' 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 '


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

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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:

  • Wednesday, October 4, 6-8 PM at Whaley Park Community Center
    5620 E Atherton St, Long Beach, CA 90815 (map)

  • Saturday, October 14, 11-1 PM at Best Western Golden Sails Hotel
    6285 Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90803 (map)

  • Wednesday, October 18, 6-8 PM at Expo Arts Center
    4321 Atlantic Ave, Long Beach, CA 90807 (map)

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.

I am so very proud of each and every one of you who daringly took a chair, and formed the Town Hall meeting we wanted.. Yes we planned and stratigized, but your simple affirmation of your rights of inclusion and democratic process by taking chairs and filling the hall facing forward to the stage was inspiring.

In our display of intent, we sent a strong and uncompromising statement to City Hall and Staff that we will not be shoved into a corner, nor denied our Rights as Citizens to determine our fates. Luckily we have vestiges of American Independence running deep within our community.. I am proud to be associated with you all.

During our "take over" we showed staff that we demand real engagement and not "dog and Pony" shows with predetermine YES surveys which bolster the (excuse my language) Bullshit of the intentions of an un-elected bureaucracy, which feel entitled to tell us what is good for us and future generations.

I am not willing to give up my rights to speak my mind and to help shape my fate.

From this evenings event it is clear that you also will not give up your rights as citizens...

[A]t one point they closed to doors to over a hundred people who wanted to share their opinions outside (they said the fire marshall refused entrance due to over growing ) Just for the record, the auditorium has a population limit, and we did not reach that limit.. but for the easels and misc. pictographic items, all 100 could have entered the hall.

From now on we must be particularly aware of these tactics so as to circumvent them and assert our constitutional rights.

When we came to order, Blessing for Joe Mello, the stage was set for a real town-hall. I moderated a real town hall. We wanted answers to questions. This Land Use Element has been fraught with misdirection, miscommunication and evasion. All we wanted was a truthful answer. I realize since Staff was dislodged and shunted aside that their responses may have been rather off their usual professional style. If we offended anyone in staff it was not by intent but by purposeful intention to get at the meat of the subject.

Ultimately after the whole hall calling for Amy Bodek to take the stage and answer questions. She came up and told us our forum was not planned. (we knew that). We also knew the design of the outreach plan was purposed to diffuse and misdirect our constituents.

Again I am very proud of you all in hour firm defiance. You stood your ground and would not be shoved aside...

When controlling the meeting I hope you saw I was trying to be as astute and professional as was possible given the overall anger of the crowd.

We did not "break any laws." We simply decided not to conform to the wishes of the staff. Since our numbers were overwhelming, Staff really had no choice but to back off. So I want to give them credit where credit is due. They might very well have arrested me using some trumped up charge for leading this insurrection. (I went to the bank the day previous to pull $3000.00 in cash, just in case they arrested me, such that Nick could bail me out of jail for exercising my constitutionally protected rights...

We changed the City today.. We changed the way the City does business.

We made sure that real, specific surveys were taken, which we will codify and metric, so as to give to the planning commission and the City Council Members.

The City's survey was ignored and folks wrote BOGUS on the front page. I think that sent a strong message to Staff.

The Council of Neighborhood Organizations will not back down and not represent our leaders. We will work with staff as they work with us.

Politically we as CONO completely reject the Land Use ELement as written...

I hope for CONO to be an intermediator to the staff and this LAND USE ELEMENT. However make no mistake, CONO will not be thwarted and we are all willing to be arrested if that is what it takes to secure our Civil rights.

We. as citizens, have the right to address our government. If this right is abridged, we will move to secure them...

Let's not use personalities to defeat this horrible plan.. Lets use overwhelming Citizen Protest in large numbers..

We must protect our neighborhoods and our city.

We do not want to be Miami, nor Los Angeles. and no amount of Mandate will change that.. Beware of any staffer who tells you all of this density is mandated.. It simply is not.. It will always be about a cities' choice. Whether developers make money off of us, is not our concern. Only the quality of life in Long Beach is our concern. Fight for NO Density, NO to the Land Use Element, and let's craft our own General Plan and present it in person to the City Council.

If Staff will not work with us, we must abide alone and make the submission of documents ourselves.

In the end, we will win. whether it is today or tomorrow, the Citizens are the only ones who have the right to preserve any decision. No power in city council or the State can force us to accept anything...



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:

  • SB 166 by State Senator Debra Skinner (D, Berkeley) which requires cities to maintain an ongoing of sites to construct housing, including low income housing and SB 167 by Senator Skinner makes it harder for a city to justify denying approval for low and moderate income housing. At the Governor's Sept. 29 signing ceremony, Senator Skinner hurled the neighborhood-resident disparaging epithet "NIMBY" in her podium remarks, and in the Governor's release declared, "My bills, SB 166 and 167, tackle the 'Not in My Backyard' obstacles that too often keep needed housing from being built."

  • SB 540 by state Senator Richard Roth (D, Riverside) lets cities create "Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones" in which projects avoid project level EIRs and use only a one-time single EIR for all projects if the zone includes at least 100 and up to 1,500 dwelling units and meets certain criteria including no more than 50% of its units sold or rented to persons above moderate income levels.

  • AB 72 by Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago (D, Los Angeles) and David Chiu (D, San Francisco) strengthens Sac'to's ability to require local governments to meet their stated "housing goals."

  • AB 73 by Assemblyman Chiu eliminates project level CEQA review and provides local governments with incentives to use "infill" sites for housing near public transportation (which it defines as located within one-half mile of public transit or in an area, by virtue of existing infrastructure, transportation access, existing "underutilized" facilities, or location, making it highly suitable for a residential or mixed-use or housing sustainability district.

  • AB 1397 by Assemblyman Evan Low (D, Campbell) changes the definition of land suitable for residential development to increase the number of sites where new multifamily housing can be built.

  • AB 1505 (Bloom/Bradford/Chiu/Gloria) authorizes cities and counties to adopt an inclusionary ordinance for residential rental units that requires, as a condition to develop residential units, that the development include a certain percentage of residential rental units affordable to, and occupied by, households with incomes that don't exceed specified limits for moderate-income, lower-income, very low-income, or extremely low-income households.

  • AB 1515 by Assemblyman Tom Daly, D, Anaheim) makes it easier for developers to use the current "Housing Accountability Act" to gain city approval for their proposed housing project, regardless of local opposition, if it's consistent with City Hall enacted local planning rules. "The Housing Accountability Act fosters and respects responsible local control by providing certainty to all stakeholders in the local approval process, and preventing NIMBYism from pressuring local officials into rejecting or downsizing compliant housing projects," said Assemblyman Daly

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