The City Council has decided to reconsider a proposed redevelopment area after more than 150 residents attended a meeting this week to protest their inclusion in the plan.
During a boisterous four-hour public hearing Tuesday night, about 70 residents and business owners took the council podium to demand that they be excluded from redevelopment.
City officials have proposed adding 1,276 acres to the 888 acres now in the redevelopment area, said redevelopment director Don Anderson. About 15% of the additional property to be included is residential. Also, the added area would encompass most of the city's developed industrial and commercial properties.
Many residents said they object to their areas being classified as "blighted," the primary criteria for inclusion in a redevelopment area, and fear the city's potential use of eminent domain, which allows the city to force the sale of property. Others also said the redevelopment plan is not specific enough.
"The plan is so vague and so general, it seems the Redevelopment Agency doesn't really know what it's thinking about," said Richard Chao, 50, who owns two apartment buildings on Illinois Street. He asked the city to reduce the scope of its redevelopment and concentrate its efforts on smaller areas.
Marshall Krupp, president of a consulting company representing the Huntington Beach Union High School District, told the council the district would sue to stay out of the redevelopment area. He said the city had been uncooperative and was using redevelopment to capture additional taxes to spend on a capital-improvement "wish list."
However, Anderson said Wednesday that the city has been "looking to get additional tax-increment revenue to do two things: upgrade and expand existing commercial and residential (areas), and increase the supply of low- and moderate-income housing."
After the public comments, Councilwoman Joy L. Neugebauer proposed that all residential areas be removed from the redevelopment proposal. But the council ended up agreeing with Mayor Charles V. Smith's suggestion that those areas be considered individually, based on comment from the community.
Neugebauer said "the testimony this evening supports my strong belief that we should include only (industrial and commercial areas) and exclude residential property."
"The people who are supposed to benefit are opposed" to including their areas, she said, adding that she opposes having residents live "under the threat, real or imagined, of eminent domain."
Before the hearing, the council voted to exclude the 82 homes in the Descanso and Sowell neighborhoods, noting that most of the residents there were strongly opposed to being included and that the areas were not crucial to redevelopment.