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Seal Beach Voters Back Controversial Plan for 18-Acre Business Park

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Times Staff Writer

Seal Beach voters on Tuesday were approving the Bixby Ranch Co.’s proposal to build a business park on a vacant 18-acre parcel on the north side of the city.

Unofficial final totals showed 4,930 “yes” votes (56.5% of the total), and 3,797 votes (43.5%) against the project. The voter turnout for the referendum was 44%.

Called Proposition A, the special election ballot measure asked voters to decide the fate of the proposal, which has been a source of debate and dispute for more than a year.

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The proposed $36-million development is to consist of three four-story office buildings and two restaurants on the triangular site bordered by Seal Beach Boulevard, the San Diego Freeway and a wall that marks the boundary of the neighboring community of Rossmoor.

Widspread Criticism

The plan has drawn widespread criticism since Bixby first presented it in 1983. Original plans called for one of the office buildings to be five stories tall, but they were amended to placate Rossmoor homeowners who complained that the offices would overlook their backyards and invade residents’ privacy.

In the amended plans, the buildings were also moved farther from the Rossmoor wall and the height of the wall was increased.

Opponents of the plan also argued that the business park would increase traffic on surrounding streets. Last summer, however, the City Council decided to support the project, provided it included an on-ramp to the westbound Garden Grove Freeway leading into 7th Street in Long Beach, intended to lessen the traffic problem.

Additional opposition to the project centered on its location at the foot of a Los Alamitos Air Station runway, which opponents contended is a potential aircraft-accident zone. At several early hearings on the proposed development, military officials warned of possible disastrous consequences of building the business park on the site. Last July, however, the military abruptly dropped its opposition.

The office buildings, 70 feet high, will be twice the height usually allowed in the city.

The proposal was first turned down by the Planning Commission in January, 1984, but was nonetheless approved by the City Council in July by a 3-2 vote. When the council refused to reconsider, a referendum drive began that culminated in Tuesday’s special election.

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In the election, Bixby vastly outspent opponents of the measure, and the company’s victory was not unexpected. As of Jan. 12, Bixby and a citizens’ group favoring the project raised more than $50,000 to spend on the election while opponents raised $908.

Opponents of the proposal accused backers of the project of irregularities in the campaign. On Monday night, the opponents complained at a City Council meeting of a campaign letter that appeared to have been written on City Council stationery and signed by Mayor Oscar Brownell, Vice Mayor Joyce Risner and Councilwoman Edna Wilson urging residents to vote yes on the referendum. The city attorney was directed to look into the matter.

Also on the ballot was Proposition B, which asked voters whether they would object to a plan by the California Department of Transportation to widen Pacific Coast Highway in the city.

There was 4,083 “yes” votes (49.4% of the total) and 4,192 “no” votes (50.6%) on Proposition B.

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