MR. LONG BEACH: Two Homes on the Hill Causing Headaches for Cities

Hill Street is steep, and at an incline of almost 30 degrees, it’s fun.

The Signal Hill roadway borders Long Beach and, according to calculations I did on my iPhone, rises about 135 feet in just over a quarter mile.

Years ago it was the spot to see Model Ts climb the steepest hill in the area. Crowds came to watch famous racers prove their cars had the muscle to reach the top.

The incline, informally know as Shell Hill early last century, has not only served as an impromptu proving ground for cars, but also a street luge track and jogging path for runners looking for a steep challenge.

Halfway up the hill sit two houses, or rather, two headaches for the cities of Signal Hill and Long Beach.

The twin homes were built about 10 years ago but never occupied. They are now boarded up and one shows signs of fire damage. The buildings are in Long Beach, although their sidewalk and street are in Signal Hill.

Trying to piece together what happened, Signal Hill Deputy City Manager Charlie Honeycutt thinks that the builder was issued permits from the city of Long Beach but never contacted Signal Hill.

He said the two cities usually talk to each other about issues on the border, but in this case, that didn’t happen. In fact, Signal Hill discovered the buildings when the city manager saw the foundations being framed.

“There is a series of issues with those homes,” Honeycutt said. “Essentially, they were built without inspections and there is still no water and sewer or natural gas utilities.”

Honeycutt’s first concern was that driveway access from Hill Street would be a safety issue. In fact, he said the developer did two traffic studies, but neither engineer would agree to sign off on access. He said the traffic study showed that an SUV couldn’t turn out of a driveway without turning over the street’s center median island.

The next solution was to get access to the back of the homes. But, for that to happen, the developer had to purchase more land.

Long Beach City Councilman Patrick O’Donnell said the builder got construction approval from Long Beach, but never got utility approval from Signal Hill.

O’Donnell explained that over the past couple of years the city has been to court several times over these homes. He said every time it goes to court there is a new owner who makes a promises to do a specified action within a certain amount of time but then never completes that action.

The councilman, seemingly frustrated, said, “We’ve been too nice, for too long, and we’re done with being nice.”

The latest court documents show that the city of Long Beach filed a complaint against 6 Angels LLC and B.D.R. Inc. for continuing violations of the Long Beach Municipal Code.

According to an agreement finalized in April, 6 Angels needs to complete a number of things, including extending Orizaba Street to the back of the homes for vehicle access and extending all utilities to the property.

“We’ve gone to court now for what should be the final time,” O’Donnell said, and if all the actions that have been specified by the judge are not completed, “The homes will be torn down.”