Concern about a seismic fault, the same issue that helped derail the controversial Hellman Ranch project in Seal Beach, has become a key issue in a controversial waterfront development in Huntington Beach.
The dispute involves a 36-unit waterfront condominium planned in affluent Huntington Harbour. Some residents are charging that the project would be dangerously close to the Newport-Inglewood fault, subjecting condo residents to deadly peril in the event of an earthquake.
The proposed project calls for twin buildings, each with 18 units, to be built on land at 4123 Warner Ave. on a site currently occupied by the Huntington Harbour Bay Club.
Despite the pleas of residents, a divided City Council in January voted 4 to 3 to approve the project. Although the council split on the decision because of environmental concerns, earthquake safety was not an issue in its original debate.
But the issue will be raised at the council’s Monday night meeting because the city staff now concedes there was an “error found in the original plotting of a seismic setback area” at the condo site.
The city staff acknowledged that the plotting of the Newport-Inglewood fault as shown on earlier charts was wrong. That mistake produced errors in computing the seismic setback areas required under state law, the city staff said.
The proposed project will have to be redesigned, and part of its foundation will have to be cantilevered over part of the land to make it conform to state law governing safety in fault areas.
The staff report came after Councilwoman Grace Winchell demanded an investigation when she learned there might be errors in how fault lines are shown on development maps.
“My concern is for public safety in this,” Winchell said.
The city staff has warned that a “stop-work” order on the project “may expose the city to litigation by the developer.”
The Newport-Inglewood fault is an underground area of instability that extends between those two cities. Earthquake officials have said that it is among the potentially most dangerous faults in the state. While many older buildings already occupy land over, or very near, the fault, state law in recent years has required setbacks from active faults for any new construction.
The condo project is proposed to be built by Coultrup Development Co., based in Seal Beach. The development company did not respond to requests for comments on the Huntington Harbour controversy.
Opponents of the condo project say they hope the new controversy will prompt the city to reconsider and kill the development. They note that in nearby Seal Beach, council concerns focused on earthquake safety during a debate that killed the proposed Hellman Ranch project, a $200-million residential development also planned over the Newport-Inglewood fault.