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Housing Project OKd to Restart

Grading can resume after builder agrees to scrap six houses in Seal Beach development to preserve part of Native American burial site.

August 09, 2003|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

A Seal Beach housing project halted for more than a year because Native American remains were unearthed on the property will proceed after the developer agreed to scale down the number of homes and preserve part of the burial site.

The California Coastal Commission's approval on Thursday of developer John Laing Homes' proposal clears the way for soil grading to be completed for 64 luxury homes in Hellman Ranch near the Los Angeles County line.

"The happiest conclusion would have been to preserve the whole area, but given the odds, we fared all right," said Anthony Morales, chairman of the San Gabriel mission of Gabrielino-Tongva Indians who negotiated the agreement. "We were able to preserve one of the most sacred sites on the property."

The developer agreed to scrap six homes from the 70 units planned for the 18-acre property off Seal Beach Boulevard. That will save about 1.5 acres where four people are believed to be buried.

Other human remains uncovered last summer when the developer began grading will be reburied in the preserved area, Morales and John Laing Homes officials said.

"We've created a plan that treats the Native American remains found on the site with the utmost respect," said Steve Kabel, president of the company's local division. "At the same time, we will be able to deliver a new community."

The developer also agreed to build a Native American cultural center in adjacent Gum Grove Park.

The company had said in December that it would come up with a proposal within weeks, but negotiations dragged on for months because "there was a lot to negotiate," Morales said.

"They were in the process of losing six homes, and these are high-dollar homes. It was hard for them and it was hard for us," Morales said.

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