City Council approved zoning changes for Atlantic Avenue and Artesia Boulevard in north Long Beach last week, paving the way for new development while making the area more friendly for residents.
The unanimous vote on Nov. 17 was the culmination of more than three years of work. That included battles over the city's Land Use Element of its General Plan, multiple community meetings to create the Uptown Planning, Land Use and Neighborhood Strategy (UPLAN) and on-the-ground audits of the streets.
This is the first phase of zoning implementation for the Eighth and Ninth City Council districts. After addressing the major corridors, the planning process will move on to deal with specific properties in the 90805 zip code.
"Priorities include open space, walkability, accessible housing, and neighborhood amenities that ensure Uptown is a place to live, work, learn, and play," Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson said before Tuesday's meeting. "I want to thank our community members for participating in this process."
These zoning changes include Atlantic Avenue from Del Amo Boulevard to Artesia, and Artesia Boulevard from Atlantic to Downey Avenue. The southern part of Atlantic is in the Eighth District, and Councilman Al Austin also has been involved in the planning.
Primarily, the new zoning approach will emphasize mixed uses, allowing more flexibility as the corridors redevelop. More housing would be allowed, with commercial and/or retail uses on the ground floors of new buildings. And, as has been the case with street development around the city, there will be more emphasis on pedestrian and multi-modal (bicycles, scooters, etc.) transportation.
"In establishing allowable uses within the proposed zoning districts, the goal is to transform the major corridors into safe, vibrant, and walkable mixed-use environments," the staff report says. "The proposed mix of land uses is a major change from existing conditions along corridors that have experienced little investment in recent decades…
"The aim is to institute development standards that encourage new housing and mixed-use development, allow businesses to more easily locate in vacant storefronts and reuse existing buildings, and generally attract greater investment in North Long Beach."
One area of change will be the amount of parking required for specific types of development — in general, requiring fewer spaces to allow more uses or residential units. According to the staff report, more flexible parking rules will allow more creative ways to use existing buildings as well as make it easier to make investments viable.
While the zoning is based on the transportation corridors, it also includes land up to two blocks away. For example, the land between Artesia and the 91 Freeway from Paramount Boulevard to Downey Avenue is residential mixed use with a small section of general mixed use on Downey.
Buildings in much of the area likely will be getting taller, with three- and four-story buildings allowed along much of the corridors. However, there will be requirements for buildings to "step back," pushing the higher stories further away from the street to provide a more open environment.
While many of the new uses are more flexible, there also are some approaches that will be banned in the future. For example, automobile-specific uses like businesses with drive-throughs or motels will not be allowed or be severely limited.
Changes will not take place overnight. All existing businesses will be "grandfathered," meaning those uses can continue until the use changes. Then the property would have to comply with the new zoning rules.