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H.B. planners advance zoning, general plan amendments for proposed Magnolia Tank Farm redevelopment

Aerial view of Magnolia Tank Farm
Huntington Beach planning commissioners voted Tuesday to approve zoning and general plan amendments related to the proposed redevelopment of the Magnolia Tank Farm site at 21845 Magnolia St.
(File Photo)

Plans to redevelop the Magnolia Tank Farm site in Huntington Beach took a step forward recently when city planning commissioners gave their blessing to a handful of necessary amendments and approvals.

Tuesday’s 5-2 vote, with Chairman Pat Garcia and Commissioner Alan Ray opposed, verified that the project’s environmental impact report was adequate and complete and approved a general plan amendment and zoning change for the proposed project site — a 29-acre property at 21845 Magnolia St. that once served as an oil storage and pumping facility.

However, the City Council has the final say on these approvals and will take them up at a later date.

Shopoff Realty Investments, which owns the land, has proposed a mixed-use development that would include a 230,000-square-foot “eco-lodge” with a maximum of 175 market-rate rooms, 40 “budget-oriented, family/group overnight accommodations,” retail and dining facilities, according to a staff presentation during Tuesday’s meeting. Also proposed are 250 for-sale residential units.

The development also would include 2.8 acres of coastal conservation area adjacent to the Magnolia Marsh and 2.8 acres of parkland within the project site.

During Tuesday’s hearing, residents spoke both for and against the plan. However, there was more audible opposition.

The meeting was punctuated at times by outbursts and interruptions, leading Garcia to ask those in attendance not to heckle speakers or shout from the auditorium.

“Let’s not be childish tonight, let’s be like adults,” Commissioner Dan Kalmick said at one point.

Some people said they wanted to see more housing options for renters, buyers or growing families in need of more space.

“I do support this site, I do support this project ... [to] give younger families here a chance,” said Steve LaMotte.

Others said they were worried that construction would dislodge substances from the soil and existing infrastructure — potentially exposing residents of southeast Huntington Beach to hazardous chemicals and pollutants.

Another reoccurring point of contention was the project’s 800-page EIR, which some claimed was incomplete or inadequate.

“I just don’t understand why this could be an option,” said resident Joslin de Diego. “To say that it would not impact the neighborhood, that’s a lie.”

Some residents said they were concerned about congestion and traffic near the site, or that the project could disrupt nearby wetlands.

“Let’s figure out what’s going on with Ascon, let’s figure out what’s going on with AES, let it finish,” Tom Bilich told the commission, referring to the former landfill and existing power plant that are near the Tank Farm site. “They make it seem as though it’s going to make it a better quality of life with this hotel, these homes, this little park, what about the quality of life of the people who live there?”

Ray echoed the sentiment.

“Until [remediation] actually happens, I’m not really in favor of this,” he said. “As it stands right now, we should not be building right next to Ascon and we should not certify it until after it’s taken care of.”

Added Commissioner Connie Mandic, “I would like to see this project built, but I would also like to see and know for certain that this site is clean.”

Kalmick pointed out that many of the comments during Tuesday’s hearing were about construction and Shopoff’s proposed development, not the zoning matter that was under consideration.

The actual issue up for discussion, he said, was whether it is “appropriate to have a housing zone here — not actually housing. That’s a different conversation.”

Commissioner Brendon Perkins called the EIR “adequate” and said “the project we are talking about is entirely separate from Ascon.”

“It’s gone through all the agencies and experts, public input,” he said. “There won’t be anything built until it’s signed off by [the state Department of Toxic Substances Control].”

Mandic saidshe “saw a lot of reasons to vote for it and a lot of reasons to vote against it” but ultimately decided the project deserved to move forward. She also pointed out that it “has a lot of hoops to jump through.”

“It’s a unique concept,” Mandic said, adding, “The project is not perfect, but it’s pretty good.”

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