Court decision helps clear path to senior center

A recent court decision could allow Huntington Beach to break ground on a new senior center by the end of the year.

The California 4th District Court of Appeal on Tuesday ruled in favor of the city in a lengthy court battle with project opponents.

The ruling upheld a 2010 appellate decision that determined that the city had fulfilled court orders necessary to begin construction.

The Parks Legal Defense Fund, a citizens group dedicated to protecting open space, sued the city in 2008 to prevent construction of the new senior center in Central Park, at 18000 Goldenwest St.

The group believed the environmental impact report was insufficient and that the city could not use park fees that it would have received from the Pacific City project — a shopping center planned for an area near the pier – to pay for the new center.

The Orange County Superior Court required Huntington Beach to address the issues, adding that the city should also prepare a report analyzing alternative locations for the senior center.

Huntington Beach council members directed city staff to comply with the court orders, and the necessary changes were made, City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said.

Though the Superior Court panel found that the city had fulfilled its requirements, the Defense Fund appealed the court's ruling and the subsequent decision by the appellate court in 2010.

City officials said construction at Central Park could begin by the end of the year.

"The lawsuit has never been a red light for the city," McGrath said. "It was just a matter of what risk we were willing to take.… There's never been a legal obstacle for them to start construction. It was primarily a problem with the financing options and their confidence level while we were in litigation."

During a study session in May, city staff determined that the new facility will cost about $21.5 million.

Defense Fund representatives and counsel could not be reached for comment.

Though Councilman Joe Carchio has some concerns that the case may be appealed to the state Supreme Court, he's happy to get the ball rolling on the new center.

"We don't owe anything to the seniors, but this is the right thing to do," he said. "It's to show appreciation for what they've done for us in this city."

Copyright © 2018, CT Now