The California Coastal Commission has decided a six-story, 281-unit housing development near the 2ND & PCH shopping center can move forward despite the project not being consistent with some zoning standards. The violations did not create a “substantial” issue, the commission ruled Thursday.

Residents and environmental groups were challenging a proposed project that would replace the empty Congressional Place office building at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Studebaker Road. It’s one of three projects Long Beach has approved for the area that will bring nearly 1,300 new housing units to that intersection.

Opponents said the project violated the area’s five-story height limit, but developers used the state’s density bonus law to build an additional story by including 13 affordable units that will be rented to low-income households. Opponents also said the project was too close to the San Gabriel River and that the development could pose a danger to birds and scare off other wildlife.

Others pointed to oil wells being developed across the street, which could cause health issues down the road for future tenants, as well as the cumulative impact on noise and traffic after all three housing projects are built.

While Coastal Commission staff noted that the project had some errors, Steve Hudson, a district director for the commission, said that in the case of this project, he did not believe they rise “to the level of significance.”

Commissioners voted 10-0 with two members abstaining to deny the appeal, but several members raised questions over whether state law truly encourages the development of affordable housing along the coast.

“There’s a little disconnect between what state law is leading us to produce and what is needed across communities,” said Commissioner Catherine Rice, who noted that Long Beach’s housing allocation figures call for about 40% of new units to be for low-income households, but this project has less than 5% affordable units.

Commissioners said the number of affordable units in the Congressional Place project was “woefully low” and some said the commission should consider requiring future coastal developments to include affordable homes.

The city had previously said the parcel where the six-story project is planned could hold as many as 95 low-income units, but with the Coastal Commission’s approval, just 13 will be constructed at the site.

Because the project was challenged on environmental grounds, the commission couldn’t use the number of affordable units as a reason to uphold the appeal.

The project was approved by the Long Beach Planning Commission in April and the City Council denied a local appeal of the project in July.

Commissioner Roberto Uranga, who also serves on the Long Beach City Council, said the city is “under the gun” to meet its regional housing goals, which require Long Beach to make room for more than 26,500 units by 2029. About 11,200 of those units are supposed to be for very low-income and low-income households.

“The development here is on the east portion of Long Beach, and there’s very little development that happens in East Long Beach and it’s much needed,” Uranga said.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.