The city of Long Beach is creating a visioning plan for the redevelopment of the waterfront in Downtown, including the large "elephant lot" adjacent to the Convention Center. Thursday, July 21, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Before COVID hit, Long Beach was preparing to reimagine its waterfront.

The Los Angeles Angels had expressed interest in building a new ballpark on the coastline here. City staff spent months exploring the idea of using the undeveloped, 13-acre “elephant lot” in Downtown for a stadium.

So when the Angels opted instead to remain in Anaheim, a question emerged: What else can Long Beach do with that land and with the waterfront more broadly?

In late 2019, the City Council approved spending $250,000 to kick off a new visioning process for the Planned Development District 6 (PD-6), which includes everything between Ocean Boulevard and the coast from Golden Shore Drive to Alamitos Avenue.

But then, of course, came 2020. City staff were redeployed to focus on the coronavirus pandemic, and plans to rethink Long Beach’s shoreline stalled.

Now, two and a half years later, the city is finally ready to restart that process.

“Within the next month or so, we will be reaching out to solicit on-deck consultants to help us with this effort,” the city’s ​​Development Services Director Oscar Orci told me last week, “so they can help us in terms of doing community outreach, conducting meetings, everything we need to do.”

The $250,000 that the City Council approved almost three years ago is still available for the effort, Orci said, though he noted in a memo earlier this month that more funding to implement a years-long strategy would likely be necessary.

But for now, Orci said the city has the resources it needs to relaunch this work. Once a consultant is on board, Orci said his goal is to begin community engagement and outreach by the end of this year.

How long the process will take, though, is less clear. Orci’s memo pointed to other years-long projects like the Downtown Plan, the Globemaster Specific Plan and the Southeast Area Specific Plan as examples of what a PD-6 revisioning could entail.

The memo also noted city staff expect that “the visioning process and preparation of a Specific Plan would be completed and ready for implementation at the close of the 2028 Summer Olympic Games.”

While the Olympics are top of mind for any new waterfront development, Orci was careful to emphasize that whatever comes of the process will be community-led.

“This is our way of doing business, if you will,” he said. “We reach out to the community and have them help us put the future of the city in a plan. It’s not done by staff in a vacuum. It’s not done by decision-makers alone. It’s done by everybody, so everybody gets an opportunity to participate.”

Still, city officials have some priorities in mind. Ideally, whatever comes to the shoreline will be beneficial to residents—and also boost tourism.

Orci’s memo noted that a new Downtown Shoreline Specific Plan would include “stronger linkages between the coastal area and Downtown as well as the [Queensway] Bay Planned Development, and strategies to promote new uses that enhance the attractiveness of the area for new investment and visitors to the area.”

He echoed that sentiment in our conversation.

“It’s a great opportunity to make sure that PD-6 blends in with PD-30 and PD-21,” he said, referring to the districts to the north, which includes Downtown and the East Village, and to the south across the water, which includes the Queen Mary.

“PD-6 is a destination for our residents as well as visitors as well as travelers that are using the cruise lines,” Orci said, “so it’s an opportunity to really create a great vision for the area.”

Hayley Munguia

Hayley Munguia is editor of the Long Beach Business Journal.