East Long Beach is once again confronting the enemy that is change

The Olson Company didn’t ask for my opinion, but when has that ever stopped me? I freely and happily offer my take on just about everything I stumble over, including the matter of who installed flooring in our vacation kitchen that’s slicker than a barroom shuffleboard. My opinion is they shouldn’t have made it so slippery that I’d lose my footing and fall and cut my forehead and basically fill the entire room with blood.

But that’s just my opinion, and lest you point out that I had polished off two martinis Before the Fall, I would counter-point-out that I have had two martinis hundreds of times and I don’t fall every single time afterward.

But this bit of advice goes out to our friends at the Seal Beach-based Olson Company, which is toying with the idea of building residences on the LBCC-owned land between Los Coyotes Diagonal and Palo Verde Avenue, just south of the Ralphs grocery store in Council District 5.

Or, you can just shorten it to “building in District 5.”

Or, “(verb)ing in District 5.”

Here’s the advice for the Olson Co.: You want to do something in District 5? Fill potholes and then go away. But, whatever you do, just go away.  Take whatever artist conceptions you have of modern new homes, with couples walking arm-in-arm down magnolia-shaded avenues, with golden retrievers and tots in tow, roll those plans up, put them into a tube and then back slowly out of the room, closing the door quietly behind you, and retreat back to Old Ranch Parkway. Be grateful you didn’t lose a limb or your life. There’s always Irvine, if you want to build houses. Or if you’re stuck in Long Beach, there are eight other districts where you might have better luck.

I know you have dreams. We all have dreams. You wanted to take a big patch of dirt or underused medical buildings and put in houses? People in hell also want ice water.

The Olson Co. blew up a trial balloon and sought input on the tentative proposal to build houses from nearby residents on Aug. 8. Residents were against the idea of … pretty much anything. The process of building homes would entail, initially, re-zoning the area from commercial to residential, something that rubs the 5th District the wrong way, every bit as much as changing an area from residential to commercial. Because: change.

I don’t mean to pick on the 5th, but it’s where I’ve lived for the past 28 years, and the 5th’s aversion to change — call it adaptation — has always teetered dangerously on humanity’s less appealing angels. The common cry is couched in little and apparently harmless words like “suburb,” and “cozy.”

Longtime residents say they bought their homes in the eastern part of town by “scrimping and saving and hard work.” It wasn’t really that hard (if there’s one thing I don’t do, it’s scrimp) for anyone who bought in the area before the houses started topping the $500,000 mark (and that ship has sailed long ago). And many residents in the area inherited their home and still like to think that it came to them as a result of personal sacrifice and/or divine entitlement. And it is true that it takes some mighty hard work sometimes to stay on one’s parents’ good side long enough to forestall their leaving everything to a cat fanciers club.

The point is, the 5th District doesn’t want change. What would they like to become of the property in question? A shopping center? No. A traffic nightmare would ensue. A couple of high-class restaurants? No. Outsiders would come. Homes? No, no and no. That would take away the coziness.

Dear Olson Co.: If a section of the city where residents’ dreams are haunted by green bollards, the odd jet flyover, pedestrians of color or suspicious fashion choices and rabid coyotes, the idea of new construction, whether it’s a business where a home used to be or a home where a business used to be, will be met with a resistance you’ve never experienced before.

Just walk away. You’re in over your head.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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