Sunday, November 20, 2011

Controversy Endures for 2nd + PCH

2nd + PCH, developer's rendering

The Long Beach Press Telegram has reported that the 2nd + PCH project was approved in a scaled-down form by the Long Beach City Planning Commission Thursday night. The project would be built on the existing two-story SeaPort Marina Hotel adjacent to the Marina Pacifica and Marketplace shopping centers on the southern corner of 2nd St. and Pacific Coast Highway. It has the Commission's green light for 275 housing units, 155,000 square feet (13,935 square meters) of retail space, a 100 room hotel, and a 4,175 square foot (388 square meter) science center, with the tallest building reaching 12 stories.

The fight isn't over however, since the California Coastal Commission has to approve the plan. This is so because the project is within the "coastal zone" which, according to the commission's website "varies in width from several hundred feet in highly urbanized areas to up to five miles in certain rural areas". After the Coastal Commission the Long Beach City Council would need to green light the project as well.

The Los Cerritos Wetlands Trust is opposing the development. On the organization's website they write:
"It is precedent setting. It is too tall. It will create immense amounts of traffic. It could harm, because of increased noise and light pollution, our local wetlands and the fragile species that depend on them."
For his part, the applicant, developer David Malmuth, argues that the project creates new jobs and tax revenue, new open space, and replaces an eyesore with a mixed-use seaside village.

From what I've read so far, I support this project. First of all, the developer is absolutely right that the project creates badly needed jobs for the City. California's unemployment rate is 11.9%, so I don't take that argument lightly. As far as the environmental concerns go, I'm not a biologist, so I can't say for certain whether or not the light and noise arguments are valid in terms of their negative effects on wildlife (although I doubt the noise on the wide high-speed arterials near the site would be much if any more than it is now). However, that argument misses another point about natural habitat. Dense, mixed-use infill development like 2nd + PCH reduces the need to build sprawling, land-hungry development at the edge of our region. Blocking this project won't stop the development from happening, it will just move it somewhere else, probably to the Inland Empire or Antelope Valley, in a less compact, walkable format. There is habitat that will be destroyed out there. This project doesn't destroy habitat because it would be built on an existing two-story building and parking lot. I can see how wetlands advocates could criticize a major project like West LA's Playa Vista, which was actually built on wetlands, but criticizing this project seems like more of a stretch.

It is probably true that the project will increase traffic congestion, but it will also add density to support better transit service and it will put hundreds of housing units and hotel rooms withing walking distance of major shopping centers that include grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters (plural), and many other shopping opportunities. The people who would live and make hotel stays at 2nd + PCH would be less reliant on cars than people who live in a suburban format of separated land uses.

I think this is another example of environmentalists, despite fine intentions, opposing a more sustainable model of urban development. I hope the Los Cerritos Wetlands Trust will reconsider its opposition. This project will be good for the local economy, will reduce car dependence, and will save habitat on the urban fringe. For these reasons, it has my support.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post! This is an important project.