Report Calls for Sweeping Changes in General Plan

Times Staff Writer

City planners, seeking to reverse a decade of pro-development policies in neighborhoods, are scheduled today to release a sweeping plan calling for building restrictions in many residential areas.

The planners, in an effort to reduce congestion and overpopulation in residential areas, are proposing zoning restrictions that would limit the number of housing units per lot.

The downzoning suggestions are among major revisions being proposed in the city’s General Plan.

The proposed revisions, the first in a decade, would attempt to improve the quality of projects as well as controlling quantity. They would impose stricter design standards aimed at improving the appearance and soundness of new buildings, according to a draft of the plan.


The plan would also strive for better traffic flow along major streets, partly by limiting new strips of retail shops to a few arterials. Planners also call for new retail development in the large open areas in the vicinity of the Memorial Medical Center of Long Beach, west of Signal Hill.

The planners also recommend that certain heavy-industry areas be converted to nonpolluting, labor-intensive light-industry districts.

The comprehensive land-use plan represents a blueprint for the city’s future that could indirectly touch the lives of nearly everyone who lives or works in Long Beach. Every zoning decision, ranging from gas stations in Belmont Shore to banks in Bixby Knolls, flows from the General Plan.

Planning Department officials have been working on the revisions for a year. Their proposals cover subjects as diverse as the height of buildings and the need for improving the city’s shopping centers.


The proposals would provide new ammunition for the growing numbers of slow-growth advocates in the city. In recent months, the City Council has wrestled with proposals to limit housing units on residential lots in California Heights and in the central area.

“In general, this (plan) opts for lower residential densities where there is a concern higher densities might upset the balance of a neighborhood or create a situation which could lead to the rapid deterioration of social and/or economic values,” the proposal states.

The 253-page plan, which is expected to generate opposition from developers, will be reviewed by the Planning Commission, which will submit its recommendations to the City Council.

Special Meeting

The plan will be presented to the public in a special community forum of the mayor and City Council at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Long Beach Convention Center.

In part, the proposed revisions attempt to address a wave of development that followed the 1978 General Plan, which allowed boxy multistory apartment buildings to sprout in what had been stable neighborhoods of well-maintained single-family homes.

The report states:

“Introduction of poorly planned, high-density projects to lower-density neighborhoods has had detrimental effects on the stability of those neighborhoods and has negatively affected life styles.


“This plan seeks to reverse that trend by a general lowering of permitted densities and by limiting the number of units allowed on one and two lots.”

Planners estimate that the city’s population and the number of jobs and the population will increase significantly.

The report predicts that Long Beach’s population will climb to 450,630 by the year 2000, from the current 415,808, but that the growth rate will begin to slow in 1992.

The city will need about 30,000 new housing units to accommodate new residents and replace demolished buildings, the report says.

Employment is expected to increase to 252,550 in the next 12 years from 198,550, according to the report. Planners anticipate that the downtown, the port and Long Beach Municipal Airport areas will be heavy employment centers.

The report also states that the housing construction goals can be met despite efforts to reduce densities in some neighborhoods.

“There are greater restrictions on high-density residential developments in this plan, but still sufficient quantities along thoroughfares and in the downtown to support the expected population growth,” planners wrote.

The city’s top priorities should be providing residences for first-time home-buyers and upscale residential development in and around the downtown area, the plan states.


Impressed With Detail

Planning commissioners said they were impressed at the detail and time spent by the city planning staff and were awaiting briefings on the details of the report.

Commissioner Nancy Latimer said she welcomes the new emphasis on downzoning. “I think the community is saying it loud and clear and we must respond to it.”

Developers are “not going to be happy with it at all and we’re going to hear a lot from them,” she predicted.

Commissioner Anthony Tortorice said he is concerned that projections lack flexibility.

The city could face a serious problem if the estimates of demand for housing prove to have been too high or too low, he said. The plan also fails to address how to resolve the stated goal of maintaining low-income housing if heavier than expected demand develops. In a free marketplace, the result would be higher prices.

“The report is economically illiterate,” said Tortorice, who teaches post-graduate courses in economics.

Commissioner Pat Schauer, emphasizing that she had not read the report in depth, said improved traffic flow is a top priority. Otherwise, smaller streets will end up having to carry the load.