Pike Project OK Violates State Laws, Officials Say : Development: Attorney general’s office rules that Long Beach failed to account for traffic, smog problems. Opinion is victory for local group.
In what could be a critical blow to the rebirth of downtown Long Beach, the state attorney general’s office said Thursday that the city violated state environmental laws when it approved the Pike project, a mammoth swath of oceanside high rises said to be one of the nation’s most ambitious renewal efforts.
A sharply worded 24-page document filed in the 2nd District Court of Appeal argues the city failed to account for traffic and smog when it approved 3 million square feet of offices, condominiums and stores to revive a decayed stretch of land where the old Pike amusement park once thrived.
“This case concerns the effects of a massive development on the people already living in Long Beach--their traffic jams and their air quality,” concludes Deputy Atty. Gen. Nilda M. Mesa. “The city’s action undermines the environmental protection goals of the (California Environmental Quality Act) and precludes meaningful public review of the project, its impact and alternatives.”
The attorney general’s opinion is a heady victory for the 800 members of a local watchdog group who have worked for more than a year to block the $750-million project. They say the city approved it without regard for the quality of life in Long Beach.
“I just feel validated,” said Alan Lowenthal, president of the Long Beach Area Citizens Involved. “This just puts the city on notice that these kinds of environmental concerns can’t be swept under the rug.”
Proposed by Wayne Ratkovich, an influential Los Angeles developer known for bucking conventional wisdom, the Pike project is the largest and most costly development ever endorsed by the city of Long Beach. It is rivaled only by the $2-billion resort and theme park proposed by the Walt Disney Co., an idea that is years away from final approval and could be scrapped altogether if Disney decides to build in Anaheim instead.
Long Beach leaders approved the Pike plans in 1989 as a cornerstone to their downtown redevelopment vision. Shortly thereafter, LBACI sued the city and Pike managers, claiming the environmental impact report failed to compensate for 36,000 cars the Pike would attract on an average day.
LBACI initially lost when Superior Court Judge Kurt Lewin ruled last year that the city had adequately considered any environmental harm. LBACI took the fight to the appellate court. A hearing date is pending and the attorney general’s decision will be part of the material the court considers.
Meanwhile, LBACI attorney Marc Coleman said the attorney general’s decision adds credibility to a group run by volunteer activists with little funds.
“This isn’t just a bunch of crazies in the neighborhood complaining about traffic mitigation,” Coleman said. “This is someone of political stature with no ax to grind saying the law has been violated.”
Officials at Pike Properties Associates, which manages the project, could not be reached for comment. Long Beach Assistant City Manager John Shirey declined to discuss the attorney general’s position without first reading it.