City Council and Planning Commission discuss Zoning Code update

No action taken at study session

The City Council and the Planning Commission recently held a study session on amending to the Seal Beach Zoning Code.

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The council didn’t make any decisions about the Zoning Code. The consultants offered their preliminary suggestions and officials raised concerns about parking and other issues.

Consultants and staff are recommending mixed-use zoning that would allow residential and commercial buildings to be in the same zone.

The ideas officials discussed included underground parking (and whether it’s possible) and increasing density in five specific areas of the city.

The study session took place at the end of a roughly four-and-a-half hour, April 24, joint council and Planning Commission meeting that began at 7 p.m.

Community Development Director Alexa Smittle said the city heard from residents who were concerned about high-density residential development. She said they have expressed opposition or confusion.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” Smittle said.

Smittle said this was a unique moment in which the city can craft the future community that might exist.

Consultants David Bergman and Monica Szydlik, of Lisa Wise Consulting, led the meeting.

“The choices that are before you are difficult,” Bergman said.

He described the goal as finding solutions that comply with mandates over which the community has no short-term control. He described the solutions as ones that improve the community or are at least ones the community can live with.

Szydlik provided the overview, beginning with the legal framework.

According to Szydlik, Senate Bill 330 doesn’t allow cities to impose standards on residential projects that make developments impossible.

According to Szydlik, cities may set objective standards for qualifying projects.

Szydlik said the Housing Element calls for rezoning about 10 or 11 sites throughout Seal Beach. Szydlik said they were focusing on the ones where a zone is designated high-density mixed use.

“Which is to say, a zone with limited commercial and high-density residential,” Szydlik said.

That description apparently applied to five areas: the Shops at Rossmoor (which is actually in Seal Beach), the Old Ranch Town Center, the Seal Beach Plaza/Village, the Accurate Self Storage area, and the Seal Beach Center.

Szydlik said those are the new sites that Lisa Wise Consulting anticipates putting into the new Zoning Code.

Szydlik went over some of the preliminary recommendations for the proposed new zoning, which would include a new a zone for commercial and high-density residential. Those recommendations included:

• Attached parking only.

• Limits on street-facing ground-level parking.

• Parking at lower levels and residences above. (Some council members questioned whether the city’s water table would allow underground parking.)

• Side and rear setbacks

• Building and façade articulation

• Limits on, or prohibition of, units accessed by exterior stairs.