Dropping Three Lawsuits, Parking Advocacy Group Settles for $250K Parking Study (with No Guarantees)

Photo by Brian Addison.

Three lawsuits that didn’t even see the light of a courtroom will remain that way: the City of Long Beach has met with parking warrior group Long Beach Transportation and Parking Solutions (TAPS) and had them withdraw from lawsuits that focused on three redevelopment properties in DTLB.

The group, largely consisting of citizens of Alamitos Beach, the area just east of DTLB, had hired lawyers from Channel Law group to assess the sale of three former Redevelopment properties sold by the City through its Long Range Property Management Program. Their claim? The projects violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) guidelines. The probable reality? They would have faced a long, if not outright futile time in court since the Downtown Plan—the guiding document for development in DTLB that sets the minimum requirements for developers—is already CEQA approved.

You can’t ignore economics, folks: if you have a bunch of people across the entirety of the economic strata are vying for a particular resource but not enough of that resource is being offered, only the highest within that strata are going to get that resource. Anti-development people are dangerous for this precise reason.

There is, however, good news: the group has agreed to drop the lawsuits as long as the City moves forward with two separate parking studies—one in DTLB, one in Alamitos Beach—for which TAPS will be involved in choosing the consultant. (Because they probably fear the City might go with someone who knows what they’re talking about, like Donald Shoup—y’know, the guy whose research on employer-paid parking led to the passage of California’s parking cash-out law, and to changes in the Internal Revenue Code to encourage parking cash out. In his book, The High Cost of Free Parking, Shoup recommends that cities should charge fair market prices for on-street parking, use the meter revenue to finance public services in the metered neighborhoods, and remove off-street parking requirements.)

The best part? Whatever the implications of the studies provide, the City nor the City Council are behooved to take any action on it. And the group has given up its right to sue for the next few years.

None whatsoever. A quarter of a million dollars, to be handed over by the City, to conduct a study with no formal action required other than the City Council to hear about it once it’s complete.

Which represents not a win for TAPS but the chance to continue moving Long Beach forward and toward a more transit-based city and spending pointless money that could go toward, oh, we don’t know, maybe affordable housing.

TAPS, headed by local Debora Dobias, is a loose, NIMBY-like conglomeration of people who don’t want anything to change except the addition of more parking and the lessening of density. This is despite the fact that increased parking is directly associated with increased congestion and pollution while increasing density has shown to increase public and shared transiting over individual car transportation. (Let us not forget, ‘Merica, that you don’t have to worry about homelessness—if you’re a car: we’re building more three-car garages than one-bedroom apartments.)

Let’s clear the air on a few things: the group has nothing to do with transportation. The projects they are largely against are density-driven, transit-focused projects being developed near Metro stations in DTLB while what they fight for, specifically less housing and more parking, are urban nightmares in terms of pollution, accessible housing, and displacement. For instance, the last project a similar group succeeded in altering turned an already-low-density project into an even lower density project, eliminating the amount of units being constructed while increasing parking by twenty percent.

Editorially speaking, we must also be clear: Longbeachize is a publication that is pro-density, pro-transit and pro-affordable housing because overwhelming evidence suggests that our environment, especially our coastlines and urban areas, cannot sustain a lifestyle where we are not more cognizant of how we travel, the space we use, and the transit options we create. Even further, a lack of investment in transit-oriented projects will further displace or decrease the quality of living for those without vehicles, living with lower incomes, or unable to get from Point A to Point B.

In other words, any group—whether its TAPS or the angry old white guy up the street—telling you that your city’s lifestyle and space needs to be “preserved” by not building housing needs to be swiftly dismissed. Because there is nonpartisan, nonprofit, academically-sound research that proves high density development in urban areas—yes, even luxury high-rise apartments—benefits lower- and middle-income families more than no development at all.

Repeat: building less housing than people demand drives higher housing costs.

In fact, in the study linked (conducted by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office [LAO]), what is the remedy offered for fixing the housing shortage? Market rate housing complexes in urban coastal cities. That is a direct suggestion. High density development in Long Beach is literally encouraged by a nonpartisan, nonprofit research institution—not an angry group of NIMBYs who want to point the finger at progress as a culprit in their apparently awful living situation.

If you preserve Long Beach, the influx of wealthy folk needing places to live won’t change—and suddenly, you’re going to find a line of people willing pay significantly more than you currently do to live in the same place. Once again, you can’t ignore economics, folks: if you have a bunch of people across the entirety of the economic strata are vying for a particular resource but not enough of that resource is being offered, only the highest within that strata are going to get that resource.

And anti-development people are dangerous for this precise reason.

If cities want to prevent lower- and middle-income households from being displaced, they need to allow much more housing to be built. Per LAO’s previous report on housing, even new apartments with high price points benefit lower- and middle-income renters because, as long as they don’t replace existing housing, more new housing means less competition for homes in older buildings.

So the belief that construction geared toward higher-income households displaces the poor? The idea that market-rate housing in low-income neighborhoods leads to the displacement of those low-income households? The idea that policy makers should instead focus on expanding government programs that aim to help low–income Californians afford housing? All of those ideas are wrong.

Here’s how the LAO summarized it:

In this follow up to [our previous report], we offer additional evidence that facilitating more private housing development in the state’s coastal urban communities would help make housing more affordable for low–income Californians. Existing affordable housing programs assist only a small proportion of low–income Californians. Most low–income Californians receive little or no assistance. Expanding affordable housing programs to help these households likely would be extremely challenging and prohibitively expensive. It may be best to focus these programs on Californians with more specialized housing needs—such as homeless individuals and families or persons with significant physical and mental health challenges.

Encouraging additional private housing construction can help the many low–income Californians who do not receive assistance. Considerable evidence suggests that construction of market–rate housing reduces housing costs for low–income households and, consequently, helps to mitigate displacement in many cases. Bringing about more private home building, however, would be no easy task, requiring state and local policy makers to confront very challenging issues and taking many years to come to fruition. Despite these difficulties, these efforts could provide significant widespread benefits: lower housing costs for millions of Californians.

Lower housing costs for millions of Californians.

Lower housing costs for millions of Californians.

Say it again: lower housing costs for millions of Californians.

So the next time someone tries to argue that the giant apartment complex going up in a downtown is bad… The next time someone tries to argue that more parking creates a healthier urban community… The next time someone says that density is the devil and creates more pollution… The next time someone says more housing worsens the situation for our poor… Those people are likely to be part of one of two camps: they are uninformed or, as is the case with many, they are trying to preserve their comfortable life so you can’t have one.

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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 19 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. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.