The California Coastal Commission has nailed Home Depot’s plans to build a 128,517 s.f. store in East Long Beach, California. According to the Long Beach Press Telegram, the Commission’s staff has overturned a decision by the Long Beach City Council in October of 2006 to grant the huge project a conditional use permit. Now, the only way the Home Depot can survive is if the Commission itself overrules the recommendation of its staff on October 10th. The developer, Studebaker LB, LLC, was swamped by a tidal wave of opposition from environmentalists. Opponents charged that the store presented serious dangers to the sensitive ecosystem of Los Cerritos Wetlands, which are near the development site at 400 Studebaker Road at Loynes Drive. When the City Council ruled in favor of the plan, environmental groups appealed to the Coastal Commission, and two days ago, a Commission staff report agreed that a new hearing was needed. The Commission staff said that the site is zoned industrial, through the city’s Local Coastal Program, and the council approved commercial use. The development “could result in unanticipated and cumulative impacts” on the wetlands. The Home Depot project also failed to meet the LCP’s open-space requirements, and traffic “may adversely impact coastal access.” Environmental attorney Mel Nutter, a former commission chairman who is representing the project opponents, said, “approval of a conditional use permit for the proposed commercial retail use violated the requirements of the certified local coastal program.” The project is located on a fuel oil tank farm, which must be demolished, followed by a complete study of soil contamination, and remediation of any contamination.
In addition to the Home Depot, the developer wants to add a 6,000 s.f. restaurant, two additional retail buildings totaling 12,000 s.f. The development will need 712 parking spaces. Opponents say the project first needs to get the zoning changed to commercial from industrial. “Nobody has proposed amending it,” Attorney Nutter said. Home Depot also should seek a coastal development permit from the city before going to the state Coastal Commission. The commission staff agreed that a “certified local coastal plan requires that a local coastal development permit be obtained.” The Coastal Commission staff also reported that the proposed Home Depot would also “need to conform with public access and recreation policies of the (state) Coastal Act.” The 16.5-acre site is part of an electric generating facility, built in the early 1950s between Los Cerritos wetlands and the San Gabriel River. “The applicants state that the four large fuel-oil tanks are no longer needed to run the adjacent electric generating facility since it was recently converted to run on natural gas,” the commission staff wrote. The developer is also required to devote 30% of the site to open space. Home Depot planners only offer 22%. The staff said the plan failed to address “all adverse impacts (that) have not been minimized” – thus presenting a danger to the environment. Next to this project are two tidal channels, Los Cerritos Channel, San Gabriel River estuary and Los Cerritos Wetlands — all of which would be damaged by this project. “The potential adverse impacts to biological resources include the loss of habitat (burrowing owls), elimination of a small wetland … reduced water quality … lighting impacts (on wildlife) during nighttime, and increased human presence and automobile traffic,” the report concluded. The California Coastal Commission has 12 voting members and 4 non-voting members. Six of the voting members are “public members,” and six are local elected officials who come from specific coastal districts. Readers who wish to state their opposition to this plan should not write directly to the Commissioners, but simply send a short letter opposing the Home Depot plan to: California Coastal Commission Staff, 45 Fremont Street Suite 2000 San Francisco, CA 94105-2219.