Economic Development Trends & Conditions HB General Plan Update – Oct 15, 2014

Econ-Market-Trends_-HB-GPAC-Presentation_10-15-2014_V2 –

The meeting was held at the HB Library in the Balboa Room. In attendance were a number of people from the planning department, 3-5 and a sub consultant from PCM. I guess PCM outsources their work also. There was two building developers, the president of the HB bid and a couple other people I didn’t recognize.  I and two others were from the public. There was no notice of the meeting on the HB city site or anywhere else that I could see.  I happened to stumble upon it while going to their website.

The meeting started with one of the planning managers going over what the General plan was and the goals and where we were going with it. Then an outside consultant or sub consultant to PCM, the group with the $2,000,000 dollar contract, gave a presentation on Economic Development in HB in the next 25 years. The person giving the presentation was very knowledgeable, I think his name was Steve.  He sounded like he had done a number of these studies with Pasadena and other cities.

While I feel the presentation was very well done, some of the assumptions that were made I disagree with. To start off with all in attendance were in agreement that  high density was fine. Only one person on the panel mentioned traffic congestion at the Bella Terra, for about 5 seconds, for example.

So it should not surprise anyone that what they talked about was making HB much more citified. They have picked about 9-10 location in HB to revitalize or change to their idea of what the property should be used for.  This is in addition to the Bella Terra and all projects in process.  The ones I can remember are:

  1. Near Boeing they want to revitalize and put some office buildings next to Freeways. Boeing also has some excess land that could be developed if they decide to sell it.
  2. Peters Landing would be a shopping center that they would like to get busier. They felt it was under performing. Compared to other shopping centers I suppose. They feel that few people even know there is a Marina there, so they would like to change that and also bring in an Anchor store. .
  3. Sunset Beach – Some advocated that they would like some of those older structures redone or replaced. Just spruced it up, but they intend to take a bit by bit approach. I remember laughing when they annexed Sunset Beach. The City Council said they were going to leave it alone. I believe there is already a Specific Plan in the works for Sunset Beach, watch out people.
  4. The Charter Center was talked about as to what could be done to help it prosper more or just do something with it, they weren’t too sure what. Apparently there is a lot of deferred maintenance there.
  5. The new Pacific City was topic of a lot of discussion. While they all were happy with it coming on line, there is concern on its effect on the Downtown businesses. There main concern is that guests from the Hyatt and Hilton would go to restaurants at Pacific City and bars and then probably go home, not go downtown to shop more. What to do about it they weren’t sure. Some ideas came up about rerouting some roads or using trams etc.
  6. The Gothard Corridor was talked about quite a lot. It’s something about the mishmash of different types of businesses that bothers planners. I guess they feel each area should be a certain way. If it’s industrial it’s only industrial. Gothard has numerous types of businesses. A Boxing club, a landscaping company, small offices, consignment shops and at the end a few auto repair places. Somehow they want to get some residential there for some reason.
  7. Beach Blvd. – What they envision is small pockets of High Density projects like what we’re seeing at Ellis-Beach and Beach – Adams. They see little future in the small strip shopping centers and would rather see them replaced with Mixed Retail-Apartments.
  8. Southeast HB is pretty safe as most tracts are older and there just isn’t space to build. There was a developer who talked about revitalizing 10 acres or so or closed schools. There was some talk about why office buildings are not a good fit for the area. Mostly because it’s too far from the freeway. Zero discussion of effects of Poseidon possibly going in.
  9. Five Points – They want to do something there, not sure what. I heard that they were going to take that one light out right near Denny’s to help move traffic along. I heard this from someone else, not at this meeting.
  10. Medical Business, Hospitals etc. They want to attract more of them to localize jobs more. Interesting statistic that about the same number of people commute in to HB as do out. That was talked about in the context of jobs and whether or not it was that helpful to bring more in.
  11. Technology Centers – They want to bring some tech companies maybe near Gothard and talked about attracting more or them here. Someone brought up lack of WF internet, but I felt that there should have had a lot more discussion on that point. You could have the best location for a company but without good internet infrastructure no one would move there. \
  12. The Cap on units came up as to how many and how long. They didn’t dwell on it, I was a little surprised. That’s the “H” item that caps the number of unit build until more traffic studies are done. The only problem is all the studies come back the way the planning department and project owner wants. These consultants are all from the same pool of companies that all think the same, they never think there is a traffic problem. Or if they think so they keep it to themselves so they get future projects to rubberstamp.
  13. Toward the end of the meeting the group talked a little about mass transit. High speed buses that are timed to go through traffic lights seemed to get a lot of attention. There is no way now to connect to Irvine or Santa Ana so for now no light rail.

All in all it was the most interesting meeting I’ve attended concerning the General Planning Update. But it shows that the people that are really in charge of the future direction of HB have already decided what they want HB to look like. At one of the meeting GPAC members were polled and Economic Development came in first.  It didn’t matter that the GPAC members were mostly from the planning commissioners, builders, consultants but few or no cross section of residents.

From that first slanted poll they concluded that their directive was to bring in more revenue into HB as their #1 priority. This justifies getting more business no matter what, regardless of whether or not it creates more traffic or small business have to move.  It’s not sinister plot it’s just what they do. I’m a software developer so I know where they’re coming from.  It’s a lot more fun to plan a city than do probably otherwise boring redundant work.

Around the sixth page of the full presentations is a page with Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. One reads “auto dependency viewed as major long-term constraint on economic growth”.   My question is viewed by whom?

The planning department and their outside consultants are deciding what HB gets to be in 25 years. The deck is stacked against the residents, as is usually the case, because they make the rules. And they make the rules so hard to understand that the public just ignores what’s going on. We need to decide where we want to go as a city, not be led to a predetermined outcome.

I feel the new City Council needs to take a much larger role in instructing the planning department where they want to go with this. I would like to see the General Plan update be put on the ballot in 2016 or before. The residents need to be able to say whether Sustainable Development and everything it implies is what the residents want.  Do we want urbanization or not, the decisions should be up to us, not fifteen people from the planning department and their consultants that work for them.

Clem Dominguez

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