New Development Plan for Southeast Area
A plan to update zoning of southeast Long Beach to allow new commercial, residential and transportation development along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) while preserving the adjacent Los Cerritos Wetlands is heading to the city’s planning commission for approval.
At its next meeting on May 4, the planning commission is scheduled to conduct a study session on the Southeast Area Specific Plan (SEASP), which attempts to revise zoning first established in 1977. The city council will then consider the SEASP and a final environmental impact report (EIR) at its meeting on on June 1. The new plan, which is anticipated to go before the city council at the end of the year, would replace the Southeast Area Development Improvement Plan (SEADIP), which caps building heights at 35 feet and prohibits residential uses in most areas. [Editor's Note: Paragraph changed 4/17/17 per reader comment below.]
Public outreach efforts to formulate the new plan were launched nearly three years ago after numerous failed attempts to redevelop the SeaPort Marina Hotel site at second Street and PCH. Several proposals have been shot down by the city council due to concerns of increased traffic, density, building heights and impacts to nearby wetlands.
With input from community meetings and a 22-member citizens advisory committee, the new plan for a 1,500-acre area along PCH from the Orange County border to the Golden Sails Hotel attempts to “creatively balance responsible growth with resource preservation, and establish a thoughtful framework to guide strategic changes in this important gateway into our city,” according to city staff.
According to previous reports, the new plan would allow for development of seven-story buildings in some areas while also allowing a net increase of more than 5,000 new residential units, up to 425 new hotel rooms and an additional 573,567 square feet of commercial space. The additional dwelling units would increase the area’s population by up to 6,391 more people.
The new plan aims to attract mixed-use commercial, residential and hotel developments with “public gathering places.” The plan also establishes a new land-use category known as “coastal habitat wetlands and recreation,” allowing for wetlands restoration efforts and the creation of interpretive centers or visitor-serving coastal related uses.
The plan also attempts to increase mobility in the area with new protected bike lanes and pedestrian paths with the promenade waterway in the Marina Pacifica shopping center becoming more of a public amenity.
“After an extensive three-year community outreach effort, the city believes that the plan soundly reflects the community’s vision of the southeast Long Beach area that at its best maintains valuable natural resources, customizes land uses and development standards, and identifies locations for future development and expanded transportation choices,” stated Jacqueline Medina, spokesperson for Long Beach Development Services (LBDS), in an email to the Beachcomber.
After residents brought forward concerns last year, however, the city has conducted an additional traffic impact analysis. Public comments on a revised traffic section and a new transportation impact study, which was released in February, were accepted through April 3.
According to the updated traffic section, while the proposed SEASP would generate additional vehicular travel in the area, potential development would not generate traffic similar to traditional development sites given the “mixed-use nature of the site.”
In addition, the analysis states that 16 intersections would experience “significant and unavoidable” traffic impacts that may not be mitigated due to right-of-way acquisition, wetlands encroachment or land not being under City of Long Beach jurisdiction.
Further, the net change caused by development under the new plan may result in about 30,568 more daily vehicular trip-ends in the area, with 1,748 more daily trips occurring in the a.m. hours and 2,459 more daily trips in the p.m. hours.
The analysis also states, however, that the plan takes into account the development of new sidewalks, pedestrian paths, bicycle facilities and public transportation facilities as a mitigation to lessen overall traffic impacts.
Meanwhile, developers and landowners of the Second Street and PCH site announced plans last November to demolish the SeaPort Marina Hotel, which has recently closed, to build a new “high-end, but casual” retail shopping center with no residential or hotel component. The project will require approvals from the city council and the California Coastal Commission.
Elizabeth Lambe, executive director of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust, stated in an email to the Beachcomber that it’s important to take into account the “value and fragility” of the wetlands, adding that nearly all of Southern California’s wetlands have disappeared due to infill and development.
“It is important to protect and restore the few [wetlands] that we have left,” she said. “We believe there need to be robust buffers between development and Los Cerritos Wetlands.”
Lambe said buildings must be developed in a way that does not hamper movement of animals, such as birds that fly between the wetlands and Alamitos Bay, adding that lighting needs to be “bird friendly” and landscaping must be done with native plants compatible with the wetlands habitat.
She said tailpipe emissions from increased traffic as well as a proposed extension of Shopkeeper Road may also impact the wetlands, adding to fears that increased traffic may spur the need for new roads through the wetlands.