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Friday, December 23, 2011

My Comments During Council's Vote on 2nd and PCH

Before I vote on this project, I think it is important to set out a number of issues that need to be considered before the vote is taken:

·      Tonight and this last week – are not last minute appeals – this is the first time these individuals have had the opportunity to address the city council with their issues – so let’s not mis-characterize.

·      I also want to clarify that Lyon Communities is not a new developer – they have been very active on a number of projects in the City.

·      I do believe it is misleading to state that the City needs to go forth on this project because the property in question is such an eyesore. The property is an eyesore – because the City of Long Beach has allowed it to be so. The site is littered with buses, limos, strawberry stands, a building that has been allowed to run down and no matter how we vote tonight – the eyesore needs to be cleaned up. Code enforcement needs to do its job – we demand that our residents maintain their property – we should do no less with other property owners.

·      We have somehow put the proverbial horse before the cart. The area being considered is included in a comprehensive planning area – called SEADIP – Southeast Area Development and Improvement Plan – a plan that was crafted by the residents and the developers – in the 1970s to control density, building heights to no more than 35 feet and traffic in a specific area. Any development of property within SEADIP must either conform with the plan – which this projects does not – or SEADIP must be changed in context with the entire area. This has not been done.

·      Let’s take a moment and talk about the purpose of SEADIP – and why Long Beach residents and developers worked together. It was the 1970s, and Long Beach was infamous for allowing developments without much care for impact. In fact, the City Planning Director was convicted of taking bribes from a team of architects who worked on 6 projects – including Marina Pacifica – at the time the largest building permit ever issued by the City Planning Department. The plan was put together in little over a year from mid 1976 to August 1977. While the plan was being developed Market Place and Marina Pacifica retail area went forward which compounded the traffic and impact on the area. Residents vowed this should not happen again. Residents and developers labored to put together this plan with the following purposes: first of all deal with the traffic impacts of Bellflower and 7th – called the iron triangle – and Second and PCH – called the iron bottleneck.; keeping overall density and building heights low; keeping surrounding neighborhoods free of cross town traffic; keeping open spaces in the area. When SEADIP was adopted by the City Council it was hailed in an editorial in the Press Telegram: Something Great. The area was referred to as Long Beach’s Last Frontier.  Residents and developers had worked together to preserve the area and to require any development to be done consistent with an overall plan not done piecemeal.

·      The project also has to be approved by the State Coastal Commission. Today, City council members received a two page memo from the State Coastal Commission Manager who states: In discussions with City staff over the past year Commission staff has consistently stated concerns relative to the proposed project at 2nd and PCH. Specifically, staff has recommended that any significant changes to the use and development standards for this parcel should be considered only as a component of a comprehensive review and LCP update of the existing SEADIP.  It is reasonable to expect that other property owners of commercially developed parcels along PCH would expect to receive similar development entitlements from the City in the future. Commission staff believes that the only way to determine the true development potential of any single parcel within the SEADIP is via an LCP update that takes into account the cumulative impacts of all potential future development in this plan area including the parcels currently containing or potentially containing wetlands.”
·      If city staff were told this for the past year, why wasn’t council so informed? Why wasn’t the developer informed? And why would the city once again go forward on a project we know doesn’t conform with our own local coastal plan.
·      As to the retail potential of 2nd and PCH – I would like to quote from a 1970’s news article on Marina Pacifica and why the City needed it: 80 specialty stops, 9 major restaurants, 4 story office complex, a wooden pedestrian and bicycle bridge to promote neighborhoods to come to the shopping center, 2 novel design elements, 80 ft bell tower compared to St. Marks Square, mall will attract regional shoppers, shoppers will arrive by boat – the only facility in the nation to offer such facilities.
·      The traffic problems at Second and PCH are not mitigated in this project and can’t be because of the current configuration of the area. It only seems logical that the City needs to review and update SEADIP so we can deal with this entire area at one time and not in pieces. Because if we don’t – the owners of the adjacent properties at Market Place and Marina Pacifica will likewise want to develop and the problems will continue to compound.
·      Being called not business friendly is the new label to slap on anyone elected official who doesn’t want to give away the store…well for those of you who don’t come here every Tuesday – this council has given away millions of sales taxes away to businesses – Best Buy, Worthington Ford, Circle Audi….
·      But being a cheap date or pushover when it comes to our own zoning restrictions – doesn’t make us business friendly. It makes us contempous of the residents who have to navigate the messes we allow.
·      I would remind all here tonight that retail development isn’t happening anywhere – to date we still do not have tenants for the retail portion of Douglas Park in my district – and trust me – this city has facilitated every request for development on the former Boeing property.  That property is ready to go – so if you truly have retailers lined up to come to Long Beach – please send them over to Douglas Park.
·      But dealing with this project  -- let’s really be a business friendly city and get this right. Let’s get SEADIP reviewed and get the traffic mitigated so we can bring in development that will work in the area – not make the area a place where because of traffic – people once again do not patronize a massive development. 

I then made the motion which was approved 8-0 to direct city staff to move rapidly on setting up the process for reviewing and revising SEADIP.

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