City wants to revamp Beach Boulevard

Eron Ben-Yehuda

HUNTINGTON BEACH -- Beach Boulevard, the commercial spine of the city,

could use a make-over, city officials say, and they want the public's

opinion on the right look.

Many of the city's 11 million visitors each year pass along this

thoroughfare, which begins at the San Diego Freeway and stretches about

five miles to the Pacific Ocean.

What they see on the way to the beach leaves a lot to be desired, said

David Biggs, the city's economic development director.

"Various people can drive down Beach Boulevard and say, 'Gee, this place

needs some work,' " he said.

Standing as a testament to the city's rapid and sometimes awkward growth,

the corridor offers a hodgepodge of styles and tastes ranging from

gleaming offices to seedy mini-malls, cheap motels to luxury


The city will hold public workshops Nov. 4 and 5 to discuss possibilities

for the boulevard, which could include adopting a uniform design for

buildings, Planning Commissioner Tom Livengood said.

Reaching a consensus over such a large stretch of bustling commerce will

be difficult, but the outlines for debate have formed already.

For starters, visitors need to feel like they've arrived after they exit

the freeway, City Councilman Dave Garofalo said.

"Where's the sign that says, 'Welcome to Huntington Beach?' " he asked.

"All you see is auto dealerships up and down the whole thing," said

resident Randy McMullen.

But City Councilman Dave Sullivan doesn't mind the "brawny" image the

dealerships project because they bring in so much sales tax revenue.

One successful dealership generates about $250,000 a year in city revenue

-- as much as all the shops in Downtown, Biggs said.

Some prefer a street full of Fords to fast-food joints that have flooded

in, Garofalo said.

The boulevard would also benefit by reducing the amount of strip malls,

many of which are dead or dying, he said.

Over time, Biggs expects that image-busting stores such as Condom

Revolution would move to more industrial areas.

But store manager Dawna Schoenberger says her shop fits right in.

"I don't think you can tame down Beach Boulevard," she said. "This is the

kind of street hookers walk down."

The city is considering offering grants or low-interest loans, said Biggs

of the economic development department.

He downplays the need to use eminent domain for stores that don't play

along -- the city doesn't want a repeat of its last attempt to redevelop

Beach Boulevard.

In 1987, the city ran into fierce opposition when it considered forcing

the sale of property through eminent domain as part of its sprucing-up


After listening to some 350 angry residents during a seven-hour hearing,

the City Council decided to reject the proposal.

Immediately following the bruising public hearing, one of the main

proponents of the plan, then-City Administrator Charles Thompson,

abruptly resigned. He insisted that his decision had nothing to do with

the Beach Boulevard controversy.

City officials recognize that building a consensus on how to revitalize

Beach Boulevard -- which stretches five miles and is home to about 1,100

businesses -- could be extremely difficult. That's why the upcoming

workshops in November will focus on specific locations.

The area around the intersection of Beach Boulevard and Warner Avenue

will be discussed at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 4.

The properties farther south by Ellis Avenue and Main Street will be

discussed at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 5.

Both workshops will be held at the Plaza building at 17011 Beach Blvd.

Noted urban planner Daniel Iacofano of Berkeley-based Moore, Iacofano,

Goltsman Inc. will host the meetings. Admission is free.

The Beach of the future

What do you think should be done with Beach Boulevard? Leave your

thoughts on our Readers Hotline at 965-7175, fax us at 965-7174 or e-mail

us at o7 hbindy@latimes.comf7 . Please include your name and city where

you live.

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