands park that will have been purchased for us by the taxpayers of the state of California...

    ...[T]he public has already bought and paid for this Cesar Chavez wetland which we're very happy to receive and looking forward to having as a park. The public also already has a public trust interest in the land at Queensway Bay.

    And I don't see how swapping something the public owns for something where you will remove the right to what the public owns makes really any sense whatsoever, or gives either the state that has paid for us, or the taxpayers of the state that have paid for both, a fair exchange...

    ...I would respectfully ask one of you to please amend this motion [to authorize application for the wetlands grants] to make the statement that this land may not be swapped to build a movie theater at Queensway Bay...

    Adrea Stoker

    ...You can't get out there. It's between two freeway roads. There's no way you can get out there. This is not comparable to Queensway Bay frontage. And it's so degraded. I mean it's very stinky. It would take an awful lot to clean it up and you still wouldn't have what you have at the oceanfront. There's no comparison...

    Ann Cantrell

    ...Something that has not been said to the Council is that this is the same site proposed to be swapped for the Queensway Bay land and it is not in our view at all comparable or will it ever be comparable with the diked-off L.A. river. There's not going to be any view of the ocean available at this site and this is our main concern, that this [is proposed to] be used as land swapped area, and we would ask you to please approve this as a wetlands but not use it as a land swap for the Queensway Bay development...

    Joan Greenwood

    ...I too am opposed to using this particular property as a land swap for Queensway Bay. My reasons for this, first of all, are technical. We have just formed and begun the feasibility study. This land may or may not be suitable for wetlands restoration at a reasonable cost, and therefore it would be premature to offer it up as a land swap.

    The second issue that I'd like to bring up is that of toxics and contaminants. It has astounded me that property transfers go through without appropriate phase 1 and phase 2 environmental site investigations...

    And so once again, because we have not yet completed a preliminary endangerment assessment and looked at human and ecological risks associated with this property, we cannot yet determine that it is suitable as a land swap for the Queensway Bay...

    So I would urge you to approve and have the city [Dept. of] Parks and Rec. move forward with the grant application, with the understanding that it is not yet certain that it can be a legitimate land swap.

    Diana Mann

    : ...Can I get a yes or a no, Mr Taboada, is this the land indeed that we're talking about a land swap for Queensway Bay? Hello, hello?

    Mayor O'Neill: Finish your whole comment and then we'll address the questions.

    Ms. Mann: You know what, that process doesn't seem to work, because then I go on with my statements and I never get my questions answered, as well as others, but it would be very helpful to know that up front what we're dealing with here...

    ...[W]e get no feedback other than the fact that you guys are gonna do whatever the hell you're gonna do to get this project no matter what.

    And the "no matter what" is really what we're concerned about, because it extends this issue to a statewide issue. And we're concerned about how the City of Long Beach is going to look to the state and we've in embarrassing situations before and we'd certainly like to avoid another one.

    At this point, Mayor O'Neill invited City Manager Henry Taboada to comment "on the negotiations that the State Lands and the staff have been working on."

    City Manager Henry Taboada

    Madam Mayor, members of the Council. This is a grant application to restore a piece of property that is just basically a piece of dirt that happens to be located adjacent to current parkland and open space and presents a great opportunity for us to restore a piece of property that has been used for any number of purposes and it's now basically a wasteland that is deserving of our resources and of our intention to bring it to some productive use.

    Now whether there's a Queensway Bay project or not, or whether there is a land swap or not, this particular grant application is independent of each of those two issues. The grant process for this has been under review and study for some time, and is one that has finally reached the point where we're now able to submit the application so that we can get this restoration project under way.

    Whether it's designated as tidelands or city owned land, this is a good project and one which we support.

    And we are prepared next week to bring back to you a full report on the status of the land swap that's being talked about, which is a separate and distinct issue. And we will update the Council and give you all of the details regarding the negotiations that have taken place with State Lands [Commission] and subsequent actions that need to be taken.

    But I'd like not to get those two issues mixed up today if we can avoid it, because there's really no impact on this particular grant application, whether it's designated, as I said, as tidelands or city owned property, because it does not change the character of the property, does not change the character of the restoration project, and is something that we think is worthwhile doing no matter what.

    Mayor O'Neill: And the agenda item on the [Aug] 28th will include the questions that have been asked?

    Mr. Taboada: Absolutely. We will give you an expository report on everything that's taken place with regard to the State Lands issue.

    At this point, with no further public speakers remaining, the Mayor brought the issue back to the City Council.

    Councilmember Bonnie Lowenthal asked about an environmental feasibility study (regarding possible contaminants). LB Parks, Recreation and Marine Director Phil Hester indicated the Coastal Conservancy has given City Hall approximately $300,000 to do a feasibility study for this site and the DeForrest nature center area; part of that study, which he said has now started, will be to examine those issues.

    Asked by Councilwoman Lowenthal about public inaccessibility to land in the vicinity [not part of the wetlands grant but adjacent to it], City Manager Taboada said:

    "That [freeway median] property is in fact not easily accessible until we're able to accomplish some sort of a bridge to get to it."

    With regard to the adjacent wetland restoration project, Mr. Taboada said the city would attempt to secure land along the L.A. river to the extent feasible and "at some point we would like to get the land that would connect this particular parcel [the wetlands restoration area] with Drake Park, and once we've accomplished that, then I think we have a contiguous and accessible piece of property. This one right now will be accessible from the bike path that is currently in existence along the river. But we fully intend to restore this and to move north as funds and as opportunities permit."

    The Mayor then called on Councilmember Ray Grabinski:

    Councilman Ray Grabinski

    ...When people come to town and they want to do something with a piece of property...we run them through every kind of screen imaginable...I guess the timing is a little suspect. This comes a week before we're going to find out whatever we're going to find out about the land swap...

    ...If this were something else, we we'd have a public hearing, we would have had a map, the community wouldn't have had a bring a map down here, we would have had a map. I appreciate the fact that they went through the trouble to do that. We would have had a presentation that would have shown what this is up on the wall so everyone could have seen it at home. And I apologize to the people at home.

    Because this is a very important issue. Let's set aside for a moment Queensway Bay. This is public land, and we've had problems in the past with how we proceed on what we do with public land, and this is another classic case. This should be a great gift. We're applying for a grant, but along applying for a grant there is this implied situation that we, the band of 9 [Councilmembers], may be swapping this land with the State of California.

    And I can tell you we've just documented that this land isn't good for anybody except us and the state of California, whether we use it or the state of California uses it...So we're talking about technical ownership, and we're also talking about the cart way ahead of the horse...

    ...We don't know what the soil is like, and yet we've got [financial] numbers here...And then there's a grant from the MTA, is that right?

    LB Parks & Rec Dir. Phil Hester: Yes, we have a grant for half a million dollars that will be used to connect the city bikeway system underneath the 6th street underpass to this particular site, that's a part of the connection...

    Councilman Grabinski: The MTA gets their money from the federal government...That means we have to meet every one of the requirements of not just this city but of the federal government. And those hoops and all of those things should be done before, not after, we decide we're going to use this parcel for some kind of a swap...

    If this can't wait a week and be done the way it ought to be done, then what's happening is it's not a swap, it's a slide. We're sliding owners in and out underneath this thing. And the only reason I'm bringing this up is I heard for six months to a year that we were all done with the State Lands, and we didn't have to do anything to the State Lands and we had all our permits.

    If that's the case, why are we doing' this in the first place? I'd like to know. Somebody explain that to me.

    City Manager Taboada: Why are we doing the grant application, or...?

    Councilman Grabinski (interrupting): Let me rephrase, because that might have been a real tricky question, Henry. Why are we doing this now rather than after we talk about any kind of a land swap, and why are we doing it without having gone through the same process we would have put other people through?

    City Manager Taboada: Well Councilmember, if you believe that we're doing this because of what's going on with the Queensway Bay project, this is pure coincidence because we have no agenda here with bringing this to you for any other reason than timeliness with the grant application process.

    Councilman Grabinski: So there'd be no problem then in saying, yes we want the grant application but we want to make sure that this land is not attached to any land swap?

    City Manager Taboada: Well, the grant application process is independent of whether it's tidelands or whether it's city owned property.

    Councilman Grabinski: You just made the point though Henry, is that right? It's not contingent upon the land swap, is that right?

    City Manager Taboada: This grant application?

    Councilman Grabinski: Right.

    City Manager Taboada. Absolutely. This application needs to go forward.

    Councilman Grabinski: We can support the grant application and say it won't be part of the land swap.

    City Manager Taboada: No, you can't say that because that's a separate issue.

    Councilman Grabinski: Well we set the policy for the City of Long Beach.

    City Manager Taboada: Yes you do sir. And I'm prepared to bring you a recommendation on that policy next week which has nothing to do with this grant application.

    Councilman Grabinski: Well I would submit to you sir, that when you apply for a grant application for a piece of property that's getting federal funds and all the rest of these funds a week before you do something, you do this other thing, and I purposely didn't mention Queensway Bay, because I didn't want to tie the two together, you kind of leave us out there as if we are doing something away from the public.

    City Manager Taboada: As I said, the ownership is not at issue here. We're going to own this land whether it's land swap or no land swap, Queensway Bay or no Queensway Bay. We will still be the fee owner of this property.

    At this point, Councilman Grabinski made a substitute motion to apply for the wetlands grant with the land not being part of a Queensway Bay swap. The motion died for lack of a second.

    The main motion (authorizing City Manager to apply for the wetlands restoration grant) passed 7-1 (Yes: Lowenthal, Baker, Colonna, Carroll, Kell, Richardson-Batts, Webb; No: Grabinski. Absent [from entire meeting]: Shultz).

    Immediately prior to the vote, Councilwoman Bonnie Lowenthal said the grant application "is really critical for the physical and mental health of everybody in that area, and that's why I'm supportive of it."

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