(Los Alamitos, updated 8/4/2013) At 7 pm this Monday night we have a great opportunity to influence what Los Alamitos will look like 20, 30, and 50 years from now.
At last month’s regular City Council Meeting our Council voted 4 – 1 to schedule this meeting so our residents and businesses could have one last chance to learn details and influence the Council and staff before the Council votes to send the Land Use Component of the General Plan Revision to the Environmental Review (EIR) process.
And it’s set up to be an informative, interactive meeting with multiple opportunities for us to learn, review, and interact with individual Planners and Council Members.
There’s a lot to like and a lot to discuss in the Land Use Plan, and there have been multiple meetings and opportunities for discussion. I’ve been in the loop on many of the discussions, and there’s a lot I like, but a few things that cause me some very serious concern.
Here’s a quick summary of some of the positives and negatives I think merit consideration:
Items worthy of strong support:
City staff and consultants identified ten “opportunity sites” to be analyzed. I think praise and strong support are due for the following recommendations:
- Keeping the Retail Business zoning in place on the vacant former Lew Webb Site on Katella north of Serpentine.
- Removing Planned Industrial zoning from the Medical Center Area and adding Retail Business zoning.
- Switching the SuperMedia and adjoining Civic Center sites to Retail zoning to increase sales tax revenue to the City while providing an attractive retail location just off the freeway.
- Changing the huge Arrowhead Products site on Katella from Planned Industrial to Retail Business, in part to obtain the benefit of the EIR analysis that is the next phase for the Land Use Plan, and in part because it’s a potentially valuable retail site which would increase sales tax revenue to the City. An entertainment/dining venue has been suggested.
Perfect for ProLogis’ trucking depot?
On that last item, I had no idea how huge that Arrowhead site was until I drove north on Lexington from Katella a few months ago. Surprisingly, half of the Arrowhead property is undeveloped! With the current Planned Industrial zoning it would be perfect–from ProLogis’ Perspective–for one of their “High Throughput” trucking facilities! That alone is reason to me to change the zoning–ASAP!
There have been concerns about good jobs being lost if Arrowhead moved, and the intent was not to force Arrowhead out, but to make sure that the next owner would be retail, which is more consistent with the surrounding community.
Multi-story mixed use for “downtown?”
Our Community Development people have been frustrated by clutter of small strip malls along Los Alamitos Blvd. and the owners’ reluctance to improve or replace them.
They’re to be commended for coming up with a creative alternative: Rezone for multi-story residential, but require retail on the ground floor. The idea is to incentive replacing those ugly old strip malls.
My question is, will we get anything besides more traffic, less parking, and increased density from such a risky gambit? Since I first heard the proposal, I drove by other such developments in Anaheim and Fullerton. Apartments and condos were built by developers who were forced to leave the ground floor open for retail.
When I drove by, 80% of the ground floor retail was vacant.
The City’s Consultants searched California for towns ”like Los Alamitos” where that approach had been successful. In a few towns with double our per-capita income, some attractive buildings had been built, but even there finding retail tenants for the ground floor had proven problematic. He also mentioned to me after last month’s Council Meeting that the point at which it made sense for a property to be redeveloped began at 4 – 5 stories.
As a real estate guy with decades of experience in residential, commercial, and multi-family sales and ownership, I just don’t see it working in Los Alamitos:
- It’s hard to find anywhere the required ground floor retail has flourished.
- Los Al residents want to park, go in, and walk out. . . not drive into a parking structure, get their validation, walk down the stairs and into the store.
- Most of the parcels along Los Al Blvd. are way too small, and the lots south of Katella just aren’t deep enough
“One more thing. . . “
I’ve often wondered about all the light industrial parks and uses scattered throughout Los Alamitos. While the General Plan Revision focused on ten “opportunity” sites, it seems to me that all of the light industrial locations should be examined.
Two areas that especially stand out are
- the light industrial areas just south of the Costco complex across Katella, a perfect place for more retail, and
- the light industrial along Cerritos between McAuliffe and Lexington, across from Cypress’ residential neighborhoods, which some of my friends in Cypress compare to the ProLogis site proposed across the street from Los Alamitos neighborhoods.
I’ve long felt both sections have real potential as retail sites, and some sort of retail overlay or addition should be considered.
Indeed, I still support the Planning Commission’s recommendation of several years ago to place retail overlay over most of the city’s light industrial and professional office areas, especially those along Katella and Los Alamitos Blvd. The industrial park behind the Sizzler and across from the high school also comes to mind, as well as those across Bloomfield from McAuliffe and south of Cerritos west of Bloomfield. These already include some retail facilities, and they are in good locations for retail, which would enhance city Revenues.
More time, a better time & forum?
This is what I asked for at last month’s City Council Meeting, and it’s what they gave us. Now it’s our turn to clear one-to two hours this Monday night to learn the details and respond.
Planning for the future involves boldly envisioning what makes sense 20, 30, & 50 years from now, not just tinkering with the current situation. And it should involve a “town hall” type forum before the Council itself, something the process has lacked so far, but gains this Monday night.
“Some men see things as they are and say ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and say ‘Why not?’”
Robert F. Kennedy
For our earlier report, with more details on the meeting, click here: Big changes in Los Alamitos land use on table this Monday, 8/5, at unusual “Town Hall” Meeting.
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