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Long Beach rolls back plans for higher density development

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The city says most new projects will be small and short

Aerial view of Alamitos Beach area of Long Beach
Taller, denser development in Long Beach will be restricted to just a few areas.
Trekandshoot | Shutterstock

The city of Long Beach is unveiling revised—and significantly scaled back—versions of maps that illustrate where it will allow development in the future.

The latest update, released Friday, comes after a series of rowdy community meetings in which many residents “booed and hissed” plans to allow taller buildings with more housing.

Meant to guide development in the area, the Land Use Element maps have not been updated since 1989—a year before Metro’s Blue Line opened. The updated maps are geared at accommodating an estimated 18,200 new residents and 28,500 jobs expected to arrive in the city by 2040.

As the Long Beach Press Telegram reports, the city consistently fails to meet a state goal that calls for it to add 783 units of housing annually.

In the face of community concerns, though, planners have reduced allowable density by a total of 686 acres citywide in the newest version of the maps—meaning that space for thousands of residential units has been eliminated.

In an announcement, the city says most of that reduction comes through the lowering of allowable building heights. For instance, development in the area just east of the Los Alamitos Traffic Circle would now only be allowed to rise four stories, as opposed to five or six in the previous iteration of the maps.

As in the previous proposal, all land now zoned for single family residences (about 44 percent of the city) will be preserved as such. Another 19 percent of land is occupied by large-scale infrastructural developments like the Long Beach Airport and the Port of Long Beach. Sixteen percent of the city’s land will be devoted to open space and parks.

In order to meet demand for new housing, developers will largely have to focus new projects in the higher density Downtown area and in the 2 percent of rail-accessible land designated for transit-oriented development.

According to the city, the revised maps ensure that the majority of new development in coming years will be constricted to “lower-density development, such as three-story apartments, townhomes, and small mixed-use buildings.”

The Long Beach Planning Commission will review the new maps at a meeting scheduled for December 11.