Hermosa Beach adopts housing plan as development debate simmers

City aims to build 558 units, but a church trying to contribute to that goal hits resistance

Hermosa Beach Adopts Housing Plan as Project Debate Simmers
Hermosa Beach mayor Ray Jackson (Getty, Hermosa Beach; Illustration by The Real Deal)

Nearly two years after it missed an initial state deadline, the City of Hermosa Beach has adopted an updated Housing Element in an effort to comply with state regulations — just as a debate simmers in the city over a local development. 

The Hermosa Beach City Council approved the city’s latest version of the planning document at a meeting last week, although the city will still technically remain out of regulatory compliance — and potentially subject to penalties that include the controversial builder’s remedy provision, which allows developers to bypass local zoning — until the plan receives a signoff from the California Department of Housing & Community Development. 

After the council’s long-awaited adoption of the latest plan, the mayor struck a positive note, referring to the housing plan’s eventual codification as “a good day for our city,” the Southern California News Group reported.  

“We can create affordable housing for people that care about this community, that want to remain in this community,” Mayor Raymond Jackson said at last week’s packed council meeting. “And they’re going to be part of our economic development and vitality moving forward.” 

For its latest Housing Element revision, which applies through 2029, HCD determined that Hermosa Beach, a city of some 20,000 people located in southern L.A. County, must plan for an additional 558 housing units, including 232 units dedicated to very low income residents

But like plenty of other cities in Southern California, Hermosa Beach failed to win a state signoff on its new housing plan by the state’s initial October 2021 deadline. Hermosa Beach officials have since worked to reconfigure the plan to include more potential development sites to meet the planning quota. 

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One of the city’s potential development sites at the St. Cross Episcopal Church set off a firestorm of local debate, prompting dozens of residents to forcefully push back against the city’s amended plan and the development it could eventually enable.  

“I bought my house in 1981,” one resident commented at the meeting, according to the Southern California News Group. “When I added on to my house, I made [expletive] sure that I didn’t block my neighbor’s view. … I could have built another 10 feet up, but I didn’t do that. Because that’s not right.” 

Over the past few months the controversy grew heated enough that St. Cross, which owns multiple lots and agreed to be included in the city’s revised housing plan, felt compelled to issue its own statement “to quell rumors” that it planned to demolish its building and build a large apartment complex and that its properties had already been sold to a developer. 

Instead, St. Cross officials have said, the church is exploring a redevelopment option for aging residential properties it owns next to the church building.

“We as a church are eager to continue exploring how we may be able to use these properties to, among other things, meet the identified need of housing in our community,” the church’s senior warden wrote in a recent update. “To be clear, at this time we have not formulated any building designs or plans.” 

A representative for HCD did not immediately respond to an inquiry from TRD on Hermosa Beach’s updated Housing Element. 

The development debate in Hermosa comes as one of the state’s most consequential development fights continues to escalate in neighboring Redondo Beach, a larger city immediately to the south where developer Leo Pustilnikov has battled city officials for months over a potential power plant redevelopment. Last year, before Redondo Beach received a state signoff on its updated Housing Element, Pustilnikov filed a builder’s remedy application for the ambitious project.

Last week, with the city still contesting the project and denying that builder’s remedy should apply, the nonprofit YIMBY Law filed its own lawsuit against the city to enforce the builder’s remedy provision.

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