LONG BEACH — Claiming that city officials are ignoring traffic and air pollution problems associated with a massive development planned for the old Pike Amusement Park site, a local watchdog group intends to file a lawsuit to overturn the city's recent approval of the project.
The board of directors of Long Beach Area Citizens Involved (LBACI), a liberal, citywide political group, has voted to sue the city for inadequately outlining the steps necessary to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion that would be caused by the $1-billion development.
"It's not enough for the city to say 'Yes, it's a tremendous problem,' and then throw up its hands," Marc Coleman of LBACI said.
The group raised its concerns at Planning Commission and City Council hearings, but both bodies enthusiastically approved a series of zoning and local coastal plan changes that would allow construction of the development, the largest and densest project ever proposed in the city.
City officials acknowledge that the thousands of cars expected to travel daily to and from the 13-acre Pike complex of office buildings, shops and residences would significantly add to regional air pollution levels and traffic. But they say they are requiring the developers to do a number of things to control traffic, such as installing new signals and establishing car-pooling programs. Moreover, city planners say when an ongoing citywide traffic study is completed later this year, the Pike developers may be required to do more.
Furthermore, city officials contend that the economic and social benefits of building a mini-city just south of downtown, next to the shore, will vastly outweigh any problems arising from the Pike project.
Coleman said the lawsuit will contend that the city has violated the State Environmental Quality Act by not spelling out all the steps necessary to satisfactorily control pollution and traffic congestion, and by not indicating the precise effect each step would have. Noting that his group has until mid-May to file the suit in Superior Court, Coleman said his organization will ask a judge to force the city to devise specific solutions, and if it can't, then reduce the scale of the project.
'Not Enough Housing'
Coleman indicated the suit will also challenge the nature of the development on the grounds that plans call for too much office space and not enough housing units.
"No one, in our opinion, is protecting the interests of the citizens," Coleman asserted. "No one has any idea what they're going to do about all this traffic."
Long Beach Planning Director Robert Paternoster said he could not comment without seeing the suit, as did a spokesman for the developers, Pike Properties Associates.
The project, to be built over a 13-year period beginning in 1990, still must be approved by the state Coastal Commission.