HERMOSA BEACH — Condominium owners are fighting construction of a two-story shopping center and a six-screen movie theater slated for one of the city's few vacant sites, but city officials say they desperately need the sales tax revenue the project would provide.
The Hermosa Beach Pavilion, with the movie theater, three restaurants, and 27 stores, is planned for two acres at 16th Street and Pacific Coast Highway next to the Plaza Hermosa Shopping Center that opened in May, 1985.
The 72,000-square-foot Pavilion will cost about $24 million and will have elevators, escalators and valet parking, said developer Joe Langlois. He declined to say how much he paid for the property. Construction is expected to begin in mid-September with the opening planned for the beginning of next summer, he said.
But the Commodore Condo Owners Assn. has appealed the unanimous decision of the Planning Commission to allow the center's construction. Art Frederick, condo owner and manager, said the center is not needed and will block the light of some residents of the Commodore condominiums. Twelve of the 100 units in the complex, located west of the site, have all their windows facing east, and the center will block much of their light, he said.
Trucks making deliveries at Plaza Hermosa already disrupt the residents, he said, and he is worried about added noise from the Pavilion.
The new center, however, would relieve city officials of some financial worries.
Theaters, hotels and restaurants tend to generate the highest sales-tax revenue, followed by retail stores, said City Planning Director Mike Schubach.
Plaza Hermosa last year added between $200,000 and $300,000 to the city's ailing budget. The Pavilion, although slightly smaller, is expected to generate similar tax revenue, said City Manager Gregory T. Meyer. The city's total budget this year is $11.6 million.
"We're most anxious to get more of that commercial development to get that money to pay police, fire and city government," he said.
"There's got to be a better way to bring in the money," countered Barbara DeVico, a condominium owner at Hermosa Surf, a complex north of the site. She would prefer that the lot be used as a park--or for almost anything but more buildings, she said, adding, "We're running out of room" in Hermosa Beach.
The city could not afford to buy the property for a park, Meyer said. Neighbors also complained that the new center will bring more parking problems, increased traffic and noise, greater density of people, intrusion on privacy, increased vandalism and, for some, blocked ocean views.
Developer Langlois said, "This is a project that meets or exceeds code in every respect. . . . And I think the true eyesores are those buildings (condominiums) . . . It's the wrong place for a residential development."
An appeal of the Planning Commission's decision was filed with the City Council Wednesday.
Langlois needed the commission's approval on the project only because he wanted a conditional-use permit for the theaters and for approval of bonds for his parking plan, Meyer said. Without those, he could obtain a building permit from the city, bypassing the Planning Commission.
Langlois said he is confident the Planning Commission's approval will be confirmed, but, if not, "I'd simply go back to code, drop the bonds and build it.
"And I wouldn't be bound by the concessions I've made," he said, referring to his agreement to pay for utilities and street improvements normally paid for by the city.
Without those concessions, he added, the shopping center will not be as nice. He was willing to make concessions to the city, he said, partly because of the controversy that has surrounded his proposed hotel development, still tied up in court, on another site in the city. "I'm just trying to be a good neighbor," he said.
Plans for the shopping center include 540 parking spaces, with all but 67 covered, he said. Langlois has agreed to dedicate part of the property to add right-hand turn lanes on Pacific Coast Highway and 16th Street, which should alleviate traffic problems caused by the center, said Planning Director Schubach.
The center should not increase traffic, he said, but should instead attract area residents and those that regularly travel PCH.
Meyer said a solid wall will be built around the parking areas facing the residences to reduce noise. With 50,000 cars traveling on PCH past that location each day, no increase in traffic noise should be noticeable, he added.
Nevertheless, the perceived threat of the shopping center is prompting residents in four of Hermosa Surf's 72 units to move, according to Don and Mary Sanner, who manage the complex. Two of those have ocean views that condominium owners expect will be blocked.