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Thursday, September 18, 2014
Guest Column
Superblock plan: 'Too great a price for Long Beach to pay'
Resident says zoning board should reject 'out of scale' iStar proposal on Thursday
By John Ashmead
Anthony Rifilato/Herald
John Ashmead, a Long Beach resident and attorney, said he believes the iStar proposal is out of scale with the community.

I support development of the Superblock, but I am strongly opposed to the variance request by iStar Financial to develop two towers with 15 floors of residences over a two-level retail space — approximately 50 feet taller than the city’s current height limit of 110 feet for the Superblock — with 522 one- and two-bedroom luxury rental apartments.

The height of the two towers is being justified by their narrow profile, to allow for more light and breezes as opposed to a previous plan. Narrow is good because it creates view, light and air corridors. However, the buildings would also be utterly out of scale with the surrounding structures and Long Beach in general. The price of building two narrow structures is the height, which is too great a price for Long Beach to pay.

The Zoning Board of Appeals should reject the variance request at its Feb. 27 meeting, and the city should remain prepared to assist iStar in developing a plan that is acceptable under existing zoning regulations, which were specifically implemented to allow for development of the Superblock. If iStar is not interested, it can sell the property, as it has suggested it would do. In view of the city’s recent settlement with Philips International, Philip Pilevsky and iStar, the Superblock litigation that had encumbered development of the property will not be a concern to any new developer.

I commend the city’s push to end the stalemate of the Superblock litigation and move toward development of this site. But there can be suitable development, which the iStar proposal on its face is not. That is not solely a matter of opinion, but a matter of our zoning regulations, including the existing special zoning of the Superblock parcel that was intended to satisfy developer needs.

Height

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