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It’s not just me who is disturbed by the anti-Land Use Element (LUE) coalition here in Long Beach, a small but mighty crew of largely older suburbanites that are speaking, without permission, on behalf of an otherwise quiet majority about one of our city’s most important subject: development.
“When people rally to maintain neighborhoods the way they are today, they are—consciously or not—embracing past discriminatory policies that created the inequalities that characterize Long Beach,” said Christine Petit, Executive Director of Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach.
Petit’s point when she says there is an embracing of past discriminatory policies? She is referring to housing policies like Prop 14, which enacted racial covenants and redlining, which has a rich albeit dark history throughout Los Angeles County. It was policies like these that led me to my own research on Long Beach’s role in discriminatory housing practices and showed that we weren’t all too removed from segregating and outright eliminating housing access.
“As a result of banks and lawmakers creating racist housing policies like covenants and redlining, Long Beach neighborhoods have unequally grown over time, resulting in working people of color bearing an unfair amount of pollution, poor housing conditions, displacement, and a lack of community amenities, like grocery stores, banks, and competitive schools,” Petit said. “Long Beach needs a plan that increases opportunities to build housing, including increased density coupled with policies to maintain and add affordable housing. We need a plan that will result in safe and healthy communities and that protects the health and opportunities of our young people and generations to come.”
That plan should have been the updated Land Use Element.
However, the anti-LUE crowd, generating a group with spare time thanks to retirement and plenty of ways to appear continuously and conveniently at public meetings, became so persistent that they influenced the Planning Commission to decrease housing opportunities across the city.
Now, a growing group of Long Beach housing advocates, including Petit, are fighting back.
These younger, working folks are genuinely perturbed by the potential influence this anti-housing group will have on a document that, having not been updated in two decades, will eventually guide housing and development in the future—and they’re encouraging others who are like-minded to step into City Council chambers on Tuesday, March 6 at 5PM to speak up against a group who is shaping a future they most likely won’t even be a part of.
“The Land Use Element conversation has really been hijacked by a small group of residents with parochial interests, and the City Council needs to know they do not represent the majority or the future of this city,” said Daniel Brezenoff, a local activist. “It’s crucial that we embrace our urban character and allow Long Beach to grow organically. We don’t need more sprawl; we need the economic and cultural growth, and the environmental sustainability, that density provides. We really want to see the community out at the Council meeting Tuesday supporting diversity, density, and responsible planning.”
Brezenoff isn’t being light when he says the anti-LUE crowd has hijacked the conversation surrounding the document.
They’ve called five-story building “skyscrapers” and claimed the most affluent neighborhoods in Long Beach are becoming “gentrified” by new housing.
They’ve railed against, well, everything with such an astute cognitive dissonance that they actually claimed within the same sentence that they want less congestion and more room for their cars—that’s not how that works—amongst many other head-scratchers.
And man, does the anti-LUE crowd love Photoshop.
First there were these digital-age wonders from a local blog, speculating what “may or may not occur” with the at-the-time LUE proposals—despite the fact that LUE is a zoning document, not an entitlement process. (My personal favorite was the five-story, concrete-ageddon that is their future version of Kmart.)
Now mind you: all this this anti-density, anti-housing, anti-accessibility brouhaha goes against the most recent evidence that the lack of housing in Long Beach has already spurred displacement and gentrification—and will do so more in the future—but that is neither here nor there for this stubborn group of I-Never-Want-Change-Screw-The-Future torchbearers.
“The housing crisis—in terms affordability, availability, and protections for renters who make up the majority of Long Beach’s population—make it that much more important to update our city’s General Plan and its Land Use Element in a way that reflects the realities of today and puts forth a vision for a better tomorrow,” said Petit.
The Land Use Element is set to face City Council on Tuesday, March 6, at 5PM in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, located at 333 W. Ocean Blvd. in DTLB.
Editor’s note: this article had initially and indirectly insinuated that the doctored photos from a local blog and the doctored photo from a social media group were one; this has been corrected to assure that there is no confusion that the local blog and social media group are separate entities.