Photo by Brian Addison. Above: a pedestrian overpass above the 22 Freeway entering East Long Beach.
I think it’s time to stop using the word density. It’s not used correctly by the majority of media and it’s certainly not used correctly by NIMBYs.
This is really a discussion about housing. For humans. And how cities go about creating that housing and those opportunities—so it should be of no shock that the uninformed are using the Land Use Element (LUE), the guiding document to development for any city, and not really getting what it is doing and what it isn’t doing.
Let me break this down: the City will be updating its own (massively dated) LUE; this document basically guides development for the entire city, creating zones for what is appropriate and inappropriate, how streets can and should be improved, et cetera. Some of the proposals include height increases in some areas—and no, we are not talking DTLB heights moving into the 5th District. By height increases, I mean allowing neighborhoods with two- or three-story heights to reach four- or five-story heights in a minimal amount of areas (and no, not in areas with single-family homes but areas like the Traffic Circle). Modest, keeping up with the times.
Here’s the thing, East Long Beach: there are no high-rise apartments being built by your homes. Hell, there aren’t even seven- or six- or five-story apartment buildings being built near you. You’re already built out, you’re out in the boondocks with no access to regional transit—no developer in their right mind wants to build an apartment complex near you and even if they do, they’ll have to build it in the handful of places the LUE will dictate. Like the Traffic Circle. Like Bellflower & Stearns. Like places that are already developed.
And yet… And yet you’re still groanin’ and moanin’.
This isn’t about people “being stacked onto one another,” part of the NIMBY-fave phrase, “pack ’em and stack ’em”—after all, many feel blessed to be in a studio they can afford, as shocking as that might seem to some single-family homeowners. This isn’t about “too much density,” as Garcia noted (in his statement appealing to affluent neighborhoods) because five-story multi-family homes are not heavy density; they’re moderate increases in a very un-dense neighborhood.
“I’ve said it from day one: we must focus on where we put housing,” Garcia said. “I know some think my statement was an appeal to anti-housing folks but the reality is that we’re not going to turn suburban Long Beach into Downtown. That’s what the Downtown is for. And Central Long Beach? Let’s take out those auto shops and put in high density housing because it’s along a transit corridor—it just makes sense. No one is going to develop a seven-story apartment complex in East Long Beach. It just won’t happen.”
So let’s focus on what we’re really talking about: housing for humans.
I was asked a very particular question this week. It wasn’t necessarily by a NIMBY nor anyone wanting to argue just to argue; they were being genuine—so it was a question I took seriously:
“What are your thoughts on people who have paid the high amount for a home and don’t want the neighborhood they purposely bought in changed? […] If you bought in a quiet neighborhood and development wants to come in and completely change the reason you chose that neighborhood. And I’m not picking sides—I just think everyone needs to be more open to conversation.”
I am deeply blessed in one sense: my partner owns a condo in Long Beach, one that I helped him find, and one that I am happy to continue to invest in—but it was out of a very specific string of circumstances that we are able to live in our own place.
In fact, had Alamitos Beach not been developed, we probably wouldn’t have been able to purchase anything here as it would have been out of our range.
Surely people have the right to pretend like it’s perfectly okay to assure their neighborhood will never change in their lifetime; when they pass, they won’t have to worry about it anymore. But these choices—to halt the building of housing and business opportunities, which include spaces for small businesses—will affect the future far more than those who live here now.
In other words, I find upping the cost of living, simply because one already owns, to be selfish and unconcerned about the future. It seems to reek with, “I am here and that’s all that matters!”
But now, the NIMBY conversation, specifically the one railing against the LUE, is reaching a whole new level: they want to have their cake and eat it too.
No, no, I don’t mean they just want everything and everyone to leave and get out so they can just live by themselves—like this unbecoming person who told Garcia flat-out she “doesn’t want affordable solutions” in her neighborhood, gods dammit… They want everything and everyone to leave but still have all the benefits of urban living.
Here’s how one list put it:
We want a future with –
* ability of home OWNERSHIP
* green space
* less congestion NOT more
* parking per residence
* pedestrian and bike
* adequate transit/transportation
* improvements without DENSITY
* neighborhood respect
* fair planning
You can’t say you want the ability to be able to buy if you don’t build more housing (or what you scream as “DENSITY”) because a lack of housing is what causes prices to skyrocket. Here’s the evidence for that.
You can’t ease congestion by giving more space to cars, whether it’s parking or expanded roadways. Here’s the evidence.
You can’t amp up on pedestrian and bike infrastructure, transit facilities, and green spaces when you are claiming you want more parking and less density, which contributes to pollution and congestion. Here’s some evidence for that.
But mostly, you can’t improve on your neighborhood by closing everyone out and not providing the future a chance to afford what you can. That’s just being an asshole.
So when you’re considering these things, it might behoove you to think outside of yourself. Just because you have the privilege of owning a house or living in a nice neighborhood doesn’t you mean you vote those who can’t out of it all.
The following public meetings will be held regarding the LUE update:
- Saturday, September 30, 3-5 PM at Veterans Park Community Center
101 E 28th St, Long Beach, CA 90806
- Wednesday, October 4, 6-8 PM at Whaley Park Community Center
5620 E Atherton St, Long Beach, CA 90815
- Saturday, October 14, 11-1 PM at Best Western Golden Sails Hotel
6285 Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90803
- Wednesday, October 18, 6-8 PM at Expo Arts Center
4321 Atlantic Ave, Long Beach, CA 90807