Like communities across the nation, Huntington Beach has suffered through the pandemic, impacting not only residents’ health, but wreaking havoc on the local economy and municipal finances. At this challenging time, it is important leaders embrace opportunities to repair and renew economic resilience and community health.
Huntington Beach City Council has such an opportunity on January 19 when it considers a proposal for re-use of the Magnolia Tank Farm. Located at the intersection of Magnolia Street and Banning Avenue, it derives its name from three above-ground oil storage tanks built in the early 1970s and demolished several years ago. What remains is essentially an eyesore on the beautiful Huntington Beach coastline.
The Magnolia Tank Farm project is for 250 for-sale homes, a 215-room boutique eco-friendly lodge and 19,000 square feet of retail and dining space that will create jobs and generate property, sales and hotel bed tax revenues to fund city services. The hotel will feature meeting facilities available for use by the community.
Huntington Beach is a unique and wonderful community, and land reuse proposals should honor the existing community, balance competing interests, protect the environment and respectfully move the city forward. Magnolia Tank Farm project meets these standards.
Beyond the obvious economic benefits, a development agreement contractually obligates the developer to deliver a range of community benefits, including three acres of new public parks, trails and viewpoints.
Land from the site will be set aside as a new public park, Marsh Park, offering public views of the Magnolia Marsh and the ocean, recreation areas and an amphitheater. An elevated public coastal trail providing ocean views will be built along the western edge of the site, next to the marsh. Furthermore, the existing privately owned greenbelt known as “Squirrel Park” will become Magnolia Park; it will be owned by the city, open to the public, but maintained – at no public expense – by the new community’s homeowner’s association.
Other community benefits include millions of dollars to fund improvements to the Banning Branch Library and Edison Park, as well as traffic improvements and beautification for Banning Avenue and Magnolia Street. While each of these improvements offers immediate benefits to residents, they also make Huntington Beach a more attractive location for those looking to start a business or relocate their economic ventures to a new locale. Especially now as Orange County looks to recovery after the devasting economic impacts of COVID-19, leaders should take every opportunity to position their communities for success.
Equally important is the ongoing contribution Magnolia Tank Farm will make to the fiscal health of the city and the greater Orange County economy. The four-star eco-friendly lodge and retail/dining venues mean more jobs and business opportunities, increased property, sales and bed tax revenues. The project itself will contribute millions of dollars in developer fees to city and school coffers.
This is an opportunity to convert nonproductive land into a valuable community asset. It also provides badly needed housing to address a severe backlog in supply and meet local requirements under state law. The lack of options for Huntington Beach residents and workers exacerbates traffic and air quality problems as more are forced to commute; it hampers Orange County’s competitive business advantage as young professionals increasingly move elsewhere in order to buy homes, crippling economic growth. With this project, Huntington Beach remains a leader in economic recovery, while also complementing and preserving its local community character.
Expert analysis and official findings researching the details and fiscal implications were evaluated by the Huntington Beach Planning Commission – an important step before City Council review – and the commissioners voted overwhelmingly for project approval.
Magnolia Tank Farm’s balance and panoply of benefits have garnered broad-based support from business leaders, public safety, civic organizations, community leaders, residents and housing advocates, including Huntington Beach Police Officers Association, Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce, Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy, Orange County Business Council and many others.
It is not often when the county’s leading business organization and a police union align on issues. But here we heartily concur and ask Huntington Beach City Council to join with us in support of an effective reuse of a blighted site – and to seize this opportunity to create jobs, economic vitality, new businesses, for-sale housing, expanded environmental access and millions in tax revenues for vital public services.
We urge a “yes” vote for this project.
Lucy Dunn is President and CEO of the Orange County Business Council. Yahsa Nikitin is President of the Huntington Beach Police Officers Association
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