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Residents push back on Heritage Square mixed-use development

Signal Hill locals decry planned 199-unit apartment building during community meeting

A+rendering+of+the+planned+Heritage+Square+mixed-use+development+site+discussed+at+a+community+meeting+Dec.+4+hosted+by+Signal+Hill+Petroleum+and+the+City+of+Signal+Hill
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Residents push back on Heritage Square mixed-use development

A rendering of the planned Heritage Square mixed-use development site discussed at a community meeting Dec. 4 hosted by Signal Hill Petroleum and the City of Signal Hill

A rendering of the planned Heritage Square mixed-use development site discussed at a community meeting Dec. 4 hosted by Signal Hill Petroleum and the City of Signal Hill

Courtesy KTGY Architecture

A rendering of the planned Heritage Square mixed-use development site discussed at a community meeting Dec. 4 hosted by Signal Hill Petroleum and the City of Signal Hill

Courtesy KTGY Architecture

Courtesy KTGY Architecture

A rendering of the planned Heritage Square mixed-use development site discussed at a community meeting Dec. 4 hosted by Signal Hill Petroleum and the City of Signal Hill

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At a community meeting Tuesday, several local residents voiced concerns about the potential for increased traffic, noise and “transient” renters resulting from Signal Hill Petroleum’s (SHP) planned Heritage Square mixed-use development in Signal Hill.

The two-hour meeting, hosted jointly by SHP and the City of Signal Hill at the Signal Hill Council Chambers on Dec. 4 and attended by about 50 local residents, featured speakers sharing details of the plan and the process for realizing them.

Debra Russell, vice president of community relations and real-estate operations for SHP, shared a 3D video available on YouTube of the plan for the seven-acre site on Cherry Avenue between Crescent Heights and Burnett streets.

“This project is going to revitalize an underutilized area,” Russell said. “So many of our residents say, ‘We’ll finally have something that we can shop in and eat and spend time in instead of taking our dollars outside of Signal Hill.’”

The plan includes 29,000 square feet of restaurant-and-retail space, 9,000 square feet of community space, four single-family homes and a four-level, 199-unit residential structure with a five-level parking garage.

Marice DePasquale, a planner for SHP, said that the project would include a two-story view restaurant and craft foods and beverages.

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune
Scott Charney (left), Signal Hill community-development manager, listens to a resident’s comments during a community meeting Dec. 4 regarding the planned Heritage Square mixed-use development.

“We are not looking to attract national tenants,” she said. “We are looking to attract local, small-based retail.”

Scott Charney, Signal Hill community-development manager, stressed that the plan is still in its conceptual stages.

“The City has not approved the project,” he said, adding that the city council has, thus far, only approved conducting an environmental-impact report (EIR) and entering into an exclusive right-to-negotiate agreement with SHP for possible sale of City-owned property that constitutes about half the site.

Colleen Doan, Signal Hill planning manager, said that the process for realizing the plan starts with developer outreach. The process will entail a zoning-ordinance amendment and view-impact and oil-well assessments prior to a planning-commission workshop and public hearing.

It will then be followed by city-council public hearings, before a final decision.

Charney said a second community meeting will be held at a later date yet to be determined, by which time some initial assessment data will be available.

Randy Nichols, senior project manager with Michael Baker International, the engineering firm contracted by the City to write the EIR (a report required by State law), said that scoping has been initiated for studies that will assess impacts to noise, illumination, visual obstruction, traffic, air quality, geology and water, as well as construction-phase impacts on the surrounding community.

“Our job is to prepare this independent, objective, transparent analysis based on facts and data collection […] and to provide […] an understanding of what the consequences to the environment would be,” Nichols said. “We are not an advocate on one side or the other.”

Nichols added that a draft EIR would be available for public review by April or May 2019, with planning-commission and city-council public hearings on the report in late summer or fall of 2019.

John Morland, a KTGY architect involved in the project’s design, said that it fits with a mixed-use central business district that the City had envisioned in its 2001 general plan and reflects the historic nature of the area, including its oil legacy, through building design and artwork.

DePasquale said that the site was designed as mixed-use retail and residential because that’s what the City’s general plan had envisioned, adding that Mother’s Market, the site’s existing anchor tenant, had agreed to build there partly due to that expectation.

“Both Mother’s Market and these future tenants here are going to need these residents to help them be successful,” she said.

Resident concerns
Some of the residents in attendance expressed appreciation for a central commercial hub for the city, and other expressed concerns.

“I will appreciate having the higher-end foods [and] a wine-bar,” resident Paul Martin said during the event. “I’m happy to see that the parking has been expanded.”

Another resident appreciated the additional housing.

“For-rent housing is very much necessary,” she said. “We, as a community, a society, really need to find ways to create places to live so we all can have shelter.”

However, the majority of attending residents voiced dismay about the 199-unit apartment and accompanying garage.

“This parking structure is six stories,” resident Doug Lewis said. “Is that going to be towering over everyone? We have a view toward the hill, which we appreciate and would love to keep.”

Paula Williams, a resident of the historic Crescent Heights adjacent to the planned project, said she feared added noise, traffic and parking constraints as a result of the increased population density.

“I moved away from an area that had a lot of apartments [and] people who really didn’t have a concern for community,” she said. “I did not spend seven figures to come over here and live down the street from an apartment complex.”

Another Crescent Heights resident said she supported the commercial aspect of the project but objected to the apartments, preferring single-family residents or condos that would encourage pride of ownership.

“I have a great concern with the apartment buildings,” she said. “Because […] individual tenants who will be residing in them, they don’t really provide a whole lot of tax base or interest for the other people in the area.”

On a list of grievances distributed prior to the meeting, the Crescent Square Homeowner’s Association questioned why SHP favored apartments rather than condos for the site, insinuating that apartments would allow for lower construction standards.

“This is an underhanded practice being done all over California because developers can build with lesser apartment-construction standards and then convert them after the five-year statute of limitations on suing condo developers has lapsed,” the grievance reads.

Joe Holiday, a resident and former officer of the Crescent Heights historical society, said that financial interests behind the project seemed to trump community concerns, estimating that SHP could earn $500,000 per month in rent and wondered why the City would sell park land for that profit and why it had given SHP the exclusive right to negotiate.

Shannon Paulson, a resident and law-enforcement professional, said she anticipates a negative impact on local schools, a lowering of property values and additional stress on emergency services as a result of the population increase.

“I specifically shopped for a residence that was not near apartments,” she said. “If the commercial property is only going to be viable with dual use by putting that kind of a transient population density into this area, then I say ‘no’ on the commercial property.”

For more information, visit the SHP website at shpi.net.

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Residents push back on Heritage Square mixed-use development