Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct the square footage given of the project when the story was originally published. We regret the error.
The public has until April 24 to comment on a draft environmental impact report on the proposed LA Fitness Club project. Meanwhile, opponents have begun campaigning against the project.
LA Fitness wants to put a 37,000 square foot health club in the Shops at Rossmoor in Seal Beach, behind the Sprouts market. The Seal Beach Planning Commission approved the project last year, but residents of a nearby condominium complex appealed the decision to the City Council. In July, the council voted to uphold the appeal—essentially denying the permit for the project. At the time, council members cited concern about the potential impact of increased traffic on the safety of school children.
However, city staff had only prepared a resolution to deny the appeal. To make the decision legally binding, the council had to vote on a resolution upholding the appeal at the first August 2016 meeting. The project developers withdrew their application between the July and August meetings. At the Aug. 8 council meeting, City Attorney Craig Steele acknowledged that the developers could resubmit the project.
District One Planning Commissioner Deb Machen said the project would probably come before the Planning Commission in May. The project applicants had prepared a new draft environmental impact report for the project. Machen said city staff, planners and the City Council have received the report, which may be found online at the City of Seal Beach website.
Machen cast one of two dissenting Planning Commission votes against the project last year. However, Machen indicated she hasn’t made up her mind about this incarnation of the project. “I never make up my mind until I’ve heard both sides,” she said.
Residents who live in the area surrounding the Shops at Rossmoor have formed an opposition group: Coalition Against LA Fitness Project. The group held a “park in” demonstration against the project in the shopping center parking lot last Saturday. According to coalition member Kevin Pearce, the protest drew about 200 individuals. He said they had gathered more than 400 signatures on a petition against the project.
However, LA Fitness has launched an online petition drive of its own at a website designed to promote the project.
Pearce said their largest concern was traffic, an issue that opponents raised last year. Pearce said a similar sized gym in Los Alamitos generated about 2,300 car trips a day.
However, according to Martin Potts, senior vice president for projects at JLL, a consultant to the project, “The EIR has looked closely at the effects that LA Fitness will have on local roads and found that there will be no significant, unmitigated traffic impacts. We understand the sensitivity of our neighbors to traffic issues and have included within the project not just mitigation for the project’s own impacts, but also fixes that should eliminate existing problems, such as the queuing of traffic entering the center on Rossmoor Center Way.”
In an apparent reference to the safety concerns that led the council to vote against the project last year, Potts said, “We also understand the sensitivity to traffic on Montecito during the hours that children may be walking to school. The traffic studies show, however, that an extremely low number of additional trips will be added to Montecito. In general, at the times when school children are likely to be present, less than 1 percent of the total trips will be generated by LA Fitness, meaning that any increase in traffic should not be noticeable, much less dangerous.”
Machen said the developers had looked at another entry in addition to the proposed Seal Beach Boulevard and Rossmoor Center Way entrance to the shopping center. However, she said the other alternatives would have been worse.
Pearce was also concerned about the proximity of the planned health club to condominiums that are located on the Seal Beach side of St. Montecito Road, which is located to the rear of the shopping center. He said all the other businesses in the center face the street. The LA Fitness club would face Rossmoor Center Way and the Rossmoor Park condominiums on the other side of Rossmoor Center Way.
Pearce also argued that the health club could have a negative impact on smaller health clubs that are already in the area.
He said there were more than 30 within a 3-mile radius of the shopping center. “We’re not in need of workout facilities in this area,” Pearce said.
However, according to Potts, “The proposed project will bring to the community a facility that will be welcomed by a large number of community residents who now must travel to other communities to visit their health clubs. Notably, that means that many local residents will be travelling fewer miles on local roads, thus offsetting some of the trips that will be attributable to the health club’s operations.”
Editor’s note: The draft environmental impact report is available for reading at the public library and available for download at http://www.sealbeachca.gov.