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Internal City Records Obtained By LBREPORT.com Show What Mayor/City Mgm't Told Angels Compared To What City EIR Told Public Re LB Arena-Adjacent "Elephant Lot" (Unavailable For City Pool Rebuild)


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Publisher's note: LBREPORT.com reported portions of this story on March 19, 2019 using then-publicly available materials. We now add coverage reflecting internal City Hall records, sought and recently obtained by LBREPORT.com and others under the CA Public Records Act.
(May 17, 2019, 3:55 p.m.) -- On May 17, 2017 (exactly two years from the publication date of this article), a Long Beach City Council majority voted to overrule public appeals and certify (approve) a City-proffered Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that told the public and decisionmaking Councilmembers that the "Elephant Lot" -- publicly owned land that once previously accommodated circuses next to the LB Arena -- was unavailable as an alternative site to rebuild a pool/aquatic center (instead of a seismically challenged, sea-level rise-problematic Belmont Shore beachfront site.)

The City's EIR told the public and the Council in pertinent part:

[Scroll down for further.]




[Belmont Pool EIR text] ..The [Elephant Lot] site was considered because of its location in the Downtown area and proximity to existing public use areas, such as the LBCC, the Long Beach Arena and the Aquarium of the Pacific. However, Jehovah's Witness currently leases this parking lot site to accommodate parking demands during the annual convention at the LBCC. The lease expires in 2030 and requires 3,000 parking spaces in two different lots, currently the "Elephant Lot" provides over half of these parking spaces (1,915 spaces)...[A]ny loss of parking for Jehovah's Witness or the LBCC would require additional mitigation. Special events, such as the annual Grand Prix of Long Beach, also use the parking lot for events and staging. This alternative site would not represent the highest and best land use for the area adjacent to the convention center, which should be reserved for convention or hotel uses...[The EIR cited a number of other reasons, then stated] For the reasons stated above, the "Elephant Lot" site was rejected as a potential alternative site and was not considered further.(Source: EIR Chapter 5, p. 5-6 and 5-7)

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The Council vote to certify the EIR was 6-2, (Uranga and Gonzalez dissenting, Pearce absent but indicated she would have voted "no.")

But internal City Hall documents obtained by LBREPORT.com under the CA Public Records Act show that a little over three weeks after the Council vote, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (who under LB's City Charter doesn't have authority to set city policy or manage city staff) sent the June 7 after-hours email (text below) to John Keisler, the City's management-level Director of Economic Development, cc'd to Mark Taylor, the Mayor's Chief of Staff:

Date: Wednesday June 7, 2017, at 9:42:44 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: Mayor Garcia
To: John Keisler
CC: Mark Taylor

John, as you know, Mark had a good meeting with Angels reps. I know you are going to meet with them next. Just a note that this is a big one. Really hoping to go all in to see if this is a possibility.

RG

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Five days later, Long Beach city management authorized spending $17,000 to hire an architecture firm (Gensler) to [City text accompanying May 13, 2019 released documents] "explore a variety of potential development opportunities along the Long Beach Waterfront, with a specific focus on the Elephant Lot as a potential future opportunity site." [emphasis added by LBREPORT.com.]

The report's 50+ pages consists of Power Point style materials that describe the area's "existing conditions ("assets," "challenges" and "opportunities") and offers three "Visions of the Future".






And it describes the Elephant Lot as an "Opportunity Site."














In releasing the document above on May 13, 2019, the City of Long Beach called it "a high-level visioning document intended to generate ideas of possible developments on that site, and did not focus on any one specific project, or make specific project recommendations. The effort began on June 12, 2017 and concluded on March 3, 2018..."

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July 17, 2018: Superior Court Judge James Chalfont issues an opinion upholding City Hall's EIR on the pool rebuild, finding that it satisfied minimum legal requirements. Judge Chalfont notes that the EIR said the "Elephant Lot" wasn't a feasible alternative site for a pool rebuild in because it was unavailable.

August 28, 2018: Mayor Garcia holds a press event at which he tells the public (who hasn't been asked) to expect intense development south of Ocean Blvd., including the Elephant Lot. At the event he titled "Building A Better Long Beach," Garcia says a "visioning" process will take place for the Downtown Shoreline Planned Development area PD-6 [Power Point slide text] "creating a new Specific Plan for this area" and a "task force" [whose members he'll likely choose] would discuss [Power Point slide text] a "long term development plan to strengthen existing uses and promote new uses that enhance the shoreline."


Oct. 9, 2018: Assistant City Manager Tom Modica provides Mayor Garcia, his Chief of Staff Mark Taylor, City Manager Pat West. Development Services Director Linda Tatum, City Attorney Parkin and Assistant City Attorney Mais with a five page summary titled "Documents Related to the Elephant Lot" with relevant documents attached (multi-page documents totaling over 300 pages.) In releasing the documents to LBREPORT.com, the City acknowledged that they were provided the Angels related to the Elephant Lot. In the five page summary, the City stated in pertinent part:

Coastal Zone

This property sits within the Coastal Zone. More specifically, the majority of the site lies within "Original Jurisdiction" for the Coastal Commission, with potentially small portions of the property within the Cityís Coastal jurisdiction. Any major project would therefore require a Local Coastal Development permit either separately or jointly issued by both the City and the Coastal Commission.

...Tidelands Trust This property is officially within the Tidelands Trust area of the City. It is property owned by the City and held in trust for the State of California and therefore will have Tidelands Trust restrictions on the property limiting the types of uses to those approved in the Tidelands Trust Act. Elements of any future project may require State Lands Commission approval or review...

...Olympics Contract

In Summer 2028, the City will be hosting six Olympic events, including Sailing, Triathlon, Open Water Swimming, BMX Biking, Handball and Water Polo. Specifically, Water Polo and BMX Biking are located in the Elephant Lot, and Handball is located in the Convention Center. The Cityís agreement for the Olympics and the conditions for delivering the Elephant Lot is attached...The City is required to deliver the site in its current condition shortly after the Grand Prix concludes in April 2028. The Olympic Committee will have exclusive use of the site until approximately two weeks after the games end in August 2028. This agreement was executed as part of the original 2024 bid, and since execution of the document it was announced that Los Angeles will be awarded the 2028 Olympics. The City will formally amend the agreement in the future to specify the same dates for the 2028 games, and has already provided an oral commitment that we will honor those dates for 2028.

...Elephant Lot Parking

There are currently 1,866 parking spaces in the surface lot called the Elephant Lot that serve as code-required parking necessary to support the events at the Convention Center. The total amount of parking at the Convention Center (including the Elephant Lot) required by code to accommodate events at the Center totals 4,230 spaces, of which 375 are under long-standing contracts with surrounding businesses for restricted private parking.

...Control of the Site / SMG Operating Agreement

The land is owned by the City of Long Beach, in trust for the State of California, as a Tidelands asset. The City has a management agreement with SMG for operation of the Convention Center, which includes the Elephant Lot. SMG controls surface lots and the Ocean Boulevard parking structure as well as operations in the buildings. Major terms are as follows:

  • Original term commences July 1, 1991
  • Term ends June 30, 2022
  • Provides for the management of the Convention Center, Theater Complex, Sports Arena and parking structure and surface lots
  • Responsibility includes normal operations, maintenance & repair of site; providing personnel for events; operation of box office; preparation of annual budget
  • Agreement with SMG is attached (Attachment D) [Attachment D is redacted/blacked out.]

...Contract between SMG and the Jehovahís Witnesses (CCJW) for use of the Elephant Lot

SMG contracted with CCJW in 2001 and again in 2012 to provide for CCJW's contractor to make improvements to the Arena. In exchange, CCJW is entitled to use the Convention Center for convention between May-Sept. annually for up to 14 weekends/year CCJW conventions. Major terms are as follows:

The contract originally expired in 2017; however the additional work in 2012 extended the time through 2029.

  • Each CCJW convention weekend is valued at $18,900 for the purposes of calculating the time frame of CCJW's use of the convention center property.
  • The area to be used includes the Arena and 3,000 parking spaces, the majority of which are located in the Elephant Lot.
  • The agreement with CCJW is attached...

    ...Grand Prix Associates Agreement

    The City of Long Beach annually hosts the Grand Prix of Long Beach and has done so since 1975. The Grand Prix is a three-day weekend event held typically in April and is the culmination of a week of supporting race car events and race related activities. The event, including the race week, is a large scale regional event drawing an estimated 180,000 attendees and attracting global corporate sponsorship. The event is overlaid on existing streets in downtown Long Beach and, after 43 years, is the longest running street race in North America.. The event is currently operated by Grand Prix Association of Long Beach (GPALB) under an existing agreement. The Elephant Lot is the main staging area for the pit and the course passes through the Elephant Lot. Major terms of the agreement are as follows:

    • Amended & Restated Agreement in 2017
    • Term expires June 30, 2023 with one 5-year option to extend at the discretion of the City.
    • Area is inclusive of race course, convention center grounds.
    • Agreement defines construction and lay-down areas, race circuit, and schedule for these areas and installation
    • The agreement has specific language related to future potential development of the Elephant Lot and provisions for either accommodation of a new course or termination of the agreement
    • The agreement with the Grand Prix is attached...

    ...Additionally, the City has significant experience in managing parking and mobility for large scale events. Each event is unique, with different pricing and parking facilities available based on the size of the event, the frequency of the event, and other events occurring in the City. Availability of City-owned parking assets for any development will require discussion and negotiation. The map above shows total spaces; however, some spaces are under contract or are otherwise not available for any given event.

    ...Special Events Parking Plan for a Major Downtown Event

    Below is a sample of a plan for a major event in Downtown in the evenings or on weekends.

    In the event of a large event downtown on the waterfront, the City places message boards on Shoreline Drive at the Broadway off ramp and at Ocean and Alamitos (at Alboni) directing patrons towards Shoreline Drive. The message board plan continues on Shoreline Drive directing people to the Convention Center parking lots both off of Pine to Seaside and directly down Shoreline Drive. The surface lot is filled first, then 400 garage, Terrace and the Pine Ave Parking Garages. Once the Convention Center lots are full, City staff have the capability to fill Marina Green Park (parking on the grass). Once these are full, City staff change the message boards and redirect traffic to the Pike parking structure. Once the Pike is full, the message boards direct traffic above Ocean Blvd, including the Broadway Garage and the Courthouse Lot, both of which are easily accessible for shuttle stops. Once these fill, City staff direct to both City Place B and A parking structures, which also have easy shuttle stop access. If all of this parking fills, Special Events has the capability to work with the private lots around the City to open up and receive cars.

    Control of the Site / SMG Operating Agreement

    The land is owned by the City of Long Beach, in trust for the State of California, as a Tidelands asset. The City has a management agreement with SMG for operation of the Convention Center, which includes the Elephant Lot. SMG controls surface lots and the Ocean Boulevard parking structure as well as operations in the buildings. Major terms are as follows:

  • Original term commences July 1, 1991
  • Term ends June 30, 2022
  • Provides for the management of the Convention Center, Theater Complex, Sports Arena and parking structure and surface lots
  • Responsibility includes normal operations, maintenance & repair of site; providing personnel for events; operation of box office; preparation of annual budget
  • Agreement with SMG is attached (Attachment D) [redacted/blacked out]
  • Oct. 25, 2018: : "Follow up Items: Revised October 25, 2018" marked "draft" states in pertinent part:

    Below is an outline of the major steps required for a large development on the Elephant Lot. Permitting agencies would include the City of Long Beach and the California Coastal Commission. A proposed project may also be subject to State Lands Commission review as well.

    The following is a conservative estimate of the entitlement and CEQA process, and it is likely that the following schedule will narrow considerably as project specifics are identified and the specific steps are mapped out. The entitlements required include: a General Plan Amendment, Zone Change, Site Plan Review, Parcel Map, Conditional Use Permit, and certification of an Environmental Impact Report, which approvals are subject to Planning Commission and City Council action.

    In addition, the project would require a Local Coastal Program Amendment (LCPA) by the California Coastal Commission after City Councilís action on all project applications. For projects of this magnitude, it is reasonable to anticipate a minimum 12-18 month Coastal Commission review period.

    TimelineMajor Task Summary
    Month 1-2Project Initiation: Project kick-off, ID Data Needs; Initial Study/Notice of Preparation; Project Description, Scoping Meeting; Scope project outreach; Project Alternatives
    Month 2 - 6Prepare Technical Studies; Analyze project impacts
    Month 6 - 10Conduct community outreach
    Month 8 - 14Prepare Screen check EIR; MMRP; Admin DEIR; and DEIR
    Month 14 -16Circulate DEIR for Public Comment -- 45 Day Review
    Month 16 - 18Conduct Planning Commission DEIR Study Session (During Comment Period)
    Month 18 - 20Prepare and release FEIR/MMRP
    Month 20 - 24Planning Commission/City Council Public Hearing/File an Notice of Determination
    Month 24 - 40Submit the project to the California Coastal Commission for consideration of a Local Coastal Development Permit

    Additionally, the City would be able to explore potential State legislation to place a certain time period on CEQA challenges, which has been approved by the State for other large projects in California.

    LBREPORT.com reiterates: the materials above relate to potential use(s) by a private entity(s) of publicly-owned land that a City-proffered EIR contended was unavailable for a public owned facility.

    Further to follow on LBREPORT.com

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    Support really independent news in Long Beach. No one in LBREPORT.com's ownership, reporting or editorial decision-making has ties to development interests, advocacy groups or other special interests; or is seeking or receiving benefits of City development-related decisions; or holds a City Hall appointive position; or has contributed sums to political campaigns for Long Beach incumbents or challengers. LBREPORT.com isn't part of an out of town corporate cluster and no one its ownership, editorial or publishing decisionmaking has been part of the governing board of any City government body or other entity on whose policies we report. LBREPORT.com is reader and advertiser supported. You can help keep really 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.


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