Land issues on Aug. 8 council agenda

Council to consider overruling county airport commission finding on city planning document

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The City Council will hold a hearing on possibly overruling a county commission decision at the Monday, Aug. 8, council meeting, according to a recent public notice.  The decision could impact the state-mandated update to the Housing Element of the General Plan.

The council will also hold a hearing on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Code that would allow architectural protections into Gold Coast side yards, according to a notice published in last week’s Sun.

We’ll start with a look at the hearing to overrule the airport commission.

Airport commission and Housing Element

Seal Beach has until Aug. 15 to submit a new Housing Element to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, according to a July 21 email from Seal Beach Community Development Director Alexa Smittle. (See related Ongoing and upcoming)

In late April, the state rejected the city’s Housing Element.

City staff is still working on the document.

“Housing Elements for the SCAG region were due February 15, 2022. The City submitted on time, but like most communities, has not achieved certification yet,” Smittle wrote in an Aug. 1 email.

submitted responses to City Resolution 7273, which was provided to them as directed per the California Public Utilities Code. Both will be included as attachments to the staff report for the August 9th agenda item.”

Earlier this year, the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission ruled that the updated Seal Beach Housing Element was inconsistent with the Joint Forces Training Base Airport Plan. This was apparently in reference to the proposed development of the Old Ranch Country Club which is in the vicinity of the JFTB airport.

At next week’s council meeting, the council will hold a public hearing to decide whether they will officially overrule the ALUC’s finding.

On April 11, the Seal Beach City Council voted to notify the county airport commission that Seal Beach intended to overrule the commission’s finding.

Smittle’s staff report to the April 11 council meeting essentially said that if Seal Beach doesn’t change the Housing Element or overrule the airport commission’s finding, then the county commission might require the city to submit all of the city’s regulations and permits to the Airport Land Use Commission for their review “until the City’s General Plan is revised or specific findings are made.”

Asked if the city had received letters from any city or county agencies on the subject, Smittle confirmed on Monday, Aug. 1, that the California Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division and the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission both responded to the Seal Beach resolution that gave formal notice that the city intended to overrule that finding. Smittle said the letters would be attached to the Aug.  8 City Council agenda.

The Sun obtained copies of the Caltrans and airport commission letters.

In a May 10 letter address to Smittle, the Orange County Airport Land Use Commission cited a section of the California Public Utilities Code that says if a public agency overrules an airport commission, the airport operator will be immune from liability for damages resulting from the agency’s decision to overrule the airport commission.

The letter went on to say that the airport commission has historically recommended against residential uses in an approach corridor close to an airport. (The Old Ranch project proposes two senior housing developments as well as overnight lodging.)

The airport commission letter was signed by Chairman Gerald A. Bresnahan.

In a May 12 letter addressed to Smittle, the Aeronautics Division wrote: “Based on the information provided by both the City and OCALUC, the Division does not agree with the City’s findings.” That was apparently a reference to the city’s notice of intent to overrule the airport commission.

“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 the proposed specific plan for the Old Ranch Country Club area.

The Caltrans letter was signed by Gabrielle Sefranek, associate transportation planner, Division of Aeronautics.

The OC Airport Land Use Commission is scheduled to meet on Aug. 18. The April, May, June, and July meetings were cancelled.

Gold Coast

The Planning Commission recently recommended that the council amend the Zoning Code to allow architectural features to project into side yards on the Gold Coast.

As the Sun reported in the July 21 edition, the proposed zone text amendment would allow features such as eaves and cornices to project up to 2 feet into the side yards—provided there’s a 2-foot separation between the projection line and the property line. This would apply to side yards beginning 3 feet above the first story. (Gold Coast houses can be as high as three stories, provided that the third story is visible only from the beach side of the property. The majority of Seal Beach homes are currently limited to two stories.)

Staff recommended the amendment due to what a staff report described as an inconsistency in the code.

“If the current Code is strictly interpreted, the eaves would need to maintain a 3-foot side setback, and the actual building setback would need to be greater than 3 feet in order to accommodate eaves and similar architectural features,” according to a July 18 staff report to the Planning Commission.“However, the Zoning Code also states that the measurements involving a structure are made to the closest wall and not edge of eaves, which creates a conflict within the Zoning Code,” according to the staff report.

Land issues on Aug. 8 council agenda