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Huntington Beach Mayor Denounces Flyer Linking Floods to Wetlands

Times Staff Writer

Huntington Beach Mayor Robert P. Mandic Jr. and members of a conservation group on Sunday denounced as a land owners’ “desperation” tactic a mysterious political flyer that claims plans to restore coastal wetlands will cause flooding similar to the city’s disastrous storms of March, 1983.

The flyer, which resembles a last-minute campaign mailer, asks residents to show up at this evening’s City Council meeting to oppose rezoning much of a 143-acre strip of land east of Pacific Coast Highway for wetlands conservation.

“This is the real (Huntington Beach) wetlands . . . thousands evacuated from their homes--property losses in $$ millions,” says the flyer, underneath photographs from the 1983 flood showing half-submerged cars and two evacuees comforting each other.

“Some of our city officials have already forgotten, so it’s up to you to remind them and hold them accountable,” said the flyer, which contained information saying that it had been distributed on behalf of a group calling itself the Concerned Citizens Hotline.

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Trying to Sway Votes

On Sunday Mandic said, “This is a desperation play to create pressure on the council to try to sway some votes and to get people to tomorrow’s council meeting to help support their desired land use.”

Gordon W. Smith, board member of the nonprofit Huntington Wetlands Conservancy, said the flyer’s authors were trying to drum up support “by using scare tactics implying that what we intend to do is flood neighborhoods, which is exactly the opposite of what we would do.

“It’s patently false, because the flood-control channels on the inland side will actually be raised and beefed up . . . so residences on the inland side will have even more protection than they have now,” Smith said.

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Efforts to reach Concerned Citizens Hotline were unsuccessful Sunday.

Zoned for Conservation

At issue is how much of the 231 acres from Beach Boulevard south to the Santa Ana River should be zoned for conservation, to be protected as wetlands.

In early May, the city’s Planning Commission unanimously recommended that 143 acres be conserved and five acres be opened for commercial development to serve beachgoers and tourists. The council also will consider a staff recommendation to set aside 115 acres for wetlands and allow 14 acres for commercial development and two acres for medium and high-density residential development.

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The state Coastal Commission, which must approved any rezoning plan, already has said that all 143 acres should be preserved.

Objecting, however, are the Mills Land and Water Corp., which owns 19 acres of prime undeveloped coastal property at Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, and Daisy Picarelli and Bitter Water Lake Properties, which has an option to develop Picarelli’s 45 acres around Magnolia Avenue, according to Smith.

Although no one directly claimed responsibility for the flyer, Mandic said the number given on the flyer was traced by the Police Department to the Mills Land and Water Corp. Efforts to contact corporation representatives for comment on Mandic’s charge were unsuccessful Sunday.

Mandic predicted that the flyer would have little effect on the council’s deliberations.

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