One of the most aggravating intersections in the city is about to get worse. What’s even more frustrating is that people are, understandably, going to lay the blame in the wrong place.

If you’ve driven through Second Street and Pacific Coast Highway lately, you know it gets terribly backed up, especially during rush hour. Now, plans to add 1,271 new housing units nearby are inevitably going to exacerbate the problem, assuming they get final approval.

Residents have pushed back against the proposed developments, but they’re aiming their frustrations in the wrong direction. The true culprit here isn’t new housing. It’s a failure of planning.

Not adding more homes to Long Beach, where we have a huge affordability crisis, isn’t really an option. Remember, the state has mandated that we figure out how to make room for more than 25,000 new units by 2029.

One of the best solutions to this crisis is creating more dense housing in walkable areas like Second and PCH, where residents can stroll to dozens of restaurants and amenities like the marina and beach.

When Long Beach city officials created a new zoning plan, called the Southeast Area Specific Plan, to allow for developments like the ones now being built, the goal was to add housing while creating a “walkable community along our waterfront where residents and visitors alike will have many choices about how they get around,” city traffic engineer Paul Van Dyk said.

The problem is people still have to work, and for that, most of the new residents will have to drive because when the city was planning for all of these new homes, they didn’t plan to upgrade alternative modes of transportation.

Along with one Orange County bus route, there are currently three Long Beach Transit bus routes that service the area; collectively, they had 1.5 million riders last year. But the 2021 Southeast Area Specific Plan “does not propose any changes to the existing transit routes,” even though it will potentially bring thousands more residents to the area.

Similarly, the city’s bike network has lots of great routes that get you almost to the area, including the new one planned for Studebaker Road. But on the streets immediately around the planned developments, the protective elements of those bicycle lanes suddenly disappear. Painted lines on a street aren’t adequate to make the journey safe enough for people to bike into other areas of the city.

The developers have pledged to add protected bike lanes along Studebaker and PCH, but, until those are finished and connected to the rest of the city’s bike network, residents are left with only one reliable option: car travel—something the builders have tacitly acknowledged. They’re planning to build even more parking spaces than the city is requiring.

The city is looking for ways to improve bike access, according to Van Dyk, and Long Beach Transit said bus routes could be changed in the future if demand in the area increases.

The city’s director of Development Services Christopher Koontz also told me it’s possible traffic might not get any worse because the housing is replacing existing retail and office space. But, with the new developments featuring retail space of their own, I think that’s unlikely—especially if most of the new residents are driving to and from home during rush hour.

Unfortunately, if traffic does increase, the city’s plan means drivers are going to feel the pain of added gridlock before any solutions arrive.

This, understandably, causes existing residents to fight against the new housing. Even though the new units help alleviate the housing crunch, they won’t immediately see a drop in their rent, but they will experience the wave of new traffic that makes their commute all the more miserable.

Until city leaders improve the network of available transit options, and let residents get out of their cars if they want to, people will keep arguing against building new homes.