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After Angels 'Bummer,' Long Beach Looks To Elephant Lot For New Plan

A vacant parking lot that was used as bait in an attempt to lure the Angels baseball team out of Anaheim could now be part of Long Beach's downtown transformation.

Vacant lot next to the Long Beach Convention Center
Vacant lot next to the Long Beach Convention Center

In the future, visitors to downtown Long Beach could see taller skylines and denser neighborhoods.

Eight years after passing a downtown plan that allowed the development of taller buildings, increased population density and streamlined developments, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said he wants to see the creation of a new plan. He said it ideally will be one that allows for more people living in and visiting downtown and its shoreline in the coming decade.  

"It's time for a reinvention," Garcia said during the city's State of Long Beach address on Tuesday

As downtown Long Beach continues to experience a development boom, city officials are now aiming to extend that building momentum.

Garcia said that later this year, he will ask his colleagues on the council to develop a plan to transform the city's downtown. It's an effort that will be coupled with a new plan for the shoreline area that includes the so-called "elephant lot," which got its name when the Ringling Brothers Circus held events in the space.

The 13-acre site, adjacent to the Long Beach Arena, the city's Convention and Entertainment Center, and across from a marina, could be a highlight that brings downtown and its shoreline together. It's also where Long Beach officials had proposed to build a billion-dollar baseball stadium if the Angels had decided to relocate. 

A new downtown plan, Garcia said, is "one that includes more density and taller buildings, climate resilient structures, more incentives to build [and] protections for labor and workers and protections for low-income residents."

He added that this plan will link up with efforts already underway to reimagine the elephant lot, with the goal of building next to a new campus being built for California State University, Long Beach.

Long Beach Director of Development Services Linda Tatum
Long Beach Director of Development Services Linda Tatum

"These challenges and others are tough, but our history shows us we can meet these challenges," Garcia said.

The Angels ultimately spurned Long Beach in favor of a deal with the city of Anaheim, which it has called home since 1966. The closer was an agreement between an entity controlled by Angels owner Arte Moreno and the city to buy the city-owned stadium and surrounding parking lots totaling 150 acres for a tentative price of $325M.   

Although Long Beach failed to lure the baseball team, it did allow city leaders to step back and take inventory of the city's assets, Long Beach Economic Development Director Sergio Ramirez said. 

Investors have poured in more than $5B in investments in the city.

There are more than 70 projects either under construction or in the pipeline, many of which are downtown. In the next few years, more than 5,500 residential units will come on the market, city officials said. Since 2012, when the last downtown plan was passed, only 367 units have come online, but more than 1,700 units are now under construction, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reports. 

In 2028, Long Beach will be one of several places in Los Angeles hosting the Olympics. The city is in the planning stages to make improvements to its arena, nearby pools and other places as it sets to host handball, water polo, BMX racing, triathlon and open-water swimming in the 2028 Olympics and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.

"The city is bummed that the Angels have stayed in Anaheim," Ramirez said. "We understand that. It was a good experience for the city to go over the process and realize the value of the site and the potential of the location and the area."

Aerial view of the Elephant Lot in Long Beach
Aerial view of the Elephant Lot in Long Beach

Long Beach Director of Development Services Linda Tatum said that the city has big plans for its downtown, the shoreline area and specifically, the elephant lot in the coming years.

In October, the city unanimously approved the revising of its shoreline area that will update the current development regulations that were passed in the 1980s. Tatum is overseeing the planning of the Downtown Shoreline Visioning Process plan.

She said she expects the planning process could take a couple of years. The city plans to host several workshops with community, business and city leaders once the plan is formulated. 

“There aren’t a lot of large vacant properties in the city,” Tatum said of the elephant lot. “This is one of the few large properties available for potential development.

"It’s a very significant effort to engage the community to make sure we are getting it right," she added. "We’re excited to kick it off. We truly want to engage the stakeholders. It’s got to work with the city community and city family. It’s got to work for everybody."