Huntington Beach planning commissioners Tuesday nixed a 48-unit residential development proposed for the northeast corner of Beach Boulevard and Ellis Avenue, citing concerns about vehicle circulation and saying it would be incompatible with adjacent buildings.
The proposed project at 8041 Ellis Ave., which is currently home to a liquor store, would construct a four-story mixed-use building with the residences, three levels of underground parking and 891 square feet of commercial space. The site shares its eastern property line with duplexes and other low-density housing.
Commissioners voted 6-1 to deny the project, with Chairman Pat Garcia dissenting. The decision is final unless appealed to the City Council within 10 days.
Commissioner Dan Kalmick criticized the applicant, Corona-based developer Tahir Salim, for not meeting with neighbors or planning commissioners ahead of a public hearing May 28, when commissioners took an initial step toward rejecting the project.
He compared the developer’s plan to build four stories on a 95-foot-wide lot to stuffing “10 pounds of oranges in a 2-pound sack.”
Kalmick said planned traffic mitigation measures for having a right-turn-only driveway in and out of the underground parking garage were insufficient. The intersection of Ellis and Beach already is impacted by the four-story Elan Huntington Beach apartments on its southeast corner, he added.
“I think if there had been an exit on Beach Boulevard, this project would have been a lot easier to look at from a circulation standpoint,” Kalmick said.
Mark Absher, an employee of the developer, said it was disappointing to hear the Planning Commission struggle to explain why it didn’t like the project at the meeting in May. Salim’s original plan was to sell the units as condominiums, but he said later that some could be rented as apartments.
“Here’s a developer who puts all of this time, energy and expense into a project and tries to beautify an area of Huntington Beach — and, of course, make money in the process — and endeavors to comply with every requirement placed before him,” Absher said.
Garcia said the arguments by city staff members and his colleagues were subjective, vague and not substantial enough to deny the proposal.
“Based on the information provided on this matter, I can find no reason not to approve this project,” Garcia said.
Commissioner John Scandura said the proposal fell short of standards outlined in the Beach and Edinger Corridors Specific Plan that the city adopted in 2010 to encourage consolidating smaller parcels with older buildings in new developments.
The Beach and Edinger Corridors Specific Plan has been a major source of contention for many Huntington Beach residents who argue that it negatively impacts traffic, parking and public safety. The City Council revised it in 2015 to reduce the maximum number of new housing units from 4,500 to 2,100, increase building setbacks, boost minimum parking standards and require commercial uses in all new residential buildings.
“Beach-Edinger has been derided by the public as a vehicle for developers to get rich and create all kinds of high-density housing,” Scandura said. “That was never the intent of Beach-Edinger. It was intended to revitalize a declining commercial corridor that was Edinger Avenue and also to transform Beach Boulevard from this hodgepodge of land uses on these small parcels into high-quality buildings and developments.”
Daniel Langhorne is a contributor to Times Community News.