A master development plan for southeast Long Beach that would more than double the number of residential units to handle nearly three times as many people has taken the next step to approval.
After more than a year and a half of work, the consultants for an update of the SEADIP (Southeast Area Development and Improvement Plan) land use plan last week released their initial study and notice that an Environmental Impact Report is ready to begin. A first scoping meeting for that EIR is set for next Wednesday.
Long Beach’s Development Services Department is the lead agency for the million-dollar project, designed to update the land use master plan for southeast Long Beach, including the Los Cerritos Wetlands. In late 2013, the city signed a contract with a firm called PlaceWorks to run the study and public outreach process.
Late last Thursday, the Development Services Department sent out a notice that the Initial Study and Notice of Preparation are now available for public review. The review period runs through Nov. 20.
“This Specific Plan effort will take a holistic look at this area, acknowledging work conducted through previous efforts but with a new approach,” the initial study says. “The end-result will be a plan that maintains valuable natural resources, customizes land uses and development standards, and identifies locations for future development and expanded transportation choices.”
SEADIP was approved in 1977, and governed land use in the area around the Pacific Coast Highway and Second Street intersection, including the Marina Pacifica and Marketplace centers, the Los Cerritos Wetlands and the Golden Sails Hotel. As years passed, more developers sought and were granted conditional use permits and waivers of SEADIP conditions to complete projects.
In 2012, after the second of two proposed redevelopment plans of the SeaPort Marina Hotel property were denied, at least partly because of significant issues with SEADIP requirements, the City Council ordered the update. It took more than a year to find financing and complete a request for proposals before hiring PlaceWorks.
After several public meetings and work with a large stakeholders advisory committee, PlaceWorks offered expectations for area development through buildout (around 2050). As has been stated through much of the process, PlaceWorks consultants see increasing density for the area.
Specifically, the study envisions 9,698 dwelling units (up by 5,619), a population of 15,420 people (up 8,934), an additional 438,292 square feet of commercial space and 50 more hotel rooms. The study acknowledges that traffic congestion, air quality and impacts on the Los Cerritos Wetlands and other natural habitat will have to addressed and likely mitigated.
There is no specific discussion of building height in the study, but that was one of the contentious topics during public meetings. Higher buildings likely would be the only way to increase the dwelling units and commercial space significantly.
“I view this process as an opportunity to make some real and significant improvements in this area of the city,” Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price said. “(I) appreciate the level of public engagement we have had thus far… I realize, however that there are varying interests in this process and in the end, it is unlikely that any one interest group/party will get everything they want nor will they agree on every element of the plan.”
The advocacy group Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust has for years opposed increased development in the area. Executive Director Elizabeth Lambe said that efforts to add density could be harmful to the wetlands, and would be opposed.
“The Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust supports an updated plan that takes into account and includes protecting, restoring and improving our fragile, local wetlands. Therefore any proposed zoning changes near the wetlands need to address the impacts of light, noise and human use as well as take into account and protect existing wildlife corridors, flight patterns and migratory pathways, Lamb said.
“We are concerned about the potential of increased traffic from increasing density and height in the SEADIP area that could result in pressure to put roads through wetlands even though such a prospect would be challenging under the Coastal Act.”
Price said that continuing an open and transparent process would be the key to ultimately passing a new blueprint for southeast Long Beach.
“Density, height and traffic are the key issues that most residents are concerned with and I want to make sure they are addressed and the final approach is reasonable in light of surrounding area and the overall community characteristics,” Price said. “The EIR will give us the opportunity to study all impacts and opportunities and I look forward to that process getting underway.
“My hope is to keep the process moving forward, as this particular area has been the subject of discussion for far too long and we need to continue moving forward on updating the land use plans. Hopefully what is ultimately recommended after much public input is a reflection of what the vast majority of the residents in the area and throughout Long Beach will support.”
Both the Notice of Preparation and the Initial Study are available online for review at the development services website, www.lbds.info. Click on planning, then environmental planning and finally on environmental reports. Hard copies of the documents are in the Main and Bay Shore libraries and at the Development Services office at City Hall.
The scoping meeting starts at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 4, at the Best Western Golden Sails Hotel, 6285 PCH. Officials will describe the project, the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) process, the purpose of the IS/NOP and upcoming EIR, and offer an opportunity for people and groups to comment on the issues they believe should be addressed.
Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.