A decision about whether to allow Huntington Beach to rezone a portion of the Bolsa Chica mesa known to harbor historical artifacts will have to wait.
California coastal commissioners unanimously voted Wednesday to postpone a hearing on proposed changes to the city's Local Coastal Program, at the city's request. Local Coastal Programs help local communities in coastal areas guide development, in concert with the Coastal Commission.
A late addendum and changes to the commission staff report prompted Huntington Beach to request a delay in order to allow city officials and the public to digest the new information.
Huntington Beach Planning Director Scott Hess told commissioners that the city and developers involved would like time to analyze and reply to late additions and changes.
The roughly 100-page addendum consists of a few pages of edits made to the original report and a collection of letters from the property owner, historical preservation organizations and archaeologists.
Coastal Commission staff recommends denying amendments to Huntington Beach's Local Coastal Program that would allow property owner Signal Landmark and developer Hearthside Homes to build 22 "green" homes on a five-acre parcel called the Ridge near Bolsa Chica Street and Los Patos Avenue.
The staff document reported that the land use changes would "eliminate a higher-priority land use designation" and "not assure that significant culture resources and sensitive habitats will be protected." Preservationists say the Ridge site, like the rest of the mesa, contains Native American artifacts and remains.
However, the commission would consider approving the amendment if the city and property owners were willing to abide by the agency's requirements.
Originally, commission staff said it would consider the amendments if Signal Landmark chose to buy the neighboring six-acre site owned by the Goodell family, which is also thought to contain Native American artifacts, and ensure that no development takes place there.
Now, in its updated report, commission staff says that before it will consider rezoning the Ridge, the city and the property owners must also "irrevocably" offer the Goodell site to be dedicated to a governmental organization or a nonprofit to be used as open space.
Other new recommendations include requiring a cultural resources protection plan and current biological assessments to be done for both sites.
Many Huntington Beach residents made the trip to the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa in San Diego, where this month's meeting was held.
"I would just like to speak on behalf of our commission and to apologize to a number of people, who I imagine have come here with an interest in speaking to us today," Coastal Commission Chairman Steve Kinsey said. "It is a tremendous inconvenience, I'm sure.
"On the other hand, all of us want to have the best opportunity for all parties to present their case, and there was a fair amount of public comment that did come quite late in the process from individuals, organizations and public agencies."
Commission staff will have to determine when it can reschedule the item. Possible dates include the March meeting in Long Beach or the June meeting in Huntington Beach.
Surf City Councilwoman Connie Boardman, who was at the San Diego meeting with 30 or more Bolsa Chica Land Trust members, said the commission made the right move in postponing the hearing.
"It's appropriate to postpone something when the developer brings in something the morning of the hearing, so that the public and the commissioners have a chance to evaluate the changes that they're proposing," she said.