City Approves Contested Downtown Plan

Jan. 27, 2012 / By

Despite the pleas of many Long Beach residents, with a vote of 7 to 2, the Downtown Plan will go forward as written.
As Councilmembers from all nine districts of Long Beach took their place in front of the assembly of concerned residents, there was no doubt in their mind that the reason the City Council Chamber was packed was due to the much contested Downtown Plan.

More than 400 concerned residents showed up to voice their partial support of the plan. Most people were in favor of passing it, as soon as a few changes were made to the existing plan.

The four changes pushed were the following:

Mixed income affordable housing: 10 percent of the newly developed condominiums should be set aside as Very Low Income housing and 15 percent should be for Moderate Income housing.

Commercial linkage fee: Developers should pay the city a nexus fee which will be used for paying for the construction of Very Low Income housing.

Right of first refusal: Extremely Low, Very Low and Low Income residents who have been displaced due to the renovations should have first priority as to where they want the low income housing built.

Local hiring for construction jobs: 30 percent of all the jobs created by the Downtown Plan should be filled by Long Beach residents and 10 percent of the hours worked should be by Low Income residents.

Vice-Mayor Suja Lowenthal and First District Councilmember Dr. Robert Garcia were the clear advocates of the plan even though the majority of concerned residents were from their districts.

The Downtown Plan is a 25-year plan that spans over 725 acres and touches upon three districts of the city. One of the main concerns is that anywhere from 9,000 to 24,000 low-income residents of the area will be displaced by the original plan since it does not offer much affordable housing.

Advocates of the plan pointed out that the rebuilding of downtown will not occur all at once, but will take 25 years. Many others said that the plan would create thousands of permanent jobs in the city and raise the average income level in the area.

The plan did not guarantee that any Long Beach residents would be employed in the project, and some pointed out that the reason the average income of residents would be raised is because low-income residents would be forced out of the area.
Mayor Bob Foster voiced his concern about the need to put people to work and that what many people do not understand is that Long Beach is not one of the most desirable places for developers to work.