Huntington Beach resident Tim Karpinsky looks out from his neighbor's balcony overlooking a nursery that could have been turned into an RV lot. (Photo by: Adam Elmahrek)

Monday, May 3, 2010|Residents of a community in the eastern part of Huntington Beach might find themselves victims of an unintended consequence stemming from the city’s ban on long-term RV parking on city streets.

The RV’s have to go somewhere, and the Huntington Beach Planning Commission recently voted to allow the lease of a lot at the corner of Garfield Avenue and Ward Street to be transferred from the owners of a nursery to RV parking lot entrepreneur Doc Rivers.

This is not welcome news to the residents of the Aragon Circle neighborhood and the Mariner’s Point mobile home park, both of which border the site.

The change, residents say, would not only destroy the peace and quiet that the nursery has afforded them for decades, but it kill their property values and create a fire hazard when the RVs come in contact with the tangle of overhead power lines that hang over the property. The Huntington Beach city council is scheduled to take up the proposal at its May 17 meeting.

“I will have to constantly think about the safety issues of my neighborhood — physical security, traffic and fire,” said Tim Karpinsky, a 20-year resident of the neighborhood.

Senior citizen residents of the park say they are against the RV lot but feel helpless to do anything about it.

Rivers does not share the residents’ concerns, nor did the 4-3 majority of the planning commission that approved his conditional use permit. Rivers said he plans to install fire hydrants that not only will mitigate the fire hazard presented by the RVs, but make the neighborhood safer from fire than it is now.

“Mobile homes in Orange County go up like matchboxes,” Rivers said.

Planners in the city of Orange had a different take when presented with a similar proposal in 2008. The proposal called for the placement of a 13-acre RV lot under a cascade of power lines. That body rejected the proposal because, among other things, the Los Angeles Fire Department said it was a fire risk.

“The Los Angeles County Fire Department had taken a stance that they did not want to fight fire underneath power lines and they did not want storage or buildings under power lines,” read the minutes from an Orange planning commission meeting.

As in Orange, the Huntington Beach lot is owned by the Southern California Edison power company. Steve Conroy, spokesperson for the company, said the company would not “allow anything on our property that will jeopardize electrical safety.”

Karpinski says he doesn’t buy Edison’s response that safety is its primary concern. “Why would you let this project go forward when you know there is a public safety hazard?” he said.

Planning Commissioner Tom Livengood, who voted against the permit, says it poses several problems. He questioned the wisdom of placing the lot around residential neighborhoods and says Edison won’t approve the widening of Yorktown Road, which would allow the RVs to make sharp turns to get to the lot.

“All that activity there completely changes the neighborhood,” Livengood said.

Rivers insists that the impact is minimal considering the fact that the homes are so close to the mobile home park and the power lines. “Will they be able to see them (the RVs)?” Rivers said. “Yeah, just as much as they’ll see the power lines or the mobile homes.”

Rivers said had he known the proposal would have been this much of a headache he would have never applied to lease the land. But he said he has invested too much of his own personal finances into the project to back out.

Some home values at Aragon Circle are sure to plummet once the RV lot goes in, according to George Harris of Sterling Appraisal. In a cover letter to Aragon Circle resident Amanda Garner, Harris says her property is going to drop between $75,000 and $100,000 in value.

Harris said it is reasonable to expect that every home with a view of the RV lot is going to suffer a similar drop in value. Eight homes at Aragon Circle have yards that face the proposed site.

Park residents and Aragon Circle residents say they received notification for a community meeting Rivers hosted to address their concerns. But they said the flier was misleading and it didn’t clearly say the RVs would affect them. They said they were sure that the RVs would be isolated to the substation.

Rivers said he will continue to work with residents to address their concerns.

“I’m not a bad guy,” Rivers said. “I’m not a big corporation that’s trying to say I say so and you can’t do anything about it.”

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