The Orange County Conservation Committee of the Sierra Club has been actively involved in a most important project to stop the rezoning of a 29-acre site that sits less than a mile from Huntington State Beach near the Huntington Beach Wetlands - the Magnolia Tank Farm. Unfortunately, the City of Huntington Beach Local Coastal Program (LCP) is currently seeking certification from the California Coastal Commission for an amendment to their LCP that is specific to this site. The controversial project-specific amendment would allow the rezoning of this land from public to residential, hotel, park, and commercial use.
This proposal to rezone the land would allow a developer to build residential homes yet it has no provision for affordable housing. What’s worse, these homes would be built adjacent to the Ascon Landfill which was an active landfill operated between 1938 and 1984. Toxins such as industrial and oil field wastes were disposed of at the landfill from 1938 to 1971. Later, construction debris (asphalt and concrete) was disposed of at the site until its closing in 1984. Shopoff Realty Investments purchased this land in 2016 and now hopes to build up to 250 homes, a 215-room hotel, parks, and retail and dining space.
Despite political backing, the Coastal Commission staff, in their June report, recommended denying the rezoning application, warning that there are future climate change-driven hazards that aren’t accounted for.
According to a coalition of groups opposing it, including the Sierra Club, Orange County Coastkeepers, Surfrider Foundation, and other environmental networks, the proposed project would severely impact the health and safety of humans, wildlife, and the ecosystem. This site is fragile. It is a low-lying area that is already vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise, with related hazards. Although adaption strategies to raise the height of the site to prevent flooding have been discussed, this solution will only divert floodwaters into adjacent residential neighborhoods. Additionally, studies show that the site is subject to soil liquefaction and spreading during an earthquake.
Chairman Raymond Hiemstra, and Sierra Club members John LaRue and Charming Evelyn worked with a joint committee representing both the Orange County Group and the Sierra Sage Group that deals with conservation issues in the county and beyond. They attended the July hearing with the Coastal Commission to oppose the LCP amendment when the decision was delayed pending additional information. Although it is unclear whether the developer will pull the project or make revisions, there is a legal requirement for the Commission to make a decision by February 2024.
It is also unclear when the project will be reconsidered by the Coastal Commission, but Sierra Club members who spoke at the hearing made it clear that the only suitable use for this property is its restoration as a wetland similar to those in Huntington Beach or Bolsa Chica.
On Tuesday, July 26, join us in Mission Viejo for Sierra Sage and Coastkeepers Working Together: A Conversation with Ray Hiemstra, our chair of the Orange County Conservation Committee and a desalination expert. Ray will give a short presentation and answer your questions about coastal cleanup days throughout Orange County, legislation to prevent invasive algae, and how we can protect swimmable, fishable, and drinkable water. He will also discuss the letter urging the Coastal Commission not to certify the changes to the zoning of the Magnolia Tank Farm and opposing its redevelopment.
The Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club welcomes your participation in its century of involvement in the enjoyment and protection of our planet's environment. The Angeles Chapter spans Los Angeles and Orange Counties in Southern California, with an extensive program of hikes/hiking, national and international travel, local conservation campaigns, political action, and programs for people of all ages.