BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
What will Long Beach look like in the year 2030? Where will new high-rise, high-density apartments and condominiums be located? What new features will be incorporated into the city’s transit system? Will there be enough pedestrian and bicycle trails to accommodate those who choose to go places by the power of their own legs?
The City of Long Beach is hoping to develop a plan that answers those and other questions according to the wishes of the populace. To that end, in 2004 and again in 2008 city officials conducted 2030 Visioning meetings in various locations throughout Long Beach. General concepts for change emerged from those meetings and recently the city began a new series of meetings to focus on ideas specific to various neighborhoods. The most recent of the meetings took place at the recreation center of Veterans Park, in the middle of the Wrigley District. About 45 people attended the event.
Craig Beck, City of Long Beach director of development services, outlined what the 2030 Visioning process is all about. “One of our responsibilities in our department is update the city’s General Plan,” he said. “We are here to talk about that update.”
Beck told the audience that the primary purpose of the 2030 Visioning meetings was to get input from residents on what should or should not happen in their neighborhoods over the next two decades. He encouraged audience members to go the city’s website where they can read about some of the themes that have emerged from the visioning process so far. He stressed that the “emerging themes document” was not overly structured and contained no specific plans. “It’s some brainstorming that came through the community with some of those major themes that came out,” he said. “It’s about what do we want Long Beach to be in 2030, what do we like about our city now, and what do we see as opportunities for change in our city now.”
Beck explained that state law requires every city in California to have a General Plan, which dictates what may be built in that city and where specific types of buildings may be located. “Cities are responsible for lots of different things and it varies depending on what type of city you are, how large a city you are, what kind of geographic variations you have, whether you have a port or an airport,” he said. “In my mind, one of the greatest powers that a city has is control over land use.”
Beck told the audience that the 2030 Visioning process would help the city determine what kind of land use the residents want and where they want that land use to occur. He noted that city staff and professional consultants have come up with “opportunity areas” within the city.
“These are areas that we think will have opportunities for recycling and changing in the next 20 to 25 years,” he said. “”We have maps of these opportunity areas, and we are going out to the community and saying ‘this is what we see, did we get it right or did we completely miss the mark?’” He added that the current round of meetings is aimed at giving residents the chance to say what they want and don’t want in their specific neighborhoods.
After Beck spoke, advance planning officer Jill Griffiths and community planner Steve Gerhardt took turns going through an approximately 30-minute PowerPoint presentation that showed maps of the opportunity areas and what city planners think should happen there during the next two decades.
Griffiths explained that state law requires cities to have seven elements in their General Plan. She noted that development services staff are currently working on what used to be called the Land Use Element, but has now been renamed the Framework Element. That document will include plans for land use, mobility, sustainability, urban design and economic development. (The existing Land Use Element was last updated in 1989 but has been slightly amended since then. City staff hopes to present the proposed Framework Element to the city council in the fall of this year.)
Griffiths also warned that the city faces serious challenges in the coming decades including aging and deficient infrastructure, inequities in open space and retail distribution, land use and design incompatibilities, public health concerns, lack of parking in some locations, as well as stressed lengthy and haphazard corridors.
Gerhardt added that the city’s ability to meet these challenges is negatively impacted by declining sales tax revenues due in part to “sales tax leakage,” which he defined as out-of-town shopping centers that lure Long Beach residents.
After Gerhardt’s presentation, the audience formed into three discussion groups that examined opportunity areas in the Wrigley District. During the discussions, residents told city staff whether they approved or disapproved of what the city proposes to do in those areas.
Some of the residents expressed skepticism as to the efficacy of the 2030 Visioning Process. “I actually have my doubts,” said Annie Greenfeld, president of the Wrigley Association. “I love the fact that they are trying, but I would like it a whole lot better if they listened more.” She explained that she was opposed to proposals to increase residential density in the Wrigley area. She added that the city’s project area committees worked with the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency for many years to develop a “strategic guide” for future development in the city. “I would really like to see an overlay of how the General Plan is going to work with the strategic guide,” she said, adding that she has not seen that happen yet.
Jill Hill, president of the Wrigley Area Neighborhood Alliance, had a different perspective. “The 2030 Visioning Plan is exciting,” she said. “I see some really viable changes that will add to the quality of life in our neighborhood– keeping the good things here and trying to eliminate some of the things that aren’t good. I am happy that the city is taking this seriously.”
To find out more about the 2030 Plan, to provide input, and to find out about scheduled community meetings focused on the plan, go to www.LongBeach2030.org.