Housing Project Proposed at Railroad Site Defeated

A bid by onetime real estate mogul Michael J. Choppin to build a 32-home development on an abandoned Pacific Electric railroad right-of-way in Long Beach was defeated Tuesday night.

The project, which triggered an intense neighborhood fight because it would have been built on city-owned land that most residents wanted kept for a park, was defeated on a 4-4 City Council vote, with five votes needed for approval. City Councilman Frank Colonna, an opponent of the project, was prohibited from voting because of investment interests in the area.

Every seat in the City Council chamber was filled, most by residents opposed to the project. An overflow crowd spilled out into the foyer, emitting a roar of approval when the vote defeating the project was announced.

Neighborhood activists contended that the price of the lots, at $20,900 per parcel, was well below market value, and criticized an exclusive negotiating agreement the city gave Choppin to develop a plan for the housing.


Choppin, one of Southern California’s most active land developers during the late 1980s and early 1990s, filed for protection under federal bankruptcy laws in 1992. It was estimated that 12,000 investors lost roughly $300 million when Choppin’s company, IDM Corp., went broke.

The proposed housing development was Choppin’s first big development project since his financial difficulties.