Public Storage Plans Self-Storage Project for Historic Wintersburg Site in Huntington Beach, CA

Public Storage Inc., a self-storage real estate investment trust, has reportedly agreed to buy a historical property in Huntington Beach, Calif., with the intent to develop a storage facility. Republic Services Inc., a waste-disposal and trash-pickup provider, is selling Historic Wintersburg, a 4.5-acre plot off Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane that houses six structures dating as far back as 1910.

Public Storage Inc., a self-storage real estate investment trust, has reportedly agreed to buy a historical property in Huntington Beach, Calif., with the intent to develop a storage facility. Republic Services Inc., a waste-disposal and trash-pickup provider, is selling Historic Wintersburg, a 4.5-acre plot off Warner Avenue and Nichols Lane that houses six structures dating as far back as 1910. The land and buildings are revered by local residents and Japanese-Americans who believe the site is historically significant, according to the source.

The transaction is controversial because Republic Services was previously working with the Historic Wintersburg Preservation Task Force to protect the site. The company indicated in May 2016 that it wasn’t seeking any deals for the property that would destroy the buildings, the source reported.

Redevelopment could require a zoning change, which would need approval from the city council. The council previously rescinded a zoning change to commercial and industrial use after the Ocean View School District won lawsuits against property owner Rainbow Environmental Services (now part of Republic Services) and the city. Public Storage would need an easement from the school district, which shares a property line with Wintersburg. As part of its settlement agreement, the district also is supposed to have first right of refusal on purchasing the land, according to the source.

“We have been working with Republic the last three years. They had confirmed to us and our city council liaisons that they were willing to work with us and our national partners on the purchase of the property for historic preservation and public park use,” Mary Urashima, a representative of the preservation task force, wrote in a statement. “To see a national treasure historic site and its cultural resources destroyed for self-storage is a very sad statement to those whose history is represented at Historic Wintersburg.”

The site dates back to the late 1800s as an agricultural community, which became an enclave for Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans who settled in Huntington Beach at the turn of the 20th century. Among the settlers was the Furutas Family, which sold goldfish raised on the grounds. The family was one of the few to maintain control of their property after the California Alien Land Law of 1913 prohibited Japanese-born residents from owning land, the source reported. Family members returned to the site after being held in an internment camp in Arizona during World War II.

Community leaders have pressed to designate the site a heritage park. Urashima would like the six structures refurbished and made available for community meetings, a museum, student field trips and other uses.

Councilmember Jill Hardy is among those who favor preserving the site. “The idea they would choose storage over a park setting, when financially it would make no difference, is really surprising,” Hardy told the source. Since Republic Services announced its plan to sell, the city council has been inundated with e-mails mostly supporting the site’s preservation, she said.

Some 700 residents signed a petition against commercial development on the property after it was acquired by Rainbow in 2004. The site was listed as one of “America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” in 2014 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which also named it a “national treasure” in 2015.

Based in Glendale, Calif., Public Storage has interests in 2,358 self-storage facilities in 38 states, with approximately 156 million net rentable square feet. Operating under the Shurgard brand name, the company also has 220 facilities in seven European countries, with approximately 12 million net rentable square feet.

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