In a disappointing but not totally unexpected outcome, the Huntington Beach City Council voted 5 to 1 to change the land use designation on land on the Bolsa Chica Mesa from open space parkland, a designation that had been in place for 29 years, to residential ("'Green' project protested," July 8). Other than the developer, all of the speakers asked the council to deny the project.
The council received more than 600 postcards from Bolsa Chica supporters asking them not to change the land use designation. However, they were not moved by this outpouring of public opinion.
Thanks to Jill Hardy for her support. Hardy made many excellent points, which included the observation that once open space is gone, you can't get it back. She also recognized the special nature of that area of the mesa as far as archeological resources. The other council members basically dismissed this important aspect of the site.
Joe Carchio, Cathy Green, Don Hansen, Keith Bohr and Gil Coerper voted against the wishes of the community, and with the developer. Carchio is running for reelection to the council this fall, while Green, Hardy and Coerper are termed out at the end of this year.
I find it very sad that the majority of this council is fine with the developer spraying herbicides on the land prior to the biological assessment so the biologists would not find rare plants found on adjacent property. The assessment for rare plants was done in January, and the land was sprayed prior to that with herbicides. As late as March, the land still looked barren.
The council majority also voted to violate the city's general plan coastal element that specifically prohibits residential development on the very bluffs where the housing project is proposed.
The majority of this council obviously does not value open space. The city has a deficit of parkland, yet the council just voted to turn five acres of it into housing in the most sensitive ecological area in the city.
The many Native American speakers expressed how important the remaining undeveloped sites on the mesa were to them, but sadly, their testimony meant nothing to this council.
Fortunately for the Bolsa Chica, the Huntington Beach City Council does not have the final word on this development. The project will have to go to the California Coastal Commission for approval.
The Bolsa Chica Land Trust has also established an excellent record we can use if we have to take the issue to the courts. If we do have to sue, we of course don't know how our lawsuit will conclude.
We do know, however, that in the future, people in this city will ask, "What in the world was the City Council thinking when they voted to approve a development project that destroyed a 9,000-year-old archeological site?"
Thanks so much to everyone who came to the meeting, and all who contacted the City Council.
CONNIE BOARDMAN is the president of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust.