Guest Column

Long Beach's comprehensive plan favors developers, not residents


I think we can all agree that this city needs a plan for the future. The city’s proposed 30-year comprehensive plan is supposed to be a roadmap to the future.

The plan is supposed to create a blueprint to update our zoning laws while also being a guide to a future created by residents and for residents. But I’m afraid that this comprehensive plan, as it stands today, only lays the groundwork for overdevelopment and sets in motion steps to change Long Beach from a working class coastal town into a city intentionally overpopulated simply so there can be more people to tax.

The city is expected to hold a public hearing in the spring before it adopts the plan and moves forward with overhauling decades-old zoning laws.

The draft of the plan calls for redeveloping the bayfront and the central business district. Many of the proposals are conceptual, such as a new City Hall on the Stop & Shop property, a bayfront esplanade and marina along the bay, and an oceanfront park and parking garage in the West End, all aimed at economic development and resiliency, officials say.

There’s no question that our central business district offers few incentives to stroll down Park Avenue or that there is a major parking problem in the city. There’s no question that there are many housing issues that need to be addressed, and that sea level rise and coastal flooding need to be dealt with.

Unfortunately, this proposal looks to fix these things by increasing the population density of the city of Long Beach, or as the comprehensive plan calls it, “increasing the tax base.”

How many times have residents packed the sixth floor of City Hall, fighting to stop the overdevelopment of Long Beach?

From iStar to subdividing plots of land in the Westholme neighborhood to the creation of new two-family homes in the Canals, people show up and oppose overdevelopment in any form. They show up because they want to preserve the city that so many of us cherish.

This city has problems — it’s ready for an update and we need to take this opportunity to make this special place even better. But we need to fix our problems by embracing the tradition of Long Beach and the character of its neighborhoods, not by trading a walkable downtown and better parking for eight- or nine-story residential towers along Reynolds Channel.

I don’t believe the comprehensive plan includes a vision shared by the people of Long Beach, and I’m positive that our elected officials will not find many people who believe that adding more residents to the city is the way to fix things.

The comprehensive plan is nothing more than a slight of hand trick.

While we are all distracted by a plan that calls for a shiny new amphitheater along the boardwalk, a re-envisioned City Hall and fine dining along the bay, developers looking to build new mega residential towers in the city could go before the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency and make the case that their proposed developments include everything that the people of Long Beach said they wanted in the 2018 comprehensive plan — that they meet new zoning codes, are green and storm resilient, have required parking and even set aside housing for those with low-to-moderate incomes.

How do you fight that? We wouldn’t have a leg to stand on, and we all know who loses when the county IDA comes to Long Beach. Scrap the plan in favor of a blueprint that returns Long Beach to the people, not developers.

Reilly is the vice president of the North East Bay & Canals Civic Association, a co-founder of Long Beach Rising and the Herald's 2014 Person of the Year.