For seven years, developers have tried to expand Huntington Harbour. Now one company has taken a significant step toward that goal.
At its Nov. 19 meeting, the Huntington Beach City Council unanimously approved the Harmony Cove Marina project, which will install a 23-boat slip marina, outdoor dining restaurant, metered parking and a kayak and paddle board rental kiosk to a 2.28-acre site.
"It seems like a pretty reasonable use for this area that's under utilized," Councilman Keith Bohr said at the meeting. "I feel it would be a positive benefit to the community."
The property used to be known as Percy Dock, which contained a 60-foot public fishing and boat dock and 35-space parking lot that was operated by the city.
The proposed development, which was also unanimously passed by the Planning Commission before being appealed by Mayor Pro Tem Devin Dwyer, will appear before the California Coastal Commission for final approval. Property owner and Theory Properties Chief Operating Officer Joe Daichendt said there's no set timetable.
BayviewHB, a development company, attempted to bring residential housing, a restaurant and a 27-boat slip to the marina in 2008, but abandoned the project before selling the property to Daichendt a few months ago.
Daichendt's proposal was voted through, 7-0, after 16 members of the public — mostly Pier Colony residents and members of the grass-roots campaign Demand a Safe Harbour (DASH) — raised concerns about the development and asked the council to slow down the process.
"It feels good to be at this stage," Daichendt said. "Unfortunately, it's bittersweet because there is a lot of incorrect information out there that has upset the residents and the homeowners."
Many residents said the restaurant, which has proposed hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., would decrease their property values by bringing in crowds.
"As it is today, there's too much traffic," DASH member Ed Clark said at the meeting. "You put this kind of congestion in this area and you're going to open up a can of worms."
Some also claimed the development would eliminate their ocean views, but Daichendt said that isn't true of his proposed single-story restaurant.
There were also safety concerns raised by public speakers about the use of kayaks and paddle boards in an "unsafe area" under the bridge, which creates high-speed waters.
"Don't allow kayakers and paddle boarders in an area where it's already proved to be dangerous," Huntington Beach resident and DASH member Brian Griley said. "Harmony Cove could become Hazardous Cove."
Councilwoman Connie Boardman said she liked the idea of a restaurant, but was uneasy with having amateur kayakers and paddle boarders navigate through such a risky area.
"I do share the residents' concerns over the kayaks and paddle boards in that channel," she said. "I've seen how fast the water flows there."
Daichendt said there would be a lifeguard on duty for the kayak and paddle boarders. He also said a closer look will be taken at the safety hazards.
"We never want to put anyone in danger," Daichendt said. "If an engineer comes back and says we need to be 50 feet away from the bridge, then fine. We will take a more detailed look at it in the future.
"I just know I have to provide coastal access. The city requires it of me, so we've gone forward and done that. It's what has the neighbors most upset, so we're kind of in a catch 22."
Concerns were also raised about Daichendt turning the property residential in the future. Daichendt said that will "definitely be looked at" about 10 years down the road, but it all hinges on the restaurant's profitability.
In order for the restaurant to succeed, Daichendt said it will need the support of the Pier Colony residents.
"We want this restaurant to be well received by the neighbors," Daichendt said. "We want them to be some of our best customers."