It is one of Long Beach’s most revered and contested development battles: the dilapidated mid-mod Sea Marina Hotel was (and still is) for many on the Eastside an eyesore that offers room rentals by the month and was home to the bro-out dingy club known as the Shore Ultra Lounge. In other words, the 11-acre space was in desperate need of upgrading.
Leave it to a group of USC students (in a battle with UCLA students no less) to revisit the troubled project, this time opting to call it the Belmont Yards rather the now-poisoned second+pch project. But let’s start from the beginning…
David Malmuth, managing director of RCLCO Development Services Group, joined with Ratcovich Properties, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and Studio One Eleven are behind the proposed second+pch project. The real estate developer is no stranger to massive projects loved by the citizens of Long Beach but ultimately failing to pass City officials: it was he and Kim Murphy who in 1988 worked with Disney—who owned the leasehold on the Queen Mary—to develop the massive $2.8B DisneySEA theme park at Rainbow Harbor. The project ultimately failed, with Disney going back to Anaheim to begin what is now called Disney’s California Adventure.
Malmuth’s second+pch project was to bring Long Beach to the water through a massive, $320M mixed-use project: 275 residential units, a 100-room boutique hotel, 20,000 sq. ft. of restaurant space, 155,00 sq. ft. of retail space, a theater for CSULB’s graduate theatre repertory, a science center, as well as a swath of local businesses (it was rumored that everyone from Portfolio Coffeehouse to Legends was approached in creating second+pch-specific businesses) and 173,000 sq. ft. reserved for open space.
The problem? Well, a lot: critics not only worried about the project’s effect on traffic at the already-crowded corner, but air quality concerns as well. The Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust commissioned studies which offered multiple alternatives, including one which cut the retail in half while altogether eliminating the residential component; the organization claimed such changes would help the project avoid significant traffic changes.
Secondly, the project would require altering zone restrictions, specifically the removing the coastal land-use restrictions and pushing past building height limits in the area (to accommodate the 12-story condominium building) which remains limited to 30-foot heights for residential and 35-foot heights for non-residential uses. In other words, the Southeast Area Development Improvement Plan (SEADIP) would have to be altered entirely rather than being spot-zoned—something a few organizations said was outright illegal given the land’s attachment to the Coastal Act.
Through two major alterations, Malmuth’s mammoth project was ultimately shot down in what many considered a surprise; the only affirming councilmembers were Robert Garcia, Gary DeLong and then-8th District councilmember Rae Gabilich.
So does the proposed Belmont Yards project mean anything tangible? Not per se. It is, for the most part, entirely theoretical—but what it does do is bring back the discussion that the corner still remains a sad sight. In other words, it remains important to citizens and developers alike.
The good ol’ 90803 zip code which harbors the corner has, in about a 1.5M radius, some 46,000 people averaging an income of $93,500 to $116,200 a year with an average household size of 1.85 people. It is aching for development.
And according to this $197M USC proposal, there is a happy medium which meets the long-term planning goals of the California Coastal Commission while proposing slight variances on the existing zoning of the area without turning it into LA by the Sea.
Belmont Yards is described as the “next logical step in this evolution” of the area, where it acts as a gateway to Long Beach through both business and its shore. The tenants are those that Long Beach is in desperate need of as well as tenants which cultivate the local culture: for beer geeks, USC is inviting Stone Brewing to open a bistro, while also hoping that Apple will cater to the tech nerds, Equinox will provide a high-end fitness center, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie will provide some much needed brand clothing retail, Portos will solve all our carb cravings, and Crate & Barrel will finally come to town after our last vestige of brand interior design retail is the empty Z Gallerie downtown.
Though there is a lot of dreaming going on, one can’t help but have one’s curiosity piqued: after all, the City Council began on December 30 the process in “comprehensively reviewing and updating the project historically known as the SEADIP.”
Ideas, ideas, Long Beach: you’re very good at them.
Featured Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/profjosh