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Seal Beach planners to continue Bay City hearing By Charles M. Kelly | Thu, May 03 2012 12:09 PM

There’s no decision yet.


Seal Beach planners voted unanimously to continue the public hearing on the Bay City Partners project at the Planning Commission’s Wednesday, May 17 meeting.   While many residents spoke out against the project—including a core group of opponents who spoke against it at two previous city committee hearings—others expressed support for the plan to build residential housing on part of the land that once belonged to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.


Details of the meeting will appear in the Thursday, May 10, print edition of the Sun.


Several issues complicated the controversial request to change the zoning for the property. One issue was a debate on how to define the open space called for in the original specific plan for the site. Another issue: The Bay City Partners also introduced a new alternative proposal that reconfigured the proposed residential housing project. Commission Chair Sandra Massa-Lavitt, who represents District 5, wanted staff and the consultants who drew up the Environmental Impact Report to have time to look at the new plan. Yet a third issue was an April 25 letter from the State Lands Commission that reportedly said some of the land on the site might be in public trust.


Massa-Lavitt said the property owners were negotiating that question with the State Lands Commission.


Opponents insisted on preserving what they call the 70 percent open space, 30 percent visitor serving development called for in the specific plan for the site. Many of those opponents say a hotel would be feasible on that land. The property owners do not believe that is the case.


District 3 Planning Commissioner Robert Goldberg said he believed that a hotel would be viable.


However, he acknowledged concerns of residents who live near the property site who opposed having a hotel nearby. Goldberg said he was willing to compromise on a hotel.


“I’m not willing to compromise on the 70-30 and I don’t see why we would,” Goldberg said.


The remark drew a loud round of applause from some members of the audience.


A key dispute between the property owner and opponents of the project is how that 70 percent open space is defined. Goldberg, citing a 1982 map based on a specific plan amendment, argued that the City Council’s intent was for 7.9 acres to be open space.


The Bay City Partners have offered to sell 6.4 acres of open space to Seal Beach at $1.1 million.


However, Goldberg argued that the Bay City proposal results in the city losing 1.5 acres of open space. He opposed including a section of the site area that included the San Gabriel River. He called for an EIR with correct information.


The Final EIR bases its description of the open space on the legal description of the property. Commissioner Goldberg preferred the 1982 map.


Other commissioners gave the Bay City Partners’ new alternative for the housing project mixed reviews, liking some elements and not others.


Massa-Lavit said she wasn’t pleased with any of the site plans presented at the meeting. She objected to the property owners’ proposal to count green spaces in the housing project as part of the open space for the public.


District 2 Commissioner Esther Cummings said she liked the realignment of the houses in the new plan, but housing lots along the river eliminated.


District 1 Commissioner David Everson said he was concerned about the lack of variation in the lot sizes in the new Bay City Partners plan. The new plan calls for 25 foot lots.


District 4 Commissioner Jerry Galbreath said the meeting was the first time the commission had seen the new plan. He was not happy to get the new plan at the last minute. He said an alley on the plan map was too narrow. Galbreath said he would like the city and the property owners to reach an agreement on the definition of the 70/30 split between open space and the development area.


Ed Selich, project manager for the Bay City Partners, gave a 20-minute presentation in favor of the project at the beginning of the meeting. Selich said tat in 1982, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power opposed the 70-30 plan as unfeasible. He also questioned the accuracy of the development plan map.


Selich said in 1996, the specific plan was amended to reduce the hotel called for in the plan from 300 rooms to 150 rooms. He said in 1984, the Feilding Group negotiated with the city to build a hotel on the site, but the proposal expired.


Selich said advocates of 70 percent open space have difficulty quantifying how many acres are in that percentage. He said Bay City used the text of the 1996 specific plan to describe the property. He said the owners' request to build 48 housing lots would allow the sale of open space to the city at $1.1 million.


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