Neighborhood group sues to block approved project in Manhattan Beach
City had approved controversial Highrose El Porto apartments after warning from state
A neighborhood group has sued to block a 79-unit apartment complex in Manhattan Beach after the city approved it under pressure from state officials.
Chill the Build, the Manhattan Beach advocacy group, filed the lawsuit against the city after the City Council bowed to state pressure and approved the four-story building at 401 Rosecrans and 3770 Highland avenues, the Torrance Daily Breeze reported.
The council had previously denied the 96,200-square-foot apartment building proposed by Sacramento-based Highrose El Porto, led by Frank Buckley, south of a Chevron oil refinery in nearby El Segundo
“We’re asking the court to order that the city ensure the project undergoes a full environmental review pursuant to (the California Environmental Quality Act), to protect the people who might be living there and the community around it,” Andrew Ryan, leader of Chill the Build, told the Breeze.
Three months after initially denying plans by the developer, the upscale South Bay city approved the controversial project in January, following a warning from the state.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development issued the city a notice of violation last fall for denying the project and violating state housing laws.
In November, Buckley filed a lawsuit asking the court to reverse the city’s denial, seeking damages equal to its loss of investment. That lawsuit is still active despite the project having been approved.
The latest complaint, filed late last month, argues that Highrose poses environmental and public health threats to future tenants. And because the project is slated to have six affordable units, the complaint says, those tenants could be particularly disadvantaged.
Highrose residents would be exposed to carcinogens and reproductive toxins from an aquifer beneath the site, potential methane explosions and unknown, yet-to-be-excavated materials, according to the lawsuit.
“It’s just wrong,” Ryan said, “to put people in that area for housing without doing a proper environmental review.”
Manhattan Beach representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment. An attorney representing Highrose said the lawsuit won’t hold up in court.
“On its face, the lawsuit is devoid of merit,” Michael Shonafelt, attorney for Highrose, told the Breeze in an email. “Among other things, it tries to invoke laws intended to support affordable housing projects and use them to attack an affordable housing project; that’s not what those laws were enacted for.”
Buckley’s plans call for a 40- to 50-foot high building on a triangle-shaped lot with 79 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, of which six would be set aside as affordable. An underground garage would serve 127 cars.
The Highrose El Porto project will replace the Verandas Beach House event center and Tradewinds Village retail building.
— Dana Bartholomew
Manhattan Beach planners reject residents’ attempts to trim 4-story apartment complex
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