By Nick Diamantides
Some things in life take a long time, and three planned developments in Signal Hill are a good example of that. The construction of a mosque that was approved by the Signal Hill Planning Commission and the City Council more than three years ago is finally on the verge of beginning. Meanwhile, plans to construct a 68,000-square-foot recycling facility are slowly moving forward– about one year after City Council approval. Plans to construct an administrative station related to the facility will probably be considered by the Council by summer’s end.
Speaking of the mosque, which will be built by the Long Beach Islamic Center, Gary Jones, Signal Hill’s director of community development, said the city has approved the building plan and issued all necessary permits to the Center. “They have been dealing with oil wells on the site,” he said. Jones explained that the wells had been abandoned many years ago, but the California Division of Oil and Gas had to inspect them to make sure they were not leaking methane gas. “That has been done, and now they are good to go,” he added.
The mosque will be built on an approximately 13,000-square-foot parcel of land at 995 27th St. Jones said the grading of the land, to prepare the site for construction, is now in progress. “They also want to build a wall around the site,” he said. “And they are thinking about upgrading the exterior material, which would have to be approved by the planning commission.”
Jones said he doesn’t know when construction will start. “That’s really up to them,” he said. “But they will have to call us to send out a building inspector as different phases of the project proceed.”
According to plans on file at Signal Hill City Hall, the mosque will be a one-story, stucco and block commercial building that will contain space for an office, conference room, assembly room, washrooms and restrooms. The building’s southern entry will include a large arcade with three large arches supported by four columns finished in stucco.
“Once established, it will provide education and daily (early morning) prayer services,” said Islamic Center Chairman Tarek Mohamed in a letter he sent to the city’s planning department. He added that a weekly afternoon prayer service will take place on Fridays. “Long Beach Islamic Center is dedicated to working alongside all other groups such as Christian and Jewish organizations as well as government and police officials,” he noted. Mohamed did not immediately return a phone message left for him by the Signal Tribune.
Meanwhile, according to Jones, the city is expediting the development of EDCO’s (also known as Signal Hill Disposal) planned solid-waste transfer station and recycling center. The approximately 68,000-square-foot enclosed facility will be built on an approximately 143,000-square-foot parcel on the northwest corner of Patterson Street and California Avenue. “They are dealing with oil well issues on that site too,” Jones said. “There are more than a dozen wells there, including wells that are not on the records of the Division of Oil and Gas.”
Jones explained that while the process of ensuring that the wells are properly sealed is slowing down development of the site, the city is working hard to enable construction of the facility to start as soon as possible. “We have just received plans for the foundation, and we are actually checking those plans without having a full set of building plans,” he said. “We are preparing to issue a foundation permit.” He noted that EDCO has agreed that if it is later determined that the building’s specifications do not match the foundation, the company will bear the expense of necessary modifications and additional plan checks. “They are trying to get the project under construction, and we want to do everything we can to help them do that,” Jones said.
The transfer station and recycling center is important to the City of Signal Hill, primarily because the City will get a percentage of the fees EDCO will charge every time a truck dumps a load of material there. Declining sales-tax revenues and other factors have created a budget deficit in the city’s General Fund and city officials are working to create other revenue generating sources.
Another planned development, which is related to the transfer station, is the EDCO administrative terminal, which the company hopes to build at 950 27th St. That facility will contain office space and a maintenance center for EDCO’s refuse collection and transfer trucks as well as a day-use and overnight parking lot for the trucks. The site encompasses approximately 103,000 square feet and also contains 12 abandoned oil wells that must be remediated.
Jones said that the city has not yet formally approved plans for the administrative terminal but will probably do so in the near future. “This week, we are giving notice to the public of the environmental documents for the project,” he said. “Then anyone who wants to comment on the documents has a set period in which to do that.”
He explained that the documents are contained in a mitigated negative declaration, which states there are not significant environmental impacts associated with the proposed development. He said the project would probably go to the city council for approval by September.