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Historical City Hall building should be preserved, H.B. panel says

A historical building that a developer wants to partially demolish to pave the way for a mixed-use project should be preserved where it stands, the Huntington Beach Planning Commission decided Tuesday night.

Members of the city's Historic Resources Board confirmed Tuesday that the building at 122 Main St. was the first City Hall for Pacific City, the precursor to Huntington Beach, and dates to around 1902.

Because the city’s Downtown Specific Plan requires more sidewalk space for better pedestrian access, Oceanside Properties LLC, which owns the building and the one next to it at 124 Main St., had proposed moving the facades of both buildings six feet back. The rest of the buildings would be demolished to allow for construction of a three-story development, with a retail business on the first floor, retail space on the second and three apartments on the third floor.

Mangiamo Gelato Caffe occupies the historic City Hall. The building next door is a gift shop.

Historic Resources Board Chairman Duane Wentworth said the former City Hall is on the city’s list of historical sites because of its age and architectural features and is eligible for state recognition. The structure’s significance was confirmed by a historical map and a photo provided by Huntington Beach resident Guy Guzzardo, who is married to Susie Worthy, a member of one of the city’s oldest families.

“It is extremely clear that these two buildings formed our city and stood to be a witness to our city’s growth and historic legacy,” Wentworth said. “Closely surrounding structures that may have also remained to celebrate even some portion of this past are long gone. Others are left with only plaques remaining to mark where they once stood.”

When the project was first submitted in 2012, the plan was to keep the facades where they were. Doing so, however, wouldn’t coincide with the Downtown Specific Plan’s requirement for pedestrian access, said Jeff Bergsma of Oceanside Properties.

For the properties to stay at their current location, the city would need to amend the zoning in the downtown area and adjust its Local Coastal Program to exempt historical buildings from the requirement for property setbacks.

The developer offered the alternative to move the facades to avoid that step because the changes would need the approval of the California Coastal Commission, a process that could take eight months to a year and a half, city Planning Manager Jane James said.

Planning commissioners voted unanimously to forward the project to the City Council with a suggestion that it make the zoning amendments.

“It’s not a facade anymore,” Commissioner Dan Kalmick said of the former City Hall. “It’s now a place.”

New planning commissioners

Michael Hoskinson, appointed to the Planning Commission by newly elected City Councilman Erik Peterson, participated in his first commission meeting Tuesday.

William Crowe, who has been appointed to the commission by new Councilman Billy O'Connell, did not participate.

Tuesday's meeting was the last for commissioners Robert Franklin and Mark Bixby, who were appointees of former council members Joe Shaw and Connie Boardman.

In Huntington Beach, council members can appoint city commissioners and board members to designated seats without a vote.


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