Bayfront plans meet uneasy neighbors

Posted

As of this month, there are still two groups standing, the Sheldrake Organization of Garden City and a team led by Long Beach's Lancer Insurance. The two were given 30 minutes each to pitch their largely similar proposals, which each include a mix of high-end residences, workforce or affordable housing, commercial and retail property. Both groups promised their proposals wouldn't cost the city a nickel, and both promised windfalls of tax dollars.

But neither group has done enough to quell the fears of the North Park neighborhood, several people said.

"I have a lot of major concerns," said the Rev. Carlton E. Mobley, pastor of the Christian Light Missionary Baptist Church. "The Pine Town houses are right there, and a lot of my congregation live there and will be affected."

Both the Sheldrake group and Lancer have been on the city's radar all this time as the leading candidates, and both pitched the city's Citizens Planning Advisory Board last year. City Manager John Laffey said in February he wanted them to make their presentations to the new City Council members this spring, but the city stumbled in getting the word out.

Members of the North Park Neighborhood Association said they never found out about the Sheldrake presentation, which went before the council during its early evening work session April 4, and they claimed they only managed to get 40 or so people to Tuesday's Lancer presentation by starting a phone bank at 6:30 p.m.

Technically, the Pine Town Houses, which are managed by the Long Beach Housing Authority, fall just outside the footprint of the project. But if there is a market for high-end condominiums that abut public housing, the fear among the neighbors is it's likely a small one.

Since the Democrats retook control of the city in December, every city official that has addressed the subject of the bayfront has been careful to couch his or her remarks with assurances that nothing will happen without the input and blessing of North Park. Both Sheldrake and Lancer included, if not outright bribes, at least incentives to the community in their proposals. Sheldrake promised to repave and beautify just about every street in the neighborhood; Lancer offered tens of thousands of dollars in repairs to the city's Martin Luther King Center, which is the neighborhood's hub, as well as job training programs and other incentives. Both promised there would be no eminent domain takings.

Neither project is close to being chosen, and there is no assurance that whatever happens will include either of these development teams.

Kevin McAndrew, the project manager of the Lancer project, said his team wouldn't move forward unless it had the city's and the neighbors' full blessing.

"There are too many challenges here," he said. "It's too difficult to do unless we are all going in the same direction."

Comments about this story? DMiller@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 213.