How much is too much?
Residents in La Marina Estates, the quaint family neighborhood located just south of Atherton St. East of Long Beach State, find themselves in the middle of a housing debate they didn’t ask to enter.
On January 1st, 2020, Assembly Bill 68 went into effect in the State of California, overriding local government’s ability to control their own construction permitting and zoning in the case of building residential ADU’s (Additional Dwelling Units).
In other words, it became legal to build an additional rentable unit in the backyard of any home in California (as long as it meets the State’s standard of living laws). This law was meant with good intention to help improve California’s housing crisis and allow residents to create more livable units in desirable locations.
However, one consequence of this Assembly Bill (not voted on by the public) that perhaps lawmakers didn’t consider is happening right here in East Long Beach at a home located at 6481 El Roble Street.
Plans have been submitted and approved by the owner, a man named Daniel Lewin who does not live in the home and currently rents it out to four Long Beach State students, to turn his 4 bed, 2 bath home into a 7 bed, 7 bath home, with a 4 bed, 4 bath ADU. Creating an 11-bed, 11-bath property in the middle of an exceedingly quiet family neighborhood.
While an 11-bed, 11-bath home would turn heads in any family neighborhood, the thing that makes this situation truly unique is the proximity of this family neighborhood to Cal State Long Beach. The massive, and still growing, University is a mere two-minute walk from La Marina Estates - and this El Roble house…which is already being rented to students at CSULB.
To make a long story short….residents in this neighborhood are… pissed. And it’s not just a few… it’s lot of them (maybe all). They didn't know about this law, or have a chance to voice their opinions on it, but now, because of a loophole, they see both their quality of life and their home values which they worked so hard to attain…all but certain to diminish.
Jennifer Landefeld lives next door to 6481 El Roble. She has trouble expressing her shock and anger when she heard what was happening next door to her.
“I thought that this cannot be happening. This cannot go on in a neighborhood. My quality of life is threatened. I need the city to help me and support me. It was extremely shocking. Just extremely shocking.”
Her biggest fear is that the residence next to her family home will turn into a sort of student housing dorm that could house up to 22 students (which is legal per the designation that a room in any home can be occupied by up to two adults).
“There’s already a party deck which overlooks our home, and the noise will be tremendous if the parties multiply. The result is a diminished quality of life. Our safety is at risk. Our quaint quiet neighborhood is at risk, and our property values will go down tremendously.”
Another La Marina Estates resident, Katie Larson, is one of many helping organize their community to fight this increasingly inevitable outcome.
Her first plea is for other Long Beach residents to hear their story and believe it can happen to them. In fact, the same owner of the El Roble house has also submitted plans to build a similar project on a Petaluma home he owns in the next neighborhood over.
Larson’s second plea is to email your city representatives. It’s a tough situation because their (local officials’) hands are tied. In fact, Long Beach City law is much more reasonable and at least requires that the homeowner live on the property if they rent out an ADU. The City law supports a middle ground between extending affordable housing in family neighborhoods, while still maintaining the quiet lifestyle of the neighborhood.
But the residents of La Marina Estates insist that public support and emailing our local representatives is the best way to start. They’re also looking at more immediate means to try and stop this from ruining their neighborhood. Such as crowdfunding and buying the home so that it cannot turn into a dormitory of sorts.
For Jennifer Landefeld who lives next door to the house of subject, it’s made her think a lot more about the way things should work in government than she probably wanted. She claims she’s never considered herself an activist of any sort or political at all, but then everything changed when this nightmare occurred next-door to her home.
“It’s unreasonable and illogical for the state to think that they can plan all of our communities. The state of California is the 6th biggest GDP in the world. We’re too big. That’s why there’s local government and local government should make the decision,” said Landefeld in regards to the state mandate. She strongly believes housing and districting should be a local decision. “Local city government knows better how to plan their community. The state is too big.”
Another neighbor, Jose Diaz, also expresses his anger and frustration.
“This is not right,” he said. “This is not what we bought into when we invested in a home in this community.” Jose and his wife moved to their home from a condo in 2014, a year before their first daughter was born. They’re now raising two children in the neighborhood.
So what’s next?
Over 100 residents in the neighborhood have signed a formal letter of complaint. They are using lawyers to send the homeowner what they feel are reasonable and acceptable requests. If he does not comply they will keep fighting to make this situation right.
Landefeld is worried. “It’s clear the state is not an advocate of neighborhoods anymore. We should be mad, we should be willing to fight for what we’ve worked so hard for.”
Anyone who sympathizes with their situation and would like to help is encouraged to email firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on Facebook with the “La Marina Estates” neighborhood group for ways they can get involved and make sure their neighborhood doesn’t end up home to a college dormitory. 908