Signal Hill targets new development

Rendering of a remodeled Target store at 950 E. 33rd St. in Signal Hill (Courtesy City of SH)

Gateway Center North to include remodeled Target store plus new drive-thru, medical office, shops and self-storage

The City of Signal Hill is taking steps to allow the remodel of a Target retail store at 950 E. 33rd St. and new commercial buildings on adjacent property at 3177 California Ave. The combined 13.63-acre site has been dubbed Gateway Center North. 

Site of planned Gateway Center North development to include self-storage, new retail space and a new drive-thru, plus a remodeled existing Target store, on upper right of map (Courtesy City of SH)

New buildings planned on the site – which is owned by Signal Hill Petroleum (SHP) – include a drive-thru restaurant, a three-story self-storage facility, additional retail buildings and a medical or dental office. 

Developer VenturePoint, Inc. of Newport Beach also redeveloped a Target retail center in Santa Ana, according to its website. It first broached redeveloping the Signal Hill site in 2019 on behalf of SHP, according to a City staff report, though SHP has been proposing a self-storage facility adjacent to Target since 2003.

The City refined conceptual plans for Gateway Center North and completed a soil analysis in 2020, Planning Intern Michelle Rivera told the City Council on March 23 in a land-use element update. 

Soil analysis is required since the site has been an oil field since at least 1924, according to Project Planner Elise McCaleb. It has nine oil wells – five abandoned and four operational – and once had a Tesoro gas station. A Gemco retail store that opened in 1970 at the site was taken over by Target in 1987, which expanded in 2007, McCaleb noted. 

“To stay at this location, Target requires improvements to the overall property, including modernization, appearance, safety and the addition of supporting tenants to create a destination versus a single-use center,” the developer told the City in a Sept. 24, 2020 memo.

The nearly 136,000 square-foot Target store will be renovated inside and out, including a new 53-foot high, steel tower outside “reminiscent of an oil derrick,” according to McCaleb, and new red paneling on the exterior walls. 

In addition, Target has requested permission to sell alcohol in a 900 square-foot zone of its store for off-site consumption, McCaleb said.

The rest of Gateway Center North development will happen in phases, depending on when the developer can secure tenants for the new buildings, McCaleb said. That might be late 2022 or early 2023, according to the developer’s Sept. 24 memo.

The planned new self-storage facility will total 177,345 square feet over its three floors, with 1,505 storage units and 24 outside spaces for RVs. The other new commercial buildings will total 18,500 square feet – 3,500 for a medical or dental office and 15,000 for up to three retailers. 

Rendering of planned new self-storage facility to be built near the Target at 950 E. 33rd St. in Signal Hill (Courtesy City of SH)

The new drive-thru – planned next to an existing Chick-fil-A restaurant on Long Beach property adjacent to the site – will be 5,000 square feet and include outdoor seating.

Rendering of drive-thru restaurant planned near the Target at 950 E. 33rd St. in Signal Hill (Courtesy City of SH)

In terms of parking, McCaleb reported to the Planning Commission that the City first asked for 716 spaces on the site but later agreed to less than 500. 

Nearby residents Roger and Suzanne Folwick contacted McCaleb in advance of the Feb. 16 Planning Commission meeting concerned about traffic and overflow parking since they already see a bottleneck created by the Chick-fil-A drive-thru that opened last year.

“Just not sure adequate traffic flow would support a second drive-thru where it is located on your conceptual plan,” they noted. “Should parking become an issue in the nearby neighborhood, would we be able to enact residential-parking permits?”

The City was swayed to reduce the development’s required parking by an extensive study VenturePoint President John Clement sent the City on March 10 from Linscott, Law and Greenspan (LLG) engineers, using a “shared-parking” methodology based on analyzing different retailers’ peak-demand times. 

McCaleb reported to the Planning Commission on March 16 that LLG’s analysis shows demand varying depending on the type of retailers the site gets, ranging from a low of 483 to a high of 508 parking spaces needed. The City is requesting 493 spaces. 

The plan also includes requirements by local authorities, McCaleb said, such as the Signal Hill Police Department’s (SHPD) request for additional lighting. 

“SHPD also expressed concern about increased traffic congestion on E. 33rd Street due to the proposed drive-thru restaurant,” McCaleb shared.

The project must also comply with the City’s water-conservation guidelines and the State’s CALGreen building standards, McCaleb noted, including water-efficient plumbing, solar panels for the self-storage facility, drought-tolerant landscaping and construction-waste recycling. 

In addition, as part of its environmental analysis, the City consulted with the Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians, who may have once lived at the project site and are concerned that grading it for development may unearth tribal cultural artifacts, McCaleb reported.

“The developer must retain a Native American monitor from the Gabrieleño Band of Mission Indians,” she noted. “The monitor is required to be present for all ‘ground-disturbing activity’ on the property.”

Community Development Director Colleen Doan told the Signal Tribune in a March 24 email that the City Council needs to approve the project within the next month or so, before the developer begins phase one of the project in May.

“The first phase is the interior and exterior remodel of the existing Target store,” Doan said, adding that constructing the self-storage facility is expected to be the second phase.

“Construction of the commercial pads will only commence once tenants are secured and City design-approvals are completed,” Doan said. “There are no known tenants at this time.”

The City’s ultimate goal is to reinvigorate “an underdeveloped and underperforming site,” McCaleb said, adding that Target is one of the City’s top 25 sales-tax generators with 150 employees. Signal Hill relies on sales tax for about 65% of its budgeted revenue.

Rendering of planned self-storage and retail space near the Target at 950 E. 33rd St. (Courtesy City of SH)

Though the self-storage facility won’t be as significant a contributor of sales tax, the other new retailers will revitalize the center, McCaleb said.

“The reimagined center is expected to result in a long-term extension of Target’s lease and increased commercial and economic vitality for the center,” she said. “The benefit to Signal Hill residents is a new shopping experience.”

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