The Huntington Beach City Council voted Monday night, 4 to 3, to build a multistory parking garage and a 10,000-square-foot restaurant beside the municipal pier in the heart of the city's downtown redevelopment area, a plan that has caused political turmoil.
A 2,500-square-foot concession stand and a surf museum, both of which are to be housed in the parking garage, were also approved in the overall plan. City planners estimated construction costs of about $13 million for the garage, plus $1 million for the full-service restaurant. They said a developer would probably pay for the restaurant.
The vote came after a 90-minute public hearing, during which most of the 18 speakers told the council they wanted to get redevelopment moving in the pier area and supported the garage, which is to be built on the beach side of Pacific Coast Highway at Main Street.
Split on Restaurant
Voting to approve the entire package were Mayor Jack Kelly and Councilmen Tom Erskine, Tom Mays and Wes Banister. Council members Grace Winchell, Peter Green and Ruth Finley voted against the package. They said they would go along with the parking structure but opposed the restaurant.
The beachfront parking garage was the most controversial part of a larger plan the council approved Monday night. The plan, known as the Bolsa Chica State Beach General Plan Amendment, calls for city to make improvements on the 2 1/2 miles of state-owned beach north of the pier that it now leases. The pier falls within a 330-acre downtown redevelopment area.
The Huntington Beach Planning Commission approved the plan with the exclusion of the restaurant and surf museum on Sept. 15.
The general plan must now be accepted by the state Parks and Recreation Commission, which will hold a public hearing on the proposal on Dec. 1 in the City Council chambers.
Supporters of the plan--among them downtown merchants, the Chamber of Commerce, the local board of realtors and the owner of Maxwell's restaurant immediately south of the pier--argued that ocean views will not be lost and that the parking space will be needed near Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway as downtown redevelopment projects begin attracting more visitors.
The city provides lifeguard and marine safety service on the leased beachfront.
"The state wasn't maintaining it in a way that met with our standards," Councilwoman Finley said. "The state required the city to present a general plan amendment describing how it would make those improvements."
Matt Messier, a Huntington Beach real estate agent, asked the council to approve the garage, saying that "it gives us additional parking. I avoid the downtown area because it is not an easy place to get into."
He called the current parking situation "a disgrace."
Opponents speaking at the hearing, attended by about 150 people, questioned the city's financial analysis of the project.
"I question whether it's really necessary to locate it there," said Tom Harman, president of Huntington Beach Tomorrow, a slow-growth group that claims 400 members.
"The agreement (with the developer) calls for parking only to be located within a reasonable walking distance."
Pierside Village Motive
Some members of Huntington Beach Tomorrow have accused city officials of trying to use state land to subsidize a private enterprise: Pierside Village.
The organization has disliked the sprawling village of retail shops and restaurants--part of a 330-acre downtown redevelopment area--from the start.
In approving Pierside Village, the City Council decided that adequate parking for the development had to be built before ground was broken for the village project itself.
Pierside will eliminate several existing parking spaces; additional parking will be lost when Pacific Coast Highway is widened. So more parking must be located elsewhere, but still within walking distance of the planned Mediterranean-style village project. City officials said the proposed parking garage would solve that dilemma but Pierside would be built nevertheless.
"I think the HBT group thinks that if they can kill the parking structure idea then they can kill Pierside," said Councilman Erskine, "but that just isn't the case."