Long Beach Planning Commission Studies New Adaptive Reuse Ordinance/Program
By Sean Belk - Staff Writer
July 3, 2012 – Long Beach city staff is studying ways to streamline the planning process, relax the city’s zoning codes and provide more flexibility to developers of “adaptive reuse” projects that completely convert old, historic buildings with previous land uses to new purposes that fit current needs.
The Long Beach Planning Commission held a study session June 21 on a proposal to develop an adaptive reuse incentive program and ordinance that recognizes the “economic, environmental and cultural value of preserving older and/or historic landmark buildings within the City of Long Beach.”
The study session comes after the Long Beach City Council, last October, directed city staff to come up with an initiative similar to the City of Los Angeles’ Adaptive Reuse Ordinance that was established in 1999. Other cities with adaptive reuse ordinances include Santa Monica and Pasadena.
Long Beach city staff states that the key to the success of L.A.’s ordinance, which refers to buildings built prior to the 1980s, was flexibility of land use and life safety issues that resulted in “reduced risk and enhanced project economics and feasibility for developers and investors.”
The proposal is to expand Long Beach’s existing adaptive reuse ordinance and the California Historic Building Code by applying to structures other than just designated historic buildings, while allowing other buildings to be converted as well. This would incorporate non-historic buildings into the ordinance and consider reverse adaptive reuse, such as converting historic residential structures to commercial spaces.
Becky Blair, chair of the Long Beach Planning Commission and president/ principal of Coldwell Banker Blair Commercial Westmac, said the city is currently studying ways to implement the ordinance mainly in the downtown area to be incorporated in the city’s new “Downtown Plan,” but it may also be expanded to incorporate the entire city.
There are many structures throughout the city with the potential to be repurposed to better serve the needs of the community that have changed over time, she said. The city’s planning department is looking to encourage adaptive reuse by providing flexibility in code requirements, such as parking, setbacks, height, open space and density, while implementing a more cohesive strategy that would apply to all city departments for adaptive reuse projects.
Blair said today developers must follow a lengthy planning process only to be denied or have to apply for a costly conditional use permit. In many cases in Long Beach, old large industrial buildings and churches can be converted to commercial uses, which often require more parking, or commercial buildings could be changed to residential, or vice versa.
Examples of adaptive reuse in Long Beach include the Walker Building and the Insurance Exchange building downtown, in addition to a current project that plans to convert the Pine Square movie theater into residential units.
She added that historic preservation seeks to retain and preserve historic buildings, while adaptive reuse searches for the best combination of preserving a building’s architecture around servicing a community’s current needs. “It’s less expensive and time restrictive to reuse rather than to build new,” Blair said. “I’m very excited about the adaptive reuse program and what’s going to be able to become of the city.”
The Latest News
- 2013 Aquarium of the Pacific 15th Anniversary Publication
- Long Beach Councilmembers Vote To Sue Over Railway Project
- Commercial Real Estate Council Annual Luncheon June 6
- Post Office Assures Service Standards At Long Beach Mail Processing Facility Will Remain High
- Airport Reps: City College Did Not Reach Out Prior To Cutting Aviation Program
- Governor May Use Carbon Auction Monies As Loan To General Fund
- Long Beach Fire Department To Move Forward With Training For ‘Rapid Medic Deployment’ Pilot Program
- Community Meeting May 22 For Draft Mobility Element
- Long Beach Medical Marijuana Advocates Continue Effort To Repeal City Ban Despite State High Court Ruling