Policy decisions and elections led headlines in Hermosa Beach in 2013, causing citizens to become more involved in decisionmaking by opening the opportunity for more community input through a community dialogue process, while police cracked down on underage drinking and community members proved themselves to be heroes.
Tom Bakaly, the city’s new city manager, rounded out his first year in September with many changes under his belt, including the somewhat controversial hiring of Sharon Papa as the new Hermosa Beach police chief. She took the oath of office in October to a packed community theatre.
“We need someone who’s both modern and yet still old school, laid back, but [who] will demand high performance,” Bakaly said during the ceremony. “We need someone who makes decisions with a data matrix but isn’t afraid to go with their gut, and need we need someone who is going to be open and collaborative with the community. I’m very pleased we’ve found that in Sharon Papa and I’m pleased she’ll be chief of police for the best little beach city.”
After Chief Greg Savelli moved on over two years ago, the position of police chief had previously been filled for 15 months by in-house Captain Steve Johnson and eventually by interim newcomer Mike McCrary. It took two rounds of applications to hire a chief.
“We were fortunate to have interim chiefs that have been outstanding,” said Mayor Kit Bobko in July. “But two years is too long, we need somebody who is going to put an imprint on the department and be strong and provide leadership.”
Papa was hired after Bobko publicly, and controversially, threw his support behind another candidate, Cecil Rhambo.
This year’s Fourth of July holiday was tamer than previous years due to the Hermosa Beach Police Department’s intensive pre-planning and proactive approach to reducing arrests and emergency incidents.
To curtail destructive drinking, specifically focusing on minors – the city hired 50 additional LA County Sheriff’s Deputies. They also rallied on 2nd street with a command station and a prisoner transport bus as well as horse mounted deputies, undercover cops and off road vehicles.
From 6 a.m. July 4 to 6 a.m. July 5, the HBPD wrote 114 citations and responded to 367 calls for service, up from 244 last year. The vast majority of the citations were for open containers. Officers made 29 alcohol related arrests, including 22 drunk in public, four arrests for disturbing the peace, and two arrests for resisting an officer
“We’re very satisfied with how it came out,” said HBPD Lt. Tom Thompson said. “…You could even walk a distance and not see people drinking, for once.”
While the police prepared for trouble downtown, the 39th Annual Hermosa Beach Ironman competition near 29th Street went off without a hitch. The early morning Fourth of July local tradition consists of about 550 competitors running a mile, paddling a surfboard a mile and finally chugging six cans of beer – hopefully without throwing up, in order to win.
The Ironmen was left alone by the HBPD, who pledged to begin enforcement at 10 a.m., after the event was scheduled to end. A police SUV kept watch over the event, but no arrests were made.
“It was way tamer this year,” 10-time winner Annie Seawright-Newton said. “It’s cool that it’s still going on, hopefully we’ll be able to celebrate 40 years next year without any problems.”
Two historical buildings in Hermosa Beach underwent major renovations.
The iconic Mermaid restaurant and cocktail bar began renovations by Kevin Michaels and Brett Doherty – owners of the Killer Shrimp Restaurants – and reopened in early December with a new menu and upgraded façade.
“We’re excited,” Doherty said. “We’re embracing the fun quirkiness that is the Mermaid and we’re enhancing it. We both come from a surfing lifestyle, and to be on the beach in this iconic place is amazing.”
A proposed 30-room three-story boutique hotel was also approved by the council in July. The development plan, led by local Shorewood real estate broker and president of California Custom Homes Raju Chhabria and his partner Rhuai Khosla, positions the hotel on an undeveloped 11,516 square-foot lot at 1429 Hermosa Avenue.
“I think this is a project we can be proud of,” said Councilmember Peter Tucker “To me we’ve compromised in a lot of areas, but to be honest we can’t not allow this if it meets our codes today. I think it will be a great benefit to the city.”
Meanwhile the nearly 100-year-old Green Store opened its doors in November with a completely new interior.
The local grocer – which has been a staple shop for Hermosa Beach residents since the 1920s – was redesigned by Culver City-based owners of Jackson’s Market, Tony Istwani and Nick Conner.
“What we wanted to do ideally was preserve the name, look and intent of the shop,” said Conner. “We wanted to pay respect to place in the community that people have grown up with and preserve what they love, but at the same time make it more functional. When we saw the Green Store, we just couldn’t resist.”
The previous shop was operated by Yong and Ok Ko along with their daughter Anna. They had been in business for 32 years, but business had been slow for the past three years and the family decided it was time to move on to different ventures.
“I think the new design is great,” local Stacey Fishman said. “There was definitely a need for it… It’s really cool that they kept the local history, it really feels like a good neighborhood place.”
Police Officers worked overtime in Hermosa Beach in 2013, saving multiple lives and proving that bravery doesn’t go unnoticed.
Officer Mick Gaglia was in the right time and right place in July when an 87-year-old man had a heart attack on Pier Plaza.
He noticed the man while he was on the plaza when an employee from the Mexican restaurant Cantina Real flagged him down.
“I’m thinking they had another shoplifter but instead I see this elderly man who was laying across the [stone] blocks like a banana backwards,” Gaglia said. “I saw he was blue like when someone’s dead or almost dead – kind of blue and chalky, and not coherent and completely out of it.”
While doing CPR chest compressions, Gaglia realized that the man’s dentures had become displaced and he reached into the man’s mouth to take them out so they wouldn’t block his airway.
“Even if you’re a cop, none of this is routine,” said Gaglia. “I don’t check in in the morning and say, ‘Hey I’m gonna save a life today.’ It’s stressful, it’s muggy and I’m hot and sweating. It’s tough”
While doing compressions, Gaglia noticed the man attempting to take two or three shallow breaths and eventually his color changed from blue to pink.
“It wasn’t heroic, it was just me trying to do what I can do,” said Gaglia. “…It was a wild event. It’s not something I’m used to. I’m used to arresting people and drunks and bank robberies. This was much different.”
In May, officer Dean Garkow and Josh Droz were honored with a Distinguished Service Award for their quick reactions resuscitating a local man who had gone into cardiac arrest while driving.
Garkow and Droz reacted quickly after being flagged down near the police station by a man who told him that his friend had passed out while driving home from exercising on the Strand.
“They came to a stop sign and their vehicle didn’t move and his friend looked over and saw his buddy slumped over the wheel motionless,” said Garkow.
Luckily, Garkow was nearby. He quickly ran to the green Jeep that was stopped just outside Stars Antique Market and Pier Avenue, checked his pulse and determined that the local man had gone into cardiac arrest. Droz assisted Garkow by moving the man from behind the wheel to the sidewalk.
“I pushed his chest with my left hand until my partner showed up…” Garkow said. “After the 19th or 20th chest compression he took a deep breath. I did not expect that to happen, at that time I was picturing taking a body report and figured that’s what it was.”
To the relief of both of the officers, the man started breathing regularly.
“I was really shocked,” Garkow said. “It felt incredible.”
“It was pretty neat,” Droz said. “Usually they don’t come back. Dean saved his life and saw the guy come back – it was a good change
People in uniform weren’t the only people responding to emergency situations. In June, police officers responded to a call concerning an alleged attempted strangulation that resulted in the arrest of a man whom, police said, claimed to have no recollection of the incident.
According to several witnesses, a 49-year-old woman who was with her 9-year-old niece was slapped on her rear-end by the suspect while she was waiting to cross Pacific Coast Hwy, and then attacked by the man.
According to police, the suspect, identified as Joel Jimenez, 29, grabbed the woman by her hair and began to strangle her so hard she could barely yell. Police said bystanders thought the attack may have been a joke because it was so unbelievable.
Witnesses said that the little girl began screaming and several people called 9-1-1. Jimenez allegedly continued to choke the woman, while covering her mouth with his hand to prevent her from breathing.
While the woman was being attacked, a man who appeared to be a construction worker ran over with his power drill and convinced the man to let the woman go. Another witness took a photo and called the police.
“He [the man with the drill] came up and verbally threatened him and I understand he then released his hands from around the victim’s neck,” Interim Chief of Police Michael McCray said.
“It’s just wild, and a good thing those people stepped up before it got worse,” said HBPD Sgt. Bob Higgins.
Jimenez, a resident of Castaic, was booked on “assault likely to cause great bodily injury.” According to police he told officers he was in Hermosa to do a pub crawl with fellow workers and was not sure how he ended up in handcuffs. ER
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