See the update at the end of this post on the Coastal Commission postponing a vote on the home project at the request of the city.
ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 6, 6:37 A.M.: California Coastal Commission (CCC) staffers, the Huntington Beach City Council and the developer of proposed homes on one of the last undeveloped parcels on the Bolsa Chica mesa agree on a compromise that would allow building residences there in exchange for a prohibition on building at a larger adjacent parcel that is more culturally significant. However, the CCC staff is recommending denial of a land-use change before commissioners this week because of a disagreement over how to accomplish such a swap.
The five-acre parcel in question, known as the Ridge, is at the southeast corner of Bolsa Chica Street and Los Patos Avenue and is currently designated for open park space. Property owner Signal Landmark and Bolsa Chica developer Hearthside Homes wants that designation changed to residential so 22 homes can be built there.
Butting up to the Ridge is a 6.2-acre property that is quite well known to the CCC, which in 2012 reached a settlement with the Goodell Family Trust that had the landowner paying a $430,000 fine for unearthing artifacts at the Cogged Stone Site, a 9,000-year-old Native American village. The trust agreed to rebury the artifacts and restore the areas that were disturbed when archaeologists dug a series of deep pits without state permission.
The cultural significance and environmental sensitivity of both the Ridge and Goodell properties have sparked opposition to development from Native Americans and the Bolsa Chica Land Trust preservation group, which prefer leaving the village untouched.
But, as indicated in an agenda report for the CCC meeting Wednesday in San Diego, commission staff agrees in principle with the deal hatched by the city and the developer to allow low-density development of the Ridge and prohibit building on the Goddell property. (Keep in mind any new discoveries on the Ridge site would have to be handled in a manner consistent with state law lest Heathside face more stiff fines.)
Part of the reason the CCC staff is recommending denial is disagreement with the city and developer on how far any new building must be from the ancient village site. But the larger concern involves the order in which permits would be granted for the project.
The developer wants the land-use designation changed for the Ridge now because, it claims, that's needed for building financing to go through. Hearthside says it will agree to a provision that no building permits can be pulled until the Goodell property is deeded over for open space.
The CCC staff prefers the Goodell property be set aside as open space before Hearthside is awarded a land-use change for the Ridge. Otherwise, the staff wonders, what happens if Goodell is never deeded over?
Staffers obviously have long memories as Hearthside is just the latest incarnation of development companies that have done despicable things on the culturally and environmentally sensitive coastal property for three decades, usually in defiance of state law.
Meanwhile, the commission members the staffers serve come and go. Amid much controversy, the CCC in 2005 approved Hearthside's 350-home Brightwater project next to the Goodell site.
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UPDATE, JAN. 15, 9:00 A.M.: At the request of the city of Huntington Beach, the state Coastal Commission postponed a decision on whether to allow new home building on the Bolsa Chica mesa.
The city sought the delay to give its staff more time to study the commission staff's reasons for recommending denial of the proposal to amend its Local Coastal Program to clear the way for new homes on the property known as the Ridge.
No date was set for a new hearing on the issue.