Grunion Gazette - Long Beach

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Second+PCH Stopped By Council Vote

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Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 11:13 am

A development called Second+PCH died late Tuesday night on a single 5-3 vote of the Long Beach City Council.

That vote came after a hearing lasting more than five hours and a four-year effort by developer David Malmuth and landowners Ray and Amy Lin to gain approval of a proposed mixed-use redevelopment of the SeaPort Marina Hotel site at the corner of Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway. Another four-year effort involving Lennar Homes preceded that process.

A call to revisit and update the entire SEADIP (Southeast Area Development and Improvement Plan) governing zoning in that part of Long Beach rather than allow zoning amendments and conditional use permits for the Second+PCH project surfaced frequently during the hearing. That push gained momentum when representatives from Lyons Communities - a development company with projects in Long Beach that purchased the "Pumpkin Patch" property across Pacific Coast Highway from the proposed development - said it would be willing to finance that process.

Tim Peone, the attorney representing Lyons, said his client opposed the Second+PCH project because of its traffic impacts and the reality that, if that project was approved, future projects would find it even harder to mitigate increasing traffic.

"The traffic mitigation would then be dumped on other area landowners," Peone said. "We're not objecting to any part of this project, but we do believe that any comprehensive plan must include Second+PCH."

The council conducted the hearing to rule on appeals of Planning Commission approval of the proposed development as well as recommendations from the Planning Commission to amend the subarea zoning and the Local Coastal Plan to allow the development. The commission had approved the Environmental Impact Report and the development plan in two hearings on Oct. 12 and Nov. 17.

At issue was a project to replace the SeaPort Marina Hotel with a mixed-use development including 275 residences, a 100-room hotel with related restaurant and meeting uses, 155,000 square feet of retail space and 20,000 square feet of separate retail space. That project is smaller than originally proposed. However, it still includes one 12-story tall building and another six-story building.

Opponents argued against the building height and density as antithetical to the SEADIP approach to the area as well as traffic impacts and the potential impact to the Los Cerritos Wetlands. Proponents said that the redevelopment would create jobs, a needed high-end gateway to the city and remove an eyesore of a property.

Gary DeLong, the Third District City Councilman, said he strongly supported doing something on the property, although he would personally have preferred a smaller project. He said he agreed SEADIP needed to be revised (he attempted to start a study several years ago, but it failed for lack of money), but said it was time to act.

"This is one of the most, if not the most, difficult decisions I've had to make as a council member," DeLong said. "I do know that this land is long overdue to be developed. We can't continue to kick the can down the road. We can continue to do studies in search of the perfect project forever ... but I absolutely plan to support something tonight to move this forward."

Appellants, including Mel Nutter, a former Coastal Commission chairman and the attorney representing the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust, spent an hour detailing their objections, then public comment took up another two hours.

"We want to have a comprehensive plan," Mayor Bob Foster said before the council vote, "but we have to go with an up or down vote on this project. This is a really crummy process. No matter what happens, someone is going to be seriously damaged here."

DeLong made the motion to approve the plan. When City Clerk Larry Herrera said, "The motion fails, 5-3," there was stunned silence from both sides.

First District Councilman Robert Garcia and Eighth District Councilwoman Rae Gabelich voted yes with DeLong. Voting no were Suja Lowenthal (Second), Patrick O'Donnell (Fourth), Gerrie Schipske (Fifth), Dee Andrews (Sixth) and Steve Neal (Ninth). A second vote, whether to certify the EIR as adequate, failed 4-4, with O'Donnell switching to a yes vote.

A final vote, to seek an expedited plan to update SEADIP with a report back in 60 days, passed unanimously.