Council Delays Action on Wetlands Proposal

Times Staff Writer

Faced with more than 250 people at a public hearing, the Huntington Beach City Council listened to public comment but took no position Thursday night on a state bill that would create a governing district for development of the environmentally sensitive Bolsa Chica area.

Known as SB 1517, the complex legislation establishes a district to govern the development of a 1,400-slip marina and 5,700 homes that Signal Landmark Inc. hopes to build on its land south of Warner Avenue and parallel to Pacific Coast Highway. The bill also calls for Signal to restore 915 acres of wetlands.

A council decision to support or oppose the bill by state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) had been expected at the end of the hearing. But an angry Councilman Wes Bannister--whose vote was thought to be a tie-breaker among the seven members--refused to attend the meeting because Bergeson’s office was unable to provide a copy of the latest draft of the bill.

The council opted to continue the public hearing March 7.


The overflow crowd overwhelmingly opposed the bill. Amigos de Bolsa Chica, a conservation group that opposes any development in the 1,600-acre project area, had canvassed the city with flyers decrying the legislation as allowing private development of public land.

Opponents of the bill said a marina would destroy Bolsa Chica State Beach and interrupt sand drift. They also said the bill provides inadequate assurances that the city would ultimately govern the community of roughly 15,000 residents.

The bill “only guarantees negotiation for annexation. . . . That means nothing,” said Victor Leipzig, president of Amigos de Bolsa Chica. He said he had discussed the bill with City Council members, city staff and consultants, and had found “no real enthusiasm for this bill. . . . I think it’s ironic that no one with the power to stop this very unpopular bill will do so.”

Although Huntington Beach surrounds the land and will ultimately annex it, the city now has no authority over the development because the property falls in county territory.

Bergeson’s chief of staff, Julie Froeberg, said the senator views the city’s support of the bill as “very important.” But she added, “We are not going to drop the bill.”