Los Cerritos Wetlands

Working oil wells dominate the Los Cerritos Wetlands now.

A journey some say has taken more than a decade could come to a conclusion next Tuesday.

That's when the City Council will be asked to approve a new planned unit zoning for land use in southeast Long Beach, including the Los Cerritos Wetlands. The approvals include certification of the Environmental Impact Report — and an appeal of the Planning Commission's recommendation to the council to pass the plan.

Called the Southeast Area Specific Plan (SEASP), the document would replace the Southeast Area Development and Improvement Plan (SEADIP), which was passed in 1977. In 2004, then Third District Councilman Gary DeLong took the first serious try to update SEADIP, creating the Third District Los Cerritos Wetlands Study Group. That group later disbanded without making any changes.

Council members wanted SEADIP updated primarily because virtually every development in the area required several conditional use approvals to be built. That was particularly true for attempts to redevelop the SeaPort Marina Hotel property at Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway.

Five years ago, when another development proposal was turned away as flawed, the council ordered the Development Services Department to begin another attempt to update the land use regulations. Almost a year later, the city received an $800,000 grant from the state to pay for the work, and hired PlaceWorks to lead the process.

After multiple meetings with a residents' steering committee, public outreach and technical studies, a plan was proposed that concentrated development in areas where there already was building, and that protected the wetlands, according to the staff.

With the staff recommendation, called the reduced intensity alternative, there could be 6,663 residential units of different types in the entire area. That compares to 4,079 units at buildout if SEADIP were to remain the law. An additional 50 hotel rooms would be allowed, as well as about 300,000 square feet of commercial space.

There is an emphasis on open space and view corridors, but the consultants said there would be traffic impacts whether the plan was approved or not. Traffic and building height were the primary complaints of opponents.

Under SEASP, some areas would be allowed to have five-story buildings as opposed to the current three-story limit. A hotel could go up to seven stories, but the Planning Commission recommended that the Marketplace shopping center, next to the wetlands, be limited to five stories.

While she could not voice an opinion about the plan before it goes before the City Council, Third District Councilwoman Susie Price said she was pleased with the process.

"I'm very happy that the plan has gotten to this point, with a great deal of participation," Price said. "I will be looking to work with the (Development Services) Department, and hopefully we can deal with any appeals."

The only appeal to date was from Warren Blesofsky, who said he was representing a group called Long Beach Citizens for Fair Development. He appealed the Planning Commission's decision to recommend approval, even though the commission's action was a recommendation, not a legal approval.

Amy Bodek, director of Development Services, also said she thought community involvement in the planning process worked well.

"This has been a long process over the past three years, but we only got to this point because there was the right balance of input from all viewpoints," she said. "As a result, this proposed plan should set the framework for preservation of our natural resources and redevelopment of aging private development assets. We as staff are grateful for the steadfast leadership provided by Mayor Garcia and Councilmember Price."

If the City Council approves SEASP and certifies its EIR, it then would go to the state Coastal Commission for final approval. That likely would take another six to nine months.

The SEASP hearing is the first item on the council agenda. The meeting is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, 333 W. Ocean Blvd.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

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.

Load comments