Huntington Beach Council to Take Up Wintersburg Issue

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The Huntington Beach Planning Commission hears testimony from Rainbow Environmental Services employees during a public meeting in August. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

The Huntington Beach Planning Commission hears testimony from Rainbow Environmental Services employees during a public meeting in August. (Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

HUNTINGTON BEACH — The Huntington Beach City Council will review the Warner-Nichols site, also known as Historic Wintersburg, during its meeting on Monday, Nov. 4, starting at 6 p.m., at City Hall, 2000 Main St. (at Yorktown Avenue), Huntington Beach.

Mary Urashima of the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force.

Mary Urashima of the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force.

The mayor and council will hear appeals of decisions made regarding the site by the Planning Commission in August. The matter was on the council’s agenda a month ago but was postponed.

“This is a very critical meeting that may decide the final fate of this significant and rare Japanese American heritage site,” said Mary Urashima, chair of the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force.

The site contains buildings, including the Furuta family farm and Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, that represent the pre-war Japanese American community in Orange County. Rainbow Environmental Services, the property owner, is seeking to have the unoccupied buildings relocated or demolished, arguing that they are an obstacle to development.

A draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) states that rehabilitation and reuse of the buildings on-site is not feasible — a conclusion that the task force is contesting.

The Planning Commission voted 4-3 to certify the draft EIR; voted 5-2 to approve the General Plan Amendment (GPA) and Zoning Map Amendment (ZMA) to rezone the property to commercial/industrial; and voted 4-3 to deny the Statement of Overriding Consideration (SOC), which would have allowed Rainbow to carry out the demolition.

Mayor Pro Tem Mathew Harper appealed the denial of the SOC, while the Ocean View School District appealed the certification of the EIR and the rezoning of the property, citing concerns about industrial uses adjacent to a school.

Urashima said that both the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have stated that the property is potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as an example of “Japanese American settlement of the American West.” She added, “We also have four decades of historic analysis which confirm the historic significance.”

Currently attending a National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in Indianapolis, Urashima was scheduled to speak Friday about Historic Wintersburg on a panel about Asian American historical sites across the country.”

“There is a lot of support for Historic Wintersburg and offers of assistance for our effort,” reported Urashima, who will attend the council meeting, “but we need community support to get through this next hurdle.”

For more information, visit www.HistoricWintersburg.blogspot.com.

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