City Council intends to ‘overrule’ county airport commission vote on Seal Beach Housing Element

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The council on April 11 voted to notify the county airport commission that Seal Beach intends to “overrule” a recent finding that a city land use document was “inconsistent” with the JFTB land use plan.

The county commission’s finding could, according to the city attorney, require Seal Beach to submit city documents to the airport commission for approval.

The vote was 4 to 1. District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic, who represents Seal Beach on the airport commission, cast the dissenting vote.

During her presentation to the council, Community Development Director Alexa Smittle said Seal Beach had three options:

• Do nothing.

• Amend the Housing Element of the city’s General Plan.

• Overrule the Airport Land Use Commission.

District One Councilman/Mayor Joe Kalmick asked if the city could communicate only by letter or if the city could meet with them in person “so you can look them in the eye and say ‘What do you expect us to do here?’”

Smittle said: “They do hold in-person meetings.”

“Do they move on to the Coastal Commission?

Someone laughed.

“We’re in a tough geographic spot, yes,” Smittle said.

Kalmick asked if the sound standards being applied to the Joint Forces Training Base airport would be the same standards that would be applied to the John Wayne Airport.

“They are,” Smittle said.

“Personally, we have nothing to lose by voting to send a notice to overrule,” Kalmick said.

According to City Attorney Craig Steele, the purpose is to ask the commission to explain what the problems are in greater detail at a public hearing.

Councilwoman Sustarsic said she had been a member of the Airport Land Use Commission for five years. She recused herself from the commission meeting that led to the April 11 council action. “They try to protect people from airports, but they also try to protect airports from people,” Sustarsic said.

She said the city didn’t exactly what a future land use would be.

Sustarsic said she was leery of doing anything that would reduce the capacity of the base.

She said that generally, the California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook doesn’t like to see dense residential land use under an airport flight path.

“If you override, the liability is off the airport, but it is not off us,” Sustarsic said.

Sustarsic thinks the city’s General Plan has been inconsistent with the airport plan since the 1980s.

“I don’t understand why we haven’t spoken to the base,” she said.

District Three Councilman Mike Varipapa said there are some homes within the 60 or 65 decibel level area.

District Five Councilwoman Sandra Massa-Lavitt, speaking to Sustarsic, said her idea to speak with the JFTB was noble. “The JFTB needs to coordinate with the Airport Land Use Commission and get their data straight so the Airport Land Use Commission can make an accurate determination of whether someone is factually not in compliance with the plan,” Massa-Lavitt said.

“So it’s not on Seal Beach to go to JFTB, it’s on JFTB to go to ALUC,” she said.

Sustarsic said they gave Seal Beach a list of things the city had to do and Seal Beach didn’t do them.

Massa-Lavitt disagreed.

City Attorney said if the council doesn’t take this action, then there’s no real forum for any kind of conversation. He said the legal consequence of that would be that the city starts submitting land use decisions to the airport commission.

Steele said if the council doesn’t vote to “overrule” the commission’s decision, then the choice is to change the Housing Element or send everything to the Airport Land Use Commission.

He said both those choices are still available to the council 45 days from April 11, if the council takes this step.

He said the city was not proposing to build something. He said a private land owner is proposing to build something and there’s overlapping authority involved.

Sustarsic explained her dissenting vote in an April 12 email: “Sustarsic explained her dissenting vote in an April 12 email: “I voted no on the Intent to Overrule the Airport Land Use Commission (ALUC) decision.  I would have been in favor of modifying the Housing Element to make it acceptable to the ALUC (however, that would involve additional work). This Intent to Overrule vote by the City Council will begin a 45-day process to collect comments from other agencies regarding our Housing Element and will conclude at the June 13th City Council meeting in a Public Hearing to consider an official overrule of the ALUC decision.  I know that the housing element (RHNA) process is very difficult for all cities to try to accomplish in this cycle.  However, I have concerns regarding safety to potential residents and encroachment onto the flight path of the airport.  I feel that overruling the ALUC decision would shield the Joint Forces Training Base (Los Alamitos Army Airport) from liability but not the City of Seal Beach. I also believe that the development restriction that remains on the Old Ranch Country Club golf course for another 7+ years should make it unavailable to be included in our city’s Housing Element.”


This one’s complicated.

The state requires cities (like ours) to develop a document called a Housing Element, which is part of a city’s General Plan.

The proposed draft of the Seal Beach Housing Element has been submitted to the state of California.

However, the submitted Seal Beach Housing Element includes plans for land that is located within both the city of Seal Beach and the area covered by the 2017 Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos Airport Environs Land Use Plan.

The Orange County Airport Land Use Commission recently found that the draft of the Housing Element wasn’t consistent with the JFTB Airport plan.

According to the staff report submitted by Community Development Director Alexa Smittle, if Seal Beach doesn’t revise the Housing Element or overrule the airport commission’s finding, then the airport commission may require the city government to submit “all subsequent actions, regulations, and permits to the ALUC for review until the City’s General Plan is revised or specific findings are made.”

The Airport Land Use Commission discussed the Housing Element at a Feb. 1 meeting. According to Smittle, the commissioners asked about a potential housing site at Old Ranch Country Club. (The Sun has filed two California Public Record Act requests concerning a proposed Old Ranch project. The city has requested more time to process the request, as allowed by state law.)

On Feb. 17, the Airport Land Use Commission voted unanimously to find the Housing Element to be inconsistent with the Training Base Airport land plan, according to Smittle’s report.

“As a final review authority on legislative acts, the City Council may choose to overrule the ALUC’s determination by following a two-step process, which is established in Public Utilities Code Sections 21676 and 21676.5,” Smittle wrote in her staff report to the council.

“The first step in the process is to adopt a resolution of intention to override, a copy of which would be sent to the ALUC and the Division of Aeronautics of the Department of Transportation to provide formal notification of the City’s intent,” Smittle wrote.

According to her report, the Airport Land Use Commission has 30 days after receiving the resolution to respond.

“If comments from the ALUC and/or the Division of Aeronautics are not made available within this time frame, the City Council may act without them,” Smittle wrote.

The second step, according to Smittle, the council has to hold a public hearing within 45 days of sending the notice to the airport commission and the Division of Aeronautics of the California Department of Transportation.

After the public hearing, “the City Council must conduct a public hearing, after which the City Council may decide whether to adopt a resolution to overrule the ALUC and make specific findings that the Housing Element is consistent with the purposes of the State Aeronautics Act, as set forth in [Public Utilities Code] Section 21670,” according to Smittle’s report.

The OC Airport Land Use Commission meeting for April 21 has been cancelled, according to a recent email from District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic.

Consultant to help city meet Zoning Code update deadline

In related news, the council approved a Consent Calendar item to make a professional services agreement with Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc., for $119,100.

The consultant’s job will be to provide services to revise part of the Municipal Code to implement the 2021-2029 Housing Element.

A new California law, Assembly Bill 1398 requires cities to adopt a Housing Element that meets state legal requirements by Feb. 12, 2022, according to the staff report submitted by Community Development Director Smittle. “Compliance is determined by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), otherwise known as ‘certification,’” Smittle wrote.

The state has not yet told Seal Beach officials if the new Housing Element has been certified. According to Smittle’s report, if the city has met the deadline for certifying the Housing Element, Seal Beach has three years to update its Zoning Code. If not, the city has until October 2022 to update its Zoning Code.