LONG BEACH — A massive project to pump new life into the anemic central core of the city cleared a key hurdle this week and is expected to be approved by the City Council next week despite objections from some residents who say it could cause more harm than good.
The City Council on Tuesday voted 5 to 0 to approve the boundaries of the Central Long Beach Redevelopment Project Area, which includes much of the central city east of the Los Angeles River, west of Redondo Avenue, south of the 405 Freeway and north of the downtown business district.
The 45-year project will allow the redevelopment agency to collect millions of dollars in property taxes that must be reinvested in the area to spruce up neighborhoods and jump-start fading commercial corridors.
The project has stirred a heated debate in the community between those who believe the already troubled area is doomed without redevelopment and those who believe that the project is too big and lacks adequate safeguards or accountability. In particular, critics have opposed the plan because it gives the redevelopment agency the right to condemn property for future development.
Though city officials have said repeatedly that they have never taken a single-family home through condemnation and do not intend to target residences in this project, hundreds of people have asked the city to remove their properties from the project area.
At a highly charged public hearing last week, 400 people showed up and dozens pleaded to be excluded from the zone. They said they feared the city would one day force them to give up their property.
Tuesday's meeting, in which no public testimony was allowed, was in marked contrast to the public hearing. Only a handful of people showed up, some holding up small hand-written signs that read "Take My Property Out" and "Just Say No To Redevelopment."
The City Council swiftly and with no discussion approved the boundaries. Council members Thomas J. Clark, Les Robbins and vice-mayor Jeffrey A. Kellogg were absent. Councilman Douglas S. Drummond attended the meeting, but was absent for the project vote.
In approving the boundaries, the council agreed to exclude from the project about 250 property owners who asked to be left out. Community development executive director Susan F. Shick said the city approved the requests of about 95% of the people who asked to be excluded. Shick said that some property owners whose homes are up to city codes will be issued certificates that will block the agency from ever condemning their homes.
Shick said homes will not be excluded along Long Beach Boulevard, where future development is likely to occur. She also said no commercial property owners will be excluded.
After the meeting, Councilwoman Doris Topsy-Elvord, whose district largely comprises the project area, said she is satisfied that her constituents' concerns have been met and is eager to see the project approved.
"It's all been worked out, and, in the end, I think it went very well," she said. "Everyone who wanted to get out more or less got out. As far as I am concerned, what's left is positive. The commercial corridors will be developed, some neighborhoods improved. That is something that is sorely needed."
The City Council is scheduled to formally adopt the plan Tuesday. The ordinance will be given a second reading the following week, and the plan is scheduled to take effect Sept. 30.