BULLETIN: SECOND+PCH’S PROJECT’S (SECOND) ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT TO BE RELEASED THURSDAYBy Dave Wielenga
The long-awaited environmental impact report (EIR) for the Second+PCH development—the second such document for this long-proposed hotel/retail/residential project—will be released Thursday, GreaterLongBeach.com has learned from lead developer David Malmuth.
“My enthusiasm has been renewed,” Malmuth says. “I can finally see that we’ll formally start the comment period and hopefully be successful [in getting approval] through Planning Commission and City Council.”
“This has been tough.”
As Malmuth indicates, the release of the EIR is followed by a 45-day public comment period—which by our calculation, would end April 24—and then reviews and votes by the Long Beach Planning Commission and Long Beach City Council. But permission to begin turning soil ultimately depends on approval by the California Coastal Commission.
Nearly a year has passed since the April 2010 release of the Second+PCH project’s first EIR. Rather than moving the process along, that document paralyzed it, drawing quick and widespread condemnation for a litany of inadequacies.
For example, Heather Altman, an environmental specialist and east Long Beach resident, responded to the report with 29 excoriating pages—and said she could have written more. “Finding flaws with this document was like shooting fish in a barrel,” Altman wrote on her blog, EgretsNotRegrets.com.
Malmuth acknowledges that the first EIR was substandard, and with a tone of hopeful confidence, ventures that this one will be … well … much better.
“We have reviewed draft sections and we provided comments and suggestions,” he said. “That said, the document is owned 100 percent by the city—it’s staffers have the responsibility for producing the document—so anytime we make a comment it’s subject to them saying we agree with that or we don’t agree with that. Much of our input was suggestions on where to find information; we’ve been doing these reports for years, and sometimes a staffer may not know.
“But our interests are totally in line with the city’s. We want to make sure that every single issue is addressed fully and completely. Not only did we pay for the document—and in this case, paid for it twice—but we also bear the ultimate cost if it’s not deemed to be fully complete in terms of addressing environmental impacts.”
Many of the Second+PCH’s impacts are literally of its own design—that is, on blueprints which contradict a plethora of zoning standards (Southeast Area Development and Improvement Plan, or SEADIP) that have governed construction in the area for more than three decades. For example, the 12-story hotel that Second+PCH developers have included breaks the long-established zoning law by 10 stories.
But Malmuth says that he will not have to ask for variances to SEADIP. “We are amending SEADIP,” he asserts.
No matter how complete and competent the EIR, however, Malmuth anticipates some opposition to the plans for Second+PCH.
“The goal is not to get everybody to agree—that’s unrealistic,” he says. “But it’s important that you listen to everybody, respect everybody’s opinion, and there’s almost always something I can do to make the project stronger, even if I can’t do exactly what the person is requesting.
“For example, somebody says, ‘I love that [Seaport Marina] hotel. I think that hotel should stay.’ We just have to agree to disagree.
“Or they think the property should be treated as open space; I’ve had people say that as well. I don’t think that’s the right answer for the largest number of people; it’s certainly not the right answer for the owner of the property, who has been in there for a long time, has invested a lot of money and wants to see a return on it.
“We’re going to have disagreements. We have had them and we will continue to have disagreements. But if people come from a place of respecting the work that we put forward, and that we genuinely want to do something great, then we can always have a dialogue.”