My record on the land use topic is long and very well documented.  When I get my website fully launched for this Council District 5 campaign, I will post letters I have written on this topic to the Planning Commission and City Council and you can judge for yourself.  As opposed to politicians simply reacting to public outrage and hurriedly remaking themselves, what you’ll find with me is a track record, one demonstrating that I am and have been a strong eastside advocate against density.

It was CONO that was successful in getting the word out and rallying the neighborhoods on this land use issue.  But I wonder how many people know that I was the person that called CONO.  I got on their agenda in May to alert them that the Planning Commission was about to approve the LUE in June.  Other than Wrigley, none of the neighborhood leaders knew anything about it.  Robert Fox, Joe Mello, Joe Sopo and all the neighborhood leaders were incredible.  They raised their voice at the Planning Commission and convinced them that outreach had not occurred.  From their efforts we managed to alert at least part of the City – but that job is far from done.

I hesitate to honk up a Next Door string with a longer message so I will post the rest in a document and attach it.  And yes I will tell you what I was thinking about Towne Center.

Towne Center

 Under the previous set of laws, I was never opposed to re-development.  Re-development is usually good for a neighborhood.  Old buildings are removed and new put up.  That normally revitalizes an area.

But then last February, I became aware of the Land Use Plan and placetype maps…the train was steaming down the track and how to stop it?  My assessment was we weren’t going to be able to get out of it completely.  We were going to have to share in the pain and where could we do the least amount of damage to our neighborhoods in East Long Beach?  The C-17 property and Towne Center do not abut any neighborhood.  It would be possible in those two locations to put in a homogenous development in the new concept of mixed use.  It would be a better solution than poking apartment buildings up and down our boulevards.  It was a compromise position but I thought good enough to keep it out of the mainstream of the eastside neighborhoods.

Part of my personal growth in this era was going from being a NIMBY (not in my back yard) to a citizen of Long Beach.  Wrigley was outraged with 10 story buildings showing on the placetype maps at intersections.  I don’t think it is right to stick Wrigley alone with solving what has been termed “the housing crisis.”  We are one City.  We need to stick together on this and not sell the Westside out.  I met a couple of Westside folks outside a Planning Commission meeting and have stayed in touch with them ever since.  They serve to remind me that they already suffer pollution from the Port.  Adding extreme density will make their neighborhoods unlivable.

I did also go to the City with a proposal that they look to technology to solve these problems but the group working this issue, Development Services (and our Mayor and City Council) are apparently not in tune with technology.

Moving on to Today

With the signing of Senate Bill 35, we were thrown into a situation that was a game changer.  I have been working with some folks to evaluate SB35 and it has some dangerous elements that make the placetypes themselves (not just the heights on the maps) a tool to allow more density.  With this and the other bills that incentivize affordable housing, we cannot afford to give an inch on this topic.  We need to insist the City give up the proposed LUE and redraft a document that states 2 stories maximum height across the City (with exceptions for downtown and perhaps around the airport where it is currently zoned for height).  Towne Center should be 2 stories maximum and designated for commercial, not mixed use.  SB35 makes it a dangerous gamble to allow developers free rein.

I have a letter to the Planning Commission in draft on the topic of where we should be going with the LUE (written over a week ago).  I will probably post it in the next couple of days.  I have it out for review with the CONO neighborhood leaders.  I have been told that everything I do from now on will be viewed as a political move.  I can’t help that.  I’m not always right, but it’s not coming from an entirely self serving place.  I am invested in looking out for my own home and property value but beyond that I also care about the quality of life in my neighborhood and city.

I have been fighting these significant quality of life issues (the airport, Belmont Pool and now land use) for over a year now.  It involves hard work and it is a real challenge to be effective working from the outside.  I decided to see if I could make more of an impact from the inside and will soon register to run for the District 5 Council seat.  I welcome any and all discussions about our district.  I will work on putting up a resume so the public has some idea of my background and experience.

Corliss Lee