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Future of historical site still in question

Owners of Wintersburg property are asking to change the zoning; planning commissioners have more questions.

April 24, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio
  • The Huntington Beach Planning Commission is looking at the environmental impact report and considering the historical importance of Wintersburg.
The Huntington Beach Planning Commission is looking… (SCOTT SMELTZER )

The fate of the historic Wintersburg site remains unclear after a vote by the Huntington Beach Planning Commission to do further studies into a request to change the property's zoning.

Wintersburg was the site of a Japanese American community that began in the late 1800s. It grew to become a cultural center that included homes, a mission and farmland. Now the area sits uninhabited but maintains a cultural significance as the site of the 1912 Furuta home, the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission, 1910 Manse, and the 1934 Church.

In 2004, Rainbow Environmental Services bought the property, at Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane, for $4.6 million from the Furuta family. Now the waste management business is asking Huntington Beach to change the zoning from residential to mixed commercial and industrial use.

Speakers said the buildings are an important element in the history of Japanese Americans and must be preserved.

In a 6-0 vote, with Commissioner Bob Dingwall absent, board members Tuesday gave staff until the May 28 meeting to update a report on the 4.4-acre Wintersburg site.

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"I'm sensing a certain amount of antsiness in the desire to move forward on the project that's been in the pipeline for seven plus years," Chairman Mark Bixby said. "I'm concerned that we're not analyzing the whole action here."

The proposed change would convert a little more than 1 acre of the land on the north side into commercial space while the remaining 3 acres would be available for industrial use.

Commissioners asked staff members to look into what it would take to add the barn to the list of buildings eligible for historical registration. They also asked staff to consider the pros and cons of converting the site to a historical district and any public safety issues associated with the area.

"I'm not sure I'm comfortable changing the EIR (environmental impact report) on the fly on the dais," Commissioner Edward Pinchiff said. "I might be more comfortable continuing the EIR and getting some input from staff."

City staff was pelted with questions, including a laundry list from Commissioner Dan Kalmick. He said that he found inaccuracies and contradictions within the report and questioned why Rainbow would change the zoning from a residential to a commercial and industrial site.

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