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Signal Hill City Council OKs contract to assess Heritage Square environmental impact

Community will have input on proposed development’s environmental-impact report before and after the 12-month study

A+rendering+of+the+proposed+Heritage+Square+mixed-use+development+located+west+of+Cherry+Avenue+between+Burnett+and+Crescent+Heights+streets%2C+for+which+the+Signal+Hill+City+Council+approved+an+environmental-assessment+contract+at+its+Oct.+9+meeting.
A rendering of the proposed Heritage Square mixed-use development located west of Cherry Avenue between Burnett and Crescent Heights streets, for which the Signal Hill City Council approved an environmental-assessment contract at its Oct. 9 meeting.

A rendering of the proposed Heritage Square mixed-use development located west of Cherry Avenue between Burnett and Crescent Heights streets, for which the Signal Hill City Council approved an environmental-assessment contract at its Oct. 9 meeting.

Courtesy KTGY Architecture

Courtesy KTGY Architecture

A rendering of the proposed Heritage Square mixed-use development located west of Cherry Avenue between Burnett and Crescent Heights streets, for which the Signal Hill City Council approved an environmental-assessment contract at its Oct. 9 meeting.

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At its Oct. 9 meeting, the Signal Hill City Council approved three main agenda items: a contract with Michael Baker International to assess the environmental impact of Signal Hill Petroleum’s proposed Heritage Square development; a conditional-use permit for autobody-repair shop Caliber Collision; and an agreement with Utility Cost Management to audit the City’s electric bills.

Heritage Square
The council approved a contract agreement with Michael Baker International (MBI) to prepare an environmental-impact report (EIR) for Signal Hill Petroleum’s (SHP) proposed Heritage Square mixed-use development on the west side of Cherry Avenue between Burnett and Crescent Heights streets.

Elise McCaleb, economic-development manager, said that the 7.78-acre development plan consists of luxury apartments and single-family residences, along with retail and restaurant spaces.

McCaleb said that the City had entered into an exclusive-right-to-negotiate (ERN) agreement with SHP in February 2017, with an amended 12-month extension in May 2018, in order to analyze project feasibility, prepare financial documents, complete an environmental analysis and develop a disposition-and-development agreement.

The City had requested proposals from four firms for the environmental analysis, ultimately settling on MBI because of its experience, expertise in EIRs, in-house technical analysis capability, knowledge of oil fields and reasonable cost, McCaleb said.

The EIR, required under the California Environmental Quality Action (CEQA), will take 12 months to complete, at a not-to-exceed cost of $218,400, which includes a 10-percent contingency, McCaleb said.

“The first step is a public-scoping meeting this fall,” she added.

Scott Charney, community-development director, and Kevin Laney of SHP both affirmed that the community will have a chance to provide input before, during and after the process.

“We plan on having a series of community-outreach meetings,” Laney said.

The community will also have an opportunity to review the draft EIR and provide additional input during a 30-day public-review period required under CEQA, as well as during a subsequent Planning Commission workshop and public hearing and city-council public hearing, according to the staff report.

“There’ll be plenty of opportunity for public comment during the entire process,” Charney said. “We started with some core documents, like a preliminary traffic report, so that when [SHP] starts the process and is engaging in developer outreach, they have some data to share.”

Caliber Collision
The council approved a CUP to expand Caliber Collision’s allowed use from an autobody-repair facility to an auto-center accessory.

Colleen Doan, planning manager, said that the Planning Commission had reviewed Caliber Collision’s request to expand its allowed usage at a public workshop in August and a September public hearing.

After that hearing, the commission had recommended that the council approve the CUP since the firm had provided a letter from Honda’s vice-president of dealer operations indicating that Caliber Collision is a “majority-service provider” to Honda for autobody repairs.

The commission had also found that the condition of Caliber Collision’s site at 2370 Walnut Ave.– consisting of six buildings with multiple units for offices, storage and auto-body repair– is not detrimental to the community or vicinity properties in the light-industrial zone and contains sufficient parking, Doan said.

Doan explained that allowing such expansion of auto-repair usage is consistent with the City’s Auto Center Accessory Uses Ordinance, adopted in 2016.

“The purpose of the ordinance is to facilitate the auto center’s economic viability,” Doan said. “The ordinance accomplishes this by allowing a variety of auto-related uses, such as autobody repair, to be located off the main dealership sites and in industrial zones throughout the city.”

During the council’s public hearing Tuesday, two representatives of Caliber Collision expressed support for the CUP, and no one opposed.

The council unanimously approved both a “negative declaration” that Caliber Collision auto-repair usage was not detrimental and CUP 18-02 allowing its use as an auto-center accessory.

SCE audit
The council also approved an agreement with Utility Cost Management, LLC (UCM) to audit Southern California Edison’s (SCE) billing on all City accounts.

City Manager Charlie Honeycutt explained that UCM offers this service because of the complicated nature of SCE billing, in which fees are calculated based on separate rate schedules for uses, such as street lights, traffic signals, public parks and buildings and water facilities.

“Over time, this company has identified that sometimes the rate you’re getting charged at could be incorrect,” Honeycutt said, adding that he has received good feedback about UCM’s services for nearby cities, such as Lakewood, La Mirada, Norwalk and Paramount.

Honeycutt said the City will not pay UCM anything up-front, but if the company finds a discrepancy in the City’s bills over the past year, it will pursue a rebate or credit from SCE. The City would then pass on 42 percent of that amount to UCM, plus that share of any savings realized over the next three years.

Councilmember Edward Wilson said he was concerned about how the agreement will be administered, especially if the City ends up paying UCM part of any savings over the next three years.

“It’s easy to recognize when you get the credit or get a check from SCE,” he said. “It’s more difficult to sort out when your bill is just ‘less’ and then you have to send a check to someone– a lot of people forget about that agreement.”

Wilson also expressed disappointment that UCM did not attend the council meeting.

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune
During the Oct. 9 Signal Hill City Council meeting, Mayor Tina Hansen (left) and Finance Director Scott Williams (right) introduced Arezou Biabani (center), a new account specialist with the Finance Department.

“There’s a multitude of firms that do this,” he said. “I just think it’s important that at least they show up.”

Nevertheless, instead of rescheduling the agenda item, the council unanimously agreed to approve the agreement.

New employee
Mayor Tina Hansen and Finance Director Scott Williams introduced Arezou Biabani, a new account specialist with the Finance Department.

“Arezou has worked in accounting and human resources in the private sector and wanted to bring her experience to public service,” Hansen said. “She’s happy to be joining the Signal Hill community because she enjoys environments where she can connect with and work closely with the personnel.”

The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, Oct. 23, at 7pm in the council chamber at 2175 Cherry Ave.

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Signal Hill City Council OKs contract to assess Heritage Square environmental impact