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Photo courtesy of Abbie Normal. Additional reporting by Katie Rispoli.
“We have failed as a city.”
These were the words said by homelessness and housing expert Andy Kerr last night during his public testimony as Long Beach’s future housing supply is about to see a dramatic decrease, despite a statewide housing crisis, thanks to a massive alteration of the City’s Land Use Element (LUE) after homeowners railed against it.
Due to that railing, the City’s Planning Commission discussed and pushed to City Council the controversial LUE, the guiding document (not updated since 1989) for which all development in the city will use for the future—and that drastic reduction in the amount of future housing will likely lead to even more rent increases, a more competitive buyer market that will push out the middle class, displace our poorest and most marginalized populations, and increase in the housing crisis that is plaguing the entire state.
“We have failed as a city to create housing at the rate our economy has created jobs and that’s this created this housing crisis we’re in,” Kerr said. “We can either grow and develop our city in a smart way that nurtures the higher opportunity areas of the community or we can limp along and suffer the negative effects of not planning for what will come. I don’t want that for my city or my young adult children who I fear will never have an opportunity to plant seeds in the city I love because a few people who had that opportunity don’t want that for anyone else.”
So how dramatic is that lack of opportunity the future will face, the one which Kerr speaks of?
Well, let’s first begin with the numbers we do have that paint Long Beach’s current housing and affordability crisis. Mind you, a crisis that directly connected to our county’s crisis and state’s crisis where one-half of Angelenos and one-third of all Californians teeter toward poverty.
- 57,000 people are homeless throughout our county.
- Cuts in annual federal and state funding, including elimination of Redevelopment, have reduced our county’s investment in affordable housing production and preservation by more than $440M annually since 2008, a 62% reduction.
- 44,000 people have moved into Long Beach since the LUE was updated but we have built only 8,530 units.
- 56,833 Long Beach residents live in overcrowded conditions.
- 114,241 Long Beach residents are severely rent-burdened, meaning more than half their income goes toward rent.
- 221,901 Long Beach residents pay more than 30% of their income toward a mortgage or rent.
- Long Beach Unified School District has seen a consistent decline in enrollment for the past six years because affordability, not quality of education, has steadily become eradicated for more and more families.
Shirin Senegal, the woman running the famed VIP Records, was the first woman to speak during the public comment at a packed City Council chambers. Her comment was clear: “I know we’re afraid of change.”
This was, in essence, the theme of the night—and there were two sides, complete with 82 people wanting to speak during public comment: those who are for more housing and those against.
The vast majority of folks—72 of the 82 public speakers—were the latter; an older, almost entirely white crew of homeowners who, according to their logic, have never benefited from privilege or reaped the rewards of an economy that disproportionately favors them; they were and are hard workers that “saved up” to buy a home and they’re “emotionally and financially invested,” and, even though the effects of the proposed LUE changes won’t affect them in their lifetime, these folks never want to see change.
Even more, they continually battle the idea that developers get money and everyone else gets screwed—and there’s no substantiation behind that. In fact, quite the opposite (except for wealthy folk):
One North Alamitos Beach resident, Louise Ivers, help up a photo of a “crackerbox apartment” and compared its aesthetics and feel to that of Alcatraz. Yes, according to her own judgement, an apartment that provides people with roofs over their heads is the equivalent to an island which acted as a prison.
One older gentleman, in his public comment, proudly noted that he isn’t a fan of “dropping ‘isms'” and would therefore avoid the race discussion because housing, apparently, has no correlation with race—just “saving neighborhoods.”
Another mocked mental health, claiming that the meeting wasn’t about planning but the mental stability of the Council, which drew laughs and cheers.
One gentlemen said to “just look north of the 10” and that is our “overdeveloped” future—a claim that has absolutely no backing, considering the City of Los Angeles’ lack of building:
They’re a class act bunch, one I haven’t steered away from prodding, amusingly poking, raising an eyebrow toward, or just flat-out getting tired and calling out their cognitive dissonance.
For the small handful of supporters, like Kerr, they were the few who understood the issues at hand.
That doesn’t change the fact that that already low heights—in most cases three or four stories—were reduced to or kept at two stories. That mixed-use possibilities were eradicated across multiple locations throughout the city. That 7th Street in the 2nd District, one of the most traveled and possibility-filled corridors, had a reduction from the original LUE proposal to a three-story maximum height building. That the massive and depressing Kmart/Lowes site off of Bellflower will not be mixed-use in the future—and therefore more homes—but will remain entirely commercial with two-story buildings. That our Convention Center area, the area that is our most urban and dense, had height reduction from 250 feet to 60 feet.
The full list of decreases are listed below but ultimately, I just want to apologize to the future because Long Beach is about to screw you over big time.
Council District 1
- Reduced intensity for the Linden Historic District (from TOD-5 stories to FCN Single-Family 2 stories)
- Reduced height and intensity on 7th Street from 5 to 3 stories east of Cerritos (Craftsman Village Historic District request).
Council District 2
- Reduced height and intensity along 7th Street from Cerritos to Walnut – from 5 stories to 3 stories (Craftsman Village Historic District request).
- Reduced height in Alamitos Beach (south of Broadway) from 7 stories to 4 stories.
- Reduced height in the existing multifamily neighborhood between 4th and 7th Streets – from 5 stories to 4 stories.
- Reduced height in the Convention Center/Shoreline area
from 250 feet to 60 feet. 25
Council District 3
- Increased height along Redondo and Belmont Pier area to match existing conditions.
- Decreased height and intensity along PCH at the Los Altos Plaza entrance – from 5 stories to 3 stories.
- Decreased height and intensity along PCH at the Iron Triangle – from 5 stories to 3 stories.
- Decreased height along 7th Street and within multi-family neighborhoods to the north – from 4 stories to 3 stories.
- Decreased height on The Toledo from 3 stories to 2 stories.
- Made various corrections to the map to reflect existing development along Bayshore and Studebaker.
Council District 4
- Reduced height along Redondo south of Anaheim; from 5 stories to 4 stories.
- Reduced height within multi-family neighborhoods south of Anaheim from 4 stories to 3 stories.
- Reduced height along Anaheim – from 5 stories to 4 stories from Redondo to Ximeno; and to 3 stories from Ximeno to Clark.
- Reduced height within multi-family neighborhoods north of Anaheim from 5 stories to 4 stories.
- Reduced height around the eastern portion of the traffic circle from 6 stories to 4 stories.
- Reduced height and intensity around Whaley Park from 5 stories mixed-use to 2 stories retail-only.
Council District 4
- Reduced height and intensity at Bellflower/Stearns from 5 stories to 3 stories (Sears site).
- Reduced height and intensity north and west of Bellflower/Stearns from 5 stories mixed-use to 2 stories retail only.
- Reduced height along Palo Verde from 3 stories to 2 stories.
Council District 5
- Reduced height and intensity at Bellflower/Carson from 4 stories mixed-use to 2 stories retail-only.
- Reduced height at the Long Beach Towne Center from 6 stories to 5 stories.
- Reduced height at Wardlow/Los Coyotes Diagonal; properties south of Wardlow changed from 3 stories mixed-use to 2 stories retail-only.
- Reduced height at Spring/Palo Verde from 3 stories to 2 stories.
- Reduced height at Los Coyotes Diagonal/Spring from 4 stories to 3 stories.
Council District 5
- Reduced height at Spring/Bellflower from 5 stories to 3 stories (Kmart/Lowes site).
- Reduced height north of Spring/Bellflower from 5 stories of mixed-use to 2-stories of retail-only.
- Reduced height and intensity at Spring/Clark from 3 stories of mixed-use to 2 stories of retail-only.
Council District 6
- Decreased height between Pacific and Earl (Willow to 28th) from 10 stories to 5 stories.
- Reduced height along Pacific from 5 stories to 4 stories.
- Reduced height along PCH west of Magnolia – from 4 stories to 3 stories.
Council District 7
- Reduced height in the Springdale (West Long Beach) multi-family area from 5 stories to 3 stories.
- Adjusted the area at 33rd/Cherry adjacent to California Heights from Industrial to cleaner Neo-Industrial.
- Adjusted industrial designation near Willow Springs Park to Neo-Industrial.
Council District 8
- Adjusted the former driving range off Pacific Place to Neo-Industrial.
- Reduced height along Long Beach Boulevard (south of San Antonio) from 5 stories to 4 stories.
- Reduced height along Atlantic (north of 56th) from 5 stories to 4 stories.
- Modified designation at Paramount/South Street from multi-family to mixed-use to match existing conditions.
Council District 9
- Reduced height and intensity along Long Beach Boulevard from 4 stories to 3 stories.
- Reduced height along Atlantic at South Street from 5 stories to 4 stories.
- Reduced height along Atlantic at Artesia from 5 stories to 4 stories.
- Increased height along Atlantic north of SR-91 from 4 stories to 5 stories.
- Reduced height and intensity along Cherry Avenue from 4 stories to 3 stories.
- Reduced height along Artesia (east of Paramount) from 6 stories to 5 stories.
- Increased height along South Street at Cherry Avenue (Food 4 Less site) from 4 stories to 5 stories.
- Decreased height along South Street at Downey from 6 stories to 4 stories.