F.V. residents oppose development

A proposal to build a four-story hotel, 88 residential units and retail space next to Fountain Valley City Hall has roused opposition from some neighbors who call the project a potential traffic and safety hazard.

The Fountain Valley Civic Center Specific Plan, submitted by the Olson Co. and Ayres Hotels, seeks to revitalize an 8.62-acre parcel that includes an abandoned Safeco Insurance outlet, a police storage facility and a building leased to Coastline Community College.

Don Ayres, a principal for the company, said the project would bring tax revenue and jobs to the city and provide lodgings to complement expanding businesses, such as the new Hyundai Motor America Inc. headquarters.

Some neighbors have circulated fliers urging residents to take a stance against the proposal. A Feb. 8 Planning Commission meeting drew a packed room of residents, with about a dozen speakers opposing the project.

Dennis Antenucci, who lives near the project area and recently distributed a letter to neighbors, told the Independent that the development would lead to traffic congestion, lack of on-street parking and crime resulting from a hotel close to the freeway.

"This has been a really quiet neighborhood," Antenucci said. "That's why everybody moved here."

Fellow resident Tom Sloss said he was concerned less with traffic on the main thoroughfares than with drivers cutting through and parking in his neighborhood. A smaller-scale project wouldn't have a major impact, he said, but 88 units would be overkill.

"This is Fountain Valley," Sloss said, then citing the city slogan. "We're called 'A Nice Place to Live.' And a lot of us think we won't be as nice a place to live with 88 families crammed into a tiny corner."

The Planning Commission, which continued its public hearing from Feb. 8, was scheduled to revisit the matter at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. If the commission approves the project, it will head to the City Council for a final vote March 6.

In addition to the residential units and 127-room hotel, the project would feature 2,300 square feet of retail space that may be converted to storage space for the Police Department in the future. Existing structures on the property would be demolished.

The Olson Co., which has built housing communities in Fountain Valley and elsewhere, approached Ayres Hotels a year ago about partnering.

The area's closeness to the freeway would make it an ideal spot for the hotel and residences, Olson Senior Vice President John Reekstin said.

"I think it will be very well received from a sales perspective," he said. "I think people will be excited about the opportunity to live in Fountain Valley and buy a home in Fountain Valley."

Over the past year, Olson representatives have held seven meetings with local residents to explain the project, Reekstin said.

Some of those in attendance brought up traffic and parking issues, but both Olson and Ayres officials said their concerns can be easily addressed.

The project's draft environmental impact report, prepared in November, states that the hotel and homes would bring half as much traffic to the area than Safeco would if it were still in business.

Ayres also said his company has built other hotels near freeways and not experienced crime problems.

Planning and Building Director Andy Perea said several other developers had proposed projects for the Safeco property over the past decade, but none came to fruition.

"It's been vacant for so long, we'd love to see some sales-tax-generating use," he said.


Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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