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Compromise Offered for Use of Biltmore Site

Times Staff Writer

A Hermosa Beach citizens advisory committee, offering a compromise solution to a longstanding dispute, has recommended that 70% of the city-owned Biltmore site be used for an “urban public plaza” and that the rest be sold to commercial developers.

The City Council, which received the recommendation Tuesday night, indicated that it would study the proposal from the 11-member group. The council could adopt the recommendation, shelve it or put it on the November ballot--along with a citizens initiative calling for using the 0.84-acre parcel entirely for open space.

The initiative, circulated by community activist Parker Herriott, qualified for the ballot earlier this month.

Residents, developers and city officials have wrestled for nearly a decade over the fate of the vacant property at 15th Street and The Strand, where the Biltmore Hotel once stood. Seven proposals, including various plans to build hotels, have been rejected by voters.

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A majority of the advisory group, set up by the council late last year, recommended using the west portion of the Biltmore site nearest The Strand as a recreational park or plaza. The remaining 30%, between 15th Court and 15th Street on the north and 14th Street on the south, would be sold for commercial use, such as a restaurant or bar--but not a hotel or motel. The height of any buildings would be limited to 30 feet.

Money from the sale would be used to prepare the open space for public use, with any leftover earmarked for the purchase of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe right of way through the city, which planners see as another park.

Three members of the committee submitted minority reports. Rosamond Fogg and Kathy Bergstrom suggested building homes on the Biltmore site, and Patricia Hill proposed that the entire parcel be zoned open space and that residents be given a chance to vote on using it as a park.

The group, headed by George Schmeltzer, spent more than two months listening to a wide variety of views before reaching the compromise between open space and commercial use.

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