City Council postpones decision on land-use plan

Council will re-visit the issue on Aug. 29

A city Council hearing to consider overruling a county airport commission decision about local land-use has been rescheduled to August 29. The decision was made at the request of District four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic. This decision is important because:

• According to a recent letter from the airport commission, if the city overrules the airport commission, the airport would be immune from liability for damages that result from the city’s decision.

• The Orange County Airport Land Use Commission might require Seal Beach to submit the city’s regulations and permits to the county commission for review.

• The city has until Aug. 15 to update the Housing Element of the city’s General Plan to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Suffice to say there are a lot of moving parts in this matter.


The Aug. 8 staff report by Community Development Director Alexa Smittle offered the council three choices: do nothing, amend the Housing Element, overrule the airport commission.

According to Smittle’s Aug. 8 report, doing nothing could result in Airport Land Use Commission review of Seal Beach’s land use decisions. City staff recommended against inaction.

According to Smittle, staff opposed amending the Housing Element, since eliminating the housing units mentioned in letters from Caltrans and the airport commission would require the city to find “new locations for 870 of the 1,243 required RHNA units.” RHNA stands for regional housing needs assessment—in this case, the number of units the state mandates Seal Beach plan for.

According to Smittle’s staff report, “An action overruling the ALUC inconsistency determination would allow the City to move closer to Housing Element certification from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).”

Both the airport commission and the Caltrans Aeronautics Division opposed the city’s plan to overrule the airport commission.

In a May 2022 letter, Caltrans wrote: “The Division strongly recommends not approving this overrule due to significant safety risks and potential noise incompatibility,” the letter said. This was apparently a reference to a proposed new specific plan for the Old Ranch Country Club area.

The specific plan hasn’t been approved by the city at this time. In fact, the process has barely begun.

The country club is proposing a new specific plan that would allow for a major development of the property that would include residential housing for seniors and overnight lodging.

The proposed residential use was apparently included in the city’s Housing Element. The state government has mandated that Seal Beach plan for the development of 1,243 units.

Some of those units would have to be for low and moderate-income families, based on Orange County’s median income.

The state cannot legally compel the city to actually build housing. The city cannot legally compel developers across the city to actually build 1,243 units. The state, however, can compel the city to plan for the construction of 1,243 units.

If the state doesn’t approve the updated Housing Element, the city’s ability to issue land permits “could be” affected but wouldn’t, according to an Aug. 8 email from City Attorney Craig Steele.

“That would be the most drastic last step in a series of remedies and unlikely to actually happen,” Steele wrote.

In other news:

• In other business, the Seal Beach City Council this week approved $10,000 for the Seal Beach Historical Resources Foundation

• In other news, the City Council this week approved an amendment to the zoning text amendment that allows architectural intrusions into Gold Coast side yards.