Miss NIMBY sitting two rows from the front at Monday night's Huntington Beach City Council meeting was talking with her neighbors before the meeting began.
"It's going to look like skid row, and our property values are going to go down the toilet," said the woman from the McFadden/Edinger Group.
They identified themselves with neon-green paper badges. She was angry about the affordable housing that night or might not have been put near her home.
Turns out, it won't be. The city council approved the Beach and Edinger Corridor Specific Plan after a four-hour discussion by a 5-2 vote. It put through the recommendation from the Planning Commission that the area at Gothard Street between McFadden and Center avenues be designated as the possible future site of a transportation center, rather than affordable housing. (The city will have to find another suitable spot for that, since affordable housing is a state requirement.)
The plan lays he framework for all future development on Beach Boulevard and a segment of Edinger Boulevard. The mixed zoning is intended to encourage property owners to buy up surrounding properties, then consolidate and redevelop them into multi-story mixed-use centers, which could bring more money to the city in property and sales tax. Currently, Huntington Beach loses tens of million dollars a year to shopping centers outside of its borders.
Few of the homeowners appeared happy with any of the suggested developments. The density of new residential building was dropped from 6,400 units to 4,500 units, though some residents called for even fewer. There was a fantastic BANANA moment (you know, Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) when the crowd scoffed audibly at an artist's rendering of a built-up Edinger Avenue. Why, I never!
There were also property owners in the crowd, and their input is what caused the two dissenters--Mayor Cathy Green and Mayor Tem Jill Hardy--to hit the big red "NO" button when it came time to vote.
Blair Farley, president of Planning Commission, recommended that the City Council approve a six-story limit on the southeast corner of Beach and Edinger. The Planning staff wanted to raise it to ten stories.
"That was truly a last-minute addition. After years of talking about this plan and considering the four stories, to have it jump to ten at the last minute... it felt like it hadn't had time to go through a lot of analysis," Farley explained to the council.
Steve Dodge, owner of the property in question, wasn't satisfied with six or ten stories, and he let the council know during his three minutes at the podium.
"Given this location right at the entrance to the city, it's a real good opportunity to redeveloped into something that's a very significant landmark project," Dodge said. "To do this, though, we are going to need to get higher buildings. And we're requesting 14-story buildings."
A man at the back of the room laughed loudly at the audacious request. After all, the planning began a decade ago, and has cost about a million dollars, city officials say. But some council members took Dodge very seriously.
"I want to see that at the maximum 14 stories," said councilman Don Hansen. "It's probably the only place in town that's complimentary to that," adding that you need to "believe in the plan."
Councilman Keith Bohr concurred. "I can't think of a better place--the 405 freeway and Edinger, the gate way of Huntington Beach--it could be a possible landmark," he said.
Councilwoman Hardy retorted, turning Hansen's comments against him.
"You 'believe in the plan' or you don't, but one particular property owner comes and says we want fourteen stories, and all of a sudden we don't believe in the plan," she said dryly. "The plan never said fourteen stories, only the property owner ever requested that."
Councilman Joe Carchio agreed to amend the height limit.
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"Some ideas come along that are a little bit better than what we had started out with. I don't think that [the developers] are saying that they're going to build this up 14 stories. I think they said that it could be 14 stories; it may be 10 stories..."
Concerned citizen and President of the Goldenwest Neighborhood Association, Robert Sternberg address the council as well, and read a quote from Keith Bohr that this reporter had put down in a previous post. It exemplified the development-at-any-cost attitude that so many HB residents are frustrated with.
"Once the plan is approved, 'it's fair game,' said Bohr," Stern recited. "'Folks can start filling out applications, get their conditional use permit, and do whatever they want to do with the new zoning.'"