Planning Commission to Vote on Drab, Boring, OC-like 2nd & PCH Development in Long Beach

Renderings and video courtesy of CenterCal Properties, LLC. To see more renderings, scroll through the gallery above. Virtual tour below. 

The southeast corner of 2nd and Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) has long been plagued as one of Long Beach’s most revered and contested development battles.

The dilapidated mid-mod Sea Marina Hotel was (and still is) for many in the 3rd District an eyesore that had offered room rentals by the month and was home to the bro-out dingy club that altered titles every other month before hosting women wrestling and other cultural wonders. On the flip side, many projects—which included housing, hospitality, and local spaces that cater to Long Beach culture—have been shot down by largely angry, wealthy residents who fear more people moving in.

In other words, the 11-acre space was in desperate need of some love—and it will be getting something of an upgrade (I guess?) with an eyebrow-raising, dreadfully boring, overpriced, Orange County-like makeover by way of CenterCal Properties that is likely to spur gentrification in an area already gentrified.

Unveiled in November of last year, the project now has clearer renderings and a video [below] of what the project will look like: a giant, uninspiring, two-story sprawl of mostly retail—no housing, nada; no hospitality, nada—in “a casual yet refined resort-style” aesthetic that continues to remove the Alamitos Bay area from the rest of the city.

And it’s most likely to become a reality as the City of Long Beach Planning Commission looks to vote on approving the project—and therefore waving goodbye to the famed mid-mod hotel—at its next meeting this Thursday, September 7.

 

Surely, one must commend 3rd District Councilmember Suzie Price for getting the project to fruition after years of battles, NIMBYism, and outright frustration—and, even more, saying the project could finally bring brands like Apple to Long Beach.

But it is nothing like the far more let’s-aim-for-the-future proposals that have been associated with 2nd and PCH.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

David Malmuth, former managing director of RCLCO Development Services Group, joined with Ratcovich Properties, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and Studio One Eleven to take on what was then called the “second+pch” project. The real estate developer is no stranger to massive projects in Long Beach that ultimately failed to come to fruition: it was he and Kim Murphy who in 1988 worked with Disney—who owned the leasehold on the Queen Mary—to develop the massive $2.8B DisneySea theme park at Rainbow Harbor.

Malmuth’s second+pch project was to bring Long Beach to the water through a massive, $320M mixed-use project: 275 residential units, a 100-room boutique hotel, 20,000 sq. ft. of restaurant space, 155,00 sq. ft. of retail space, a theater for CSULB’s graduate theatre repertory, a science center, as well as a swath of local businesses (it was rumored that everyone from Portfolio Coffeehouse/Berlin Bistro to Legends was approached in creating second+pch-specific businesses) and 173,000 sq. ft. reserved for open space.

The problem? Well, a lot: critics not only worried about the project’s effect on traffic at the already-crowded corner, but air quality concerns as well. The Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust commissioned studies which offered multiple alternatives, including one which cut the retail in half while altogether eliminating the residential component; the organization claimed such changes would help the project avoid significant traffic changes.

Secondly, the project would require altering zone restrictions, specifically the removing the coastal land-use restrictions and pushing past building height limits in the area (to accommodate the 12-story condominium building) which remains limited to 30-foot heights for residential and 35-foot heights for non-residential uses. In other words, the Southeast Area Development Improvement Plan (SEADIP) would have to be altered entirely rather than being spot-zoned—something a few organizations said was outright illegal given the land’s attachment to the Coastal Act.

Through two major alterations, Malmuth’s mammoth project was ultimately shot down in what many considered a surprise; the only affirming councilmembers were then-1st District Councilmember and now Mayor Robert Garcia, then 3rd District Councilmember Gary DeLong, and then-8th District councilmember Rae Gabilich.

Then, some kids from USC’s School of Architecture proposed the Belmont Yards project, which decided to avoid having to change zoning regulations, stick to the rules at hand, but still offer an amenable project. And they did.

The Belmont Yards project had not just one but two multifamily residential developments along with a plethora of retail and restaurant space, along with a pedestrian bridge that connected the development to the nearby marina as well as direct access to Schooner or Later, Ballast Point, and more across the way.

Hence why the City issued a notice for developers to follow current zoning laws—and CenterCal

But this current project not only feels like an underwhelming version of a stretch of Fashion Island but lacks housing, pedestrian and biking amenities, and any sense of Long Beach looking forward. Speaking of looking forward, after new zoning laws enacted and most likely changed for the area, we’ll be having yet another conversation about the area, discussing how we need more housing, how the development was badly planned…

Y’know: the good ol’ story of Long Beach.

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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.
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