'' Council Votes <nobr>9-0</nobr> To Overrule Appeals, Approves Developer-Desired Seven Story Residential Bldg @ 320 Alamitos Ave. '

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Council Votes 9-0 To Overrule Appeals, Approves Developer-Desired Seven Story Residential Bldg @ 320 Alamitos Ave.

Appellants raised neighborhood-impacts (incl. parking) similar to those voiced by opponents of city staff-sought Land Use Element revision

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(Nov. 15, 2017, 7:55 a.m.) -- As seen LIVE on LBREPORT.com, the City Council voted 9-0 on November 14 -- with only two Councilmembers speaking (Pearce and Gonzalez representing downtown and adjacent areas) -- to overrule appeals by Alamitos Beach residents and LB Citizens for Fair Development and approve developer-sought seven story residential building at 320 Alamitos Ave (2nd Council district.)

The hearing effectively required the Council to confront some of the consequences of a 2012 Council action (motion by then-Councilman Garcia) that approved a "Downtown Plan" (invited increased downtown density, higher building heights and lets developers offer less parking than City zoning previously required.)

Image source: Site Plan Review by Studio 111

[Scroll down for further.]

The Council's rejection of the residents' appeals has significance beyond the immediate neighborhood affected, since many of the issues raised by the appellants (including parking) are now echoing citywide in response to a city staff-sought revision to LB's Land Use Element (LUE). If ultimately approved by the Council, the LUE would allow varying levels of increased density and building heights in various parts of the city beyond downtown. Mayor Garcia and some Councilmembers have sought to contain public pushback against the LUE by saying they support high density downtown but consider it inappropriate in other areas.

The 320 Alamitos Ave. developer proposed to provide 105 parking stalls for 77 residential units, exceeding 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 have say the developer-provided parking spaces 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.



The Council hearing by LB's elected Council was triggered by appeals of the project's approval by LB's non-elected (Mayor chosen/Council approved) Planning Commission. [For LBREPORT.com coverage (incl. audio) of Aug. 17 Planning Commission proceeding, click here.,} Those filing appeals to the Council were 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 by the Channel Law Group.)

To view city staff's hearing memo and attachments, click here.

Image source: Site Plan Review by Studio 111.

During the Council hearing (which ran a little over 90 minutes), speakers in opposition to the proposed development (8) outnumbered those in support (6). Speakers in support included representatives of the Downtown LB Alliance, Apt. Ass'n of CA Southern Cities and two Willmore City residents (one a City employee, the other a member of a City Hall Commission.)

  • To hear applicant/developer presentation, click here.

  • To hear the appellants and public speakers' testimony (pro and con), click here.

  • To hear Councilmembers Pearce and Gonzalez responses leading to the Council's vote, click here.

Issues raised by speakers in opposition included parking impacts for neighborhood residents, inviting more renters instead of equity owner...and the charge that the development is out of character with the Alamitos Beach neighborhood and not fully within certain requirements of the "Downtown Plan" (density/high rise land use plan approved by the Council in 2012.)

Appellant Warren Blesofsky, Exec. Dir. of LB Citizens for Fair Development, said the City is misusing the Downtown Plan's "program EIR" process to prevent consideration of publicly raised neighborhood impacting issues. Speaker Debbie Dobias cited the Downtown Plan's neighborhood impacts and cited then-Councilman Garcia's role in approving it.

Opponents noted that some Planning Commissioners didn't want to approve the project [and one Commissioner asked how to change the Downtown Plan] to which staff responded that the Commission basically had little choice but to approve the project as compliant with the Downtown Plan [and staff signaled it would oppose any Council change in the Downtown Plan].

Other speakers noted public opposition to parking issues triggered by city staff's proposed/now-pending Land Use Element. Mr. Blesofsky said citywide anger over the LUE is the biggest public uprising since the 1991 riots.

After public comments ended, Councilwoman Pearce responded that parking was the biggest issue raised by residents and said it can be addressed by better managing current parking opportunities. Councilmembers Pearce and Gonzalez, who collectively represent downtown and adjacent areas, both said plans are now being developed to enable public parking at area churches and at MoLAA (Gonzalez said the total number could be 400+ spaces.)

Councilwoman Pearce said the building is consistent with the "Downtown Plan" which included promoting "walkability" and transit use...and said some people may find that hard to accept. Councilwoman Pearce made additional statements seemingly directed at blunting a line of further appeals [possible litigation that Mr. Blesofsky said he'd hoped to avoid] by stating she believes the project is consistent with the area given the high rise (the "Current") at Ocean/Alamitos and changes to the area around MoLAA (6th/7th St./Alamitos.)



Pearce offered two amendments to conditions of approval: (1) that the property owner will make any additional parking spots outside of Downtown Plan requirements available to the public by working with the City to manage permits, and (2) that the property owner will make the rooftop community room accessible to community groups and business improvement districts when available.

Councilwoman Gonzalez (one of five Council incumbents seeking re-election in April 2018) said change isn't easy, said she understands parking because she's lived downtown for ten years and credited herself with working on parking issues before a now-ongoing parking study [that resulted from residents' litigation.] Councilwoman Gonzalez added that on first seeing the building's proposed design, she didn't feel it was particularly bold, but on examining its aspects further, she now believes it is. Gonzalez concluded by saying she believes project and other downtown developments are putting the city in a good direction.

When Pearce and Gonzalez concluded, Garcia moved swiftly to call for a Council vote. No other Councilmembers spoke prior to joining in a unanimous Council vote overruling the appeals and approving the development.


Amnesia File

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 7-2 with then-Councilmembers Rae Gabelich and Steven Neal dissenting.

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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