Wrigley Association discontent with current planned neighborhood projects

Courtesy City of LB
As of 2015, the Wrigley area is considered 71- to 100-percent impacted, according to an assessment by the Office of Environmental Health Hazards.

Members of the Wrigley Association stated in an open letter to Long Beach officials that they feel building planners have not taken into consideration the concerns of residents when discussing the Land Use Element portion of the Long Beach 2040 Plan.

The General Plan Land Use Element is the blueprint for the City’s future, providing a map of allowable land uses, building types and heights, according to Long Beach Development Services. The plan is only updated a few times, and it guides city officials as they expand urban developments.

The plan is broken off into designated sections, such as residential or commercial projects, as well as larger classifications, in particular, the downtown or midtown plans.

The Wrigley neighborhood is slated to receive public transportation-oriented developments, community commercial structures and multi-family residential housing projects.

The biggest concerns Adam Wolven, Wrigley Association president, and other members have with the slated projects is urban density and the building’s heights in the predominantly suburban neighborhood.

“Part of the Land Use Element raises building height limits proximal to the Metro Blue Line station,” Wolven said. “It raises them up to a 10-story heights limit, which puts these giant buildings really close to single-family residences.”

Wolven said he feels these building heights put into question the privacy of homeowners who live near the projected building complexes.

“My friend’s back yard can be seen from a 10-story building,” he said. “It robs the surrounding neighborhoods of privacy.”

The Wrigley Association also believes that the proposed plan will bring more traffic to the neighborhood and will clutter the streets for parking.

As of 2015, the Wrigley area is considered 71- to 100-percent impacted, according to an assessment by the Office of Environmental Health Hazards. Project developers use the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, also known as Senate Bill 375 or SB 375, to help decrease the density Wolven is concerned about.

However, the association is not convinced the bill will do much to help.

“We don’t necessarily feel like they are hearing what we have to say,” Wolven said. “It feels like they are not mulling it over, thinking about it or doing anything about it. They’re not actually responding to what we’re saying.”

In an emailed response to the Signal Tribune last week, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said it is important that there is adequate community input before the Land Use Element is presented to the city council.

“I support the Planning Commission’s recommendation for more community input and have asked staff not to present the Land Use Element to the city council until there has been more community input over the next couple of months,” the statement reads. “In addition, I have asked staff to go back to the Planning Commission, after additional public input has been received, to make a recommendation for consideration by the city council.”

Wolven also mentioned that he feels 7th district Long Beach officials have been helpful during community-input undertakings.

“Seventh district has been very responsive,” he said. “There is always political pressure, I respect that, but [Councilmember Roberto Uranga] seems to always be acting in the best interest of the neighbors.”

Wolven said the Planning Commission, which is in charge of the community-input efforts, has been answering residents’ questions and been responsive.

Despite officials’ efforts to understand the residents’ concerns, Wolven said the best way to do so is to better explain the laws developers are bound to, reduce building heights and guarantee support from the planners as zoning restrictions change in the development process.

At a recent community hearing, Wolven said he was pleased to learn about certain laws that cause developers to work the way they do.

“One way the planners can support us in this whole neighborhood process is to break down the laws and really explain what’s guiding them,” Wolven said.

Wrigley Association President Adam Wolven discusses certain steps city officials can take to have the support of the residents in a phone interview on Aug. 18. Edited by Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune

When discussing the heights of the building proposed in the Wrigley area, the association would like to see them be decreased, according to Wolven.

“It’s a great plan, you know, there’s a lot really good ideas. I want to give credit to Christopher Koontz and his team, but just reduce the density,” he said.

If buildings slated to be 10-stories tall were brought down to five stories, and buildings seven-stories tall decreased to four stories, the association would deem it appropriate, according to Wolven.

If the 2040 plan is approved, the City will spend the next five years updating zoning guidelines to comply with the new 2040 plan, explained Wolven.

“We need to know the planners are looking out for us when they update zoning,” he said. “If the planners recognized our concerns, especially in regards to parking, and shared ideas on how they are addressing those in the process, I think we would feel a lot more confident for the 2040 plan to go forward.”