Shea Homes says park ‘on track’ for summer completion

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Work continues at the future location of the River's End Park on First Street on Friday afternoon, Feb. 7. Photo by Charles M. Kelly

Records show November deadline for project

The developers of Ocean Place, the former DWP property on First Street, recently confirmed that they are on track to finish the park portion of the project by summer 2020.

Shea Homes has until November 2020 to complete all improvements to the property, according to a 2018 City Council resolution. The document, approved on Nov. 13, 2018, gave the developer two years from the date of the agreement to complete improvements to the property.

The agreement between the city of Seal Beach and Shea Homes also said the developer had two years from the effective date—Nov. 13, 2018—to complete the project.

The agreement called for surety bonds to be put up as security for the project. The surety company is International Fidelity Insurance Company, according to page 2 of the 74-page agreement.

The park is being built concurrently with homes.

“Yes, much progress has been made on the park in recent weeks and the timing for completion is still on track for this summer,” wrote Alison Waite, sales and marketing coordinator for Shea Homes, in a recent email to the Sun.

As anyone who has been watching the construction project, the housing and the park are being built concurrently. This is consistent with California Coastal Commission approvals going back to 2015. Before that, the documents said the park would come before the houses or before the occupancy of the houses.

That had apparently changed before Shea Homes bought the land from Bay City Partners.

During the run up to the controversial 2015 Coastal Commission decision to approve the project, Seal Beach officials such as then-Community Development Director Jim Basham were frequently quoted as saying that the park would be built before the houses.

The Sun repeated that information based on information from participants in a three-hour and almost 19-minute long Coastal Commission meeting held in March 2015.

However, a review of Coastal Commission documents—including a 500-plus page transcript of the March 2015 meeting in March 2015—shows coastal staff agreed to concurrent construction of the project.

The Coastal Commission staff report for March 2015, said, in part on page 2, that a November 2013 Coastal Commission hearing, “the applicants have revised the project description to include the actual construction of the park prior to the occupancy of the first residence, and added amenities,” which it went on to list.

On page 4 of the staff report to the March 2015 meeting, the document said that on Nov. 7, 2014, Bay City Partners submitted information to the executive director of the Coastal Commission that the park would be built before occupancy.

However, the staff report was written prior to the March 2015 meeting. That’s when things apparently changed.

A transcript of the meeting was apparently provided to the Coastal Commission prior to a related September 2015 meeting.

The transcript was provided to by Ed Selich, who represented the Bay City Partners when that business entity applied to the state to develop the land for residential use. (The property was later sold to Shea Homes.)

The document became the second addendum to the Coastal Commission staff report for the September 2015 meeting.

The transcript apparently quotes Sherilyn Sarb of the Coastal Commission staff, as referring to a condition proposing that the park be completed before occupancy of the houses or before the final inspection for the building permit for the first house.

“Because the housing units weren’t being constructed as part of this permit, we didn’t think that would be appropriate; so we negotiated that that would be prior to the city’s acceptance of the — the public improvements,” Sarb said.

“And so the park will be constructed concurrent with the subdivision and open at the time that the — the subdivision sign-off of the improvement,” Sarb said.

The project returned to the Coastal Commission in September 2015 and the final conditions for the project were approved following a five-hour meeting of the state agency.

On June 11, 2018, escrow closed on the sale of the land, when Shea Homes bought the former DWP site from Bay City Partners.

In a December 2019, Alison Waite of Shea Homes wrote in an email: “We anticipate the park to be complete by early summer of 2020. Plan approvals took longer than anticipated, which delayed our start roughly two months. The park is also more vulnerable to weather delays and we’ve already lost about 10 working days due to the recent rains. While the park and residential site are part of the same Specific Plan, there are no conditions tying home occupancy at the residential site to the completion of the park. Construction of the park and residential site will continue to be concurrent. It is in Shea’s best interest, and we are highly motivated to complete the park as quickly as possible, as it adds to the appeal of our homes.”

That same month, during a telephone interview, Bob Yoder, division president for Shea Homes, said he was disappointed that the park didn’t get started sooner.

He said the project would be built in several phases.

Shea Homes says park ‘on track’ for summer completion