Robb Fulcher

Gateway surfer statue approved

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Hermosa Beach City Council on Tuesday approved the creation of an 8 foot-tall bronze statue of surf legend Dewey Weber and agreed to further study where the statue will be placed, possibly in front of the Community Center along Pier Avenue near Pacific Coast Highway.

Councilman Michael DiVirgilio cast a lone dissenting vote to make a statement about the process that was used to bring the statue project before the council for a decision.

DiVirgilio said he approves of the project, but would have preferred to see it reviewed by officials, such as parks commissioners and members of the Hermosa Arts Foundation, before it appeared before the council.

“I feel like we’re rushing a few steps here,” he said.

His council colleagues voted to start noted artist Phil Roberts on the project, but agreed to present details of the project to other city and arts officials for further input before the statue is plopped anywhere.

The statue will depict the late Weber as he was captured in a vintage photo by LeRoy Grannis, who became another surfing legend with his camera.

Funding for the $95,000 project was completed with a recent $50,000 donation from Joe Melchione, purportedly the oldest member of the Dewey Weber Surf Team, whose likeness will be laser-etched into a portion of the statue amid a collage of similar action photos of surfers.

Public Works Director Rick Morgan told the council that the statue would pay homage not only to Weber and Grannis, who are inductees to the Hermosa Beach Surfers Walk of Fame, but to the larger Hermosa surf scene.

The second-largest chunk of funding for the project, more than $30,000, was raised by the 2008 class of the civic group Leadership Hermosa Beach.

“This will be a major, major piece of public art,” Councilman Jeff Duclos said.

Mayor Pete Tucker, who was a key figure in preserving the Tim Kelly surfer statue when the area at the foot of the municipal pier was remade, said the two statues will stand as key pieces of Hermosa public art.

Morgan is among the employees accepting an early retirement offer, ending his seven-year stint with the city with the formal approval of the Weber statue, and the conclusion of a vast overhaul of upper Pier Avenue, Hermosa’s iconic main drag. His last day on the job is Thursday, Oct. 7, when a ribbon cutting will mark the rebirth of upper Pier.

In other matters, the council continued to ponder its next step after a federal appeals court struck down the city’s ban on tattoo parlors, saying it violates free speech provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

The council approved an emergency 45-day moratorium on tattoo parlors to buy some time to study the matter. The city must decide whether to continue the court fight or find a way to accommodate tattoo parlors in parts of the town.

“The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held the city’s total ban on tattoo studios to be unconstitutional,” wrote Community Development Director Ken Robertson in a report to the council.

“Lacking development or operating standards for tattoo studios to ensure the appropriate location and safe operation of these establishments, the city now faces an immediate threat to the health, safety and welfare from the potential of an inundation of unregulated tattoo studios that could locate anywhere in the city, without operating restrictions or regard for appropriate zoning districts,” Robertson wrote.

The council’s 5-0 vote places “an interim prohibition of the establishment of tattoo studios in all zoning districts, and allows the city time to study and adopt new time, place and manner regulations for tattoo studios.”

An attorney for Gardena tattoo artist Johnny Anderson said city officials must allow his client to open a shop in Hermosa, or continue the legal battle by asking the appeals court to reconsider, or by seeking an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. ER

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