Commission weighs in on downtown plan update

The California Coastal Commission was scheduled to vote Wednesday on the Huntington Beach Downtown Specific Plan Update.

The commission's staff has made recommendations to the update, which is expected to expand the downtown area and bring in more visitors, businesses and residents.

The staff disagrees with the city in a few areas, including parking availability, but City Planning and Building Director Scott Hess said they will not stand in the way of the city's vision.

"We're quite pleased with the staff's efforts on this project," Hess said. "They've done an extensive amount of work and we're pleased with their efforts and their time."

Results of Wednesday's vote were not available at press time.

Because downtown Huntington Beach lies within the coastal zone, the commission must approve the update before the city goes forward with its plans. The commission's goal is to keep the area open to the public, who should be able to take advantage of all the area offers, according to the staff report.

But proposed parking plans might make it difficult for visitors to park in the area, according to the staff report. The specific plan provides parking for up to 400,000 square feet of commercial use, 648 new residential units and 235 hotel rooms.

Except for new hotels, establishments would be allowed to provide a lower ratio of parking spaces per square foot, which would lead to a shortage of parking spaces downtown, according to the staff report.

The city has proposed shared parking methods, shuttle services and valet parking to help make the process smoother.

Hess said the city is working on clarifying the methods.

The commission is not the only group wary of the update when it comes to parking. HB Neighbors filed a lawsuit challenging the city's direction because of the parking issue. The Neighbors group is concerned with issues related to downtown, including what it deems to be the oversaturation of alcohol licenses in the area.

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