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Manhattan Beach Apartment Complex Developer Responds to Questions

Feb 10, 2022 03:50PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The developer of a proposed 79-unit apartment complex development project at Highland and Rosecrans in Manhattan Beach has responded to widely asked community questions about the project. 

The project, which has been known informally as the "Highrose" project due to the name of the developer's LLC, has drawn community concerns and criticism.

Since mid-January, numerous comments received by the city show strong objections, and a petition to oppose the Highrose proposal has drawn 2,900 signatures.

The project is also unfolding at a time when the city is bristling against state-mandated requirements for adding housing density. (In fact, the Manhattan Beach City Council on Wednesday night voted to miss a key deadline - and potentially take on fines and legal liability - rather than approve a new state-mandated housing density plan.)

Nevertheless, over the past few weeks, project developer Frank Buckley of Highrose El Porto LLC has been meeting with small groups of Manhattan Beach residents to explain the project - tentatively called Project Verandas - in more detail. 

Buckley agreed to answer the following questions for The MB News. 

Why this development? Why this location? Why now?

Buckley: As longtime Manhattan Beach residents, we wanted to make sure we delivered a project that makes our city proud. Since late summer of 2020, we have been working with staff to understand local development standards and thoughtfully design a project that adaptively re- purposes an underutilized site, benefits the North End businesses, and mitigates impact to the neighborhood. Not only will this use help the City provide a portion of its share of critical housing units in the midst of a State-wide housing crisis, but it will also generate less traffic, create more publicly available parking, and do more to support local businesses than other uses that could have been developed at the site.

Is the building really 50 feet tall?

Buckley: No. The proposed buildings are not 50 feet tall. Because of the site's length and its significant slope along Rosecrans Avenue, we have been able to utilize the slopes and contours of the site to significantly reduce overall building heights. So, that while a single measurement from the ground floor to the tip of the elevator shafts is 50 feet, the average height to roof line is closer to 38 feet. The site plan strategically sets the property back from Rosecrans and limits the height of the property fronting Rosecrans to 37 feet at its highest point.

Won’t this project add lots of new traffic?

Buckley: No. We are keenly aware of the traffic issues in the El Porto neighborhood, and that is why we demanded that any project we proposed would reduce traffic and not increase it. Our third-party traffic studies have shown that Project Verandas will generate less traffic than the existing Verandas/Tradewinds development, or any alternative developments, such as office/commercial or mixed-use retail.

Parking is already a problem in North Manhattan Beach. Won’t this project make it

Buckley: No. Project Verandas will make the parking situation much better. Despite rumors to the contrary, our project will not remove the existing city parking structure at the corner of Highland and Rosecrans, or the surface lot on the Chevron parking easement. By adding far more [garage] parking spaces (127) than are required under the code (103) for our residents, and removing the parking demand that currently exists from the Verandas and Tradewinds tenants (those tenants and customers currently use both the city parking garage and the Chevron parking lot), there will be a significant net increase in parking spaces available for public use. All told, Project Verandas will add up to 203 more parking spaces than are currently available to the public. [MB News note: This count refers to 150 spaces from the Chevron lot and 53 spaces from the city lot that are freed up without Tradewinds tenants or customers.]

Isn’t this project an example of a developer taking advantage of state housing laws to
“max out” the site?

Buckley: No. It is important to note that the California density bonus law was initially enacted back in 1979, and despite tens of thousands of units having been developed pursuant to this legislation throughout the state, Manhattan Beach is only now processing its first project. For a site to make sense, it needs to check a lot of boxes, not the least of which is price, and therefore, only a handful of sites in any coastal market will ever be feasible. While our project will benefit from a 35% density bonus for the inclusion of affordable units, there have been amended laws that provide for even greater density. We elected to scale back the allowable density to minimize impact and still justify the residential use when compared to alternative uses.

This development has six units set aside for very-low-income households. Who would
qualify for these units?

Buckley: A family of four with a combined income of $59,100, or an individual with an income of $41,400 or less, would qualify. Affordable housing like this improves diversity, and the quality of life for its residents by leading to better health, financial stability, and security. These units will enable school district employees, service providers, college students, retirees, and more to afford living in our community.

How would this project satisfy current and future requirements that Manhattan Beach
needs to meet under the State’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)? 

Buckley: It would certainly help, as this is one of just two such residential projects being proposed at this time.  Furthermore, it demonstrates the city’s efforts and willingness to try and reach the goals set by RHNA and the State’s Housing and Community Development department. 

Do you plan to hold the property long term or sell it upon completion?

Buckley: To date, we have never sold a property, and intend to hold this for decades. Accordingly, we will be building the project with high-end materials and sophisticated finishes that are expected in an upscale, coastal market.

Will this project fill a gap in the Manhattan Beach housing market?

Buckley: Project Verandas will address two important demographics in our community – those who may never be in a position to purchase a home, yet qualify for one of the affordable units; and those that may be able to afford a home but prefer to rent or are saving for a down payment. As the typical home price in Manhattan Beach now exceeds $2.9 million, many young professionals who simply cannot afford to buy, need rental options to stay in the community they love.

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