[aesop_image imgwidth=”500px” img=”http://www.signaltribunenewspaper.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Screen-Shot-2015-11-13-at-10.02.52-AM.png” credit=”Longbeach.gov ” align=”left” lightbox=”on” caption=”The Riverwalk Residential Development is designed for 131 homes to be built at Will J. Reid Scout Park, 4747 Daisy Ave. in Long Beach. The controversial project on the 11-acre site was approved in a first-reading vote by the Long Beach City Council on Nov. 10. ” captionposition=”left”] The Long Beach City Council passed the controversial Riverwalk Project, which aims to build 131 homes and a park over an 11-acre site in north Long Beach, on Tuesday night, Nov. 10.
In a first-reading vote, the city council voted 8-0 to pass several motions that would allow the development to move forward on the Will J. Reid Scout Park, located at 4747 Daisy Avenue. Sixth District Councilmember Dee Andrews was absent from the meeting.
According to a staff report, the number of motions included certification of a mitigation monitoring and reporting program for the subdivision, fee credits for the developer, who is expected to spend “about $1.65 million on traffic improvements,” a zoning change to allow a housing development on what is currently an area zoned for institutional use and approval of a new ordinance that Amy Bodek, director of the Long Beach Development Services, said Tuesday is specific only to this particular project and does not affect any other development projects in the city.
The plan has some controversial points. Plans are for the 11-acre area to have two- and three-story homes in a gated community. There is only one main entrance and exit to the subdivision on Daisy Avenue, but there is an additional emergency access point on another street.
The developer, Integral Communities, has agreed to provide a number of upgrades to the surrounding area, including the promise to build Oregon Park on the corner of Oregon Avenue and Del Amo Boulevard and the expectation that they will make improvements to the surrounding streets.
The area was previously owned by the Boy Scouts of America. City leaders said Tuesday that it was not possible for the City to buy the private property nor claim it through eminent domain a few years ago when the City lost its own redevelopment agency after the program was dissolved by the State.
Passionate advocates on both sides of the issue packed into the City Council Chamber that night.
Joe Sopo, a realtor and neighborhood advocate, opposed the plan.
[aesop_image imgwidth=”500px” img=”http://www.signaltribunenewspaper.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Screen-Shot-2015-11-13-at-10.06.42-AM.png” credit=”Longbeach.gov” align=”right” lightbox=”on” caption=”A rendering of the entrance of the proposed Riverwalk Residential Development project located at 4747 Daisy Ave. in Long Beach. ” captionposition=”right”]
“The presentation was very nice,” Sopo told the council, “but it was like putting lipstick on a pig.”
He criticized the proposal to include three-bedroom homes and the subdivision’s close proximity to the railroad. He also noted that the schools in the area, while he understood were doing the best they could, did not rate very well. He said that possible homeowners with children would not want these kinds of properties.
Laurie Angel, who lives about a half mile from the development, objected to the subdivision too.
“Now I don’t have a problem necessarily with density,” Angel said during the public-comment period. “The problem with the density of this project is where it’s located. There is no easy way in and out of that neighborhood.”
Another speaker, who declined to verify his name after the meeting, said that he lived near the development site. He said that when trees were cut down, cracks appeared around his home.
Other homeowners living nearby came to the defense of the development plan. Virgil Sangria said that the project would help boost the value of their homes and boost the surrounding businesses. Jon Sloan lives on 48th Street, close to the development.
“I do support positive change that is coming into the neighborhood,” Sloan said, but he did add that he was concerned about the increased amount of traffic in the neighborhood and the additional parking. He also acknowledged that there is a street in the area that appears to be sinking, but he still supported the project.
Ed Gallagher, a spokesman for the developer Integral Communities, acknowledged several of the concerns brought up by numerous speakers.
“If we do anything on that site to cause damage to houses, we will fix it,” he said. Integral Communities has already taken steps to do some neighborhood improvement. They have painted area homes outside of the subdivision site and have even provided drought-tolerant landscaping for some of the homes.
Austin acknowledged that the community has been split on the project, but he led the push in favor of the project, acknowledging the long history to develop the site after the Boy Scouts decided to sell it.
“My mission has been to upgrade uptown…to improve the quality of life in our communities,” he said, “and take to advantage of opportunities that are in front of us, and I see this as a rare opportunity.”
When the council had passed all of the motions required for the development site, Mayor Robert Garcia offered parting words to the residents who remained behind for the vote.
He said that the City would continue to try and work to invest in the neighborhood. He also offered an admonishment to Integral Communities.
“But to the developers of this new community,” he said, “you also have a very big responsibility now in working with this neighborhood, as you all know, in providing the services and support in creating a community that really integrates with everyone.”