It seems natural, at first glance, that Long Beach would want to promote its waterfront as a resort destination. The city has miles of continuous oceanfront in a region that is starved for open views of the Pacific. Yet efforts to create a visitor-friendly waterfront have been a protracted agony of collapsed hopes and stalled-out development projects. Developer after developer has unfurled its grand plans for the waterfront, only to slink away years later after a failure to find financing. The latest setback occurred in February, when the Long Beach City Council granted an 18-month extension to DDR, a Chicago-based developer, which has succeeded the previous developer, Oliver McMillan. If not exactly jinxed, the Long Beach seacoast is not ideally set up to be a waterfront resort. Long Beach is essentially an industrial city. An enormous apron of earthworks extends into the city's waterfront, created as part of the Port of Long Beach, the nation's busiest harbor. The conundrum of creating an oceanfront idyll amid an industrial landscape is only one of the problems facing Long Beach. Another is finding a developer, or even a single attraction, that really works. Ten years ago, the city was buoyed by the possibility of Disney Sea, which The Walt Disney Company briefly contemplated before deciding to build its long-anticipated second gate in its home town, Anaheim. (Disney, which recently built an analogous sea-front attraction in Tokyo Bay, may not have wanted to battle the California Coastal Commission.) Since that time, the city redoubled its efforts to develop Queensway Bay, a long stretch of waterfront on either side of the mouth of the Los Angeles River. The city has completed the first phase of a far-reaching master plan that includes parking, a new aquarium, new pathways and a marina. The crowds are not yet swarming Queensway Bay, however. One problem is the collection of oddball attractions that the city has accumulated during the past two decades in the hopes of creating tourist traffic. If Broadway Danny Rose, the hard-luck Vaudeville booking agent in the Woody Allen movie, were a developer, Queensway Bay would be his project. The Queen Mary, a famous ocean liner, has been docked and rehabbed as a hotel. Next to the Queen Mary is an empty geodesic dome that formerly housed the Spruce Goose, the sole surviving prototype of a giant transport plane developed by Howard Hughes that was put into production; the Goose was sold a few years ago and now nests in McMinnville, Oregon. One promoter had tried to bring a Science Fiction Hall of Fame to a site opposite the Queen Mary, but those plans have been shelved. On the other side of the bay is the much-ballyhooed Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, which opened two years ago and has begun to hemorrhage money due to low attendance. The basic problems with Queensway Bay as it currently exists have more to do with what is lacking, however, rather than the inadequacies of what already exists. The existing attractions at Long Beach, though odd, might be more successful if the waterfront were more of a cohesive urban place — that is, a street. As things now stand, the bay's attractions are scattered over a large area, with little or no infill. Topography also presents problems: Downtown Long Beach sits on a bluff about 30 feet above the waterfront. Although it would be desirable for the downtown and the waterfront to flow into one another, the two areas seem destined to remain essentially separate parts of the city because the steep slope discourages walking between the two. Master planned by the Los Angeles office of Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn, the proposed expansion of Queensway Bay supplies some of the missing infill. The plan envisions new development along Pine Avenue, including a new multiplex cinema, which would strengthen the connection between the waterfront and downtown Long Beach. The plan also clusters new development on either side of Shoreline Drive, including giving this largely empty street an urbane, walkable character, at least for several blocks. On the opposite side of the bay, the plan provides a street-like collection of buildings opposite the Queen Mary (although the withdrawal of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame means that the arrangement of buildings shown in the illustration will likely change again). Clearly, it is a big job to fill in the long, empty stretches of Queensway Bay, and make them into something like streets. The question perhaps is why Long Beach is trying so hard to create an urban district out of its waterfront area, when it already has a pretty good urban district in its downtown. It is probably against the rules, when reviewing a master plan, to suggest that the project is not a good investment of more than $500 million of public money. Yet I cannot shake the idea that Long Beach is on the wrong track. If the goal is to bring in crowds of visitors, then Old Pasadena — a recycled urban district that Long Beach could easily mimic — should be the model, not Marina del Rey's chic harbor and entertainment district. If this property has such great potential, why aren't the big retailers lining up for space, and why aren't the lenders springing for it? Downtown Long Beach — not the waterfront — is the most appropriate place to create a regional destination because it has an excellent scale and wonderful buildings. Downtown is set up for crowds, while all the people-attracting buildings at Queensway Bay must be built anew, which seems speculative and risky. The repeated failure of experienced developers to get something started on the waterfront should be a clue that the area is a stretch for the real estate market. Long Beach has spent too much time and money on a destination plan, when it should have been adding a bit more investment to its downtown plan, which already exists and would work wonderfully as a backdrop for crowds and nighttime activity. To borrow the punch line from an old British joke, if you want crowds in Long Beach, start from somewhere else.