Long Beach City Council concludes hearing on renovation of historic building

Additionally, site of liquor store to become year-round homeless shelter

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At its Feb. 5 meeting, the Long Beach City Council concluded a public hearing on a change of use of a historic building, approved the purchase of the site of a liquor store to be converted into a year-round homeless shelter and directed staff to develop next steps and a timeline for implementation of a new Ethics Commission.

The Breakers
The council concluded a public hearing and heard appeals concerning a change of use and renovation of The Breakers, 210 E. Ocean Blvd., into a 185-room hotel with food and beverage venues with on-site alcohol, banquet/meeting areas and amenities. Pacific 6 is the developer for the site, which is located in the Downtown Shoreline Planned Development District.

Staff indicated that it had received seven written comments and one phone call on the project in response to the City’s appeal noticing, mostly in favor of the development. Staff said three of the letters were from one of the appellants who were in attendance Tuesday night, David P. Denevan, who said he supports the conversion of The Breakers to a four-star hotel but has concerns about plans for its landscaping, particularly in terms of how the project will further reduce nearby Victory Park.

“This park lawn is historic,” Denevan said. “The simplicity greatly complements The Breakers. It makes a lush, green foreground for The Breakers, nicely setting apart the iconic building from Ocean Boulevard. Don’t clutter the lawn with block concrete seats, a busy-looking staggered access walk and a variety of ground-cover types. Keep our park simple. Keep our park historic. Keep our park walkable.”

Devevan requested that the city council direct staff to tell the developer to restore the drinking fountain and park benches to the nearby park.

“This would be pursuant to the original development agreement with the City of Long Beach,” he said.

Other appellants expressed concerns about the anticipated environmental-noise impacts from outdoor amplified music and from possibly large crowds of people under the influence of alcohol. They requested that the council continue the hearing so that “satisfactory mitigations” can be agreed upon.

Long Beach resident Jeremy Arnold said he opposes the project and staff’s indication that it qualifies for a categorical exemption regarding noise.

“This is clearly a significant noise impact under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act),” he said. “A categorical exemption is inappropriate.”

John Molina, one of the partners of Pacific 6, said his group had communicated with all of the appellants and is willing to agree to certain mitigations. He said Pacific 6’s goal is to employ upwards of 200 people and revitalize a historic building.

“So, we’ve been very careful to keep the historic look but bring it into the 21st century,” he said.

Bob Stemler, an attorney representing Pacific 6, said the project presents no unusual circumstance that would prevent it from moving forward.

“This property is adjacent to the Westin, the Renaissance, the convention center, the Terrace Theatre and the outdoor area, as well as [being] not too far away from the Hyatt Regency,” he said. “The use of this property as a hotel is not an unusual circumstance.”

The councilmembers spoke highly of the project and its potential to preserve a historic building and create jobs for local residents.

Mayor Robert Garcia said he had personally spoken to the developers and that he felt confident that resolutions would be reached to meet the concerns of the appellants.
Third District Councilmember Susie Price voiced appreciation to those who shared misgivings about the hotel.

“Thank you to the residents who came out tonight and expressed your concerns,” Price said. “I will say, you’re working with a developer who is more unusual than most in that there is an ear and a willingness to listen and a willingness to try to mitigate.”
The council voted 8-0 to deny the appeals and move forward with the project.

Homeless shelter
The council voted 6-0 to approve the purchase of property located at 6841-6845 Atlantic Ave., currently the site of an Eddie’s Liquor store, for a year-round homeless shelter in an amount not to exceed $9,591,540.

Natural gas
The council voted 5-0 to conclude a public hearing regarding the natural-gas franchise with Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and declared an ordinance granting a limited natural-gas franchise to SoCalGas to transmit and distribute natural gas within Long Beach.

Ethics Commission
The council also voted 6-0 to direct the city manager and city attorney to report back on the next steps and a timeline for implementation of the new Ethics Commission, including any enacting ordinances or budget appropriations that may be required.

Before the council made its vote, two speakers– Ian Patton and Carlos Ovalle, both members of the Long Beach Reform Coalition– addressed the issue during the public-comment period and expressed concerns about the actual authority the commission will have and about potential conflicts of interest with its members.

Both said they had opposed Measure CCC, which would create the Ethics Commission. Ovalle said he voted against CCC, not on principle, but because of how the members would be selected.

“One can be a major campaign donor to any of you or other public official,” he said. “One can be a former elected or appointed official. One can be a lobbyist or have been a lobbyist. And, of course, after serving on the Ethics Commission, once the term is over, one can then become an elected official or become a lobbyist or become a major donor to any one of you. So, that part, to me, is a really critical conflict of interest that I would like to see all of you address.”

The next Long Beach City Council meeting will be at 5pm on Tuesday, Feb. 12, in council chamber, 333 W. Ocean Blvd.