Fountain Valley City Council moves ahead with mixed-use project at Silky Sullivan’s site

Silky Sullivan's in Fountain Valley.
The Fountain Valley City Council approved entitlements for a mixed-use project submitted by Slater Investments that will be built on the Silky Sullivan’s site.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The days of Silky Sullivan’s Restaurant & Irish Pub — at least at the location it’s enjoyed for the better part of the last four decades — are numbered.

A mixed-use project to be built on the land on which the popular pub sits received the go ahead from the Fountain Valley City Council, which by a 3-2 vote Tuesday granted land use entitlements for a project submitted by Newport Beach-based Slater Investments.

The proposed project calls for a five-story building with 270 residential units, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant, a 2,000-square-foot outdoor dining area, and a walk-up coffee and lunch bar to be built on a site that spans 3.34 acres. It would also include a 1,660-square-foot art gallery.

Set to be located at the northeast corner of San Mateo Street and Slater Avenue, the project would also include a six-level parking garage with 485 parking spaces designated for residential use. That comes out to about 1.8 parking spaces per residential unit on a property that will have 37 studio, 129 one-bedroom, 100 two-bedroom and four three-bedroom apartments. The other 56 parking spaces will be dedicated to commercial use.

“It’s important now to focus on bringing housing to the jobs,” Peggy Tabas, managing member of Slater Investments, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “We haven’t done that very well in Orange County over the last several years, which is why supply and demand is so out of whack. We’re hoping that this project fills a void for a lot of local employees and will go a long way to reducing traffic, improving quality of life and bringing some high-quality development to the city of Fountain Valley.”

Tabas said the project has been in the works for close to four years. She did not disclose a price tag.

Construction of the project will require the demolition of Silky Sullivan’s and two nearby office buildings. Silky Sullivan’s sold its land to Slater Investments roughly two years ago, Tabas said, and the restaurant’s lease is up at the beginning of next year. Community members came out to defend the restaurant, including its general manager, Amanda Brill.

“We’re a part of the community,” Brill said. “We’ve been here 38 years. I’ve been a part of this community for 15 years. I’ve run that restaurant for a very long time. There’s a lot of familiar faces, and we welcome you with open arms. There’s no stranger who comes to Silky’s. The only people that we don’t know are people we haven’t met yet.

“… Whether we stay here or we move, we’ll tell you guys, ‘You can knock us down to dust, but you can’t keep us down. We’re going to go somewhere else.’”

Months after Orange County tallied the highest number of homeless deaths in a single year, the county has received more than $6 million in funding to convert another Stanton motel into permanent supportive housing.

Silky Sullivan’s owner Bill Madden said in advance of Tuesday’s meeting the future of the pub was in the hands of the council’s vote, but he did not have plans to shut down the business. After 38 years in the same location, the community gathering place will be looking for a new home.

Proponents of the project cited the high cost of housing and a need to get to work on the city’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation numbers as factors in their decision. Fountain Valley is on the hook for 4,839 housing units, including 2,093 that are low-income. The Slater Investments site is one of 11 opportunity sites that have been identified by city staff as opportunity sites to fulfill the city’s RHNA obligations.

“This is only 5% of our RHNA numbers, people,” Councilman Glenn Grandis said. “This is one small project that’s coming before us over the next few years. This is the tip of the iceberg. You need to be ready. Change is coming. It’s beyond our ability to fight it at this point.

“We fought the RHNA numbers. We joined with [the Orange County Council of Governments]. They lost. They appealed. They lost. We have to follow the rules. There is a lot more coming.”

Maintaining local control of projects was also a consideration for those who supported the project.

“The developer can take this up to the state, and this council will completely lose local control, and at that point, it could be a 10-story building,” Councilman Ted Bui argued ahead of the vote.

Mayor Patrick Harper and Mayor Pro Tem Kim Constantine casts the dissenting votes. During deliberation, Harper wanted to wait until the general plan update was completed in October, while Constantine showed interest in sending the project back to the planning commission.

“The Havens [Apartments] is 30 units an acre,” said Harper, who expressed discomfort with approving a zoning change. “This is proposed at 81 units an acre, so that’s almost three times the density of the place next door. I think I have a hard time arguing that it’s compatible with the surrounding uses.”

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