A proposed housing development along the Los Angeles River was approved by the Long Beach City Council Tuesday night, which could bring 226 new homes to the area.
The River Park development will include 74 two-story single-family homes, 99 two-story row townhomes and 53 carriage townhomes. A dozen of the units will be reserved for very-low income buyers, which Los Angeles County defines as having an annual household income of $59,500 or less for a family of four.
The city’s Planning Commission had approved the project in September but because it requires a zoning change, the City Council had to give final approval.
Integral Communities of Newport Beach is the developer that proposed the project and intends to build it at the 20-acre site situated between the 405 Freeway and Wardlow Road on the east side of the river.
The project will include improvements to the existing Baker Street Park, which will get a new bathroom, and will install a new traffic signal on Wardlow Road to allow residents to safely enter and exit the housing development.
The site was used for oil wastewater treatment in previous decades and will require significant remediation before homes can be built. Integral had previously estimated the project could be completed by 2026.
Residents opposed to the project said the city should not approve it because it would eat into already diminishing space along the river, which they said was promised to them as future park space in the 2007 Long Beach River Link plan. Opponents also said the development could potentially create new traffic and greenhouse gas issues for the area.
Juan Ovalle, president of the Riverpark Coalition, which opposes the project, said the area “needs environmental justice, not a gated community.”
Ovalle also said the project should be continued until the area’s councilmember could meet and hear constituents’ concerns of the project. Councilmember Roberto Uranga represents the area but has been absent from public meetings since suffering a stroke in late September. There’s been no announcement on when he’s expected to return.
In response to the call for a delay, Development Services Director Christopher Koontz said that the project was entitled to have the council vote on it within 60 days by city policy. That date had already passed, and pushing it back any further for the councilman to return would continue to put the city out of compliance with its own rule.
Koontz said the project was one of the best the city has ever negotiated and includes a nearly 5-acre public park and 12 units of affordable housing, both of which were not requirements of the project.
Ovalle’s group recently scored a legal victory over a different project located just north of the River Park housing site, when a judge ruled that the developer behind a proposed storage facility needed to conduct an environmental review.
The proposed housing development has already conducted an environmental review for its project, and a representative from Integral Communities said its remediation plan has also been approved by county officials.
City Manager Tom Modica said the city had looked at developing the site into open space in the past but was unable to negotiate a deal to purchase the land. He estimated that developing park space could cost about $1 million to $2 million per acre, not including the cost of acquisition. Developing this parcel could cost more than $30 million, Modica said.
The council voted 8-0 to approve the zoning changes and enter into a development agreement with Integral Communities.