The Woman's Club of Huntington Beach got mixed reviews from residents Tuesday at a Planning Commission study session, as some hailed the club for its community work while others called its longtime clubhouse a sore spot in the neighborhood.
Nearly a dozen speakers addressed the commission as it considered the club's application to rebuild its headquarters at 420 10th St. that burned down in April. The structure stood for more than 100 years before a fire, apparently caused by an electrical malfunction, destroyed most of it.
Mike Orr, who lived next door to the clubhouse and had his own home severely damaged in the fire, acknowledged that the club's inhabitants sometimes caused noise and parking difficulties, but said he mostly considered the club a good neighbor.
"I'm probably in the minority here, but I'd like to see the Woman's Club [headquarters] rebuilt," he said.
Jeannette Seemann, the clubhouse's neighbor on the opposite side, said she and other residents had often called police to complain about noise and wild parties at the site. The Woman's Club held meetings, bridge games and other events there, but also rented the facility out for other groups — who frequently got rowdy, according to some who spoke Tuesday.
At times, Seemann said, the lights and air conditioning had been left on all night, and she said she had even observed people urinating and defecating outside the property.
"The neighborhood has put up with a lot," she said. "Not just the fire."
The club is seeking a new structure nearly identical to the previous one. Members applied last fall for a permit seeking several variances from city code, including having only five parking spaces instead of a minimum of 73, and 55% lot coverage instead of the maximum 50%.
President Jackie Judd reminded the commission Tuesday that the Woman's Club played an essential role in the early days of Huntington Beach, even physically taking out trash bins and cleaning the streets, and that the club offers scholarships and other community services.
"They've been a part of this community since 1909," Judd said. "So I ask that you let us rebuild, and we will do our best to be good neighbors."
The commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the application Jan. 24.