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Low-income housing shot down again

Huntington Beach council members seem ready to take on the state over its low-income housing requirements as they voted Monday night to oppose the latest proposed project and seemed to want to have the city attorney prepare for battle.

Planning Commissioner Mike Hoskinson had gone on record at a recent commission meeting as saying the city should challenge the state on its housing requirements, and Councilmen Billy O'Connell and Erik Peterson said Monday that they want City Atty. Michael Gates to get involved.

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More than 200 residents filled the council chambers and overflow room, many pleading with the council to reject the proposal, which would have added more than 400 units on seven parcels.

These included three parcels at Stewart Lane and Clay Avenue, a 9.93-acre lot at Garfield Avenue and Gothard Street, a 1-acre site at 18922 Delaware St., a 0.95-acre site at 4831 Sandy Drive and a 0.87-acre site at 700 Williams Drive.

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During nearly two hours of public comment, residents expressed fears about decreased home values, added traffic, parking problems and more car accidents as possible consequences of building low-income housing in their neighborhoods.

O'Connell said he understood the public's concerns and made a motion to deny the proposal. Peterson and the rest of the council following suit in a 7-0 vote.

O'Connell and Peterson both asked that Gates prepare to fight the state regarding the mandated number of low-income housing in the city.

"I think this is something the community over the last year has been asking for, and every time this comes up, wherever it is in the city, the council chambers were full and the emails came in," Peterson said. "I think this is something the city residents want, and I think our city forefathers chose to be a charter state, which means we have more autonomy from the state.... I think we really need to push that."

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Gates said he was "certainly willing to represent the interests of the city and see if we can challenge" the state. The council will have to put the request on a future budget, however, in order to take official action.

Resident Paul Scotton pointed out to the council that six of the seven proposed sites are in 92648 ZIP code and all are within three-quarters of a mile from Garfield Avenue and Gothard Street.

"Where's the rest of Huntington Beach?" he asked. "When did this become a 92648 problem? ... The issue here is not low income. It's putting low income in high density, and that is a recipe for disaster."

Others said the developments were a bad idea for the city in general.

Resident Cari Swan urged the council to oppose any potential rezoning anywhere in Huntington Beach.

"It doesn't fit here," she pleaded. "It's like shoving a square peg in a round hole. We don't want Huntington Beach to look like Santa Monica or downtown Long Beach. This is like asking for the complete destruction of a unique suburban beach community."

The building proposal had called for housing on eight sites, but the city dropped one, a 0.98-acre lot at 17552 Goldenwest St. where an Armstrong Garden Center sits. Residents at a February Planning Commission meeting opposed housing at that site, expressing concerns that it was too close to Central Park and could bring increased traffic and crime in the neighborhood.

The city has until September to find sites in order to comply with state regulations, which mandates the city identify 1,353 affordable units.

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The city put itself in a 410-unit shortfall in May when the council approved an amendment to the Beach and Edinger Corridors Specific Plan, which was adopted in September 2013 to revitalize Beach and Edinger by streamlining the building approval process.

The changes were approved to slow and cap the number of housing developments along Beach when it appeared that the streamlining was speeding up development at an unacceptable pace.

In July, the nonprofit Kennedy Commission sued the city over the changes because of concerns about the number of affordable housing units in the city. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled in November in favor of the nonprofit, but the matter is in limbo because the city is appealing the decision.

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