Major Turnout At First Of Four City Staff-Organized "Workshops" On Land Use Density Increases And Residents Revolt: Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) Creates "Town Hall" Forum Despite City Staff Planned "Information Station" Format; UPDATED With VIDEO
|LBREPORT.com was unable personally to attend the event below which coincided with the holiest day of the Jewish year on which we are forbidden to perform work. We appreciate information conveyed to us by those who were present and also captured video of what occurred.
(Oct. 1, 2017, 11:30 a.m., updated 2:20 p.m. with direct video link) -- The first of four city staff-arranged meetings (what it calls "workshops") to hear "public input" on city staff-proposed land use density increases -- at which staff tried to use an "information station" format instead of a "town hall" style public meeting -- turned into a de facto "town hall" when Robert Fox who heads the grassroots Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) and supporters took control of the event, set up chairs in the middle of the room, addressed the standing-room only crowd and invited city staff to answer the public's questions publicly.
[Scroll down for further.]
The "station" format differs from "Town Hall" meetings where the public can speak and be heard by the meeting audience, advocate their positions publicly, raise issues that some may not have considered and potentially influence the views of others. The City used a "station information" format at "workshops" on proposed SE LB rezoning (SEASP) (where it was later disparaged by participants who called it a "divide and conquer" technique.) When it was tried at the first meeting on a proposed customs facility (international flights) at LB Airport, residents (organized by Joe Sopo of Neighborhoods First and retired Councilwoman Rae Gabelich of LBHUSH2) refused to get out of their chairs and move to separate "stations," leaving those running the meeting with little choice but to allow residents to speak on mike...which they did.
At the Sept. 30 land use density "workshop," Mr. Fox and CONO led the room revolt but couldn't speak on mike because city staff hadn't provided a mike [although the room has a sound system] leaving Mr. Fox and others to shout.
Eventually, city staff spoke briefly and staffers fielded audience questions publicly from the floor.
(Screen save from video by Alan Tolkoff)
An estimated 300+ people showed up for the Saturday afternoon Sept. 30 meeting at Wrigley's Veterans Park social hall.
One observer tells LBREPORT.com that at the start of the meeting, LBFD prevented a sizable number of people (at least 50+, "the better part of a hundred" the observer says) outside the building from entering the event with people eventually let in, one by one, as some exited the room.
(Screen save from video by Lisa Marie Harris.)
[UPDATE] Independent video has surfaced showing part of what took place. To view VIDEO captured by Lisa Marie Harris, click video icon or this link
(Screen save from video by Ms. Harris, used with permission here.) [End UPDATE]
As for information at "information stations," one attendee tells LBREPORT.com that she asked an "information station" staffer about the LB impacts of SB 35...but the staffer replied [paraphrase] that she was unfamiliar with the bill's specifics and its potential application to specific proposed density increases...and added that the bill was only recently passed [further on this below.]. The resident commented to LBREPORT.com: "I left feeling that nothing was answered except that the city planners can't even plan a public meeting...And they wasted a lot of very fine and smart people's time."
[Ed. note: SB 35 was introduced on Dec. 5, 2016 and after amendments passed the state Senate on June 1 (with "yes" votes by LB Senators Ricardo Lara (D) and Janet Nguyen (R).) With some additional amendments, it was in final form awaiting passage by July 14. That means LB city staff has had at least two months, if not arguably longer, to advise the City Council and the public of SB 35's impacts on the land use density maps that staff has been simultaneously proposing for months. At the Aug. 17 Planning Commission meeting (when city staff sought the Commission's recommendation to advance density increase maps to the Council), LB resident Janet West noted SB 35's potential impacts, and Development Services Dir. Amy Bodek publicly acknowledged the potential impacts along with other Sac'to imposed land use constraints. To our knowledge, LBREPORT.com is the ONLY LB news outlet that told our readers in detail about SB 35's game-changing impacts, which (because LB lags in produced building permits for housing, including "affordable housing" in numbers decided by a regional government body) can with few exceptions require near clerk-type ("streamlined") approval for developer-desired residential/rental unit density, curtailing current public CEQA rights to object, overriding local parking requirements and in some cases eliminating the City's ability to regulate such developer-desired projects. To view SB 35 in detail, click here].
The Sept. 30 "workshop" was the first of four scheduled after nearly thirty people testified at LB's Aug. 17 Planning Commission meeting in opposition to city staff proposed increased density maps, with some alleging a general lack of prior public outreach. Public pushback prompted Mayor Robert Garcia to ask city staff to seek additional public input, bring the maps back to the Planning Commission for its recommendations and only then send them to the City Council (five of whose incumbents, plus Mayor Garcia, will be on the ballot seeking re-election in April 2018.)
It's currently unclear what changes or adjustments, if any, city staff may make at its next three "workshops" currently scheduled as follows:
In an Oct. 1 message on CONO's Facebook page, Mr. Fox writes in pertinent part:
...In the face of extraordinary odds, we showed up, and took over the meeting, expressing the very essence of democracy. We said NO to an invisible government, which has so fervently been promoted by the City Staff of Long Beach and re-established our rights and our responsibility as Citizens of a Free Nation. Although we had indicated our preference for a town hall meeting, Staff determined to do a "break out " session which would essentially be a divide and conquer style of governance.
On September 7, a week before SB 35 reached the Assembly floor, Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell (D, LB-SP) announced his opposition to the bill. On Sept. 29, O'Donnell issued a statement of disappointment at this link on the Governor's signing of the bill. In his Sept. 29 statement, Assemblyman O'Donnell [4th dist. Councilman 2004-2014] cautioned: "Cities will now need to be very cautious in their efforts to re-zone, and they may face the potential of having state-imposed rules forced upon them in order to allow large buildings in neighborhoods where they might not be a good fit. Long Beach is a great example of the impacts of this bill as the council contemplates up-zoning parts of the city. Residents should be part of a dialogue about new projects in their neighborhoods."
In addition to now-enacted SB 35, other bills in a "package" of Sac'to housing legislation are:
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