Mall plan clears another hurdle

INTERIOR of Westminster Mall (City of Westminster photo).

By Ghani Amir/Orange County Tribune

After years of delay, specific zoning plans regarding the location and appropriate types of buildings allowed on the property in and around the Westminster Mall will finally start to be laid out due to the 4-0 passing of the plan’s resolutions at Wednesday’s planning commission meeting.

Four out of five members of the Westminster Planning Commission were present at the meeting, with Commissioner Quynh-Giao Nguyen being the absent member.

A specific plan created by Placeworks was brought forth to city staff and the planning commission. A specific plan is a comprehensive planning document that goes further than general planning by outlining restrictions and guidelines while also serving as the zoning for the site.

Starting in 2016, this project has pushed forward through the pandemic, with Assistant City Manager Adolfo Ozaeta describing the concern regarding retail sales post-pandemic during the meeting.

“This is by far the project that I’m most proud of. The continuity of the staff we have in Westminster has gotten us to where we are today,” said Ozaeta, delivering the message on behalf of Westminster City Manager Christine Cordon.

The specific plan outlines that the area around the Westminster Mall and the mall itself would occupy 100 acres of land, which includes 1.3 million square feet of existing buildings. 600,000 square feet would be left aside for strictly retail buildings.

Around the space are residential areas, some properties that are located in Huntington Beach, and a direct on- and off-ramp onto the San Diego (405) Freeway

“This is a landmark opportunity, there’s a chance to make something special here,” said Wendy Nowak, a consultant for the city and principle In charge at Placeworks.

Residents that spoke in the public hearing generally wanted to have a place to bring visitors when in Westminster. Whether that includes breweries, open spaces, farmers markets, or larger walking spaces, people wanted to see those options available to them.

Some concerns from residents, though, include increased traffic congestion and side street cut-throughs in the area. People also suggested that a hotel not be built along the same streets as residential areas, but instead along the highway to help curb noise issues. Other residents voiced their support for using some of the area for low-income housing.

Multiple members from Shopoff Realty Investments, an investment firm that has invested $100 million into this project, were adamant about the need for prominent retail in the area. Shopoff Realty Investments’ website states that they “transformed underutilized, undervalued or mismanaged real estate into more attractive and valuable assets…”

“We didn’t invest $100 million in this real estate to not be a part of it,” said Shopoff Executive Vice President of Real Estate Brian Rupp.

“In an urban area with lots of activity, there has to be meticulous planning. It may not be to the liking of everybody,” said Westminster Planning Commission Chair Don Anderson.

No formal project applications have been submitted yet.

Now that the planning commission has adapted all resolutions to the general plan and specific plan, they will be sent to the city council for review. The planning commission can now also move forward in determining what the best locations may be for parking, residential, and shopping spaces.



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