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SEAL BEACH : It’s Back to Drawing Board for City Staff

The Planning Commission has returned a state-mandated local housing plan to the city staff for a fourth round of revisions, calling the document inconsistent, confusing and incomplete.

The move further delays the adoption of the housing plan, which the City Council must approve before any more large residential developments can be built.

Once the plan is adopted, the city will reconsider Mola Development Corp.'s proposal for a $200-million, 329-unit residential development on 149 acres of the Hellman Ranch property in northwest Seal Beach.

Mola’s proposal was approved by the City Council last October but was invalidated in March when a judge ruled in favor of the Wetlands Restoration Society’s claim that the project should not have been approved while the housing plan was out of date. The plan details a strategy for dealing with a city’s housing needs over the next five years.

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In processing the fourth revision of the housing element, the city staff will be taking into consideration an eight-page letter outlining the society’s objections to the plan. The letter was submitted at Wednesday’s meeting by Galen Ambrose, society vice president.

The property on which Mola hopes to build was labeled “proposed” rather than vacant in the plan, despite the fact that Mola’s previously approved project was invalidated in March. In addition, the 329 units planned for that land are referred to in the plan as “approved” although no such approvals exist.

Another concern of the society is that the housing plan fails to consider all empty parcels of land as possible locations for future construction of both low-cost and upscale housing.

The plan also did not list another vacant 30-acre plot on Rockwell International’s property as a site for future development, although the plan is supposed to include a complete inventory of all available land in the city.

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According to the plan’s author, city Development Director Lee Whittenberg, this exclusion was prudent because the plan listed enough property on which to build about 500 houses--the goal assigned to the city by the Southern California Assn. of Governments. City staff has been instructed to revise the plan to include the Rockwell parcel.


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