An updated master land-use plan for southeast Long Beach, including the Los Cerritos Wetlands, will get what could be its final hearing in the approval process next week.
At issue will be a plan that calls for up to 2,584 housing units — including some for low-income residents — redeveloping commercial areas rather than creating new retail locations, expanding bicycle and pedestrian paths and consolidating oil operations, all while protecting and restoring the wetlands.
The hearing will be at a California Coastal Commission meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8, which will be held virtually. The Coastal Commission will weigh the proposed plan, though a staff report on it recommends several changes.
The suggested changes are “necessary to protect coastal resources,” the staff report says, “including sensitive habitat, biological resources, cultural resources, lower-cost overnightaccommodations, recreational opportunities, and public coastal views.”
The plan, called the Southeast Area Specific Plan, would replace the 1977 Southeast Area Development and Improvement Plan as the overriding land-use document for the area.
The 1,500 acres covered by the new plan is roughly bounded by the Orange County border, the 22 freeway and Marine Stadium. It includes the wetlands, the Marina Pacifica, Marketplace and 2ND&PCH shopping centers, Pacific Coast Highway and residential areas.
Efforts to update 1977 plan began more than a decade ago, driven partially by efforts to redevelop the SeaPort Marina Hotel property. The City Council specifically ordered the planning process in 2014 after a mixed-use project requiring multiple conditional use permits overriding the 1977 land-use plan failed to win approval.
A million-dollar, two-year planning process followed. That process included a community advisory committee, about 30 public meetings and outreach events, and at least two versions of a land-use plan.
After City Council approval, the plan was subjected to a lawsuit from the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust, an advocacy group. That lawsuit took more than a year to resolve, with a ruling in favor of the city.
Then negotiations began between the city’s Development Services and the Coastal Commission. That process resulted in a recommendation to the Coastal Commission to approve the land-use plan, but only if 16 changes were made.
Several of those changes clear up technical or wording issues. There are, however, some significant changes as well.
An entire new chapter has been added to further define wetlands and environmental protections. That chapter includes policies for protecting water quality and a new tree-trimming policy. Tree trimming has become a controversial issue with the 2ND&PCH commercial area and related “complete streets” redevelopment of Marina Drive.
That same area, the former SeaPort Marina Hotel site, is the source of one continuing disagreement between Long Beach and the Coastal Commission. The commission’s staff report on the new plan says that demolishing the hotel, while legal, eliminated 150 low-cost, overnight rooms.
“The protection of lower cost overnight accommodations in the SEASP area is particularly important,” the report says. “There is only one existing hotel that provides lower cost overnight accommodations (the Golden Sails) within the SEASP planning area. Another hotel in the SEASP area was demolished within the past few years which contained 150 lower cost overnight accommodations.
“Because the currently certified SEADIP document did not contain language for protection of these previously existing lower cost rooms,” the report continues, “they were demolished and not replaced.”
So the Coastal Commission staff added a modification that emphasizes development of low-cost hotel rooms, including a low-cost component to any high-cost hotels. A $100,000 per room payment is offered as an alternative.
But Christopher Koontz, deputy director of Development Services, said the city continues to disagree with that approach.
“It’s a pothole rather than a roadblock (to approval),” Koontz said. “We will rely on the commissioners to work that out.”
A similar approach is used in regards to the residential housing, with the state adding a low-cost, multi-family component to the plan. The city’s fact sheet on the new plan notes that the city does not meet minimum housing requirements from the state without the 2,584 new units in the Southeast Area Specific Plan.
Source: Orange County Register