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The seven-member city council in my hometown of Huntington Beach currently has four vacancies to fill in the upcoming November election. There are 18 candidates running and their campaign promises in the voter’s information guide are mostly focused on “preserving the unique character of Surf’s City’s suburban beach community” and opposing high-density development.

Michael Gates, the current city attorney is also up for reelection. Gates has battled the state of California on low-income housing since he was elected, arguing that since Huntington is a charter city, the state has no jurisdiction over how the city is run.


Huntington lost this lawsuit in 2019 and the current council decided not to appeal. The current city council became largely progressive after mixed martial artist and former city council member Tito Ortiz quit.

The city council recently approved zoning for more than 21,000 units city-wide to accommodate California state requirements for lower-and moderate-income households. The council argues that this is a proactive measure because failure to comply with state requirements risks something called “builder’s remedy.”

Builder’s remedy means that if the city doesn’t follow state mandates it loses local control over projects with an affordable housing component. This happened to Santa Monica earlier this year and that other suburban community up the coast from Huntington now has 4,500 units in the pipeline this year that they cannot deny.

One of the proposed areas to rezone in Huntington Beach is on Edwards Hill, one of the highest vantage points in Huntington Beach.

Edwards Hill - Huntington Beach California


The steep incline provided a perfect slope for soap box racers back in the day. Check out all those oil derricks!


Soap Box Racers with Oil Derricks in the Background


I have fond memories of cruising down Edwards Hill in the late sixties with my best friends from high school, enjoying substances which are legal now but were not then. There was no housing on Edwards Hill or much traffic in those days, just oil wells, wide-open spaces and lots of stars, in my aging memory anyway. Or possibly it was those formerly illegal substances.


Edwards HillThese days, Edwards Hill is a high-end equestrian community, surrounded by horse trails. The lots are, at a minimum, 8,000 square feet and currently zoned for three single-family houses per lot, although most lots only have one single-family home with an average of three residents per household.

An online real estate guide calls the Edwards Hills neighborhood “a high-end address for people with a high net worth who wish to keep a low profile.” One of the homeowners is the current city attorney Michael Gates.


Man in Front of Oil Rig - Man in Front of Oil MuseumThe rezoning plans would allow 30 units per acre on a 19-acre Edwards Hill oilfield. The LA Times reported that sixty-five Edwards Hill residents complained about the rezoning plans at the city council meeting last week. The residents argued that low-income housing “is not the right fit” and “would not be in harmony with the current surrounding neighborhoods.”

The Times article doesn’t report any discussion of the remediation required to fit a low-income housing project into an oilfield. Currently, the site is privately owned by the descendants of landscape contractor Ron Brindle and oilman and former city council member John Thomas, pictured above. Both are now deceased.

John Thomas’ dream of an oil museum was never realized, not yet anyway.



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