LONG BEACH — Responding to complaints that residents sometimes don't know that a new development is planned for their area until the bulldozers show up, city officials are devising guidelines that would greatly increase the number of people who receive official notice of a proposed project.
The Planning Commission last week expressed general support of a proposed expansion of zoning-related public notice requirements, although the commission will not vote on the matter until next month.
As regulations now stand, property owners within 300 feet of a proposed development site are given notice of Planning Commission hearings on the project. The commission is considering extending that to 500 feet and notifying renters as well as property owners, among other changes.
Number of Revisions
Just extending the distance to 500 feet would quadruple the number of notices sent out from about 50 to 200, according to a planning staff report. Other revisions would further boost the number of notices--all at a cost that would be borne by the developer, who has to pay for the mailings.
A surge in residential and commercial construction in recent years has roused neighborhood groups, who have argued that expanded notice requirements would help them keep abreast of what is going on in their areas.
"The issue here is an issue of citizen participation," said Belmont Heights community activist Stanley Green, one of several who appealed to the commissioners to add commercial and residential tenants to notice lists.
"We have to consider people's rights, not just property rights," said Dan Rosenberg, a persistent critic of the city's apartment growth.
The commission asked staff to return in a month with an evaluation of suggestions by Commissioner Pat Schauer. She proposed that hearing schedules be announced on the local public service cable TV channel, that the city run weekly notice advertisements in the Press-Telegram, notify renters as well as property owners, and devise a system whereby the required notice distance would vary according to the scale of a project. Large projects would require more extensive distribution of notices than small ones.
In other action, the commission for the first time required a developer to open a day-care facility in his proposed building as a condition of approval.
The day-care facility was part of a package of extras suggested by the developer in return for permission to add more residential units to his commercial-condominium complex than normally permitted under the city's zoning laws, said Planning Director Robert J. Paternoster.
Although a first, Paternoster said the day-care requirement was not an indication of a new city policy. "We wouldn't have done it if he hadn't offered it," he said.
The project, slated for the 800 block of Pine Avenue, would include 72 condominiums and 12,000 feet of commercial space. The commission has not taken final action on the development, but approved several conditions, including one that the developer lease space in the commercial portion of his building for operation of a preschool day-care center.