Streets need fewer malls

The future of Beach Boulevard and Edinger Avenue should have fewer strip malls and more luxury apartments, city-hired consultants say. If the city grows 30% as expected in 30 years, there may be little choice to follow the consultants’ advice, they said.

At the third of at least four community meetings, those studying the future of the long commercial streets told about 50 residents that making that switch, and focusing retail development into a few more upscale “City Centers,” could be good for business while helping traffic problems.

“Today the encouragement is for pretty much anything-goes commercial [development],” said Michael Freedman of Freedman, Tung and Bottomley Urban Design. “Our recommendation is to pull back in exchange for mixed-use residential. That will have less impact on your mobility problems.”

Terence Austin of Austin-Foust Associates, a consultant on traffic issues, showed attendees the results of two options: allow development there to go on as it is, or move to encourage more apartment complexes with retail stores on the ground floor.

Preliminary studies show staying the course would jam up several intersections terribly, especially near the 405 Freeway, he said. But because apartments and condos generate less traffic than strip malls, the suggested plan would calm traffic.

The tool of change would be a specific plan, Freedman said. Such a plan, approved by the City Council and planning commission, would open up zoning laws for more kinds of investment in the area, allowing developers a fast track to their new projects. Though buildings will get higher and denser, the growth can be tied to street improvements that ease traffic.

“You make these improvements that carve out this much capacity, then allow this much investment in,” he said. “At that point you need to pause and do some more planning.”

City Planning Commissioner Joe Shaw asked the consultants whether there were plans to build transit, like bus or rail, for the people expected to take up residence on Beach Boulevard.

“You need to have mixed-use transit solutions along these corridors too,” he said.

Any good plan will deal with the need for an upgraded Beach and Edinger right now while getting ready to deal with the need for more transit as the decades pass.

“The right type of pattern is not only to connect well to transit, but also to make sure things are put in place so it helps you now,” he said.

Copies of the presentations are expected to be available at Departments/planning/major/. Future public meetings will focus on more detailed plans for specific areas.

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