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South Bay Digest

Hermosa Beach

September 26, 1985

The City Council has approved a 34-unit condominium project on a portion of the former South School property while simultaneously launching a review of the density allowed in all residential zones.

The 3-1 vote to allow the development came after a closed session was called in the middle of a debate to determine if the council could legally defend a move to reduce the number of condominiums.

"It appears our hands are tied on this," acting mayor Tony DeBellis said after the council returned from the 10-minute session. "It is the result of our own shortcomings and understanding of the law."

The city's ordinance currently allows 25 to 40 units per acre in the residential planned development zone where the school is located, at 446 Monterey Blvd. Developer Ben Biagas requested the maximum number of units at the site, which is slightly less than one acre.

A motion by Councilman George Barks to limit the number of units to the minimum allowed under the code appeared to have the council's support before the closed session. In private, however, the council was advised by City Atty. James Lough that any action to reduce the project may not be legally defensible since the ordinance allows 34 units, DeBellis said.

DeBellis directed the Planning Commission and city staff to develop new building guidelines to reduce the maximum number of units allowed in residential zones. "While we may not be able to stop this particular project, we have learned our lesson," DeBellis said.

Councilman Barks continued to oppose the motion, saying he believed that the council could limit the project. Mayor Jack Wood disqualified himself from the vote because he is the engineer for the project.

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