Letter to the Editor: Zoning woes

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History shows that developers get pretty much anything they ask for in Long Beach. Look at the Oil Operators’ property in Wrigley Heights. It’s currently zoned part R-1-N (standard 6,000 sq. ft. lots) like most of the neighborhood, and part CS (commercial storage). However, developer Integral Communities sees a lot of money to be made if it can get Long Beach to allow it to use 2,400 sq. ft. lots and squeeze 2 and a half times as many homes on the land as normally allowed.

So, Integral writes to Long Beach’s then Director of Development Services Amy Bodek and says, “Our intentions are to stick with three product types (two-story single-family detached [SFD], small SFD and row town houses) and to make it a gated community with access off Wardlow and to use Baker Street as an emergency access point.”
What is the point in having zoning [regulations] if a developer just tells Development Services what it wants and it agrees to it? And that is exactly what happened. Bodek answers, “We are making changes to the zoning designation for you at Riverwalk (former Will J. Reid Boy Scout Park) and this project sounds similar in terms of density. I would like to see you use the same development standards that you are using for Riverwalk for the similar product in this project.”

The proposed access off Wardlow Road— that alone should preclude this project. Environmental Impact Report No. 64-87, dated April 14, 1988, for a proposed–– but never built–– residential development in Wrigley Heights states: “The City traffic engineer has previously indicated that because of the elevation and geometrics, it is not possible to construct a new north/south street to Wardlow.”

That was 31 years ago! There was no A Train ([previously] Blue Line); no bollards on Wardlow Road; traffic was nowhere near as bad as now, yet it is now OK for the developer to construct such a road? Something is definitely wrong here! In addition, these homes would be in a low-lying area, which is often downwind of the ports and refineries, and at the intersection of two of the more heavily trafficked freeways (710 and 405).

Long Beach doesn’t seem to care what it does to existing neighborhoods as long as it can build and generate more property tax. A March 12, 1993 email from then City Traffic Engineer Richard Backus to Environmental Planning Officer Gerhardt Felgemaker stated that the intersection of Wardlow Road and Pacific Place was “already operating at an unacceptable lever of service (Level E or worse) during the afternoon peak period.”

I’m sure Integral will say this is just a proposal; it must go before the city council for approval. Yes, but when was the last time the council didn’t go along with a staff-approved developer’s plan and by a 9-0 vote? I’d guess it was after Lena Gonzalez was elected to the State Senate and a developer’s project was approved 8-0.

Richard Gutmann
Long Beach resident