Ocean View: Once completed, the Shoreline Gateway will have 315 luxury units.

Ocean View: Once completed, the Shoreline Gateway will have 315 luxury units. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

Real estate developers are plunging into the waterfront city of Long Beach where speedier approvals, strong demand and lack of rent control have opened the flood gates to residential and commercial projects.

In downtown Long Beach, there’s $5 billion being invested in real estate development, and there’s a total of 73 projects citywide either under construction or about to break ground, according to the city’s Economic Development Department. The building boom includes roughly 5,000 housing units.

“Long Beach is really booming,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “It’s the largest amount of development we’ve ever had.”

Among the biggest plans for the city are a $520 million Civic Center with a new city hall, port offices, and retail and residential components, as well as updates to the Queen Mary, the vintage cruise ship docked at Long Beach’s port. Last month, news broke that the city was in talks with Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Angels to move the team’s stadium to Long Beach from Anaheim.

Alan Pullman, founding principal at Long Beach-based architecture firm Studio One Eleven, said a big reason for the city’s growth spurt is its relative affordability.

“It was traditionally an old-world economy with manufacturing and the ports, but it is transitioning — as the overall economy is — into a bit of a hub for creative knowledge businesses, and it is relatively affordable for being on the water,” Pullman said.

Affordable properties, rising rents

Long Beach is ideal, brokers and developers say, because property is more affordable than in many other coastal cities in Los Angeles County, and there are no restrictions on rental rates.

“It seems like there is more value there,” said Kenny Stevens of real estate brokerage Compass.

Long Beach saw the fifth fastest rent growth in the nation, increasing more than 25 percent since February 2014, according to Apartment List Inc. data.

Mayor Garcia said there are no plans for rent control. Instead, the city is focused on tenant relocation assistance, he said.

Stevens, who sells multifamily properties in the $2 million to $8 million range, said clients who had previously been focused on L.A. are now expanding their portfolios into Long Beach. “Prices in Los Angeles have continued to increase to the point that investors are willing to look elsewhere, anywhere within an hour of Los Angeles,” he said.

Other cities without rent control are more expensive than Long Beach, Stevens added.

It’s also simpler to get approvals for development in Long Beach. A UC Berkley report comparing Santa Monica, L.A., Long Beach and Pasadena found that Long Beach had the fastest entitlement process at 10.5 months while projects in Santa Monica took 48 months to entitle.

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