HUNTINGTON BEACH – A group of residents is suing Huntington Beach over a housing development planned on for vacant school property.
The Neighborhood Save Our Field Committee filed suit on Dec. 19 in Orange County Superior Court saying the housing development would harm the community surrounding the school site "in very significant ways".
Residents say in the lawsuit the project would mean the loss of open space, less access to the existing green belt, more traffic and the destruction of vegetation and mature trees, among other complaints.
The former City Council voted on Nov. 19 to approve 81 homes for the 12-acre Lamb School site on Yorktown Avenue, east of Brookhurst Street. Mayor Connie Boardman and Councilman Joe Shaw voted against the project.
The Tri Pointe Homes project would also include revamped soccer field, a new basketball court and other park features.
The project was one of two approved for old school sites in the city.
In March 2005, the Fountain Valley district announced it planned to declare these sites surplus and sell them. Huntington Beach officials bought portions of each school site to preserve for park space. Nearly three acres were bought at Lamb.
City officials said they could not reserve more open space because they were bound by the Naylor Act, which allows Huntington Beach to buy a limited amount of the district's land.
Although residents collected more than 600 signatures opposing the Lamb project, city officials said they had no legal authority to deny the project.
The lawsuit also alleges the project does not fit with the city's building code requirements and violates Measure C, which requires certain projects slated for park land or beaches to be put to a public vote.
At the council meeting, city officials said the vacant school site is not considered park space but many residents contested, saying they've treated the grassy areas as open space for years.
The lawsuit also says the city should have been required to study the environmental impacts of the project.
"It was so obvious that (the EIR) had to be done," said Lawrence Hutchens, attorney for the Neighborhood Committee. "The tragedy is that's how the City Council works. They're doing it because most people can't afford a lawyer."
Huntington Beach officials will have a chance to respond to the lawsuit in court but said they could not comment on pending litigation.
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