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It's Big, It Could Affect Your Property And Your Neighborhood, And It's Coming To LB's Planning Comm'n (One Step From City Council) On Feb. 2: Proposed Revisions To All Of LB's Land Uses Citywide. See How This Could Affect You is reader and advertiser supported. Support independent news in LB similar to the way people support NPR and PBS stations. We're not non-profit so it's not tax deductible but $49.95 (less than an annual dollar a week) helps keep us online.
(Jan. 31, 2017, 7:10 a.m.) -- It's big. It's about as big as it gets. On Feb. 2 at 5:00 p.m., LB's non-elected (Mayor-chosen, Council-approved) Planning Commission will consider and could take voted action to approve, possibly modify and send to the elected City Council for its consideration and final approval, a complete revision of the way Long Beach City Hall treats land uses citywide. The proposed changes could bring increased residential and commercial densities (and related traffic, parking and other impacts) to parts of Long Beach.

City staff proposes an entirely new Land Use Element (LUE) and an entirely new Urban Design Element to LB's General Plan. It would change the way City Hall classifies land uses citywide, replacing familiar neighborhood descriptions with "Placetypes." Depending on one's neighborhood, the proposed changes could have minor or major long term impacts, since changes in the land use element would set in motion subsequent zoning code changes (as zoning is supposed to be consistent with a city's land use element.)

As described in city staff's agendizing memo: "While everything in the Plan is 'new,' there are eight specific major areas of change: more open space, converting industrial areas to neo-industrial, promoting regional serving uses, transitioning from industrial to commercial uses, promoting transit-oriented development, continuing downtown development, promoting infill and redevelopment to support transit, and redevelopment to highest and best use." city staff agendizing memo. [Memo, pp. 15-16.]

Proposed new land use classifications ("Placetypes") and allowed developments within them can be found in the proposed Land Use Element on its p. 65, illustrated on maps on pp. 66 and 67, with height limits on pp. 68 and 69. Strategies proposed to implement these changes in LB neighborhoods are described on pp. 140-163.

[City staff's memo says changes are shown in an Exhibit C, but we don't see this document online of dawn Jan. 31.]

The Feb. 2 Planning Commission hearing is a significant decision point and an opportunity for residents (and their neighborhood groups) to state their positions on the proposed changes, pro or con. Action on the LUE and UDE by the non-elected Planning Commission will go to LB's elected City Council...where a majority will ultimately decide.

[Scroll down for further.]

In some areas, the proposed changes would allow development types prohibited in LB after WWII [arguably enabling what former city staff called a "corridor strategy" that drew opposition when last proposed several years ago.] City staff's agendizing memo provides city management's rationale for the proposed changes. "Commercial corridors such as 7th St., Atlantic Ave., and Anaheim St. were originally built as mixed-use corridors. Some of the remaining buildings reflect this development pattern with shops on the ground floor and apartments, lofts or condos above. During the post-war period, planning moved away from this model and the current city's general plan and zoning prohibit new mixed use on most of the commercial corridors outside of downtown and Long Beach Boulevard. Allowing a return to a mixed-use style of development, with appropriate provisions for quality design and transitions between the corridors and adjacent neighborhoods, is an important component of increasing the opportunity for housing production as well as creating more sustainable, walkable, complete neighborhoods." [Feb. 2 agendizing memo, p. 8]


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The land use element assigns a priority to "economic development," encouraging the full buildout of ELB's Douglas Park, transitioning parts of NLB, the Zaferia and the Magnolia Industrial Group areas over time to what it calls a new "Neo-Industrial PlaceType" which "blurs the lines between office and industrial in a fashion reflective of today and tomorrow's tech and creative economy." [Agendizing memo, p. 10]

City staff says retail elsewhere has been successful in what it calls "experience centers where shopping is offered alongside entertainment, gathering space and programming (citing Downtown Disney in Anaheim, the Grove in Los Angeles and the Americana in Glendale...and the proposed LB LUE proposes to allow this type of development within Community Commercial, Downtown and Regional Serving PlaceTypes (see map). Staff says it anticipates this type of retail will evolve within Neighborhood Serving Centers and Corridors "as the stand-alone strip mall continues to decline and mixed use development returns to these parts of the City." [Memo, p. 11.]



Staff also proposes a separate-but-related new Urban Design Element (UDE) that applies various design standards within the Land Use Element Placetypes. Staff calls the UDE "critical because it addresses how different Placetypes meet at edges and how streets can serve as transitions. Using the UDE staff will be able to create new zones to implement the LUE placetypes and ensure adequate transitions, privacy, setbacks and stepback between more and less intensive development." [Memo, p. 13.]

City staff made some changes to its initially proposed LUE revision. In response to public input, it accommodated Peninsula homeowners who wanted their three-story height limit kept intact, and staff also reduced initially-proposed heights along 2nd St. in Belmont Shore and on Pacific Ave. in Wrigley.



At a June 30, 2016 joint meeting/study session of LB's Planning Commission and Economic Development Commission, a senior city staffer acknowledged that the proposed changes are intended to spur market-driven developer/commercial property owner interest in proposing more intense and (staff says) higher quality developments. These would occur, city staff says, in locations where the new placetypes and eased restrictions would let property reach its highest and best uses.

Although it may appear that only some locations are directly impacted, those locations will have wider impacts on surrounding neighborhoods, including traffic and parking impacts.

The proposed changes come amid other density-inviting actions, including a developer-friendly "Downtown Plan" that has invited higher heights and density plus a now-advancing SEASP zoning plan that invites higher heights, increased commercial density (and increased traffic) in SE LB.

City staff argues that its proposed changes will encourage higher quality development, apply "smart" uses of developable land, encourage urban synergies, utilize available land more efficiently, prevent "sprawl" and encourage pedestrian, bicycle and transit uses...and allow land to reach its highest and best uses.

But these reassuring words may leave some Long Beach residents uneasy, who haven't forgotten the last time City Hall planners claimed increased density would bring prosperity when it instead brought "crackerbox" apartments that did permanent damage to some neighborhoods. will provide LIVE VIDEO of Thursday's Planning Commission meeting on our front page -- Scheduled start time is 5:00 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2.


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