LONG BEACH — Community frustration over the razing of old single-family homes to make way for boxlike apartments led the City Council early Wednesday to downzone most of the Franklin-Burbank neighborhood in south-central Long Beach.
The vote, which came after four hours of emotional public testimony, is the culmination of almost a year's work by residents like Bob and Amy Pace, who fought what they called "the destruction of our neighborhood and our peace of mind."
But to people like Erma Johnson, who depends on the income from her rental units and wants the option to build or sell someday, the decision is unfair and encompasses too broad an area. "I think the city could paint with a smaller brush," she said.
The area to be rezoned, pending final council approval next week, is bounded by 10th Street, Broadway, Junipero Avenue and Orange Avenue.
Except for a few small parcels and portions of the 4th and 7th street commercial strips, most of the area was downzoned to R-2-N, which allows up to two family units with a maximum height of 35 feet on each parcel. Density restrictions in the area have varied, but most zoing there now allows about four units per lot. During 1986, the city was deluged with applications to build apartments in the area. In November, The council passed a building moratorium to give it time to consider the area's future.
Young Often Pitted Against Old
In many cases, the rezoning debate pitted young families refurbishing old California bungalows against retirees who had plans to cash in on their investments someday. Many absentee landlords who would be barred from building multiple-unit dwellings on their properties also objected to the changes. About 200 persons attended the session, with attendance dwindling to 70 after midnight.
The most vocal opponents Tuesday night were landowners on 4th Street and residents in an area bounded by Broadway, Junipero, Hermosa Avenue and slightly north of Bermuda Street.
Business owners and some residents argued that those sections should retain existing zoning because apartments and commercial enterprises are already in place and are consistent with the neighborhoods. Most council members seemed to agree with their argument. But when it came time to vote, the majority followed the unwritten council etiquette of voting with the councilman representing the district under discussion.
Councilman Wallace Edgerton supported down-zoning in the portion of 4th Street east of Rose Avenue that he represents and in the residential Broadway/Junipero area. The zoning on that side of 4th is to be limited commercial, which allows residences only on second and third floors. The Broadway/Junipero area is to be R-2-N.
Councilman Evan Anderson Braude opposed downzoning on 4th Street west of Rose Avenue, the area he represents. The council supported Edgerton's desire for downzoning and sent consideration of the 4th Street portion Braude represents back to the Planning Commission for further review, as he requested.
"I feel I got raped tonight," Astria Wong told Edgerton during a break in the meeting. Wong, who lives and owns rental property in the area, was among a group of several angry people from 4th Street and the disputed residential area composed mostly of apartments.
Edgerton countered that he had not heard of complaints against downzoning from 4th Street merchants and residents in the Broadway/Junipero area until Tuesday night. He pledged to work with those people and said that if it is later found that those areas should be returned to a higher-density zoning, then "fine, we can change it."
With the vote to downzone, the council followed the recommendations of the Planning Commission but not of the city Planning and Building Department, which had proposed a more limited downzoning. The commission had recommended downzoning almost the entire area to a maximum of two units per parcel; the planning department had divided the neighborhood into several zones to allow a mixture of two, three and four units per site.
The 7th Street commercial strip between Junipero and Orange avenues also was downzoned to mixed commercial residential, a designation that allows up to four units with a maximum height of 25 feet on each parcel. That rezoning was protested by some business owners. "I finally have enough money to start building and now I can't," one man told the council.
"If you need affordable housing in this city, you don't do it by downzoning," another opponent said.
But the angry remarks by some in the crowd, was countered by the elation from those who wanted the council to "give our neighborhood a rest" from development.
Edgerton agreed, saying: "I think it's about time that the community have some security."