Density Desired By Developers Versus Neighborhoods With Parking For Residents: Showdown Hearing Is Tonight Re
|(Nov. 14, 2017, 9:25 a.m.) -- What do Long Beach's current Councilmembers put first? Density desired by developers or neighborhoods with parking for residents? A showdown hearing tonight (Nov. 14) will answer that question regarding a proposed seven story residential building at
The hearing will effectively require the Council to confront some of the consequences of a 2012 Council action (motion by then-Councilman Garcia) that approved a "Downtown Plan" inviting increased downtown density and higher building heights and lets developers offer less parking than City zoning previously required. In addition, the hearing raises citywide issues...since city staff has proposed a sweeping revision to LB's Land Use Element that, if ultimately approved by the Council, would increase density and building heights beyond downtown into multiple neighborhoods citywide.
Tonight's hearing was triggered by appeals filed by Bea Jimenez, David White, Karin McGinley, Tino Haramis, Kazumi Hiromoto, Tetsu Hashimoto and Long Beach Citizens for Fair Development, Inc., a non-profit group (founded and led by Mr. Blesofsky and represented on the appeal by the Channel Law Group.)
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|The appeal hearing was originally scheduled for Oct. 17 but was delayed at the project applicant's request to Oct. 24. At the Oct. 24 Council meeting, Mayor Robert Garcia announced without explanation that the hearing was being held over (postponed) to Nov. 14, and 2nd district Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce (who represents the Alamitos Beach area) indicated that the delay could enable communications between the developer and appellants. LBREPORT.com has since learned that the applicant didn't meet with appellant Blesofsky (or to our knowledge with other appellants) while Councilwoman Pearce invited some Alamitos Beach residents to a meeting she arranged, attended by members of city staff, to which appellant Blesofsky wasn't invited. LBREPORT.com has separately learned that a number of residents who attended Pearce's meeting left dissatisfied with what they heard from Pearce and city staff.
To view city staff's hearing memo and attachments, click here.
LB Citizens for Fair Development, represented by the Channel Law Group, stated in its opposition filing that the proposed project would violate the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA.) To view the law firm's filing in full, click here.
The same law firm was retained by an Alamitos Beach grassroots group -- TAPS (Transportation and Parking Solutions) -- and challenged the Council's 2012 adoption of the "Downtown Plan" on CEQA grounds and won a settlement that requires the city to perform a professional parking study that may propose parking solutions...but with no guarantee of the outcome. Among those testifying at the Aug. 17 Planning Commission hearing in opposition to the proposed project was TAPS leader Deborah Dobias.
At the Aug. 17, 2017 Planning Commission hearing, opposition to the 320 Alamitos project came from the appellants, other impacted neighborhood residents, representatives of the Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) and Neighborhoods First with some speakers from areas spanning Wrigley to Los Altos. Neighborhood residents pleaded with the Commission not to approve the project that they said would worsen already scarce parking that City Hall made scarce in part by enabling "crackerbox" residential density in the 1980s.
Appellant Blesofsky framed the issue in different terms: "Everyone's talking about parking here and they're wrong because it's not about parking. It's about money. And whose money it's about is the developer's money...[S]omebody is going to make a pile of cash off of this at the expense of the people that live in the neighborhood." [applause] He added: "There's a land use coup d'etat going on in the city of Long Beach right now. And if you want to know why there's so many speakers up here and why these meetings are taking so long, it's because California Environmental Quality Act is not being followed."
Planning Commission testimony in support came from a representative of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA), the project's hired design firm with supportive testimony by city staff.
To hear the public's Planning Commission testimony in full as delivered, click here.
Residents from a number of neighborhoods supported the position of the Alamitos Beach residents. Among them were representatives of the newly revived grassroots Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO), veteran ELB community advocate Joe Sopo (Neighborhoods First), longtime Wrigley neighborhood leader Alan Tolkoff and Los Altos Center Neighborhood Adjacent (LACAN) leader (4th district) Joe Mello. Mr. Mello, whose group is part of CONO, noted that he'd been active for a long time on issues including the Airport and said:
"I can tell you I have not seen this in years, but there is a upswelling of people who are very upset at the utopian vision trying to be pushed on because we saw this happen on the west side of the 4th district years and years and years ago. And it is a travesty. That is the part of our district that has crime. That is the part of our district that is just not functioning. And this is what you're trying to bring to many parts of the city." He added, "The developers don't care from my perspective about parking. They don't care. And the neighborhoods and the residents are not going to put up with it. This is just the beginning of what you're going to see here, over and over, because this city is becoming united in wanting to not have this pushed down our throats." [loud applause].
A representative of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance (whose leadership can be viewed here) testified in support of the proposed development. Adam Carillo, DLBA's Economic Development Manager, expressed DLBA's "full support for this project" and urged the Planning Commission to approve the site plan review and lot merger. "As a key initiative set forth in the Downtown Plan, it's truly to create a downtown urban core that builds upon density and derives from foot traffic. The 320 Alamitos project...enhances the foot traffic by creating density along the Alamitos Ave. corridor. The project also encourages sustainable practices and public transportation through the inclusion of a full service bicycle kitchen, providing bicycle repairs, maintenance and storage. In addition, the Metro bus lines are located immediately adjacent to the project and the site is within a ten minute walk to the Metro Blue Line station...The project exceeds the minimum parking requirements set forth in the Downtown Plan by providing 1.36 parking ratio of the planned number of parking stalls."
The developer proposes to provide 105 parking stalls for 77 residential units, which exceeds the Downtown Plan's minimum of one parking stall per residential unit plus one additional parking space for every four residential units.
Alamitos Beach neighborhood residents said that amount of parking won't likely accommodate all of the building's residents (presuming many residential units would have two residents, not one), plus guests, who'd end up using already scarce street parking. In addition, the building would replace an existing surface parking lot with about 50 spaces, currently used by residents of the adjacent parking-impacted neighborhood.
City staff said it supports the proposed development because it complies with the Council-enacted Downtown Plan, meets and exceeds the minimum amount of parking indicated in the Downtown Plan and advances the goals of the Downtown Plan. [For details on the Jan. 2012 Council vote that enacted the Downtown Plan, see LBREPORT.com's "Amnesia File" below.]
At the Planning Commission below, then-Planning Commission chair Donita Van Horik (whose resignation Mayor Garcia announced without explanation in July, effective Oct. 1) asked staff if the Downtown Plan could be changed. Yes, city staff replied; the City Council could amend it...but city staff wouldn't support doing so.
The Commission went on to approve the proposed development without dissent, setting the stage for appeals to the City Council.
On Jan. 10, 2012, the Council approved a density and high rise inviting Downtown Plan on a split vote after more than four hours of polarizing testimony. The motion to approve was made by then-Councilman (now Mayor) Robert Garcia (seconded by then-Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal.) The motion carried
As part of its 2012 Downtown Plan approval, the Council certified a "program EIR" that says the City accepts nearly all significant environmental impacts of future developments within a specific geographic area, effectively making it harder for residents impacted by a proposed development to use state law (CEQA) to object to each project as it arises and thereby gain compromises/moderation/changes from developers. For LBREPORT.com archival coverage of the Jan. 10, 2012 Council action, click here.
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, city staff says a "program EIR" is appropriate in connection with its proposed Land Use Element revision.
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