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Huntington Beach commissioners signal denial of proposed residential-commercial development

Ellis Avenue Development
A rendering shows part of a four-story mixed-use building with 48 residential units and a coffee shop proposed at 8041 Ellis Ave. in Huntington Beach.
(Courtesy of city of Huntington Beach)

The Huntington Beach Planning Commission on Tuesday took steps toward denying a proposal to build a four-story building with 48 residential units and a coffee shop near Beach Boulevard.

On a 6-1 vote, commissioners asked city staff to return June 11 with reasons to formally deny the project. Commission Chairman Pat Garcia dissented without comment.

Several commissioners said it appeared the new development would cause problems for the city and residents.

“This project has been a struggle ever since I first heard it,” Commissioner John Scandura said. “I wanted to keep an open mind as possible about this. There’s a lot at stake when the commission takes action on these type of projects, but I see too many problems with this project.”

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The plan was to demolish a liquor store, a residence and a portion of the defunct Metro car wash lot that is being remodeled on just under an acre at 8041 Ellis Ave.

Project manager Jeff Herbst of Irvine-based MCG Architecture described the new development in a letter dated May 1 as “an enhancement to the community by adding a modern, environmentally friendly and small-scale mixed-use complex with unit pricing sized to suit the average consumer.”

Applicant Tahir Salim told the commission Tuesday that the area, which is frequented by homeless people, “looks pretty run-down right now.” The new development would be “beneficial” to the area, he said.

The project calls for six 645-square-foot one-bedroom units and 42 880-square-foot two-bedroom units. The ground floor would include residences and a coffee shop.

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Salim’s original plan was to sell the units as condominiums, but he said Tuesday that some could be rented as apartments — five designated for lower-income renters.

“So we’re asked to approve or consider approving condos that may in fact turn into apartments?” asked Commissioner Michael Grant.

City Planning Manager Jane James said that if the applicant is granted a tentative tract map for condominiums, there’s nothing requiring the applicant to sell those units — they could be rented out.

Commissioner Connie Mandic asked Salim if he would eliminate rentals, but Salim said he didn’t “want to limit ourselves,” though it might be better financially to sell the units.

Commissioner Dan Kalmick took issue with shadow analysis maps provided by the applicant to show how the new development could affect nearby homes that have solar panels. Kalmick said they looked misleading, despite assurance from the applicant that the measures were accurate.

Scandura said the analysis showed that the proposed development is “too big, too bulky, too massive for that simple 1-acre, rather long piece of property.”

Grant asked Salim whether he had held any meetings with residents about his proposal, but Salim indicated he relied on a study session earlier this month with the commission.

According to a city staff report, a traffic impact analysis found that the project’s two-way driveway on Ellis Avenue would work acceptably during peak morning and evening traffic hours, though residents could experience delays entering and exiting the site because of cars queuing on Ellis.

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The development would be near several businesses, the Elan Huntington Beach luxury apartments and a hotel along busy Beach Boulevard.

Resident Steve Farnsworthy told the commission Tuesday that he opposes the new development. He questioned why a 70-foot-wide building would be placed in a 90-foot area and why the entrance and exit would only be right turns.

“Beach and Ellis is one of the worst intersections in the city,” he said. “If you have a right turn in, right turn out, I guarantee people will be trying to left turn out of the development.”

Fellow resident Tim Geddes said, “This will be a train wreck of negative impacts on the surrounding areas.”

The Planning Commission’s decision will be final unless appealed to the City Council.

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