Big Wave Zoning


By on Tue, December 1, 2009

“W” zoning stands for Waterfront, not Wellness Center

The Big Wave Wellness Center parcel is zoned “W” for Waterfront, marine-related light industrial.  The only residential use allowed is a limited number of caretaker units included in industrial buildings which require “written statement from property owner acknowledging that marine and general industrial uses are the primary land uses and residents of caretaker’s quarters may be subject to inconvenience arising from such business.”  A purpose of the Waterfront zoning is to “protect the functional and economic viability of the working waterfront area by restricting incompatible land uses.”  Older “grandfathered” houses in the “W” district, if demolished, would not be allowed to be replaced.

Big Wave asks for a Use Permit for the Wellness Center on grounds that the housing component is a Sanitarium, defined as an institution for rest, recuperation, treatment of the chronically ill, or therapy for rehabilitation.  County zoning allows Use Permit for Sanitarium “in any zoning district in the urban Coastal Zone, when found to be necessary for the public health, safety, convenience or welfare. “

County Zoning for “RM” district (open space) has Tsunami Inundation Area Criteria (6326.2):  “The following uses, structures, and development shall not be permitted: …schools, hospitals, nursing homes, or other buildings or development used primarily by children or physically or mentally infirm persons. ...”  This clearly points out the County’s intent not to locate projects such as this in a hazard area, but industrial zoned districts don’t have this wording.  Perhaps that is because sanitariums are not a compatible use in an industrial zone?  Perhaps the County’s long overdue update of coastal light industrial zones will reflect the now completed tsunami zone mapping and address this issue? 

In any case, it is hard to understand how the County could decide that a Use Permit for Sanitarium in an industrial zone in a Tsunami Inundation Area, next to an earthquake fault is “necessary for the public health, safety, convenience and welfare.”

On the other hand, the developer claims special priorities for the Wellness Center as Affordable Housing, not an allowed use in the “W” zone.  Housing does not fit the definition of Sanitarium.  Nor is this housing necessarily affordable.  Big Wave residents would buy into a co-op and pay ongoing association fees.  There are no enforceable income or affordability restrictions.  This project is neither a Sanitarium nor Affordable Housing.

A large part of the Wellness Center is a community center, pool, fitness center with open-ended retail commercial component (dog grooming, etc.) all open for business to the public.  They propose charging for “event” parking (and office parking).  Retail use is not allowed in the “W” district.  It draws more traffic to the narrow local streets and charging for parking encourages parking along those streets.  County commercial zoning (C-1, C-2) allows uses such as hospitals, sanitariums, pet grooming establishments, community centers, professional & business offices.

One of the Big Wave Project Objectives is “to adhere to existing zoning laws that allow for special needs residential and commercial use on the same site … and … to be consistent with local General Plan goals.”  Commercial zoning may allow for residential on upper floors, but “W” is industrial zoning. 

There are no requirements or assurances that the Wellness Center will open or succeed financially.  Without that, the project looks like a hotel/condo/ conference center with shops in a visitor-serving coastal area conveniently near the airport.