LONG BEACH — The altruistic recommendations of seven citizen task forces have collided with the reality of local politics, as the City Council begins to debate the direction this city will take during the next 15 years.
After more than a year of study, the task forces have produced seven thick "Long Beach 2000" reports and hundreds of recommendations for council consideration.
But in an informal all-day workshop at the Police Academy last weekend, the council did little more than shift the recommendations to committees for study and engage in some unusually frank exchanges.
The debate did underscore, however, a key point made repeatedly in the task force reports: The diversity of this city's neighborhoods--from the poor inner city to the affluent eastside to the redeveloping downtown--makes conflict certain and citywide solutions elusive.
That conflict was seen most clearly when councilmen representing the city's two poorest districts broke sharply with council members from more affluent, suburban-style neighborhoods while discussing how to accommodate the 55,000 people who are expected to move to this city of 370,000 by the year 2000.
Dispute Over Siting Housing
There was particular disagreement on where low-cost housing for an increasing number of poor immigrants should be built, if it should be built at all.
On one hand, most council members said they didn't want a lot of apartments and condominiums, especially low-cost units, in their districts. Council members Jan Hall and Eunice Sato said pointedly that Long Beach shouldn't approve any more low-cost housing.
"We can't get in the position where the dependent population starts to overwhelm the independent population," said Hall, whose oceanfront district includes some of the city's richest neighborhoods. "(If) we get out of balance and can no longer help because we don't have the resources to do it . . . we will have destroyed the city."
Low-Cost Housing Distributed
On the other hand, councilmen Marc Wilder and Jim Wilson, who represent downtown and central-city districts, respectively, said they favor low-cost housing but think it should be distributed more equally among all the council districts.
"If you're not going to put any in yours, I'm not going to put any in mine," snapped Wilson.
Wilder said, "It's the whole (city) that we're looking at, and if we don't want to build new housing then we close down our economic strategies, and we'll remain the bedroom community that we've been."
Wilder then unfurled a city map that showed current low- and moderate-cost housing projects mostly clustered in his and Wilson's districts. He said more housing for both white-collar and blue-collar workers is necessary if Long Beach is to continue to boom as a tourist and convention mecca and international port.
Growth for Growth's Sake
But Councilman Warren Harwood said he wasn't interested in growth for growth's sake.
"This whole kind of thinking that growth is inherently good and everybody has to take a part will destroy the neighborhoods," said Harwood, who represents North Long Beach. "Don't use this as a lever to undermine the will of the neighborhoods."
Kell Plays Arbiter
Mayor Ernie Kell, who had spent most of the day acting as arbiter, said that Long Beach needs housing for both corporate executives and kitchen help.
Not in My District
But when pressed by Wilder on whether that high-density housing could be built in his northeastern district, Kell responded, "If bigger means to increase density in (my) 7th District, then I'm opposed to it."
High-density housing forced on existing neighborhoods would stop economic development by driving residents to Orange County, Kell said.
Councilman Tom Clark, who had originally proposed establishing a nonprofit corporation to promote low- and moderate-cost housing, asked city Planning Director Robert Paternoster if Long Beach, as currently zoned, could accommodate a population of 425,000.
Paternoster said it could, and he emphasized that the necessary housing "could be developed in a way that doesn't touch single-family neighborhoods."
After the meeting, Harwood said the sometimes heated session was "an unusual opportunity to get some of those things on the table. District elections (approved in 1976) have given these different neighborhoods strong voices rather than getting lost in the citywide consensus."
Referred to Committees
The council, without absent members Edd Tuttle and Wallace Edgerton, referred the task force recommendations to four City Council committees for analysis after Jan. 1. The respective committees will deal with economic development, housing, transportation, social services and public safety.
During the next year, the committees will make recommendations to the full council, Kell said. The city staff will scrutinize each proposal for cost and desirability while in committee, he said.
Cost will be an important consideration, the mayor said. "There are some good ideas there that cost only a half-billion dollars," he quipped.