Long Beach City Planner says 76 would be maximum number of units

LONG BEACH - The possibility of a high-density, oceanfront condo development in north Long Beach looks doubtful since plans for the development don't jive with a current city ordinance, said Long Beach City Planner Jim Sayce.

The comments were made at an Oct. 17 hearing attended by the Sayce, Long Beach Planning Commission, and by Long Beach Hearings Examiner Chris Kaino. The hearing pertained to plans for a 126-unit condo project being proposed by local developer Robert Merrill, who owns Long Beach Go Carts on 10th Street.

At the hearing, which was a joint hearing for the purpose of obtaining a shoreline permit and a planned unit development, Sayce cited Long Beach City Ordinance No. 755, which would greatly reduce the number of units of the development, compared to what Merrill is proposing for his property between 17th Street NW and 18th Street NW adjacent to Ocean Boulevard.

Merrill's interpretation of allowable density spawned plans for three rectangular buildings of 30 units each and one building near the west property boundary containing 36 units - for a total of 126 units. Merrill's plans also included a separate clubhouse building.

Sayce disagreed with this interpretation and said Merrill's property is suited to a total of 19 structures of four units each - for a total of 76 units, which is the maximum allowed taking into consideration Ordinance No. 755 and the planned unit development.

"This is the highest density the code could allow under our interpretation," said Sayce.

The plans for Merrill's condo development have been widely criticized for the density proposed, but the bulk of ire expressed is due to the fact that Merrill was able to get the property rezoned from S1 Residential/Single-family to S2 Residential/Multi-family, apparently without having to notify any neighbors. This took place in 1998.

The city's legal notices which ran in the Chinook Observer pertaining to Merrill's plans for his 18th Street NW property first appeared in 1995. At that time the plans were for a 22-home subdivision. These legal notices listed Merrill as the property owner and also included specifics about the location of the development. But by early 1998, the city's legal notices in the newspaper stopped mentioning the Merrill development and focused on zoning ordinance amendments. No mention of rezoning the property was mentioned in the 1998 legal notices.

In June 1998, the city passed Ordinance No. 721, which was a blanket rezone of a number of areas of the city, and it appears that some of these rezones were from S1 single-family home to S2 multi-family home, including Merrill's property. Due to the nature of the process of this blanket rezone, as opposed to an individual request for rezoning a particular parcel of property, none of the adjacent property owners within 300 feet were not notified of the zoning change.

At the Oct. 17 hearing, a number of local residents testified regarding the development, but there was no one from the Merrill camp there, which apparently was due to a family emergency in Dick Reiner's family. Reiner is Merrill's agent for the development.

"Unfortunately, due to the fact that nobody is here to represent the Merrill's, that kind of throws a curve here," said Long Beach Planning Commission Chair David Bross. "Because we could propose some questions to him. I would propose some questions to him that might have cut this thing - nipped it in the bud. My problem with this is density without a doubt on the project."

Bross went on to say that he didn't think Merrill's plans for a high-density condo development meets what a residential neighborhood's needs are, and for that reason he thought that Merrill should not be allowed to construct the project as presented to the planning commission this July.

Due to the fact that there was no representation for Merrill, both Long Beach Hearings Examiner Chris Kaino and Bross concurred to extend the joint shoreline permit/planned unit development hearing to Nov. 3.

The hearing will take place at Long Beach City Hall at 7 p.m. directly following a 6:30 p.m. planning commission meeting.

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