SEAL BEACH : Developer Seeks Residents' Support

Bixby Ranch Co. will hold five meetings with area residents beginning Saturday in hopes of gaining community support for a commercial and residential project.

The 231-acre project would be at the northeast corner of Seal Beach Boulevard and the interchange of the San Diego and Garden Grove freeways. Still in the planning stages, the project has not yet been submitted to the city.

However, company officials said they hope to learn from the mistakes of the Mola Development Co. and gain public acceptance of the project first.

For four years, Mola has tried to build a 355-unit residential project on the Hellman Ranch property in northwest Seal Beach. The company had succeeded in gaining the approval of the City Council, the California Coastal Commission and most environmental agencies. But some local residents continue to fight the development with a lawsuit.

Enter Bixby Ranch Co., another developer hoping to gain approval for a mixed-use project in northwest Seal Beach. According to city officials, Bixby hopes to avoid the costly delays Mola has experienced by taking a different approach to their project.

"The community was not involved early enough in the Mola project; that was part of their problem," said Lee Whittenberg, Seal Beach director of development services.

"This time, we're going to try to keep the people informed and involved. Bixby is interested in getting feedback from the community. We would like to give (residents) a chance to react and have input at an early stage rather than waiting until Bixby has made up their mind," Whittenberg said.

Officials recognize that the community involvement program won't solve all the problems or please everyone.

"Primarily, we're hoping this will help us develop a consensus on what's agreed upon and where the problems are," Whittenberg said.

According to Whittenberg, Bixby already has held two community meetings. In a report prepared by staff for the council, Whittenberg said residents were most concerned about increased traffic, impacts on area schools, the compatibility of Bixby's land-use plan with the surrounding land-use scheme and the possibility that a high-density, poorly positioned residential development would be built.

Saturday's meeting will be at 10 a.m. at the North Seal Beach Community Center. For information, call City Hall at (213) 431-2527.

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