ArtExchange Coming (copy)

The property next to the former Acres of Books building on Long Beach Boulevard is one of the sites involved in a lawsuit.

Three lawsuits have been filed and a fourth is on the way in an attempt to stop the sale and redevelopment of downtown Long Beach property.

All of the parcels at issue were at one time owned by the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency. They became city property when the state legislature dissolved all redevelopment agencies in California.

After more than a year of effort, the state signed off on a property use plan, and the city has been selling available land. In the downtown area, all of the sales have been accompanied by proposed development plans.

Mike Conway, director of the Economic and Property Development Department, has told the City Council in some cases that the buyer wasn’t necessarily the highest bid, but was the most compatible project according to a review panel. In each case, people have testified that the process was unfair and threatened a lawsuit before the council unanimously approved the sale.

Now, Jamie Hall at the Channel Law Group in Beverly Hills has filed three lawsuits and is preparing a fourth. The plaintiff in three cases is a group called Long Beach Transportation and Parking Solutions represented by Deb Tobias. The fourth lawsuit is brought by Citizens Against Downtown Long Beach Giveaways, with Warren Blesofsky listed as the contact person.

“The city is claiming these are only purchase and sales agreements, and as such are exempt from CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act),” Hall said. “Yet each of the staff reports show development projects in incredible detail. State law requires that there be an environmental assessment as early as possible. You can’t just kick the can down the road like this.

“Also, CEQA requires an evaluation of alternatives and mitigation measures. Doing it this way precludes any alternatives.”

The properties at issue are at 100 E. Ocean Blvd., Third Street and Pacific Avenue, 125-133 N. Long Beach Blvd. and 234-248 E. Broadway, and 200-232 Long Beach Blvd. All have residential or mixed-use developments planned.

“They’re saying that environmental work wasn’t done,” City Attorney Charlie Parkin said. “We’re saying that the Downtown Plan (an over-arching land use document) already has dealt with this. The developers also still have to do their due diligence and any environmental study work.”

Hall said that one of the primary issues for plaintiffs is the lack of adequate parking. Despite each development being required to have a parking plan, he said it appears those plans aren’t sufficient, and that the cumulative impact of all of the developments has not been considered.

“The development department has been completely unwilling to engage in any parking discussion,” Hall said. “Long Beach is something like the fifth largest city in the state, and it doesn’t even have one full-time person devoted to parking… This area already is parking impacted, and these would really make it worse.”

The lawsuits have been filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. They ask that the court invalidate any sale and order an environmental review on any property transfer.

Those lawsuits all name the city, and not the developers or land purchasers. Parkin said that the city has 30 days to respond to the lawsuits. Officials are conferring with the people who bought the various properties to make sure they are aware of the issue and see what they were planning to do.

If the lawsuits go to trial, it likely would be nine to 112 months before a hearing. No injunction to stop the sales is expected, however.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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