Commission denies CUP for Main Street real estate office. In March, they approved the same application 4-1
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an error in the print edition. The print version misidentified Planning Commissioner Patty Campbell as the commissioner who cast the dissenting vote on this issue in March. The article should have reported the Planning Chair Steve Miller cast the dissenting vote in March. Our apologies for the error.
The Planning Commission on Monday, May 2, rejected an application for a conditional use permit to allow a real estate business to operate on Main Street’s 100 block. The permit would have allowed Luxre Realty sell home décor out of the front 50% of the store, with real estate service in the back.
The vote was 4 to 1. District Five Commissioner Mariann Klinger cast the dissenting vote on May 2.
The applicant has 10 days to appeal the decision.
Things got a bit technical near the end of the meeting. Staff had prepared a resolution to approve the permit, but not one to deny the permit. Based on advice from the assistant city attorney, commissioners agreed to call a recess while staff drafted a resolution to deny the permit.
A series individuals, many of them in the real estate business, spoke against the CUP application during the public hearing.
Applicant Debra Gietter spoke first.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to get the pushback and the uncomfortable issues that arose with letters going out to the public making it feel like this was not fair to me,” she said.
Gietter said her real estate businesses highlights local businesses. businesses. She said she had a newsletter to promote local businesses.
“We’re a public information center for the public walking in from out of town,” she said.
“We want to be the heart and soul of the community,” Gietter said.
Gietter said the store would have an art gallery. “We actually sell art,” she said.
She said she might team up with other local stores.
“There is nothing here but 100 percent honesty,” Gietter said.
She presented interior photos of one of her other stores. Another photo showed a pumpkin patch. “I want you to see our involvement with the community,” she said.
“We just want to be amongst the people,” she said.
After the opponents spoke, Gietter said, “This part of the population has spoken.”
She went on to say that someone sent out a letter that contained information that was false and not accurate.
““What I stated is accurate—505 retail,” she said. “Sales tax goes to the city.”
Applicant Debra Gietter was unhappy with the Sun’s previous coverage of the issue and declined to comment when phoned the next day.
During the hearing, Rob Jahncke, president of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce, was the first to speak in opposition.
“Seal Beach welcomes you,” Jahncke said, looking at Gietter as he spoke. “Our only concern is the location.”
He said he thought her business would be good for the community.
Jahncke was directed to speak to the commission.
He said the real estate, law and insurance offices on Main are on a part of the street that gets little foot traffic.
“We’re not picking on Debra Gietter. It’s the placement,” he said.
Frank Carvajal, a Seal Beach real estate agent, said he once had a real estate office on Main Street. He moved. When he wanted to move back, the city told him he no longer qualified.
He argued that the staff had created the “footsteps” for what he would do to apply for a place on Main Street if the Luxre Realty permit were approved.
Several speakers expressed the opinion that if Luxre Realty were approved, other real estate offices would also be approved on Main Street. Other speakers were concerned about preserving Seal Beach’s small town way of life.
District Four Commissioner Patty Campbell said the people who were in Seal Beach when the Main Street Specific Plan was created knew how hard it was to put the document together. She said a lot of people at City Hall don’t know that history.
“People come to our Main Street to shop and to eat,” Campbell said.
District Two Commissioner Dominic Massetti said he had read the emails.
He said the majority of the arguments against the permit were that approval would set a precedent. He objected to that as meaning he couldn’t evaluate an application on its own merits. Massetti said the business was clearly allowed. However, he said he would vote against the permit because there are other options.
Massetti said he was lobbied by the mayor, who reportedly told him retail shops wanted to be on Main Street. Massetti said he counted four empty spaces on Main Street.
However, he also said he believed this Realtor could find a space that was not on Main Street.
Klinger asked how many shops were open on First Street. Senior Planner Art Bashmakian had not done a survey, but believed there were at least three. “I like the idea that there is a place to display and sell local artists,” Klinger said.
After the meeting, Klinger said she believed the applicant was going to display local art. “It’s small, so it’s not like it’s a big location,” Klinger said.
Klinger pointed out that there were four empty spaces on Main Street.
District One Commissioner and chair Steve Miller said: “The local population has made their position very clear.”
It was Planning Commission Chair Miller who cast the dissenting vote in March.
However, Assistant City Attorney Amy Greyson said the conditional use permit relates to land use. According to Greyson, the commission’s findings against the permit had to be based on land use.
Because staff had not prepared a resolution to deny the CUP, she suggested that the commission continue the hearing to another night. As an alternative, she suggested the commission recess while staff drew up a new resolution. The commissioners voted unanimously to recess.
About 10 or 15 minutes later, they were back in session. Miller read the four “findings” that supported the decision to deny the permit.
In those “findings,” commissioners found that the proposed land use was inconsistent with the intent of the Specific Plan and the General Plan, conflicts with the Specific Plan goal to have a mix of uses in the area, that the location would not be compatible with surrounding businesses, and that the establishment of the proposed use would be detrimental to the welfare of persons living or working in the area.
Commissioner’s then cast their votes.
Miller did not read the preceding part of the resolution that said the proposal was consistent with the General Plan, will be compatible with uses in the surrounding neighborhood and would not be detrimental to the welfare of individuals living or working in the area.
City staff originally recommended approving the CUP in a March staff report. That recommendation did not change in the May 3 report.
Planners previously approved the permit for Luxre Realty following a public hearing at the commission’s March 21 meeting. The March vote was 4-1. At that time, Campbell cast the dissenting vote, essentially arguing that the proposal was inconsistent with the Specific Plan.
However, the city had to hold the required public hearing a second time. That was because city staff failed to publish the required prior notice of the hearing 10 days before the original hearing was held. Government Code 65090 specifically requires 10 days prior notice before a public hearing. The Sun discovered the city’s error on March 24, after a reader requested confirmation that the notice was published. City Manager Jill Ingram confirmed the error in a March 24 email.
Since then, the city published a notice of the second public hearing for the real estate permit application in the April 21 issue of the Sun.
The Specific Plan allows office use on Main Street, but generally doesn’t allow them to be on the ground floor facing Main Street, unless the city grants a conditional use permit, according to Interim Senior Planner Art Bashmakian in the original March 21 staff report.
“There are over 100 uses along Main Street mostly consisting of eating and drinking establishments, retail, and personal improvement services. There are two existing professional and business office uses along the ground floor on Main Street, including Allstate (insurance) at 309 Main Street and a law office at 323 Main Street,” Bashmakian wrote.
“The proposed small real estate office is consistent with the General Plan and Main Street Specific Plan which allows a mix of uses, including offices, along Main Street subject to conditional use permit,” Bashmakian wrote.
“An additional business office use will not alter the current balance of mix of uses as professional and business office uses will continue to constitute less than five percent of uses on the ground floor along Main Street,” Bashmakian wrote.