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Restaurant Facility Dubbed Blue Elephant : Seal Beach Pier Plans Make Waves

April 29, 1987|NANCY WRIDE | Times Staff Writer

The Blue Elephant is what some Seal Beach residents have called the building.

Some of them get very emotional about the place, the unoccupied restaurant at the end of the Seal Beach pier.

Monday night was no exception as an overflow crowd of about 150 attended the Seal Beach City Council meeting to discuss and listen to proposed plans for the operation of the blue restaurant building, which was completed last September but remains unoccupied.

When it was over, after more than four hours of comment by residents and merchants--most of it criticism--the City Council early Tuesday morning postponed for at least two weeks a decision on the proposed lease agreement with H.E.G. Enterprises Inc.

The five-member council voted to continue negotiations with Seattle developer Hal Griffith on the proposed Fisherman's Restaurant, but to send a list of lease revisions that council members Victor Grgas and Joyce Risner drafted.

The suggested revisions include a proposal that no second story to the restaurant or storage facility be permitted for at least three years and that a decision then be made on whether to build them.

Opponents at the meeting said they were against the planned second story for the upscale dining facility, a proposed concession stand and its location on the pier, parking arrangements that include automating the two lots at the pier base and the length of the lease.

On Tuesday, after returning to Seattle, Griffith characterized the meeting as "an ugly mob," but he expressed hope that concerns about the planned restaurant can be ironed out soon. "I'm not a walker," he added. "We're going to try and work this out."

Griffith had presented his proposal for operating the building at the beginning of the meeting to those in the standing-room-only council chambers. Another large crowd watched the presentation on closed circuit television from a city hall patio.

The issue had come up for a vote at the last City Council meeting two weeks ago, but a decision was postponed then.

The 1,865-foot pier, one of Southern California's longest, was torn into three pieces during a violent storm on Jan. 27, 1983. Its wooden pilings and deck were all but destroyed two months later by a second storm.

The pier, now 77 years old, was reopened in 1985 after volunteers raised $185,000 to help pay for the restoration.

City Council members decided to demolish the old diner and build a new one. It was completed last September at a cost of $450,000. But negotiations with the original restaurant operator collapsed and city officials called for new bids, according to Assistant City Manager Daniel P. Joseph.

Griffith's plan, one of seven bids, was chosen by the City Council about three months ago and negotiations began.

Griffith's proposal calls for a two-stage renovation of the existing one-story restaurant structure, an added pier concession stand and public restrooms at an estimated cost of about $700,000.

Joseph said Griffith would pay for all construction except half of the cost to build the restrooms. The city would pay the other half.

Griffith proposes to finish the first phase of modifications in time to open the restaurant before summer. The restaurant would be closed in November for about four months while the second and more controversial phase is completed.

Aspects of that phase have generated the most opposition. They include the second story to the restaurant, the concession stand and its location on the pier and parking arrangements. Opponents also have contested the length of the proposed lease--25 years plus a 15-year option.

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