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It also recommends that city council approve an ordinance requiring sediment control on vacant properties

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Courtesy SH Planning Department
An image created by architectural collective Urban Arena depicting Mother’s Market and Kitchen at the site of the former Fresh & Easy, presented at the Signal Hill Planning Commission meeting Aug. 15

At its Aug. 15 meeting, the Signal Hill Planning Commission adopted two resolutions regarding Mother’s Market and Kitchen at 2475 Cherry Ave., one approving its site plan and design, and the other recommending that the city council allow the sale of alcoholic beverages at the market for on-site consumption.

The council also adopted a resolution recommending that the council approve a vacant parcel ordinance, requiring soil erosion and sediment control measures on unimproved vacant parcels of one acre or more in size.

Mother’s Market
The commission approved proposed site design changes to the Mother’s Market and Kitchen location at 2475 Cherry Ave., formerly occupied by Fresh & Easy.

Senior Planner Colleen Doan presented the commission with detailed plans of the site’s design, including moving existing parking spaces to accommodate a new 1,011-square-foot outdoor eating area, abandoning two oil wells on the site and changing the signage.

Aesthetic changes to the building include a new roof design, brick accenting, additional external wall art (and retaining existing ceramic wall art) and mountain scenery in the windows.

Doan contextualized the site in terms of the City’s vision for a central business district.

“The subject site is part of a larger vision established by the City’s General Plan since 2001,” she said. “The General Plan vision is for Heritage Square, a unique downtown mixed-use central business district.”

The central business district was envisioned at that time to include specialty retail, public open space and residential development.

In 2010, a Fresh & Easy market was constructed on the site, becoming an anchor tenant for the development, until its corporate office closed the store in 2016.

In 2017, Doan said, the City refined the Heritage Square vision in conjunction with Signal Hill Petroleum (SHP), which owns part of the site, and the city council approved their updated plan.

“The refined vision continued to incorporate specialty retail, view restaurants, open space and a high-density residential component, and very earth-toned materials, such as stone, wood, metal and glass,” Doan said. “The design modifications for this existing building have taken into account the refined design theme.”

In addition to site design, Doan also shared a request with the commission that the conditional-use permit (CUP) for Mother’s Market include the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption. The CUP for Fresh & Easy had only allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-site consumption.

The council adopted a resolution recommending that the city council approve this request. The council will evaluate the CUP at its Sept. 12 meeting, Doan said.

Representatives of Mother’s Market were on hand to express to the commission their keen interest in opening a Mother’s Market in the area. Several Signal Hill residents in the audience also publically voiced their support of the store, lauding the quality of its produce and prepared foods.

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune
At its Aug. 15 meeting, the Signal Hill Planning Commission considers a site plans for Mother’s Market, whose design schematics are posted on the walls. Pictured from left are: Commissioner Carmen Brooks, Vice Chair Victor Parker, Chair Rose Richard and Commissioners Jane Fallon and Christopher Wilson.

Debra Russell, vice president of community relations for SHP, said that the property had been left vacant since Fresh & Easy closed in 2016.

“Although we’ve had interest from other prospects, we have held out, without rent, to make sure that we bring the best use to our community, which we feel is Mother’s Market and Kitchen,” Russell said. “Bringing in a quality grocery store has been a top priority for our residents and visitors and businesses.”

Vacant parcels
After hearing from City staff at their July 18 meeting about the need for a vacant parcel ordinance (VPO), the commission adopted a resolution recommending that the city council approve such an ordinance, requiring soil erosion and sediment control for unimproved vacant parcels of one acre or more in size.

John Hunter of John L. Hunter and Associates, the City’s stormwater consultants, explained to the commission that stormwater runoff carries pollutants via storm drains from Signal Hill into two watersheds, the Lower Los Angeles River and the Los Cerritos Channel.

While cleaner water has been an ongoing effort for state and federal governments since 1969, the most current regulation, the 2012 Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit (or MS4), approved by the regional water board in 2015, requires more stringent numerical limits to pollutants in stormwater runoff.

Such pollutants include metals, pesticides and bacteria. Hunter described particles of clay soil in particular as “pollutant magnets.”

“All of those particles get washed out into the waterways,” Hunter said. “Clay soils [!] will pick up bacteria, they will pick up metals, they will mobilize those and get them out to the river. So it’s very important that we control the sediment.”

Hunter explained that vacant parcel runoff contains 100 times more pollutants than parcels with vegetation. In order to meet regulation goals, the City determined that best management practice is to reduce the amount of sediment leaving properties.

The City has identified 35 parcels of vacant land of over one acre (including contiguous properties of over one acre), covering 119 acres in all, which will require soil erosion and sediment control devices. Of these properties, the City owns seven, with 10 owned by SHP, three by Chemoil and 15 owned by 14 other entities.

After sending notices to affected property owners, City staff hosted a community meeting on Aug. 7. Of the 11 people who attended, none voiced an objection to the impending requirement, and no objectors voiced their views at the commission meeting either.

In answer to Commissioner Christopher Wilson’s question about how the affected property owners reacted at the meeting, Hunter said the owners were amenable.

“I felt that they took it in stride,” he said. “They understood what the problem was, and they were willing to fix it.”

Assistant Planner Ryan Agbayani concurred.

“I would say that it was received very well,” he said. “There were just cost [questions] and questions associated with timeline for adoption. As far as costs, we gave them the breakdown, and I can’t think of any major, significant objections to that.”

Hunter showed a table of implementation and maintenance costs for different sediment control options property owners might choose to implement. Five-year costs range from $6,000 to $155,000, depending on the option chosen. Hunter described how each parcel has a unique topography so property owners might choose to implement multiple types of control.

Such options include: straw wattle or gravel bag and silt fencing; landscaping; hydraulic mulching; and gravel mulching. Hunter’s firm has produced a guide to help property owners navigate these options, called the Vacant Parcel Erosion and Sediment Control Manual. Owners also have the option to choose an alternative method of control.

Agbayani stated that, regardless of method, property owners are responsible for meeting this obligation, and properties would be inspected annually. According to the municipal code, noncompliance could result in a $1,000 misdemeanor fine, six months in county jail and progressive fines for continued noncompliance.

The city council will hear about the VPO at its meeting on Sept. 12, with a second reading on Sept. 26. If approved, the VPO will be come legal 30 days from then, on Oct. 26. Affected property owners must then comply within 180 days, by April 24, 2018.

Property hearing
The commission approved a second, and final, 200-day construction time limit extension to Reginald McNulty for improvements to his home at 3347 Brayton Ave.
Doan reported that City staff had mailed notices to neighboring property owners within a 100-foot radius of the home after the commission heard McNulty’s extension request at the last Planning Commission meeting on July 18. No comments have been received in response.
“We can confirm that the applicant continues to make progress on the property, and [it] is not deemed a nuisance,” Doan said.

The next meeting of the Signal Hill Planning Commission will take place Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 7pm in the council chamber at 2175 Cherry Ave.

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It also recommends that city council approve an ordinance requiring sediment control on vacant properties