1999 agreement limits Old Ranch development

Attorney says City Council has authority to approve project

The owners of Old Ranch Country Club want to develop the property.

The proposal includes two residential developments, a parking garage, and a new swimming pool.

Some opponents of the proposed argue that an existing agreement prohibits development until 2029.

According to Craig Steele, who has retired from the city attorney position, the city recognizes that the development restriction still exists; however, it remains to be seen if the council will allow the development.

Meanwhile, a new group appears to be fighting multiple development projects in the area, including the proposed Old Ranch Site Plan, the Lampson Avenue development in Los Alamitos, and state mandates requiring cities to develop more residential housing through their Housing Element.

In related news, the Rossmoor Community Services District will look at the Orange County Housing Element next week. (For details, see the story on page 7.)

First, a look at the agreement. Then, the new opposition group.

The 1999 Bixby-Seal Beach agreement

Steele recently replied to a Sun request for comment from Richards, Gershon & Watson, which provides the city’s legal services.

According to Steele’s March 1 email (received after last week’s editorial deadline):

“The development agreement for the Old Ranch Town Center project, between the City and the Bixby Ranch Company, was executed and became effective originally in 1998 and then was re-adopted in 1999 as a result of litigation,” wrote Craig Steele in a March 1 email.

“Under that restriction, the property owner agreed to a ‘Restriction of Use’ provision applicable to ‘Parcel C’ of the Bixby properties, which essentially is the parcel on which the country club is located,” Steele wrote.

“The property owner agreed not to develop any use on ‘Parcel C’ other than golf course-related uses, landscaping and some infrastructure for a period of 30 years. Although the development agreement itself has expired, the City recognizes that the 30-year ‘Restriction of Use’ on Parcel C still exists,” Steele wrote.

“The property owner/developer of the proposed ORCC project believes that the City and the property owner may agree to amend the contractual restriction on land use, like any contract, and that is part of the developer’s request to the City,” Steele wrote.   

“Whether the City Council decides to do so remains to be seen,” Steele wrote.   

“An environmental review process is under way, which would be followed by public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council at some point in the future.  The property owner’s agreement to restrict development will expire after 30 years,” Steele wrote.

District Four Planning Commissioner (and past mayor) Patty Campbell acknowledged that the council could make the change.

“Sadly, this is true,” Campbell wrote in a March 7 email.

“The council can change any agreement already in place, disrespecting the wishes of the folks who worked hard to get it passed,” Campbell wrote.

“Sometimes a council or a city manager can have a short memory or just not care or value projected cash flows or some other perceived benefit from a project over impacts to residents in a particular area and this can happen to any area in the city,” Campbell wrote.

New group

District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic, Planning Commissioner Patty Campbell, and District One Councilman Joe Kalmick all told the Sun that there’s a new group protesting development projects in this area.

Yard signs in College Park East and other communities promote “StopLampsonProject.com” and “POCnow.org.” POCnow stands for Protect Our Communities Now.

A web search for both domains led to POCnow.org. A page on that site says: “Stop Lampson Project is Expanding to ‘Protect Our Community.’”

According to the site, the group’s goal is to unite Seal Beach, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, and West Garden Grove against the local development projects. The website describes the group as opposing over-development.

The group is apparently also concerned about the Seal Beach Housing Element, which the state government requires the city to update and include planning for more than 1,200 residential units.

Asked if he had heard from his constituents about the Old Ranch project, District One Councilman Joe Kalmick said he had received approximately three emails “an hour” from Rossmoor residents that he described as templates raising about 35 issues with the Old Ranch development proposal.

District Three Councilwoman Lisa Landau wrote: “I attended the Environmental Quality Control Board project scoping meeting for the Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report for the Old Ranch Country Club Specific Plan Project on Wednesday, February 22nd at 6:00 PM in the Council Chambers.  I listened to staff’s presentation and heard several Seal Beach residents give public comment about concerns they would like to see addressed in the Environmental Impact Report.  I look forward to hearing more feedback from our community as this project continues to move forward through the review process over the next several months.”