Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia called a meeting with the Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO), a community group, on October 26 to discuss the proposed Land Use Element after residents in several districts raised strong objections to it.
The Land Use Element is a city’s blueprint for its goals and policies regarding land use and future development. A point of particular contention to some residents is a possible increase of building heights in certain areas. Provisions in the proposal must consider the construction of 7,048 residential units by 2021 to accommodate an estimated population growth of 18,230 in Long Beach by 2040. These are state projections and requirements.
Local real estate broker Robert Fox, who established CONO, said the meeting resulted in “a really good conversation.” Seven neighborhood association presidents attended but no councilmembers were present, he said.
“The mayor seems to be moving towards where CONO is at,” Fox said. “We requested that density would not increase east of Alamitos Beach and the mayor said his original plan was to concentrate development in the downtown sector.”
Fox established the Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CONO) as a forum for leaders of the neighborhood associations to discuss their concerns with the city. He said he started it in 1993 in response to the economic downturn following the military downsizing in Long Beach. While the group disbanded at the turn of the millennium, Fox said he decided to reactivate it nine months ago when friends began expressing concerns about the Land Use Element.
Fox and others from his organization spoke out during a September 30 community meeting that the city hosted at the Veterans Park Community Center. It had been intended to provide answers on the Land Use Element in an informal, workshop-style setting. But Fox accused the city of lacking transparency and demanded a town hall-style format.
In an e-mail to the Business Journal, the mayor’s office said Garcia regularly meets with residents on a variety of topics, and that he enjoys the direct conversations.
Fox said he was “grateful” for the mayor’s responsiveness.
“He’s such a charming man,” Fox said. “He doesn’t have a vote so he’s our cheerleader.”