“You’re going to hear charges [that] we filled in wetlands,” said Shea Homes Vice President Ron Metzler. “You may also hear challenges to the Coastal Commission’s decisions. These assertions may create confusion so I’d like to say that none of these charges and allegations are new.”
The plan approved by the council would allow 26 out of 49.5 acres for housing, at 7 houses per acre, with the rest protected either as wetlands, as bird habitat, or as a buffer zone for those lands.
But Land Trust members said the commission had erroneously gone against its own staff, failing to punish intentional filling of wetlands and ignoring evidence that more land should be protected.
“The Land Trust believes that [an] 8-foot-high pile of dirt was used by Shea to fill in wetlands and therefore is not consistent with a project in Huntington Beach,” said the group’s executive director, Flossie Horgan. “If this is not a wetland, then why does the developer say they’re going to dig 17 feet down to de-excavate the land, then build back up 10 feet?”
Shea representatives disagreed, saying their farmer on the land was doing normal weed clearance.
Councilman Don Hansen dismissed complaints about the Coastal Commission plan, saying some opponents just wanted everything their way. He said the change in the plan from its first city approval in 2002 to 2008 was proof.
“We see more land dedicated as open space, more conservation, and more wetlands present than what the city was prepared to support in beginning,” he said. “It’s good policy when it falls your way and politics when it falls in the other. The problem for some in this room is that the Coastal Commission had the audacity to not fall in lockstep with their staff.”
But Hardy disagreed, saying the City Council had the right to disapprove of the commission.
“We’re supposed to verify what the Coastal Commission did,” she said. “We have every ability to say ‘No, that’s not right.’”
The development is far from final approval; numerous public hearings with the Coastal Commission and City Council remain.
MICHAEL ALEXANDER may be reached at (714) 966-4618 or at email@example.com.