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Last year, the City of Huntington Beach failed to get California Coastal Commission (CCC) approval for a change to its Local Coastal Program (LCP) to advance the Magnolia Tank Farm (MTF) residential and commercial development project. In February, The City correctly withdrew its application to the CCC. Unfortunately, the City plans to reapply for the LCP change later this year.

In the meantime, the project proponents are pressuring the Coastal Commission with deceptive messaging in an attempt to win CCC approval. OC Coastkeeper and the environmental coalition opposing this flawed project are pushing back on this effort by highlighting the dangerous truth about it.

There is good reason to be concerned. The proposed site for the project floods regularly; if the CCC were to approve the development, the decision would violate the CCC’s own Sea Level Rise Policy and set a statewide precedent that would allow housing to be built in areas prone to flooding.

The site is also located next to the ASCON toxic waste dump and on an earthquake fault. Currently, the site is zoned for industrial use and is used to park cars, which has resulted in vehicles being damaged by flooding during recent rains. It is irresponsible to put people at risk by building on this site.

Photo: Post-storm flooding at the proposed Magnolia Tank Farm project site, February 2024

This issue has been particularly controversial as the CCC has experienced growing criticism for not approving residential development plans. With the worsening housing crisis, specifically for affordable housing, there is increased tension surrounding the CCC’s decision on the MTF residential development. The MTF project has used promises of affordable housing to build support and pressure the CCC for approval. However, their claims to offer truly affordable housing are largely unsupported.

During the CCC meeting on February 8, 2024, Coastkeeper’s Associate Director of Policy and Projects, Ray Hiemstra, spoke to remind the Commissioners about the problems plaguing the proposed development site.

Continue reading to learn more about MTF and why Coastkeeper opposes the project.

About the Project

The Magnolia Tank Farm is a proposed residential and commercial development project for Huntington Beach that would severely impact the safety of humans, wildlife, and the environment. While Orange County desperately needs solutions to solve our housing crisis, the fragility of this site makes it unsuitable for any new development. 

The proposed site, located on Magnolia St. near the Huntington Beach Wetlands, is subject to significant coastal hazards, including sea level rise and tsunamis, along with being located on an earthquake fault in a flood zone next to the ASCON toxic landfill, a State of California Superfund site.

In the past, our team of water quality experts has been able to work with developers to improve their water quality management plans and environmental impact. However, the numerous risks associated with this location make it an unfixable project. The best and only proper use for this land would be to restore it to a wetland.

Development of the site would result in risk to the residents of the site and cause irreparable harm to the residents of adjacent neighborhoods. Specifically, our concerns are:

  1. This low-lying area is subject to flooding, sea level rise, and tsunamis.
    The site is in an area subject to flooding, which will only get worse with rising seas. Raising the height of the site to prevent flooding onsite will divert floodwaters into adjacent neighborhoods and will do nothing to prevent tsunami damage. Watch this video for a simulation of how sea level rise could affect the area.
  2. The South Branch of the Newport-Inglewood Fault lies underneath the site.
    The Newport-Inglewood Fault can generate earthquakes as large as 7.5 in magnitude. Studies show the site is subject to soil liquefaction and spreading during an earthquake.
  3. The ASCON Toxic Waste Dump, a California Superfund site, is adjacent to the property.
    The ASCON site is loaded with toxins and a potential threat to the neighborhood. The remediation of the site is ongoing, and Ascon will be a concern for many years to come.

As proposed, the project is inconsistent with the current City of Huntington Beach Local Coastal Program (LCP). Unfortunately, the City of Huntington Beach is currently seeking certification from the California Coastal Commission for a ‘project specific’ amendment to their LCP so the project can proceed.

We are urging the Coastal Commission to keep in line with their own Sea Level Rise Policy and not certify future proposed changes to the Huntington Beach Local Coastal Program for this project. Instead, they need to protect the local residents, wildlife, and ecosystem from the adverse impacts of this project.