More Light Shed on 2nd + PCH Proposal's Traffic

Independent Traffic Consultant Fred Minagar gave an informative presentation on his study of traffic impacts.

In countless debates surrounding the proposed 2nd and PCH development, increased traffic is a major concern--and hurdle--for the project. To supplement previous traffic analysis conducted for the DEIR, independent traffic consultant Fred Minagar of Minagar & Associates, Inc. was hired by the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust to conduct his own analysis, and he was invited to present his findings Tuesday night at a meeting hosted by the group.

"Because at Council meetings and during presentations by the developers, I know a lot of us feel like we're just given a lot of pictures and diagrams and 'We'll figure it out later' answers. We are here to bring the community real information," said Elizabeth Lambe, Executive Director of the Land Trust, introducing the speaker.

The Wetlands Land Trust are outspoken opponents of the development plan. The Trust, a non-profit organization that for ten years has been dedicated to saving and restoring the Los Cerritos Wetlands, cites traffic increases, environmental impacts and damage to the wetlands, lack of forethought and mitigation, massiveness and failure to meet zoning laws as some of its concerns.

Perhaps as a sign of his independence, Minagar refuted the "ten-fold" increase in traffic as written in the Los Cerritos Wetlands handout. But he did conclude that the RDEIR needs more fine-tuning and adjustment. In particular, specifics on exactly how traffic impacts will be mitigated are missing from the draft EIR, he said later.

Stressing his company's objective analysis, Minagar found 64 items of concern with the DEIR, some big, some small and some cosmetic. Nonetheless, these 64 items have been submitted as a report to the Planning Commission to review along with the current DEIR.

"Any project will generate traffic," Minagar noted, "even the smallest one."

However, he did pinpoint four intersections that would experience significant levels of traffic increase in the near future, and six that would be affected by 2015. (The DEIR first identified five intersections that would be impacted, then reduced the number in the RDEIR to two.) Minagar analyzed 25 intersections (as in the DEIR) for impact because, as Minagar said, explaining the increase in traffic like a bucket overflowing with water, "the traffic has got to go somewhere, but you don't always know where."

Because of the West County Connectors Project and frequent freeway closures began only this year, Minagar said the study they just conducted in 2011 has a different foundation than the study conducted by the City Engineer in 2009, therefore they were "not comparing apples with apples." He also said, during an interview, that 2nd and PCH just happened to be the focal point of a phenomenon similar to what's happening in the midwest right now. Because of location, construction, development, tourism and everyday travel, it's right in the middle of what he called "a traffic tornado."

Minagar, a former Planning Commissioner in Laguna Beach and a consultant for projects like the Staples Center, stressed understanding the legality of any potential development project, no matter which side you are on. Each city has certain standards about building, and these are not debatable. What is debatable are the methods of collecting data, implementation and projections.

The main points already relayed by City Traffic engineers are that wait time will be increased at 2nd and PCH, but changes to stoplight mechanisms, widening of the street, shuttle and transit programs and other street improvements will actually offset traffic impacts to make traffic flow virtually the same, or possibly even better than it did before. City Traffic Engineer David Roseman had stated at the last Planning Commission study session that the 2nd and PCH proposal "basically adds more capacity to the intersection than this project adds cars to it."

Lambe asked whether the developer's claim that traffic will not be negatively affected but actually improved has any legitimacy to it. Roseman had stated at the last Planning Commission study session that the 2nd and PCH proposal "basically adds more capacity to the intersection than this project adds cars to it."

Minagar, though not expressly disagreeing with this claim, said at one point during the presentation, "Adding more capacity to an area will invite more in to take it."

The main points that Minagar explained were these:

  • Retail, along with fast food, generates the highest volume of traffic (a point also made by the City Engineer) and the majority of the project (191,475 square feet) will be retail stores.
  • Lower end restaurants generate more traffic than the upper crust, and the 21,092 square foot restaurant has not been decided yet. * Homes do not generate a significant amount of traffic (there are 325 proposed residential condos) and hotel traffic levels vary with location.
  • Mixed-use developments, as this one is, are generally good for both economic gain and for relatively low traffic generation, since the traffic generated by retail stores is offset by low-trip residences.
  • The amount of traffic cannot be fully assessed, since the types of retail stores, restaurant, hotel and condos have not yet been decided, and different levels of chic-ness change the traffic equation. For example, Nordstrom's traffic is lower than Walmart's. "It's a bad time in the economy," Minaga said, "so it makes sense, whoever will take it is not yet known." However, he reported, once the project is approved as it is, there is really no looking back to change the type of store, unless there is a major violation.
  • The one per cent growth projection, compounded annually, as reported in the DEIR, is an acceptable rate. As mandated by the City, traffic must not be significant enough to exceed a 2 per cent increase in delay, roughly equivalent to 2 seconds per vehicle per light. (At a previous Planning Commission study session, Roseman said by his calculations, the average delay at the intersection of 2nd and PCH is calculated to be 40-45 seconds. On average, the proposed development plan would increase this wait by about 15 seconds, or roughly between 5% and 12% for various peak hours.)
  • Detailed mitigation plans are virtually missing from the RDEIR. (From the secondandpch.com website: since the first DEIR, "the developer has committed to additional mitigation measures for construction and operational impacts; including, but not limited to: (a) new construction traffic management plan; (b) more intersection improvements; (c) a shuttle service along 2nd Street; and (d) a new transportation demand management plan...".)
  • Widening lanes in a seaside area near oceans and already developed land could be problematic because there is not much room to grow, Minagar said, drawing comparisons to the stretches of land open for use in places like Riverside.
  • The number of vehicles reported as an increase in traffic must be considered a raw number and not absolute. For example, at 2nd and PCH, where traffic impacts would be greatest, vehicular trips are expected to increase by 226 vehicles per hour, but these vehicles are understood to be distributed around the area and also reduced by pedestrian, bicycle and public transit figures.
  • The four intersections that would experience significant impact are: 
    1. PCH at 7th, during P.M. hours
    2. Bayshore and 2nd St., during P.M. hours and midday Saturday
    3. PCH at 2nd St., during A.M. and P.M. hours and midday Saturday
    4. Studebaker and 2nd St., during A.M. and P.M. hours and midday Saturday

Myriad issues arose from the audience during the question and answer session, including:

  • whether the bridges leading onto Naples Island were included in the original report as limited access points for residents (they were not)
  • whether studies of traffic levels on Sundays when there is a Farmer's Market at the Marina were conducted in the original report (studies were not conducted on Sundays)
  • whether pedestrians were considered as an impediment to traffic (they were not included as significant because there are not more than one hundred pedestrians crossing these intersections per hour)
  • whether a shuttle to mitigate traffic for residents was feasible (Minaga said, "a shuttle is extremely debatable," and "it is up to the Planning Commission to impose conditions on the project that would require traffic mitigation.")

The next steps are in the hands of the Planning Commission, to either approve the project as it is, accept the proposal and impose conditions, require further review and analysis or request the developer to downsize or change the land use.

Minagar summed it up nicely when he said, "With every growth comes pain, and in this case, it's traffic pain."

To read Minagar's traffic review, open this PDF.

View the RDEIR here.

Visit the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust website here, or the Second and PCH website here.

Paul June 03, 2011 at 01:38 AM
Just from the detour on 7th and PCH we can see a great improvement in traffic. Not having to sit in a car that 5 or 10 minutes going west on 7th is great! This project could very well push the area over the traffic, "Tipping point." Are the dollars worth it to the local economy, or will they go elsewhere at the expense of the quality of life to the residents? The latter hs been the norm for much of the so called, "wonderful" projects in Long Beach.
Nancy Wride (Editor) June 03, 2011 at 02:16 AM
I was cheered by the report that residential would, according to this consultant, be less than the retail traffic that would be generated. But I'm trying to get my brain around the scale of the retail square footage. Does anyone have a good comparison ala (four football fields, or two Marina Pacificas, or half of one?
RichardIII June 03, 2011 at 02:52 AM
It doesn't matter the traffic impacts for the plebs. Heck, if they become too loud, we'll just bring in some outsiders to get them focused on them, rather than us. What matters is support for me by this enterpriser if I grant the project, and from the City for the projected revenue flow in my quest for the throne.
Heather Altman June 03, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Hi Nancy: 1 acre equals 43, 560 square feet, therefore 191,475 sq. ft of retail equals approximately 4.4 acres. An American football field (from goal post to goal post) equals approximately 1.3 acres. So the acreage associated with the retail component is a little less than 3.5 football fields (you were close when you said 4 football fields...good guess!). To be clear, however, not all of the retail component is on the ground level, so the above information is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to represent the total footprint of surface disturbance associated with the retail portion of the project. By that, it wouldn't be 3.5 football fields all lined up next to each other, rather some portions of the football fields would be "stacked" on top of each other.
Richard June 03, 2011 at 04:26 PM
It's always good to get an independent review. Judging from Minagar's report, the truth lies between the extremes of the Wetlands people on one side, and the developer on the other.
Janice June 03, 2011 at 11:06 PM
Nancy, great reporting! Southeast Long Beach has always been a quick quiet getaway within the city. A bike ride, a walk, a jog, a little bird watching, a sunset, a get together with friends for an after work bite at a locally owned restuarant. This will be a memory if this project is approved and the little bit of peace in the city enjoyed by all residents and visitors will be gone forever. If the proprty owners cared about their 2nd + PCH property and the community they would have not allowed 2nd + PCH to become an eyesore.
Panglonymous June 05, 2011 at 08:29 PM
Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink, eh, Ricky³? Once a big boat has floated, it sails on, dust people at the helm. "Ahoy, there, mate!" hail the hydrated from their launch. But dust speaks sparingly, in careful little puffs, the dry tight language of greed: "How might we monetize the rain?"
RichardIII June 06, 2011 at 01:18 AM
Pan sir, this project will monetize the increased traffic by bringing in store's fit for nobility, or at least the middling class, and it will add density and increased revenue to the city coffers as your economy naturally increases. I know the loudest people don't believe the good things we have said will occur, but well, I am in my position and they in theirs.
Nancy Woo June 06, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Clarification: Fred Minagar is currently serving as Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission for the City of Laguna Niguel and is the Traffic & Transportation Commissioner for the same city.
Sally Reid June 07, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Yes, Nancy, outstanding article. Just as Janice says, S/E Long Beach is a beautiful corner of our city a great place to enjoy the sunset or sun coming up on foot or bike enjoying the boats in and out of the marina, the restaurants around the marine with friends and family. A wonderful place to play so close by, a wonderful place to take out of town family and friends. Now we have 200 of the nearby Los Cerritos Wetlands in public ownership -- what a great area to have in our community. If the current owners of the hotel had kept up the property, we could enjoy that as well. The proposed massive wall of buildings they are proposing is not consistent with our quiet enjoyment of S/E Long Beach.
Richard June 07, 2011 at 09:27 PM
I laugh when I see some of the comments here. People speak of "The Wetlands" in hushed, reverent tones. The reality is "The Wetlands" is a trash-strewn, week-choked, fenced-off oil field. And the same people who gush over "The Welands" love to play the "what if" game. "If only owners of the Seaport Hotel hadn't let the property become a run-down eyesore." The hotel IS a dump, and you can say "what if" every day for the next ten years and it won't change that. The sooner the 2nd + PCH project is approved, the better.
Panglonymous June 07, 2011 at 10:04 PM
If only it were a little taller, they could strategically dynamite it - and the wetlands - together! Charge admission, make it a Creative Destruction Community Event®. Hell, throw in a pancake breakfast and a ring toss, too, bring infants in strollers to see how a REAL city is run... from the TOP ↓ ! Yeeee-haa!
Sandie Van Horn June 09, 2011 at 04:09 AM
The Planning Commission staff advised the Commission at the last study on Second +PCH that according to LB parking codes, this was over 500+parking spaces underparked, But wait--Second + PCH has a remedy--shared parking. Not allowed under SEADIP..and has never been proven to work in Long Beach. A HUGE lemon.


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