Terry Jensen
Common Sense / Opinion
A continuing series

Lack of City Hall Credibility, Not Residents' Complaints, Deters Quality LB Developments; Restoring Trust Requires Accurate Information & Respectful Partnership b/w Residents & Officials

(August 9, 2011) -- Itís always interesting when retired Council members or city officials step out of the shadows and write letters to the editor about controversial issues that face Long Beach residents.

Recently, retired City Manager Jim Hankla wrote a letter to the Press Telegram that it headlined "LB being left in the dust" which offered general comments about development in Long Beach and the 2nd/PCH proposed development in particular.

I was especially interested in what Mr. Hankla had to say as I consider him to be one of the better City Managers to have served the residents of Long Beach. I often refer to a 1991 Los Angeles Times story that quoted then City Manager Hankla asking the council to take long term steps to shore up the "fragile state of city finances" as it was facing a reported $15 Million deficit. Sadly, we are still waiting for those long term steps to be developed and implemented.

I am also a supporter of the redevelopment of the 2nd/PCH corner, albeit with perhaps less height and density. That said, Mr. Hankla's letter and his opinions can be viewed in full by clicking here. My opinions follow below.

I think it is true that, as Mr. Hankla says, "our neighbors are eating our lunch and have been for years." This is easily verified by visiting the new shopping centers, commercial and residential projects in Los Alamitos, Lakewood and,Huntington Beach. Signal Hill has been several steps ahead of Long Beach for years and now has most of our auto dealers and more than a few high volume retailers that generate tax revenue and jobs that could and should be in Long Beach.

So, why are our neighbors leaving us in the dust? I don't share the view that some disgruntled residents have prevented Long Beach from having quality developments and investment.

While there's more than enough blame to go around, in my view one can start with a lack of trust by residents in their City Hall, a lack of credibility that's been earned over time. Large projects promoted by City Hall have fueled opposition, not consensus, when official assertions collapse under scrutiny or are disproved by history.

And who do you think is watching these pitched and sometimes nasty battles? The development community watches these pitches and sometimes nasty battles...and the spectacle doesn't give them comfort.

When Councilman Gary DeLong attempted to change development standards in SEADIP in a process what struck many people as less than open and transparent, he alienated residents and created lingering animosity between residents, environmentalist, developers and the City. I believe the 2nd/PCH project today suffers in part as a result.

And who do you think is watching another example of bad planning and policy making? Yes, it is the Development and investment community, and I'm sure they're not impressed.

In my view, poor master planning, lack of open and transparent planning and zoning and unrealistic or inaccurate pro forma assumptions are the reasons why Long Beach is being left in the dust.

  • When residents see the Queen Mary brought to LB with a cost estimate of approximately $6 million and watch the cost balloon to over $100 million, that doesn't inspire confidence that City Hall knows best. I suggest that civic activists or "CAVE" people ["Citizens Against Virtually Everything"] had little to do with this debacle.

  • Or how about the "crackerbox apartments" constructed in the 70ís that were supposed to bring prosperity with increased density that destroyed the architectural continuity of neighborhoods? Was that policy the fault of some residents worried about "potential inconvenience" or bad zoning and planning by City officials?

  • What about the rosy projections and assumptions offered as justification to back bonds for the Long Beach Aquarium (now Aquarium of the Pacific)? What the public was told proved to be grossly the extent that the Aquarium needs an annual de facto subsidy of public money in the millions to service its debt. Is it any wonder that residents lose faith in the "expert" analysis that comes out of City Hall?.

  • When residents see what many consider the most colossal example of a lack of foresight and planning by our Mayor and Council: letting a $120 million Kroc Center fade away for want of a $15 million commitment from the City. That project could have provided jobs, revenue and forever transformed a significant portion of Central Long Beach. As there was no organized effort to fight this project, it is safe to say the failure wasn't caused by neighbors.

    The examples are near endless:

  • The Pike project that undercut Pine Avenue north of Ocean Blvd., despite ample warning from residents, businesspeople and architects.
  • The badly designed Long Beach Mall that was demolished so Long Beach could get a downtown Wal-Mart
  • The bond floated to expand the Long Beach Museum of Art that the Museum Foundation said it would raise money to repay, that taxpayers ended up paying ($3 million).
  • The "Home Depot" anchored (Studebaker/Loynes) project that caused a ruckus on the Eastside,,,and whose Environmental Impact Report couldn't withstand court scrutiny.
  • An initially proposed Wetlands land swap that would have been a massive gift of public funds.

    Blaming residents for the lack of quality developments and our City's decades long slide into a possible "dust bin of poverty" is revisionist history. What's overdue is open and transparent dialogue to restore trust and confidence in City Hall and ensure residents and elected officials receive accurate information on which to make informed decisions before slick PR campaigns muddy the waters.

    The best way to avoid what Mr. Hankla calls "a dust bin of municipal poverty" is a respectful partnership between residents, elected officials and civic leaders. coupled with a master plan that promotes new developments that are mutually championed and not imposed upon neighborhoods.

    Previously on Common Sense by Terry Jensen (continuing series):

  • No. 8: Council Grants Permit With Conditions Requiring What City Hall Already Basically Requires & Residents Deserve

  • No. 7: Facing A De Facto Precedent Proposed at 2nd/PCH

  • No. 6: Put Redevelopment In Council's Hands, Make LB Elected Officials Accountable (For A Change)

  • No. 5: Suppose Our City Officials Had Applied These Efforts To Assure World Class Kroc Center Instead Of For This, This & This

  • No. 4: Council Majority Either Didn't Know, Or Knew But Didn't Disclose, Amount Of Taxpayer Dollars Potentially Up In Smoke On Med MJ Vote

  • No. 3: City Hall & Its Boosters Created Budget Mess (Quit Blaming Recession); Proposed Proportional Cuts Don't Prioritize; Council Needs To Define Core Items & Cut Others

  • No. 2: Costs vs. Benefits: Council's Costlier-Than-Necessary Seawall Fix = Decaying Belmont Pier & Other Shoreline Assets

  • No. 1: Santa, Call LB City Hall: Taxpayer Leased Vacant Bldg. (New Home To Daisy Lane Xmas Displays) Invites Annual Public Review of All City Owned/Leased Properties And Zero-Based Budget

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