Mayor Garcia Hears Polite But Firm Criticism Of Proposed LUE Density And City Process At 5th Dist. Invitation-Only Event (With Others In Other Districts To Follow)

  • Mayor Garcia focused and engaged, interacts with invitees but voices no views pro or con on contentious issues raised
  • Councilwoman Mungo says she'll make Mar. 6 Council motion to limit current 5th dist. commercial areas to two stories community commercial (not three story mixed comm'l-residential uses)
  • shows up expecting to be turned away, but is allowed to attend nearly two hour meeting
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    (Feb. 4, 2018, 2:07 p.m.) -- Mayor Robert Garcia's office sent invitations to what it called a private invitation-only "roundtable" discussion of the Land Use Element (LUE) with about 8-12 fifth Council district community members with Councilwoman Stacy Mungo invited but with no media present. It turned out to be a one hour forty five minute meeting with 17 residents, most if not all selected with the assistance of Robert Fox of LB's grassroots Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) from 5th district neighborhoods stretching from Old Lakewood Village to El Dorado Park South.

    Mayor Garcia (who didn't attend three October 2017 Town Hall style events on the LUE) was visibly and audibly engaged throughout the Feb. 3 meeting. He took notes, interacted with the invitees and in response to detailed comments correlated their points with locations on an LUE "placetype" map. has learned that similar "roundtable" meetings are planned in other Council districts, first mentioned by Mr. Fox in an email a few hours after he met with Mayor Garcia and decided not to file prepared paperwork to run for Mayor. has learned that some if not all of the meeting invitees are chosen or recommended by Mr. Fox,

    [Scroll down for further.] wasn't invited to the 5th district event and we showed up at the meeting location (El Dorado Bar and Grill, Studebaker @ Spring St.) expecting to be turned away. On arrival, we spotted the Mayor's Chief of Staff, Mark Taylor, asked him if we could attend and he said yes. Mayor Garcia greeted us and began the meeting at 11:05 a.m. Since the meeting was described as private, (on our own) chose not to record audio or video. What follows reflects our old-school copious notes and what we observed.

    After Mayor Garcia opened the meeting, Councilwoman Mungo (who was present for the entire meeting) indicated that had been walking door to door and found a number of residents confused by misinformation, and said she had to explain to residents the Council hadn't made any decisions yet.

    Non-elected City Hall staffers present included [not a complete list] Assistant City Manager Tom Modica, Mayor Garcia's Chief of Staff Mark Taylor and the Mayor's Sr. Administrative Deputy Tim Patton.



    A number of invitees at the Feb. 3 meeting were young parents with school age children. Others were middle aged. Some were realtors. Most had involvement with neighborhood groups. The invitees reflected a range of ages and (especially with among younger attendees) ethnic diversity. In varying terms but with consistent basic substance, invitees politely but firmly cited reasons why the LUE's proposed increased density conflicts with the 5th district's planned suburban development.

    Several said it undermines the reasons why they purchased their homes and chose to live in the area. Some said many of their neighbors remain unaware of the extent of the proposed changes (in part because the city didn't notify residents citywide using utility bills.)

    Others said the LUE would repeat damaging mistakes of LB's past by enabling developer-propelled "crackerbox" apartment density that created chronic issues. Others said it would overwhelm LB's thinned police resources and strained water and electrical infrastructure. Several (including a number of realtors) said that the city has left residents fearful and some uncertain over the area's future.

    And a number of invitees said the City had failed to address the consequences for the proposed LUE and neighborhoods from SB 35 and other Sacramento legislation.

    None supported the LUE as currently proposed. None used the term "receive and file" (recommended by most speakers at a December 2017 Planning Commission meeting) but several variously said the LUE and accompanying maps aren't ready for Council voted approval on March 6.


    Mayor Garcia said he felt the Planning Commission made good recommendations in December [recommended reductions in some proposed density increases, now reflected in Jan. 2018 released maps. These follow reductions made by city staff in November 2017 in response to Town Hall testimony in October 2017.] Mayor Garcia said the Council has several options on March 6: it can advance revised LUE maps as they now stand, or make changes, or do nothing, or recommend other actions.

    The meeting's first speaker, Karey Sharp (who's worked closely with CONO) thanked Councilwoman Mungo for getting staff to revise some areas it previously proposed for mixed-uses restored to exclusively commercial uses. She detailed ways in which ELB's planned development isn't consistent with the LUE's proposed density increases. She also cited the impacts of SB 35 (the first of several invitees to raise the issue) as well as the impacts of newly introduced Sacramento legislation.

    The second speaker (first name Nick, a resident of the L.A. County "island" east of Woodruff Ave., south of Heartwell Park) said most LB residents remain unaware of the LUE's potential impacts. He said electeds seeking re-election or higher office should carefully consider the impacts of their votes on their political futures, and in view of the LUE's magnitude the Council shouldn't vote to advance it on March 6.

    Councilwoman Mungo didn't respond to Nick's comment but Mayor Garcia did. He said the state requires the City to go through the process with the LUE; March 6 will be the Council's first opportunity to take actions on the LUE; said he has been following the process closely, welcomes the opportunity to engage but but could care less about politics on this because he loves Long Beach and has previously made clear that while he definitely supports increased housing downtown, ELB should retain its suburban character.

    Rex Hurley said he only learned of the LUE issue from a grassroots flier in the neighborhood near the Los Coyotes Diagonal "bow tie" (with "31 Flavors" store) where the LUE proposes to allow three story "mixed uses." Mr. Hurley said that outcome would eliminate privacy in the backyards of adjoining homeowners. Councilwoman Mungo said the property's owner hadn't indicated an intention to do so, in response to which Mr. Hurley replied that a subsequent owner might.

    As to residents learning about the LUE via grassroots fliers, Mr. Fox added that he'd made a Public Records Act request that indicated prior to his involvement, only 227 persons had attended city staff's previous "community outreach" on the LUE.

    Also present was Corliss Lee, who organized the "Eastside Voice" neighborhood group and entered the 5th district Council race after trying to raise LUE issues at a late April 2017 neighborhood meeting (held by Councilwoman Mungo on other issues) at which the Councilwoman rebuffed Ms. Lee's accurate information. ( coverage with audio here) At the Feb. 3 Mayoral roundtable, Ms. Lee noted that ELB already stands to shoulder neighborhood housing density and parking impacts from newly allowed "alternative dwelling unit" ("granny flats.") Ms Lee noted that this comes on top of neighborhood-impacting state legislation that hasn't been seriously discussed on top of the density increases proposed in the LUE.



    Invitee Kimberley Toscas, a co-organizer of the grassroots Density Watch, focused on potential impacts of allowing "mixed uses" (residences atop retail) at NE-ELB's "Towne Center" (Carson St. abutting 605 freeway.) Ms. Toscas and others have voiced concern that despite the five story height limit indicated on the current LUE map, a developer might seek entitlement to higher stories using verbiage in SB 35, a contention city staff has disputed (saying it believes LUE map heights are meant to trump other LUE text.)

    Mayor Garcia said city staff would seek to clarify this and he and Councilwoman Mungo both indicated some LUE language might be changed or clarified. Mayor Garcia also indicated that the City Attorney's office [which prepared a summary memo of SB 35's text for the Mayor and Council responding to issues raised by the public after its enactment] is now preparing a memo on the effects of SB 35 and other Sacramento legislation.

    Ms. Toscas said she that when she applied the verbiage on LUE page 65 (not the maps), and did so conservatively to only parts of the Towne Center, the result might be several thousand additional residents, which would mean several thousand more cars along Carson St. already backed-up at some hours through multiple traffic light cycles at Los Coyotes Diagonal (the first western entry southward into ELB.) (Mayor Garcia was visibly paying close attention and appeared to be taking notes on Ms. Toscas' cited numbers.) Ms. Toscas also noted that this Carson St. issue was amplified by possible mixed-uses now being considered (early stage) by the owner/operator of Parkview Village (NW quadrant Carson St./Bellflower Blvd., impacting LB's adjoining Old Lakewood Village neighborhood [separate coverage coming on] A Lakewood Village Neighborhood Ass'n representative separately discussed potential Parkview Village area impacts.

    Ms. Toscas made a financial contribution to the 5th district Council campaign of former LB Harbor Commissioner Rich Dines [who in April 2018 contributed to Mayor Garcia's 2018 Mayoral re-election campaign.] 5th district candidates Dines and John Osborn weren't at the Feb. 3 event; Mr. Osborn tells that under the invitation-only circumstances, he chose not to crash the meeting.

    Sharon Diggs-Jackson, a retired City of LB employee (civilian-LBPD position and LB Airport spokesperson) detailed damages done to neighborhoods by allowing "crackerbox" density years ago that the City then worked hard to remedy. However with the proposed LUE, the City could now face similar consequences without previously funded programs and with fewer budgeted police officers [nearly 200 fewer] that the City previously had [entering 2009.]

    The final invitee speaker, Grace Earl from the El Dorado Park South Neighborhood, said she very much agreed with what Ms. Diggs-Jackson said, noted that the City no longer had many programs including Park Rangers, and said she agreed with the views stated by other invitees who described their decisions to buy homes in the area.

    Following the invitees' statements, Councilwoman Mungo announced at the March 6 Council session on the LUE maps, she plans to make a motion to maintain 5th dist commercial areas as two story community commercial, a change from some city staff recommended three-story mixed uses.

    Mayor Garcia didn't indicate if he supports or opposes Councilwoman Mungo's intended motion. He voiced no views pro or con on contentious issues raised. (The Mayor has no vote, but has a veto that six Councilmembers can vote to override.) Mayor Garcia thanked the invitees for attending and the meeting concluded at 1:50 p.m.

    Background / context

    Early in the Feb. 3 meeting, Mayor Garcia noted that the March 6 Council meeting would be the Council's first opportunity to take voted action on the proposed LUE, a statement that is chronologically accurate but doesn't mention that city staff released its proposed LUE "placetype" draft LUE in May 2015 [reported by and others at the time] and Councilmember(s) had over two years in which any of them could have agendized LUE issues for Council direction. In the intervening period, some 3rd district areas raised objections on some neighborhood-level issues, in response to which city staff made LUE map adjustments.

    The LUE issue might have quietly reached the City Council for a finalizing enactment vote by mid-2017 were it not for some Wrigley-area residents who attended the Feb. 2017 Planning Commission meeting and objected to increased density in their area. City staff responded that the increased density reflected the area's adjacency to transit (Metro Blue Line and buses) but some Planning Commissioners sought options for allocating more density eastward. That led to an early April 2017 Planning Commission study session to discuss options at a meeting, attended by ELB residents Corliss Lee and Ann Cantrell.

    In late April, Ms. Lee went to a neighborhood meeting held by Councilwoman Stacy Mungo (on other topics) and during Q & A tried to discuss the advancing LUE issues, in response to which Councilwoman Mungo tried to deny information conveyed by Ms. Lee. ( audio coverage here.)

    A few weeks later on June 13, 2017, the City Council held a non-voting "study session" on the LUE at which Councilwoman Mungo raised no issues or voiced any objections to the LUE. Councilman Supernaw said the issue for him was parking (that he said that the LUE had to improve, not keep as-is or worsen.) Councilman Uranga noted that Wrigley area issues remained to be addressed.

    Two days later, city staff released at a Planning Commission study session revised maps proposing significantly increased density in parts of the 4th and 5th districts. Ms. Lee and others brought the escalating issue to CONO's attention; Mr. Fox (who'd dealt with an unsupportive Council when battling developer-propelled "crackerbox" density in the 1980s) grasped the significance of the LUE issues...and issued an email call to action to attend the August 2017 Planning Commission meeting on the revised maps..

    At the August 2017 Planning Commission meeting, intense public push-back led a Planning Commission majority to recommend further public input, but city staff revealed that the LUE and draft maps were already scheduled [by someone not disclosed publicly] for October 2017 City Council action and would be forwarded to the Council regardless of the Planning Commission recommendation.

    That further angered residents, leading Mayor Garcia (with the 2018 election cycle drawing closer) to call for more unspecified public input before the maps returned to the Planning Commission and the Council, in response to which city staff scheduled four "community workshops" that didn't allow Town Hall style testimony. That led to a audience rebellion at the first (Sept. 30) meeting led by Mr. Fox and CONO...and city staff ultimately allowed a Town Hall style format at three meetings in October that drew some of the largest public meeting crowds in recent LB history.

    In additional fallout from the August 2017 Planning Commission meeting, 4th district resident Janet West publicly raised the issue of then-advancing SB 35, and follow-up and discovered that the City of LB was failing to oppose SB 35 that in complex ways reduced local land use decision-making authority and public appeals on density-related housing projects. learned and reported that the City of LB took a "neutral" stance (or "watch" position) on SB 35 despite City of LB policy adopted by Council voted action as part the City's 2017 "state legislative agenda") to oppose Sac'to legislation weakening local control (including on land use matters.) In early September 2017, Councilwoman Price said at a community meeting that she opposes SB 35 and in a Tweet Mayor Garcia indicated his opposition...but SB 35 (which had the support of Sacramento Dem-majority leadership) ultimately advanced to passage and enactment without City of LB opposition. LB-area Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D, LB-SP) voted "no" on SB 35 (by which time the measure had cleared the Senate and had sufficient Assembly support for passage), state Senator Janet Nguyen (R, SE LB-OC) and Ricardo Lara (D, LB-Huntington Park) both voted "yes" on SB 35.

    At the Feb. 3, 2018 ELB meeting, Mayor Garcia said he felt SB 35 was Sacramento's reaction to other cities that hadn't done their part to produce more housing, while LB had done its part to produce more housing and is doing so now with cranes visible downtown to construct multi-unit residential buildings. He didn't say if he favors seeking to amend SB 35 to address this issue or to make other changes, including restoring public's CEQA appeal rights, erased by the bill.

    In response to October Town Hall meeting public push-back, in November 2017 city staff revised its draft land use maps to roll-back some of staff's June 2017 proposed density increases. In December 2017, a large crowd attended a pre-Christmas scheduled Planning Commission meeting at which most public speakers urged the Commission to recommend that the Council "receive and file" the draft LUE. Instead, the Planning Commission recommended map tweaks that reduced some density in some (but not all) areas.

    On January 18, 2018 city staff released revised maps incorporating the Planning Commission's recommended tweaks, and city staff announced the maps would come to the Council on March. 6.


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