City Council to hear appeal of proposed Downtown Long Beach residential development

A decision to allow a new 108-unit market-rate housing development in Downtown Long Beach will likely be upheld Tuesday amid a challenge from a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that says the project violates the city’s Downtown Plan.

The proposed seven-story project for the corner of Seventh Street and Locust Avenue was approved by the Planning Commission in November but is now headed to the City Council due to the appeal.

The controversial Downtown Plan was adopted by the City Council in 2012 and put in place a framework for speeding up housing production in the Downtown area, but it only approved the production of 5,000 units along with nearly two million square feet of office space and retail.

If a projects meet certain development requirements spelled out in the plan, it is able to be approved faster than other projects outside of the zoning district.

Downtown already has over 5,200 units in the planned area and to allow for a proposed 108-unit structure to be built at the corner of Seventh Street and Locust Avenue, the city is trying to approve an amendment that would allow it to swap out unrealized office and retail space for additional residential units.

The Land Use Equivalency Program could allow for an additional 3,260 units to be built in the Downtown area over the next 14 years, according to a city memo.

Supporters Alliance for Environmental Responsibility (SAFER) is appealing the project because it would further exceed the limit of 5,000 units that was originally included in the Downtown Plan and no additional environmental review was completed to show the effects of new residential units.

The nonprofit, which has challenged a number of projects in the region, said there was not enough time to review the 1,600 pages of documents associated with the project, and is demanding a separate environmental impact report be prepared because it’s outside of the original scope of units studied for the Downtown Plan.

In its appeal, SAFER noted that the original plan had contemplated more than 5,000 units, but the higher mark was ultimately rejected to avoid excessive traffic and potential negative effects on air quality and noise in the area.

It’s calling for a deeper study of how the new building could affect the area.

The 108-unit building would replace an existing Firestone Auto Care facility located across the street from Oropeza Elementary School. The seven-story structure would include street-level retail space, a mix of one and two-bedroom market-rate apartments and 135 parking spaces that will be both above and below ground.

Because the application to build at the site was submitted before the City Council adopted the city’s inclusionary housing program last year it won’t be required to include any affordable units in its design.

The council is likely to deny the appeal Tuesday night, which could allow the project to move forward.

The project’s developer, Starpoint Properties, said in November that it still had a “long way to go,” noting that it still needs to submit its full construction plans and have them approved by the city.

Inclusionary housing policy updates make affordable units permanent, tie fees to new home values

Planning Commission approves new 108-unit Downtown Long Beach development

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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