Planning Commission OKs beachside auto auction

A divided Huntington Beach Planning Commission voted Tuesday to approve a beachside auto auction that will take place for 11 days in June for each of the next five years.

The planners split 4-2, with commissioners Mark Bixby and Robert Franklin dissenting and Erik Peterson absent.

The city's zoning administrator approved the Russo & Steele Auto Auction in August. But Bixby appealed the project, saying it was inconsistent with guidelines in two city planning documents, the Downtown Specific Plan and Coastal Element.

The auto show, which is expected to temporarily utilize up to 588 beach parking spots, will take place in the Coast Highway beach parking lot between Huntington Street and the Hyatt pedestrian bridge.

After listening to the presentation by applicant Drew Alcazar, who also puts on auto shows in Arizona and Monterey, Bixby said the project is "high class all the way" and would attract quality visitors to the downtown.

"But part of the measure of us being a city of law is we need to hold all projects to the standard of law," he said.

Bixby said beach parking lots are necessary to ensure coastal access for all visitors.

Even though the applicant is providing shuttle services from locations such as City Hall, Edison Park, Edison High School and Newland Barns, taking away beachside spots, even temporarily, will create an inconvenience for beachgoers, he said.

Assistant Planner Jill Arabe said the auction will be consistent with the Downtown Specific Plan and the Coastal Element because it is a temporary event.

Planning Director Scott Hess said he and his staff were in contact with the staff of the California Coastal Commission, which felt that the project was in compliance with beach-access regulations.

Hess said this project is similar to other temporary events that take place throughout beach communities, including chili cook-offs and jazz festivals.

"If it's really that bad, let's do it and see what happens," resident Victor Galich said at the meeting.

But Jack's Beach Concession owner Jack Clapp said he's concerned that area vendors will not benefit from the event or be given priority, as promised.

"I take little heart in that until I see a real agreement, something done in writing," he said.

Franklin said he would support the project if it were given a one-year pilot run.

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