Housing Equity Analysis of Controversial Long Beach Land Use Element Widely Ignored; Claims ‘Public Health Concerns’ at Risk

For our complete coverage on the Land Use Element, click here.


Photo courtesy of Scott Varley.

As the Long Beach City Council prepares for tonight’s council meeting that will determine the City’s proposed Land Use Element (LUE), an equity analysis of the LUE that was forwarded to the City Council—as well as the Planning Commission before it appeased the request of NIMBYs to lower density and development citywide—seems to have been left largely ignored.

An opinion piece published here already insinuated that the stances of the anti-LUE coalition “are—consciously or not—embracing past discriminatory policies that created the inequalities that characterize Long Beach.”

This equity analysis supports that notion with sound evidence from multiple resources, opening with the fact that “significant costs come with limiting access to high-opportunity housing neighborhoods through restrict land use while research shows that increased access to quality housing, jobs, and essential neighborhood resources can improve health, social, and economic outcomes for all residents of Long Beach.”

The analysis is forthright in that the LUE, beyond being a zoning document, addresses “public health concerns”: not only are 47.2% of Long Beach renters housing cost burdened—more than Oakland or San Francisco—and over 60K of our residents live in overcrowded conditions, where you live in Long Beach determines your lifespan. Those living in 90815 in East Long Beach, for example, will live an average of 82.6 years awhile those in 90802 in DTLB will live 75.2 years—a seven-year drop across a mere four miles.

“How much housing can be built, where it can be located, its proximity to jobs, healthy and safe neighborhood environments, retail and shopping needs, transit and quality schools, are all dictated by the LUE of a City’s General Plan—so this issue is a vital public health concern for the City.”

It goes on to state that concerns of putting increased housing, at the request of largely affluent East Long Beachers, “west of Cherry” will likely worsen the geographic, economic, and racial divides that separate areas of low and high opportunity in Long Beach.

“Recent opposition to the LUE lends evidence to a growing racial generation gap, indicative of nationwide trends, that can preclude continued economic vitality,” the document continues. “While over 85% of youth in Long Beach are people of color, over half of seniors are white. Equitable and integrated communities that properly plan for future generations are more likely to maintain sustained economic growth. The impact to the city’s overall health must be contextualized around housing affordability, homelessness, economic opportunity, and environmental sustainability.”

In continued research and analysis, the report links everything from the Long Beach College Promise to the city’s economic development plan to the LUE—and the restrictions that the Planning Commission have forwarded to the City Council will result in exacerbating the housing crisis, the affordability crisis, environmental concerns, and inequities across both Long Beach and the region.

Given these alarming issues, there is an even more startling reality: none of this evidence will shift the vocal minority leading the anti-housing movement in their neighborhoods. In that case, what is the Council to do? Introduce a coming-back clause that forces the Council to continually return to this document in order to address whether it is keeping up actual housing needs rather than appeasing those who seek no change.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.