Another Reader-Submitted Zoning Board letter re Superblock [Guest Post]

Long Beach Zoning Board

Long Beach, New York 11561

RE: Zoning Board Revew of iStar Proposal to Develop the Superblock

Dear Members of the Board,

The purpose of this letter is to recommend that the Board not approve the variance request from  iStar to build a 15 story multi-family rental dwelling. The reasons are three-fold:

  1. The proposed height of the building greatly exceeds the currently approved height restriction and will, thus, forever negatively impact the neighborhood and the City, and establish an undesirable precedent.
  2. The proposal to have this as a rental property will result in transient tenancy, and likely lead to future issues with the economic viability of the building and its residents.
  3. The requested building height enables over 530 new families, with over 1,000 new residents; resulting in various problems, including crowding in our schools, crowding on our beaches, significant parking and traffic issues etc.

I attended the last Zoning Board meeting. I was impressed with the Board’s review of the applications discussed prior to the iStar session. It was clear that even a one-foot request for variance was discussed with intelligence; as well as appropriate concern for neighbors and applicant. During these other reviews the Board exhibited a desire to adhere to the existing guidelines, thereby providing a predictable consistency in the neighborhood characteristics.

We request similar consistency and concern for the community during your review of the iStar application. Further, we request that the Board not develop amnesia regarding the time-tested height regulations. Instead, we implore the Board to maintain your sensitivity to neighborhood needs and the future of our wonderful City.

Please do not allow yourselves to forget the wisdom of prior Boards. There is no justifiable explanation for this Board to approve the iStar request as submitted, and forget the hallowed and respected decisions of its previous august members. Attached is an email from another concerned citizen that details the history of these decisions, supporting the need to adhere to precedent.

The iStar sales pitch tried to respond to various concerns, asking us to look at their shiny placards while remaining blind to the real concerns of our citizens.

  • We are being sold on the idea that the shadows will not extend to the adjoining street. This argument fails to recognize that two buildings this tall are an eye-sore from all directions since it is so out of synch with every previously approved building design.
  • We are being sold on the idea that the proposed elongated profile provides greater corridors of light. This too asks that we limit our gaze, to remain blind to the preposterously tall buildings that rise way above all other edifices.
  • We are being sold on the idea that the additional residents and visitors will not choke our beaches, streets and schools. The undesirable vertical density arising from the additional five floors is mathematically clear to all who wish to honestly review this proposal.
  • We are being sold on the idea that these rental apartments will always be occupied by young, vibrant, financially secure professionals; while evidence to the contrary is evident from neighboring towns. Let’s not overbuild and become a haven for Section 8.
  • We are being sold on the idea that the minor presence of some commercial establishments is for the betterment of the City, recognizing that far better commercial alternatives should be pursued.
  • We are being sold on the idea that the small park included in the design will make us forget the concrete and glass of each offending higher floor.
  • We are being sold on the idea that the proposed parking spaces will suffice, in a city that is already choking from a lack of adequate parking.

The Community does not want to be sold down the river on this variance! We know that the iStar precedent will be followed by other investors. Is the Board prepared to say “yea” to other similar requests? How can it say “no” to others after you’ve left the barn door open on iStar?

I, and many others in the community, actively seek to have the Super Block developed. Many good ideas have been advanced, as captured on the ImagineLB web site. These proposals dream of development that embellishes the City’s profile, that blends the needs and desires of developers and residents, that enhances the financial and emotional profitability of this City.

Recognizing that developers need to make a profit and recognizing that Long Beach needs development of the Super Block and Foundation Block, we wholeheartedly support development that conforms with the current guidelines and achieves these goals.

If the iStar project cannot be profitable while adhering to the 10-story guideline, then this project should not be approved. Further, if iStar does decide to pursue the project within the guidelines the Board must remain vigilant regarding other project design factors (green space, parking, commercial establishments, financial viability of project and residents).

One additional request. A project of this importance should have a well-advertised meeting set aside exclusively on this topic, at a time that Long Beach residents can attend. Enable the Community to listen to your views. Require iStar to discuss a proposed project that fits within current guidelines. Allow the Community to voice its thinking. This project will have considerably more impact that the typical one-foot variance request. Let’s treat it that way. If the Board approves the variance request, please recognize that you will be at risk that the Community will think that we were sold on a bad idea for inappropriate reasons.

Respectfully submitted,

                                                                         Ed Glister

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15 thoughts on “Another Reader-Submitted Zoning Board letter re Superblock [Guest Post]”

  1. You don’t get it. The fix is in. It will be completely approved. Already has been. When you reelected the Democrats, you voted Long Beach back to the corrupt 1970’s.

  2. Joe, maybe you’re right. But did you ever think that maybe you’re wrong?

    Is there any harm in me voicing my opinion to the Zoning Board? I don’t think so.

    But your negativity, reflecting your cynicism and not substantiated with any proof, may be harmful. If your note and thoughts prevent even one person from voicing their opinion you’ve done harm.

    FYI, I’ve worked with several cities, including Long Beach, and found them to be responsive in some situations.

    Here’s a suggestion: in addition to you commenting on this blog why not write the Zoning Board yourself and/or suggest to others that they write the Board. That would be constructive.

  3. How is it that the zoning board is so powerful that something that impacts our community to such an extent is up to them alone? I’m curious how this works. How do people get on the zoning board? How are they qualified for this type of decision?

  4. Ed Glister, voice of (calm, cool, collected) reason, strikes again.

    While I don’t agree with all of the reasons you mention in your letter, I do agree with your conclusion and hope to find time early this week to write my own letter.

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Brian, fantastic! Hope you post a copy of your letter on this blog, since we’d love to hear your opinion.

    If we could get a hundred others to write the Board (whatever your opinion), we might influence the Board. Any others plan to write the Board? Even one sentence would be meaningful.

  6. Exactly right. It wouldn’t have come this far if it wasn’t already in the bag – maybe they will trim off 1 floor to make it look like some phony “concession”.

  7. Ed, you seem to be trying to sell us on your version of what represents an eyesore, how much of a shadow is too much of a shadow, the “wisdom” of past ZBA’s, the notion tha LB is about to become Far Rock or Hempstead with Section 8 in a beachfront lux building, that concrete and glass is an offense to our sensibilities, the likelihood that any of the crowd sourced Imagine ideas are financially realistic(PS. I like the process of Imagine but recognize that developer’s underlying goal), that you have better commercial ideas than the boardwalk shops proposed as if other commercial development is mutually exclusive and without specifics about that smarter commercial development, that cynicism is not rational given the history of ZBA’s actions and that your “positivity?” presented without historial substantiation is somehow more rational, and that development that conforms with the current guidelines is indeed financially viable and that the City (our elected reps and the managers they have hired) are just trying to sell us a faulty package of goods. Whew!
    I’ll write my letter supporting John’s/Publius’ demand that the variance be rejected/ postponed until further review determines the extent to which this development conforms to or violates the Comprehensive plan presented in 2007. There is a screaming need for governmental process continuity. But I, like Brian, have difficulty with some of your rationale even as I commend your effort.

  8. They are appointed by the City Manager. The current CM put out a request for volunteers not too long along. I believe the postiion has been filled.

  9. Ed — Nice letter and this is about community members being involved and more importantly thoughtfully expressing their views and being respectful to all sides. We may not all agree 100% with the views of our fellow residents, but that’s OK. I think the important thing here, the thing for us to keep focused on is that this is a defining moment in our community. The ZBA deals with variance requests all the time. My request to increase my second story by 5 feet more than permissible is a tiny incremental change. It alone will not affect the community as a whole. Allowing 10 or 20 or 50 will. The i-Star request, whether you are against it or for it, cannot be viewed as anything less than a community changing request. Thanks.

  10. Dear Trying to Make Sense. Thanks for your comments. Sorry if you think I am trying to sell anyone on my views. To the contrary, my goal is to get people to express their thoughts, whatever they are, to the Board.

    I believe that if the Board receives a substantial number of letters that it just may respond to community opinion.

    You question my “positivity”. FYI, I have seen how people can influence governments. I worked 18 months with a NYC Mayor and helped bring about millions of dollars of change. And, as a Condo President helped influence a local government in many decisions. And, I have recently worked with LB officials and found them to be smart and receptive to new ideas.

    So, yes, I have reason to be positive. But whether someone is positive or negative I hope they express their opinion to the Board. This is too critical an issue, affecting the City for decades, to remain silent.

    Thanks for being one of the people to write the Board. Hope you motivate others to do the same.

  11. My poor choice of phrase to say you are “trying to sell”. More appropriate is the statement that many of your points leave my wondering about validity. One thing that seems certain, however, is that rational continuity of planning needs to be demonstrated. The City undertook and paid for analysis that led to the Comprehensive Plan that Publius references. Has that been thrown out? Why? Have market conditions dictated this? What is the status of that plan? I appreciate you “positivity” even as I question it.

  12. Good job, don’t anyone care about what is happening to Long Beach with these foolish deals and underhanded ideas?
    Please fight this prodject it’s bad for everybody.

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