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Bell Gardens Casino Eyes Resort Style Expansion

Bell Gardens appears to be on the verge of approving zoning changes that would make it possible for one its largest revenue generators to expand its business in the southeast city.

The Bicycle Casino is proposing to add a 100-room hotel to its site on Eastern Avenue near the 710 Freeway, but will need the city to first amend its zoning code to move forward. If approved, the Casino would expand to over 230,000 square-feet, creating a new resort-like venue similar to one in nearby Commerce.

In addition to the new hotel, the proposed expansion would include an additional gaming area, nightclub, restaurant/bar, business offices and retail shops, according to a city staff report.

The city council had planned on hearing public comment on the proposed zoning ordinance changes needed for the development at its meeting this past Monday, but Assistant City Attorney John W. Lam told the council that a technical issue involving the posting of the item on the consent calendar required them to postpone the first public hearing.

“It was a clerical mistake,” the city’s director of community development, Abel Avalos, said. “We want to make sure its clear and not have people question why it was mislabeled.”

The public hearing has been rescheduled for the March 25 council meeting.

Although the casino technically only needs the approval of the planning commission to move forward with their proposed project, the city must first amend its zoning code to create a defined use for a casino resort under its land use code. Avalos told EGP the new ordinances would clean up the city’s land use code and make it easier for the project to move forward.

In addition to clarifying the land use code, the proposed ordinance would adopt a standard parking ratio for a casino resort.

In addition to the 76,508 square-foot expansion, the casino would add additional parking to accommodate the new parking demand.

Even though the proposed hotel expansion would result in a reduction of the existing parking spaces, according to the gaming venues’ “Casino Resort Parking Study,” The Bicycle Casino plans to provide more parking spaces than required after the expansion.

Avalos told EGP the parking ratio is important because it ensures there is enough parking so as not to create parking problems on neighboring streets.

These type of zoning and land use changes are not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) according to the staff report because it will not result in a direct or reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment.

The development itself, however, is still subject to CEQA and will have to undergo environmental studies, Avalos said.

Following the public hearing on March 25, a second reading of the proposed changes is scheduled to take place at the April 8 council meeting and could be adopted by the city council 30 days later.

The Bicycle Casino was originally approved for development in 1984. It is known for its poker tournaments and other card games, which continues to result in a significant amount of revenue for city coffers, though down in recent years.