Waterfront Resort Expansion Approved

Hailed as a jewel in the city's crown, a mammoth luxury resort proposed to face the pounding surf off Pacific Coast Highway won unanimous approval Monday from the City Council.

A much larger version of the Waterfront expansion project won official approval 10 years ago. But work came to a stop after completion of the first phase of the development, the Waterfront Hilton, as the state entered a deep recession, city officials said.

The new project is smaller but better, said Stephen Bone, president of the Robert Mayer Corp., the Newport Beach-based developer.

The plan for the Hilton Ocean Grand Resort & Spa calls for a 530-room hotel, a 50,000-square-foot conference center, a shopping area and a residential complex including up to 230 units. The complex, excluding the homes, has red-tiled roofs and Spanish Mediterranean architecture.

The project will sit on the same 18-acre site as the Hilton, bordered between Huntington Street and Beach Boulevard on the inland side of the highway.

The city, which is renting the land to the developer, expects to make $254 million in revenue from the deal by 2034. The development is expected to generate about 550 new jobs.

More than a dozen residents and business leaders praised the project, saying the hotel and conference center will put the city on the international map of tourism.

"This will truly fulfill the potential Huntington Beach has never quite realized," said resident Cindy Morgan.

A few raised concerns about restrictions the developer wanted to put on beach activities to preserve views. City officials said those restrictions had been deleted. Instead, officials inserted a provision to give the hotel 60 days' notice of any beach event permits issued by the city for the area.

Others said they were concerned about potential increases in traffic, but planners said that could be handled by widening the highway if needed.

The council voted 4 to 0 to approve the plan, with council members Pam Julien, Dave Garofalo and Dave Sullivan absent.

Preparatory work on the site is expected after the first of the year, with construction in 2000, city officials said. A third hotel project is expected by 2009, according to the deal.

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