City Council clears way for construction of 108-unit residential building in Downtown

The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday cleared the way for a new residential development to be built at Seventh Street and Locust Avenue. Council members unanimously denied an appeal that sought to block or delay the development of a seven-story, 108-unit building within the Downtown development district.

The appeal, which argued for further environmental review of the project, was brought by a group called Supporters Alliance for Environmental Responsibility, which has a track record of opposing similar projects in the region. A representative for the group told the City Council Tuesday that Supporters Alliance for Environmental Responsibility wasn’t necessarily opposed to the concept, just that the project needed more review to determine its environmental impacts.

The group is funded by the Southern California District Council of Laborers, a regional umbrella group for local construction unions. A representative for the group did not return a call Tuesday about why it’s opposed this and other residential developments.

In its appeal document filed with the City Council, Supporters Alliance for Environmental Responsibility argues Long Beach broke its own planning rules by approving too much residential development Downtown.

The city’s Downtown Plan, which was adopted in 2012, allowed for 5,000 residential units, 480,000 square feet of retail or commercial space, 800 hotel rooms and 1.5 million square feet of office space to be built within the plan area, but the city has already exceeded that mark.

Long Beach has already seen over 5,200 residential units built in the area but the development of the other uses outlined in the plan have lagged behind. Part of Tuesday’s approval was an addendum to the plan that swaps out the square footage of the other approved uses to allow for more residential units to be built.

A city report says that by doing this in the future over 3,200 residential units could be added to the Downtown area over time while still allowing the development of other uses.

A report given to the council said that every one unit of residential space equaled about 82 square feet of commercial space or 314 square feet of office space, according to a conversation rate utilized by city planners.

Long Beach could still need to maintain room for future hotel rooms given that a 30-story, 400 room hotel has been proposed and approved for development at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Pine Avenue. The developer, American Life, received a three-year construction extension as it waits for the economy to recover before breaking ground.

The seven-story development approved by the council Tuesday night will consist of mostly one-bedroom units (88) with 17 two-bedroom units and three three-bedroom units. It will also include a 135-space parking garage that will serve both residents and patrons of the ground-floor commercial space that is part of the proposed project.

“It’s an old vacant tire shop and we’d like to make something that can contribute to the Downtown Long Beach community,” Sandy Schmid, senior vice president of acquisitions and development for StarPoint Properties, the developer of the project, said during Tuesday’s meeting.

All units in the building will be market-rate due to the project being submitted to the council before the city’s inclusionary housing policy was adopted.

Long Beach’s inclusionary policy would have required 11% of the building’s units (about 10) to be set aside and rented at lower than the market rate for the next 55 years, or the developer could pay a fee for each unit that was not made affordable.

Jake Gotta contributed to this report.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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