Two Density-Driven Community Meetings Draw Sizable Weekend Crowds: "Eastside Voice" (New Neighborhood Group Spanning 4th-5th Council Districts) And "Density Watch" Urge Attention To Proposed Land Use Changes And Impacts Of Now-Enacted SB 35
|(Sept. 18, 2017, 12:50 p.m.) -- A standing-room only crowd attended the Sept. 17 inaugural meeting of the Eastside Voice, a new neighborhood group spanning the 4th and 5th Council districts. It was the second sizable turnout over the weekend of ELB residents concerned about city staff proposed increased density and the impacts of Sacramento-enacted SB 35.
Roughly seventy attended the Eastside Voice event, exceeding the capacity of the El Dorado Park Library's meeting room. 5th dist. resident Corliss Lee delivered a Power Point presentation while Ms. Cantrell amplified the group's message by distributing hard copy fliers (useful for old school door to door communication.)
Ms. Lee said the group is concerned about a number of issues, but will initially focus on an emergency basis on city staff's proposed revision of the city's Land Use Element (LUE) and its density increases, particular in light SB 35, which in many cases eliminates currently required public input, neighborhood impact (CEQA) review and can give developers near automatic approval to construct multi-unit residential buildings, including incentives for affordable housing, in areas where cities allow residential or "mixed use" (commercial + residential) developments. (City staff's Land Use changes include expanding "mixed uses" in various areas.)
SB 35's full text can be viewed is at this link; numbered pages 11-23 show how, with few exceptions, SB 35 would effectively minimize or end most LB City Hall decision making, current public input and local parking requirements.
Ms. Lee urged attention to lowering city staff's proposed building height increases, which she said fuels density increases and, when it includes "mixed uses," threatens certain mandatory elements of SB 35.
Ms. Lee said (and received meeting room approval) residents should urge the City Council to halt the advancing proposed Land Use Element revision until the City Attorney and Planning Bureau staff have provided the public (and decision making Council members) with a detailed analysis of all the ways SB 35's provisions could affect what city staff has proposed that the Council enact on land uses changes and allowable density.
She said the Eastside Voice opposes city staff's proposed use of a "program EIR" for its proposed land use changes, a single document that the city would use to analyze, examine and agree to all potential future significant impacts of all the Land Use changes across the entire City of Long Beach. Use of a "program EIR" would effectively limit the ability of the public to object to individual projects in the future as they arise over time. (The City Council used a "program EIR" when it adopt its 2012 Downtown density increase Plan that made it easier for developers to gain approval, and made it harder for neighborhoods to object to, individual proposed projects as they arise.)
Among those attending the inaugural Eastside Voice meeting was retired 5th dist. Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske (2006-2014), who said, : "You've got to stop this City Council. You are absolutely correct. My assessment from the beginning is that they put this together knowing what was going to come down and then they can go 'my my my, terrible, the state's making us do it'"
Ms. Schipske said legal issues should be explored regarding SB 35's removal of local control from charter cities, such as Long Beach and said residents should also explore doing what Newport Beach residents did by enacting a "greenlight measure" that lets citizens vote on development projects. [Newport Beach's "greenlight measure" was petition-initiated in 2000; the legal effects SB 35 on the Newport Beach measure or similar future measures aren't yet clear.]
Later in the meeting, Ms. Schipske added that she believes the root of the current land use issue is money and she urged residents to insist that the City Council repeal its voted actions that expanded the ability of electeds to expand and maintain contributor-fueled "officeholder accounts" (tripling their allowable size in 2015, expanded their allowable uses in 2017 to fund candidates in other offices.)
To hear Ms. Schipske's remarks, click here.
Also present were veteran 3rd district/shoreline area community advocate Melinda Cotton (urged residents to speak during Council public comment periods), long time environmental advocate Pat Bliss and Wrigley area community advocates Mauna Eichner and Lee Fakui (applauded by the mainly ELB crowd for their early and persistent activism on the proposed land use changes and density increases.)
Ms. Eichner and Mr. Fakui have urged that any Land Use Element changes be concurrently accompanied by proposed zoning changes, instead of leaving zoning (as city staff proposes) to future steps. They said neighborhoods and residents need to know what will result from Land Use changes when they're made, not afterward relying on future actions.
SB 35's mandates apply in areas where a city, through land use or zoning, allows residential or "mixed uses" (commercial and residential.) LB city staff's proposed land use changes invite a proliferation of "mixed uses" citywide and -- in a measure that drew audible consternation among meeting attendees -- defines general citywide residential density within a range of 7 dwelling units per acre (roughly current single family home residential density) to up to 18 dwelling units.
In June 2017, LBREPORT.com raised this issue with Christopher Koontz, City Hall's Advance Planning Officer. Mr. Koontz told LBREPORT.com via email at that time that 18 dwelling units per acre is the absolute maximum in the Founding and Contemporary Neighborhoods PlaceType and added that the "vast, vast, vast [reiterates it three times for emphasis] majority of existing single family neighborhoods will remain as they are today." Mr. Koontz continued: "In the event new land comes available, such as a school or church closing, and it is developed as single family, the land use element would guide that future development. These could be traditional single family homes, traditional homes on small lot, row homes or duplexes. They would not include 'condos' as those are typically understood because this placetype is not intended to include stacked or 'multifamily' buildings." Mr. Koontz also cited city staff's accompanying Urban Design Element, which shows the different types of single family and duplex residences that could be developed in the future.
But all of that was all before SB 35...which includes language that could arguably strip the City of its discretion in these matters.
Eastside Voice approved a floor motion by a resident to form a number of committees to divide up work on the Land Use Element, SB 35 and items including online digital communications.
The inaugural meeting of the Eastside Voice came one day after the second of two separately organized events by another grassroots group, Density Watch, drew roughly 60 people to the front lawn of a home in the 5th Council district (2900 block of Ostrom Ave.) to hear a presentation by Kim Toscas, Ramen Vasishth and Angela Kimball.
Co-organizer Kim Toscas criticized the "placetype" concept that underlies city staff's proposed Land Use Element revisions and added, "SB 35...puts the City's new proposed LUE placetype maps regarding density on steroids, exponentially...What this does is it gives the members of the City Council political cover to blame Sacramento for the over-development that could possibly be coming to our neighborhoods soon if the placetype maps with the LUE are approved by the City Council...It is the responsibility of our city leadership to implement the City's General Plan and advocate on behalf of us, the constituents and residents of the city, to protect and preserve our quality of life in our neighborhoods. (applause)"
Density Watch's organizers steered clear of criticizing elected officials, and when incumbent Councilmember Mungo materialized among the audience, co-organizer Ramen Vasishth acknowledged her presence and welcomed her.
Following Density Watch's presentation, its organizers invited questions and Councilwoman Mungo indicated she'd answer questions, and said she was invited as a guest by a neighborhood resident who'd told her that the organizers were dispensing inaccurate information Councilwoman Mungo told the crowd, "The Land Use Plan doesn't change zoning. Zoning's the next step. This does not change zoning." When asked for her stance on the Land Use Element, Councilwoman Mungo declined to answer, contending the City Attorney had told her it could prevent her from voting on the matter when it came to the City Council. [This isn't consistent with what Ass't City Attorney Mike Mais told LBREPORT.com a little less than three weeks earlier; for LBREPORT.com coverage of that issue, click here.]
Density Watch's organizers didn't directly respond at the meeting to Councilwoman Mungo's charges or her other statements.
Eastside Voice organizer Corliss Lee became active on city issues in opposition to a proposal to allow international flights at LB Airport. Ms. Cantrell has been active for more than 20 years on a variety of community issues. They both attended an April 2017 Planning Commission study session where city staff detailed its proposed land use changes and likewise attended an April meeting (held by Councilwoman Mungo on another topic) where Ms. Lee tried to bring the advancing land use changes to the attention of her neighbors. She found herself stymied by Councilwoman Mungo, who a number of facts regarding the advancing proposed land use changes. (LBREPORT.com coverage here.) That experience led Ms. Lee [and others] to conclude that ELB needs an independent homeowner-based group to share information, protect its interests and work for change.
Ms. Lee credited LB taxpayer Janet West for alerting the public to SB 35 at the Aug. 17 Planning Commission meeting, which led Development Services Director Amy Bodek to acknowledge the potential impacts of SB 35 and similar Sac'to measures on the city's planning process. That exchange brought SB 35 to the attention of LBREPORT.com, which reported in detail on SB 35, and word spread via the Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO), a group in which Ms. Lee is active, as well as through CARP (Citizens About Responsible Planning, in which Ms. Cantrell is active) and the 4th Council district blog produced by Joe Mello.
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