The Long Beach Planning Commission approved the final permits for the Uptown Commons project in North Long Beach on Thursday, Dec. 20. But the group wasn’t without its own tinge of regret on the decision.
The vote came after dozens of people spoke in public comment, both for and against the proposal — an impressive showing just five days before Christmas.
The now-approved project will bring a selection of shipping-container eateries, in the style of Bixby Knolls’ SteelCraft, as well as a coffee shop, a sit-down restaurant, a bank and a fast-food restaurant to the property on the northeast corner of Atlantic Avenue and Artesia Boulevard.
Those who were in support of the project said North Long Beach has long been in need of new investment, and Uptown Commons could be the beginning of a bright future for the neighborhood.
One of them was Jeffrey Jackson, a longtime North Long Beach resident.
When he first saw the project, he said, “I really saw an uplift for North Long Beach in this project, and I was really excited about the opportunity for students that go to school at Jordan (High School, a block away) to have the opportunity to get jobs that would allow them to earn money and show pride in their neighborhood.”
Those opposed said the project’s three proposed drive-thru lanes would bring too many cars and pollution, and the inclusion of yet another fast food joint in area that already lacks sufficient healthy options could harm the health of local residents.
“This development isn’t being plopped down in Anywhere, USA,” said Kate Sachnoff, a member of the Long Beach Alliance for Food and Fitness. “There is not a lot of access to healthy food (in North Long Beach), but there is a lot of drive-thru fast food.… We have an Office of Equity. They should be considering this.”
While commissioners seemed sympathetic to the latter’s concerns, Planning Bureau Manager Christopher Koontz noted that it was not within the commission’s discretion to approve or deny a plan based on the businesses that may occupy the buildings.
“This commission, and actually staff ourselves, have no purview over individual tenants,” he said. “The rules on the books today don’t allow us to take into consideration whether there is or is not an over-concentration of fast food.”
As such, Commissioner Erick Verduzco-Vega said before his vote approving the project, “I wish there was some way we could control and say, ‘We like this particular business,’ or, ‘We don’t like that particular business.’”
He added, “I’m sorry that members of the community are not going to like me seconding the motion, but again, it’s based on: Were the rules followed? Yes. Were certain requirements met? Yes, they were met.”
Construction on the project can now begin as early as next month, and city staff expect it will take about a year to complete.