West Long Beach could finally be getting updated zoning that will require commercial uses along some of its biggest corridors to try and draw businesses like banks and grocery stores to the side of the city that currently lacks them.

The Planning Commission voted to recommend the City Council approve new zoning changes Thursday night that would apply to Santa Fe Avenue between Pacific Coast Highway and Wardlow Road as well as the portion of Willow Street that is west of the 710 Freeway.

Long Beach officials had enacted a building moratorium along those corridors in June 2021 to prevent more residential developments from sprouting up before the city could rezone the area to align with the city’s Land Use Element. The moratorium was extended to June 2023 to allow the city to hold community meetings and update the building rules in the area.

The previous zoning rules were decades old and had resulted in single-family homes being built along corridors that city officials hope will now house commercial services like grocery stores, restaurants and banks.

Commissioners said the changes were long overdue and acknowledged the patience of the property owners along the corridors who have not been able to develop anything new over the past few years. The changes, though, will ensure that the community’s needs are built into new projects, the commission said.

“This puts forth a plan that the community has a lot of input on, and I think it’s important we put in place before this moratorium ends in June,” Commissioner Mark Christoffels said.

A lone single-family home sits next to a multi-use building on the corner of Santa Fe Avenue and Hill Street, with multifamily buildings sitting on each of the other three corners of the intersection, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

The zoning forwarded to the City Council Thursday will require certain intersections in West Long Beach to have commercial space included in future projects under what’s known as MU1-B zoning.  That could mean putting housing units above ground-floor retail, something that has become a popular model in Downtown, or simply building retail space.

The intersections that would have the MU1-B zoning and the mandatory commercial-use restrictions placed on future projects are along Santa Fe Avenue and include its intersections with Pacific Coast Highway, Hill Street, Willow Street, Spring Street and Wardlow Road.

The other zones being implemented along the corridors are known as MU1-A, which would allow for mixed-use projects to be built but also 100% residential projects to be constructed in the future. Both zones would be limited to three stories in height.

The MU1-A zoning would exist primarily between the intersections along Santa Fe Avenue but are also proposed for the spans of Willow Street and Wardlow Road to the east and west of Santa Fe.

Residents have been supportive of the changes because of their potential to drive more neighborhood-servicing businesses to the area. West Long Beach currently lacks a bank or pharmacy and has few options for shopping for groceries. The new zoning will include incentives to build those types of businesses.

The City Council will have to approve the changes at an upcoming meeting before the zoning takes effect. The council’s next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, May 2.

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City could update West Long Beach zoning to encourage retail development

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