PEOPLE POST: Council Should Pass Housing Element as Is

by Joe Ganem |  About two years ago, the City—with the support of residents—passed the Downtown Plan to guide our development over the next 20 years. It was a milestone document that established the framework to encourage responsible and prosperous development of our city’s urban center.

Now comes the Housing Element. This document is required by the state as part of a regional plan to ensure the LA metro has sufficient housing. Long Beach’s share is to provide zoning for an additional 7,048 units over the next several years.

Although the city has the sites zoned to handle the housing demand, 70% of the proposed units are in Downtown. Further, supporters of housing equity are determined to include low income and mixed-income housing, shelter set asides, commercial linkage fees and rental housing escrow accounts within the policy document before the City Council on January 7. The majority of downtown residents recognize this effort as a serious problem that can only stymie our future potential growth. The DRC (Downtown Residential Council) has testified before the Planning Commission and City Council as opposed to these inclusions. In our opinion, these policies would discourage market rate housing development. Better housing for middle to high-income earners produces improved retail sales, entertainment and restaurant properties with increased tax revenues to help support all programs, including affordable housing in appropriate locations.

The promise of downtown is yet to be fulfilled. Empty retail properties due to the recession are slowly being filled. We need to encourage better retailers and businesses that give local shoppers and visitors the option of spending their dollars in Long Beach, instead of giving their retail sales taxes to other cities.

Long Beach is a caring city with dozens of agencies and groups that help the homeless and the needy. No one can say we aren’t doing our share. Yes, there is more to do. It takes both public and private resources to get the job done. The local public’s share comes from taxes on property and retail sales.

We only have one downtown and we must do everything possible to make it a thriving, prosperous city center. Placing unrealistic demands on our limited Downtown properties will prevent the types of developments that will contribute revenues needed to grow critical city programs that serve the less fortunate.

We can’t afford to cripple Downtown’s opportunity to become a thriving waterfront city that is considered a destination location for visitors and a great place to live for our residents. As a Downtown resident property owner and President of the Downtown Residential Council, I ask our fellow residents to share their opinions with elected officials and urge the City Council to approve the Housing Element as recommended by the city staff without modification.

People Post is an occasional column featuring readers’ commentary, articles from guest writers, and letters to the editor. To submit an article to People Post, email [email protected].

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