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Planned Home Depot site near Los Cerritos Wetlands for sale

Published 4/25/2009 on Press-Telegram

LONG BEACH – The site of a failed Home Depot design center proposal near Los Cerritos Wetlands is up for sale.

Tom Dean of Studebaker, LB LLC, is asking for $18.9 million.

The site had been the center of an intense battle between Dean and environmentalists who asserted his proposed Home Depot project at Studebaker Road and Loynes Drive would create too many negative impacts on the neighboring Los Cerritos Wetlands.

During the battle, Dean abandoned the push for a Home Depot but shifted to another project, seeking permits to build an almost identical development on 16.5 acres at the same location.

The second project, which he apparently is abandoning, would have included a 102,513 square-foot home-improvement store, a 6,000-square-foot restaurant, a 2,000-square-foot outdoor eating area and a 12,000-square-foot retail pad. No tenant had been identified in the project.

Mike Murchison, a spokesman for Dean, could not be reached for comment Friday.

But the notice of sale says the 18.1 acres at 400 N. Studebaker Road of commercial and/or industrial zoned land provides "excellent development opportunities."

Dean also owns the Los Cerritos wetlands and is involved in land-swap negotiations that could give him several city-owned properties around Long Beach in exchange for the city taking ownership of the wetlands.

The home-improvement center property is separate from the wetlands, but faced rigorous environmental scrutiny, which is what stopped the earlier Home Depot plan in the first place.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled in December 2007 that a required city-approved environmental report was inadequate. Judge John A. Torribio said the report failed to address all issues, including whether Dean's property can be considered wetlands.

Dean later settled with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit – the Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust and the University Park Estates Neighborhood Association – to cover their legal fees, and then Home Depot backed out of the project in August.

Long Beach attorney Mel Nutter, a former chairman of the state Coastal Commission, said the original California Environmental Quality Act issues would be the same, including whether the property's zoning can be changed from industrial to commercial.

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