self storage facility plan

The Long Beach Planning Commission weighed at its Thursday, Dec. 17, meeting whether to approve a new three-story self-storage facility just north of the 405 Freeway in the city’s Los Cerritos neighborhood. 

Plans for a 3-story self-storage facility on a vacant lot bordering the Los Angeles River in Long Beach will move forward, despite community pushback.

The Planning Commission voted this week to approve plans for a 152,745-square-foot building, a 2,153-square-foot car wash and a paved recreational vehicle parking lot on a triangular parcel of land that sits north of the 405 Freeway and west of Long Beach’s Los Cerritos neighborhood.

Dozens of local residents dialed into the recent commission meeting, held by teleconference because of the coronavirus pandemic, to express their concerns.

Most of them focused on the property’s location and history as a site for oil wells and an oil brine water treatment facility, which led to soil contamination and groundwater degradation in the area.

An initial study of potential environmental effects of the proposed project found that certain mitigation measures, like implementing a plan — which must be prepared by a qualified environmental professional — for site remediation, engineering controls, future operation and monitoring activities, and administrative controls to allow for the development of the site, would sufficiently address any negative impacts.

But because of the site’s history, some community members said, the city should complete a full environmental impact report before approving any new projects on the land.

Corliss Lee, a member of the Riverpark Coalition, was among them.

“The history of this property, with oil contaminant dumping — I don’t know if there ever would be a case for an EIR anywhere if it isn’t here,” she said, “because we don’t know what’s underground.”

City officials, though, said they and the property’s owners have worked with the California Department of Toxic Substances Control over the past 18 months to study the site and believe the mitigation measures that will be used throughout the construction process will keep any potential environmental impacts to a minimum.

Other concerns residents mentioned included the potential consequences for ongoing efforts to revitalize the Los Angeles River, as well as the possibility that the site includes sacred grounds for the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe.

“I am a fifth-generation Long Beach native, and prior to that, my family is of Gabrielino descent,” Amy Valenzuela-Mier said at the Thursday, Dec. 17, meeting, “and it is very likely — very, very likely — that this is a culturally and tribally significant area.

“Ever since people began taking an interest in revitalizing the LA River,” she added, “this property has been looked at and hoped for and dreamed about by many residents — not just by us locally, but by people all over LA County, and we see lots of examples of revitalized rivers and how they benefit a community all over the country.”

Because of those concerns, Valenzuela-Mier said, the best use for the property would be to convert it into a park.

But city officials said that the lot is private property and converting it into a park has never been on the table.

“The zoning has never reflected that this would be a park,” Christopher Koontz, Long Beach’s deputy director of Development Services, said. “It has, at times, reflected the prior use as a driving range, but the current zoning and the most recent zoning, which is operative, is of the light industrial use.

“And the proposal before you,” Koontz added, “is actually a downzoning to the more restrictive commercial storage use.”

City officials and representatives for the property’s owner, InSite Property Group, said they believed the proposed facility would be one of the best possible uses of the site, given the zoning.

The site’s current status as a vacant lot has its own negative impacts on the area, they said, which include blight, nuisance activity and the growth of homeless encampments.

CJ Rogers, design director for InSite Property Group, said his company looked forward to helping address those problems.

“We have a real opportunity here to safely remediate a large contaminated site in Long Beach,” Rogers said. “It’s going to stop the trespassing, recreational motorists, encampments and illegal fireworks. This is a low-impact solution that’s taking a holistic approach.”

He also said InSite Property Group plans to use some space on the property to contribute to the LA River Master Plan, which is the county’s ongoing effort to revitalize the river.

“We’re really proud to contribute to that plan and the revitalization efforts by allocating some open space within our property boundaries,” Rogers said. “It’s going to directly integrate and enhance a completed LA River Park in the future.”

While some Planning Commission members were sympathetic to residents’ concerns, they also said they had to review the context of the property and the plans as a whole, which is why the proposal was ultimately approved.

“I’m a North Long Beach resident, so I understand the concerns the community has regarding the need for open space,” commission Vice Chair Joni Ricks-Oddie said. “We’re not deaf to those concerns, and we do understand. We are listening to all of your public comment related to that, but we also have to recognize that this is a private owner.

“We have to weigh all that together, but I just wanted to reiterate to those listening and that took the time to sit here and do public comment,” she said, “we did hear you and we do understand that.”

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