Townhomes project for Bolsa Chica mesa gets land-use OK from Planning Commission

Kim Kolpin, executive director of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, stands on the Bolsa Chica mesa in Huntington Beach in 2016. The possible development of a townhome complex on part of the site has been discussed for years.
(File photo | Daily Pilot)

After hearing from several residents Tuesday night, the Huntington Beach Planning Commission decided to allow a possible development project on the Bolsa Chica mesa to move forward.

The commission voted 5-1, with member Alan Ray dissenting, to approve a host of amendments to the land-use and zoning classifications on half of the 5-acre Windward site to allow for 36 townhomes.

Developer Signal Landmark made a variety of entitlement requests, including modifying the land-use designation from open space to residential.

As part of the proposal, Signal would dedicate 8.7 acres of the surrounding mesa to public open space to be controlled by a government agency or a nonprofit, a city staff report says. That would include the other half of the Windward site.

The plan would go into effect only if the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit, can’t raise enough money by October to buy all of the roughly 11 acres from Signal in order to preserve the land.

In explaining his dissenting vote, Ray said in an email Wednesday that he’d rather have waited to vote on the land-use and zoning amendments until after the Trust for Public Land’s deadline.

“I take very seriously changing any property from open space to another use and would generally do that only as a last resort to save a larger area,” Ray said.

Commissioner Dan Kalmick recused himself from the vote because he is on the board of directors of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, which has been involved in years of dispute with the city and Signal over the issue.

Many residents of the nearby Brightwater community showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to voice their distaste with the project.

Thomas Kustra said Bolsa Chica is the crown jewel of Orange County.

“Once you pave over green space, it isn’t ever coming back,” he said.

Christine Padesky said she’s worried that the development would negatively affect wildlife and that the homes could be an eyesore.

Commission Chairwoman Connie Mandic said the proposal may not be perfect but is the best deal available.

The project is next slated to go before the City Council.

Proposed home relocation sparks opposition

Also Tuesday, the commission voted unanimously to deny a request to move a historical home after dozens of residents near the proposed location spoke against the plan.

Joseph Santiago was seeking approval of a set of variances for placing the single-family home on his property at 506 Seventh St. Those included extending parts of the home to about 34 feet tall instead of the 25-foot maximum and having 6- and 12-inch sideyard roof eave setbacks instead of the required 30 inches, according to a staff report.

The home, built in 1905, is considered historically significant because it represents the Colonial Revival architectural style, according to city Associate Planner Chris Wong. It is currently in storage, Wong said.

Many residents were concerned that the home’s close proximity to others would cause flooding issues for neighbors because rain would fall off the roof and collect in the nearby yards.

“Why should this house that’s way too big be allowed in a lot that’s way too small?” said Barbara Haynes, who served on the city’s Historic Resources Board.

Santiago said notices were sent in the mail to nearby residents and that he received only a small number of complaints.

However, the commission denied the proposal based on residents’ concerns.

“I am a very strong proponent of historic preservation,” Commissioner John Scandura said. “I want to applaud the applicant for trying to preserve the home, but I can’t support this. You just can’t ignore the concerns from residents.”