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Panel Advises Against Bixby Development Plan

November 06, 1998|HARRISON SHEPPARD

The Planning Commission voted to recommend denying the Bixby Ranch Co.'s plan to develop its 218-acre property in north Seal Beach, agreeing with dozens of residents who spoke against the project Wednesday because of the additional traffic it would create.

The plan now faces an uphill battle as it goes before the City Council on Monday, with residents of Rossmoor, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach's College Park East neighborhood united in opposition.

More than 50 people spoke against the project over two nights of public hearings in two weeks. Overflow crowds of more than 100 filled City Hall, spilling into its foyer. The residents applauded the commission's 3-2 vote against the plan.

"I have not heard anybody speak in favor of this except for [the developer's consultant] Pacific Retail Partners," said Planning Commission Chairman Brian Brown. "I'm not even convinced the Bixby Co. is solidly behind this project. They would rather have the mixed-use project."

The company originally proposed a mixed-use project in 1995, including luxury and low-income homes. After the Planning Commission rejected that plan by a 3-2 vote, Bixby withdrew it rather than face rejection by the City Council.

Many residents who spoke against the current proposal said they would prefer the mixed-use plan because it would attract less traffic.

But company officials said they are focusing on getting the latest plan approved. If it is rejected, Bixby's senior vice president Ron Bradshaw said, the company would pursue a "default plan," which involves developing the property as much as possible within current zoning, resulting in three separate commercial parcels that generate just as much traffic with fewer benefits to the city.

The plan now before the council includes a 25-acre commercial/retail center, plus a hotel, restaurants, senior living facilities and a 3,570-seat church. A 117-acre golf course would be expanded to 158 acres.

Critics have said the project would bring about 18,000 car trips a day and force removal of eucalyptus trees along Seal Beach Boulevard.

The Bixby Ranch Co. said it would provide $1.2 million to help widen Seal Beach Boulevard to accommodate the extra traffic, and would replace the trees elsewhere on the property at a 4-1 ratio.

Bradshaw remained optimistic despite the commission's vote.

"I'm hopeful we'll get approval," Bradshaw said. "The City Council is a different body. They look at other issues besides just the land use."

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