Plans for the land known as the DWP property in Seal Beach were a long time coming.
However, over the past few months the property’s owners, Bay City Partners, have submitted up to four possible projects.
The latest, they say, is an attempt to cut to the chase of what they believe most people would want at the site. It would also, they say, settle litigation between BCP and the city of Seal Beach.
The site contains about 10.69 acres of vacant land between First Street and the San Gabriel River and Marina Drive and the city beach. It is the site of a former LADWP power plant, which was demolished in the mid-1960s. After the plant closed, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power offered to sell the land to Seal Beach.
The city declined.
The property is currently fenced off with a garish green fence. The land itself seems to have been captured in time. It’s mostly barren and is the sometime home of nomadic vagrants and various rodents that live on the site. Yet it sits adjacent to some of the most upscale homes on the coast.
The city and Bay City Partners have been filing lawsuits against each other regarding the city’s attempt to use the eminent domain process to take parts of the property to improve the beach access road and bike trail along the Seal Beach side of the San Gabriel River.
According to Edward Selich, project development manager for Bay City Partners, LLC, in order to settle the outstanding litigation between the city and Bay City Partners, BCP has offered to sell approximately 5 acres of land south of Central Way to the city for open space purposes.
“The offering price is substantially below the cost per square foot BCP paid when the property was acquired,” Selich said.
The city would not have to pay BCP until the Coastal Commission approved a plan for the development area, Selich said. This, he added, would allow the city at least two years to come up with the money. BCP entered escrow with LADWP in 1999 and closed in 2003.
“This offer would settle all outstanding litigation between the city and BCP and allow the Rivers End Improvement project to move ahead unimpeded,” Selich said.
The DWP Specific Plan envisioned approximately 6 acres for open space. BCP will be required to dedicate an additional acre as part of its proposed development plans if they are approved, bringing the totals open space area to approximately 6 acres.
BCP recently withdrew its plan for a hotel and is now concentrating on a plan for residential development. The current plan proposed by BCP is for 55 single family lots of the same size as those in most of old town Seal Beach. Forty-Eight lots would be within the DWP Specific Plan area owned by BCP. Seven of the 55 lots would be on an adjacent property not owned by BCP but by one of the BCP partners, Rocky Gentner.
“The cooperation between the two land owners will allow for an improved land plan for both properties,” Selich said.
Selich also contends that the city’s acceptance of the offer by Bay City did not commit the city to approve this or any other plan for the development area.
However, despite what BCP says is a “no brainer” for the city to approve of, the Seal Beach City Council has not accepted the offer nor made a counter offer.
The current zoning for the DWP property calls for open space south of where Central Way intersects the property and a 150-room hotel north of the open space area. According to BCP, a 150-room hotel within that area would require a five-story structure approximately 60-to-75 feet in height.
Last June BCP filed a request to amend the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Specific Plan for a residential resort concept. After numerous studies BCP recently withdrew this.
Last fall BCP filed a second application for an alternative plan that would leave the DWP Specific Plan in place for the open space south of Central Way and change the zoning of the development area from a 150 room hotel to single family homes with a 25 foot height limit.
The new plan
BCP has supplemented that application with a site plan for 55 single-family homes on lots of the same size as old town Seal Beach.
“Bay City believes this offer is an opportunity for the city to resolve expensive litigation and save the cost of litigation fees notwithstanding the costs to the city if the eminent domain trial, scheduled for Oct. 4, does not go the city’s way,” Selich said. “It is an opportunity to acquire the much desired open space at a price below what BCP paid for it. It is a way to obtain the Open Space contemplated in the DWP Specific Plan for the last 40 years.
Some members of the Seal Beach City Council consistently resist BCP overtures. Councilman Charles Antos, whsoe Seal Beach District 1 includes the DWP property, said he wants the property owners to allow the city to move forward with the city’s projects to improve the bike trail beach access. He contends they are separate from the property owners’ development plans and he believes it will take a much longer time for the overall project to go through the approval process than the beach access and bike trail improvements.
BCP members have said they also realize that they have a long permitting process even after they go through the city’s approval process. “We are going to need to be able to offer some of these things to the (California) Coastal Commission and other agencies when we are trying to do this plan,” Brian Kyle said.
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