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As Huntington Beach grows, how will it house those newcomers?

As Huntington Beach grows, how will it house those newcomers?

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A worker measures an opening on the construction of new high-density apartments next to Boardwalk Windsor apartment complex near Bella Terra in Huntington Beach. KEN STEINHARDT, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

HUNTINGTON BEACH – The population will grow in Surf City, and housing will need to change to reflect that growth. That was the overriding message Monday from a panel of housing and demographics experts assembled by the nonprofit Association of California Cities for a town hall at the Central Library.

Citing statistics that show how housing shortages will be exacerbated by the population growth, experts said cities across Southern California must figure out policies to ensure “that adequate housing will be available for everyone at every income level. That’s state law,” said housing lawyer Todd Leighman.

However, that message left a number of the 75 people in the audience feeling miffed.

“It gave me hives,” said Stephanie Green, 47, a Huntington Beach resident. “It seemed like they were spinning numbers that weren’t true.”

For example, several residents said the city has been able to hold the line against growth in recent years and they hope to buck the countywide trend – the population is expected to climb by 20,000 annually through 2025.

Richard Gollis of real estate advisers The Concord Group said that 65 percent of growth in the county comes not from outsiders moving in, but from growing families in the population and longer life spans.

The third member of the panel, Steve PonTell, an affordable-housing developer and CEO of National Community Renaissance, said attractive and desirable affordable housing is attainable even in Huntington Beach.

“If we don’t provide for the people who are here, they will find their own way. And you may not like their solutions,” he said, noting that overcrowding of units, garage conversions and other adverse effects are consequences of a lack of housing.

Many audience members weren’t much happier with the panel’s solutions.

“They just looked like a group selling high density,” said Jerry Barry of Huntington Beach.

City Councilman Billy O’Connell praised the panel for what he called valuable information. He said that while he was not opposed to growth as long as it’s within reason, “I want to see only good projects in the city. Something I can’t see are projects with more than 100 units per acre.”

Huntington Beach has been in the crosshairs of the housing debate. Studies place the region’s housing shortage at roughly 65,000 homes.

The issue is even more acute in Huntington Beach, where the city cut by half the number of potential housing units in an area near Beach Boulevard and Edinger Avenue, leaving itself 400 units short of state requirements for affordable-housing sites.

In November, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down the city’s changes and restored the original plan.

Although some questions from the audience were about the Beach and Edinger Corridor Specific Plan, the panel, which had a regional focus, did not answer them.

PonTell chided those who opposed affordable housing, saying “The I-got-mine attitude creates a bigger affordability gap.” He also insisted there was room for growth in the city.

“Take a drive along Beach Boulevard and tell me they’ve maximized utilitizing the space,” he said. “There’s a ton of opportunity. You just need the right development at the right time.”

Contact the writer: gmellen@ocregister.com

The Orange County Register – News Headlines : Real Estate News