Manhattan Beach planners reject residents’ attempts to trim 4-story apartment complex

City commission turns down four appeals seeking to downsize or block 79-unit development in upscale South Bay city

Rendering of the proposed project site at 401 Rosecrans and 3770 Highland avenues, Manhattan Beach (Withee Malcolm Architects)
Rendering of the proposed project site at 401 Rosecrans and 3770 Highland avenues, Manhattan Beach (Withee Malcolm Architects)

Four attempts by residents to scale down a 79-unit apartment complex proposed for Manhattan Beach have been rejected by city planners.

The city’s Planning Commission denied the four appeals calling for reconsideration of plans to build a four-story complex on adjacent lots at 401 Rosecrans and 3770 Highland avenues, the Torrance Daily Breeze reported. Plans can still be appealed at a cost of $500 each.

The 96,200-square-foot building, known as Project Verandas or Highrise El Porto, was approved in March by Community Development Director Carrie Tai. Because it has affordable units, state law allowed staff to OK the project rather than submit it before a public hearing.

The development, to be built on a slope below some Chevron oil tanks, would require razing a
Verandas Beach House event center and a Tradewinds Village retail building.

Highrise El Porto, a developer based in Hermosa Beach led by veteran builder Frank Buckley, has proposed a 37- to 50-foot tall building on the triangular site. It would include 79 one-, two- and three-bedroom units, of which six would be set aside for very-low-income households.

An underground parking garage would serve 127 vehicles, including seven motorcycles and 27 bicycles.

The proposed apartment building was given density bonus for more height, floor area, setbacks and number of stories, plus a concession for a 24-foot maximum wall height. Without the waivers, the building would have been limited to three stories no higher than 30 feet, with a 74,000 square-foot limit.

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Residents unhappy with the project filed four appeals — individually and in pairs — asking for it to be scaled down, while calling for an environmental impact study and input from city government.

They argued the “ministerial approval” process undermines local decision making, while the state density bonus law is a loophole that allows for developers to overbuild, saying there would be too much traffic and not enough parking stemming from the residential project.

Some also said its project’s proximity to the Chevron oil refinery would create public health issues, while excavation would pose public safety hazards.

Buckley, in an open letter to residents, said the apartment complex would benefit north Manhattan Beach businesses, increase local parking and produce less traffic than the current shopping and event centers, while helping the city meet state-mandated housing goals.

The upscale South Bay city must build 774 housing units by the end of the decade, of which nearly two thirds must be affordable, according to the state’s proposed housing element for the region.

A nonprofit group tied to the California Association of Realtors has sued Manhattan Beach and five other Southland cities for failing to meet state housing plan deadlines. 

[Torrance Daily Breeze] – Dana Bartholomew

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