Los Angeles native and current Hermosa Beach City Councilman Jeff Duclos said this November’s ballot vote will be his third and final election, no matter the outcome.
“Obviously persistence is a quality I’ve developed,” Duclos said during an interview while getting his hair cut at the Pier Avenue Jeans Store and Barber Shop Deep Pocket Jeans. “By the time I reached the council I was as prepared as anybody could be, because when you run for a race and lose it’s a real blow to the ego. It takes a toll on you, and it made me take stock in terms of why I ran in the first place. When I ran again it was because I was clearer on that answer.”
He was finally elected to the city council after his second attempt with a promise to put “community first.”
Los Angeles-born 68-year-old Duclos moved to Hermosa Beach 34 years ago. After growing up mostly in the San Diego area, and getting kicked out of his Santa Monica apartment because of their first child, then a loud baby, he and his wife Christine decided to move to the South Bay because of the small beach town feel that invoked memories of his childhood.
“We came here and fell in love with the community,” said Duclos. “We totally connected with it.”
He’s worked as a Public Relations and Journalism professor at California State University, Northridge as well as through the UCLA extension program for over 17 years, and still runs a PR consultancy firm. He hopes to get elected for his second term and afterwards transition into retirement.
For Duclos, he said it’s important to see the city continue to move forward with its sustainability commitments, and he wants to be a big part of those decisions.
“I’d like us to make some inroads with our carbon neutral goals,” Duclos said. “I look at that the same way as I look at investments in infrastructure. It’s an investment that will pay great dividends for us and bring people into our community.”
In January, it was announced that Duclos was chosen to serve as the California Coastal Commission’s South Coast alternate appointee. He has been a staunch environmental advocate on the council, pushing for sustainable projects and the implementation of a cigarette and Styrofoam ban.
“I think there’s this great misperception when we say ‘ban’ that it’s negative,” said Duclos. “I don’t believe it is. It’s an affirmation of the values and protecting the things we value as a community; public health, protecting our beaches, our ocean and our water and the assets we’re all here for. Unfortunately it’s fallen upon cities to take the lead in ensuring those protections are met because on the State and Federal level they’re not getting done.”
Growing the city the “right way” is important to Duclos, he said.
“We have a course in mind, and that is to be the best little beach city and to walk that walk and to be the green idea city and fulfill that vision,” Duclos said.
An important project he hopes to continue in the next four years is to continue improving the infrastructure, especially the area east of Pier Avenue.
“I’d like to see us fulfill our vision for the improvements on Aviation [Boulevard],” said Duclos. “We’ve at least started in terms of seed money that’s been set aside and hopefully we’ll be able to raise the ante [with grants] up to $4 million or more that we’re aiming for to really do it the way we need to do it.”
He also hopes to literally bridge the divide Pier Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.
“I brought up the concept of the bridge not just to facilitate public safety and walkability and bikeablity, but also for the psychological aspect of uniting our city that has been divided for so many ways. Not just by the sea of cars, but divided in terms of [East Hermosa residents] feeling their interests are secondary to other interests,” said Duclos. “That can’t go on anymore. It has to stop.”
Though Duclos intends to focus more on East Hermosa, the issue of bar disturbances and keeping a healthy balance of different types of businesses in downtown Hermosa Beach is also an important issue for him.
“When we redeveloped the plaza and the business mix in the plaza shifted to be more bar-centric, we kind of lost our balance,” said Duclos. “How do you find that sense of balance where all interests are served?”
In the past year, a coalition of the Tavern Owner’s Association, the Hermosa Beach Police Department along with the city manager, Tom Bakaly, have been meeting together to jointly come up with ways to mitigate the problems of late-night bar activity. So far they have installed flood lights, extra bathrooms and extra security both in the bars and on the plaza.
“This is remarkable,” said Duclos. “I’m hoping it will be a turning point in terms of the relationship with the bars downtown and ensuring we reach that balance of interests.”
To Duclos, becoming an attractive city for innovative businesses is important, and the he believes what originally attracted his family to the city continues to draw people in.
“What’s so exciting about Hermosa Beach as a city is that we’re on the cusp of finding our footing and our direction in terms of where we develop in a business standpoint,” said Duclos. “We have a lot to offer, like being a haven for small businesses and entrepreneurs who have good ideas and are looking for a place to complement them.”
He said that one way to continually improve Hermosa Beach is to ask the community what they want to protect.
“We’re different than our neighboring beach communities, we’re distinct,” said Duclos. “We’re a small city in a huge metropolis. What’s neat is all the things that already exist that we can build on, but we also need to protect. What is too big? How much is too much? We’re always struggling with those issues and it goes back to the question of balance. We’re at a real crossroads as a community. Not just in the major issues, but asking what people love about the community and what will prevail in the future.”
He believes the question of the potential E&B drilling project has opened the door to more community participation than ever before.
“We have to address this question that has reappeared throughout the history of our city; do we or don’t we [drill for oil]?” said Duclos. “… There’s this awakening of people thinking about the kind of city they want. They’re now empowered in this election to make some decisions on the kind of leadership they want and truly examine how they want to be lead, and if those five people represent your values and are committed to the things you want, above and beyond oil— are these the people that you feel and you can trust.”
As part of the current council, Duclos has been knee-deep in the oil issue for his entire four years on the dais while at the same keeping a neutral stance the entire way through.
“It’s a misnomer; it’s not a question of neutrality,” said Duclos. “It’s a question of good faith negotiation and being in breach of an agreement.”
He added that because of the settlement, E&B has the opportunity to make their case to the public on the project’s viability.
“Our job is to make sure you [the voters] have all the information you need to make a decision,” said Duclos. “It doesn’t mean we’re neutral and don’t have a position. And doesn’t mean we won’t take a position.”
“The fact of the matter is we eliminated this whole $750 million cloud hanging over our city and in the process there’s a trade off – we have to address this question,” said Duclos. “We’re here because you the public decided you didn’t want to abide by an agreement that was made to drill and voted on that and the council acted on it and basically denied their drilling permit, and we got sued.”
He added that before the decision to deny the permit the city was in bad shape.
“We couldn’t fund ourselves the way other cities did. We couldn’t be bonded, couldn’t get loans, forget about it,” said Duclos. “…Just by eliminating that, look what’s happened; surpluses are growing, opportunities are growing, all because we eliminated this threat of this catastrophic issue. Not only could it have bankrupted this city, but also it could have caused the dissolution of the city. We could have not been this city – that was one of the outcomes.”
He said he believes that because of the cyclical nature of cities, right now is a moment in time the community has some defining decisions to make as a community.
“It’s a very critical time,” said Duclos. “At the end of the day I have to answer to myself if what we’re doing is in the best interest of our community. I think [in the past four years] I fulfilled that commitment and I’m hoping voters agree.” ER