Letters for 6-12-14
Old ballot measure a waste of money
The last June 3 Manhattan Beach City Council meeting was notable for Councilmembers Mark Burton, Tony D’Errico, and Wayne Powell voting to waste an estimated $48,000 of taxpayer money on a November 2014 election to solve a problem that does not exist. Way back in 1996 Manhattan Beach voters chose between two competing term limit measures. Our current system (two four year terms maximum and then sit out a two year period before you can run again ) won by an overwhelming 2-1 margin. The competing measure which the current Council majority is supporting lost in 1996 by an equally overwhelming 2-1 margin. The voters spoke decisively. There is no need for a re-vote.
The underlying, esoteric issue of what type of term limits to have is not what concerns me. I am troubled by the unwarranted decision to place this measure on the November ballot, for which the L.A. County Registrar/Clerk will charge the City the estimated $48,000 fee. If we really need to revisit this issue again(and I see no compelling reason to do so) we could have placed it on the Spring 2015 City Council election ballot administered by our own MB City Clerk and that would have cost the taxpayers basically nothing.
To waste $48,000 in this manner is outrageous.
Manhattan Beach, councilmember 1980-1992
Steve Schlesinger, CPA
Manhattan Beach City Treasurer 1989-1997
The vision thing
It is the time of the year for graduation exercises when students share lessons they have learned over the years. As an alumni of the HBCSD, I, too took away many lessons.
One of the most important lessons was to listen, something that seems to be lost on the current school district’s discussion of expanding facilities. While they have had several community meetings, they have used the meetings to present their plan without the ability for residents to make changes or offer any input to the plan.
Do your homework. For the district to be considering a bond request without including the massive amount of research of options available to them is unbelievable. This plan is another short sighted attempt to correct years of mismanagement that has promoted the personal agendas of the District and its Board rather than the needs of the children.
A complete lack of a vision has stunted the growth of a District, which is minimal in size. We have the opportunity to build an incredible place for the children of our community to learn and grow, instead of being crowded into used portable classrooms and multi purpose stages. However, without a vision, the people will perish.
I strongly encourage the Board to take a step back and reconsider allowing the community to contribute to the future of the school and the plans for its growth. If they want many millions from the residents to build facilities to deal with the growth, I would suggest they create an open dialogue with the community. The taxpayers have paid dearly in the past they won’t be so easy to convince without due diligence and careful consideration of all of the facts.
Hotels, take the highway
While a proposal looms over Hermosa voters to drill oil wells under their homes and the city’s magnificent city-owned beach, there’s yet another significant threat looming: multiple downtown high-density boutique hotels of 30 to 101 or more rooms..
An agenda is thoughtlessly being pushed by the city as a money cure-all: the selling out of Hermosa Beach with little consideration for long-term damage from packing additional density into Hermosa’s small downtown, 24/7.
Little consideration is made of the expensive larger city-bureaucracy to be consuming revenue as fast as it’s generated from high-density “boutique” hotels, while fueling costs of downtown liquor-serving and taxi-cab chaos.
A 30-room high-density hotel is already to be built at 15th Street and Hermosa Avenue. Significantly surrounded by and to be impacting residents, it’s maxed-out to the 30-foot height, and is basically an architecturally-devoid, 3-story monolith. Its Coastal Commission approval is likely Friday, June 13 per Coastal.Ca.Gov/mtgcurr.html”.
Another downtown hotel may pursue qualifying its required parking by buying non-existent in-lieu parking spaces from the city, or purchasing parking in structures built on city land, as did the 96-room, three-story, Beach House hotel.
The Mermaid-property developers are proposing 101-rooms on even less land than the 96-room Beach House hotel. They also want to close off and build on the city’s Beach Drive street-easement, and additionally, up to 50 percent higher than the people’s voted 30-foot height limit. Other downtown hotels are also looming.
High density hotels belong on Pacific Coast Highway, not in Hermosa’s historic small downtown.
Staff hits it out of the park
Congratulations to new Manhattan Beach Parks and Recreation Director Mark Leyman and his division managers for the impressive presentation they made at the recent city budget meeting. Leyman offered a clear and comprehensive overview and each manager filled in the details about past year’s accomplishments and future goals. They were all prepared and organized. They were ready and able to respond to both the public audience and the City Council and Finance Department with comprehensive and accurate data.
Having attended many of these meetings in the past, I was pleased to see the professionalism. Special acknowledgment is due to Eve Kelso for her work on behalf of the Older Adults and Dial-A-Ride services.
Stop playing around
Are you kidding me: “The city [Hermosa Beach] voted unanimously to approve a final conceptual design for the first phase of improvements to the playground area at South Park … construction for the project, set to start in July, will cost $563,000” (Easy Reader June 5, 2014)
The city is about to incur a $17.5 million debt if the oil measure fails, and we are begging the State to loan us $11,500,000, and now the city is going to spend about half a million dollars on improving a playground?
I should not have to say this, but apparently some folks do not realize that Hermosa is in the direst of financial straights. Hermosa will desperately need financial help, but people will not be inclined to help the city if they see it spending big bucks on non-essentials.
What’s past is prelude
Hermosa Beach will not be able to spend the dollars from oil under the ocean for recreational uses. The dollars from oil under the land can be spent anywhere, but dollars from oil under the water are restricted by the State Constitution (Public Trust Doctrine). The City has understood this limited use for at least 60 years.
In 1963, the California Department of Justice sent a letter to Hermosa Beach that demanded the City explain why over 40 percent of the money in the Offshore Oil Contracts Fund was missing and to the justify the City’s expenditures.
Four years earlier, the State Attorney General sent a Formal Opinion to the City with this conclusion:
“The City of Hermosa Beach may not expend tidelands trust revenue in order to level a public beach for recreational uses where the statutory  grant to said city does not include the use of the granted tidelands for recreational purposes.”
In the opinion, the State’s official analysis states: “Since recreational use is not a statutory trust purpose under this particular tidelands grant, there is no legislative authorization for the City of Hermosa Beach to expend tidelands trust income on maintenance and operation of its public beaches even if it is located on granted tidelands.” …. “As the lands in question were granted in trust for commerce and navigation, any proposed expenditure by the city of tidelands trust funds must benefit commerce and navigation.”
The City has tried and failed several times to have the 1919 Tidelands Grant modified to allow other expenditures of ‘Restricted” trust funds. I have not found any documentation that the State has changed its official opinion.
Remember, all City expenses encountered by moving off the City Yard for the Oil Driller and replacing those services on a site next to City Hall must only be paid from the General Fund. Settlement payments to the Oil Company must also be paid from the General Fund. The City should be more transparent on this issue to the voters (in the CBA).
This subject will be on the May 24 City Council agenda. Please participate.
I want to thank Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi for authoring AB2711 to help the residents of Hermosa Beach. This offer of a $17.5 million dollar interest free loan to the city of Hermosa Beach makes it easier for Hermosa Beach voters to make the right decisions for the health and safety of our community. Although many oil drilling supporters are incorrectly characterizing this loan as a “bailout,” it is, instead, an investment in our environment. This money would be paid back to the state to fund other coastal environmental protections. That is a real win-win solution for Hermosa Beach and the State of California.
Committee Chairperson, Stop Hermosa Beach Oil
I am not sure whether to be embarrassed, disappointed or outraged, perhaps all three, by Councilmember Nanette Barragan’s performance at the May 27 city council meeting. Her bald-faced efforts to bully Kosmont Associates into rewriting their report to suit her objectives was demagoguery at its worst. Her hostile, cross-examination-style of questioning Kosmont and his associate was uncalled for, rude and insulting to them, to the audience, all who may have been watching at home and all residents of Hermosa Beach. They were hired by the City for their expertise. They have a sterling reputation. Her style of vitriolic, political theatre is not what Hermosa residents want, nor should it be tolerated.
Barragan, as only a true hypocrite can, reversed course 180 degrees when Dr. Mary McDaniel of McDaniel Lambert, the city’s consultant for the Health Impact Assessment, came to the microphone. Believing the HIA is her best weapon against the oil recovery project, Barragan projected herself as Dr. McDaniel’s warm and fuzzy companion; gently asking why the HIA was retracted. (It was retracted because it was sloppy, unprofessional and based on false science). Barragan then went on to insult Dr. McDaniel by asking whether Dr. McDaniel had consulted with specialists in environmental medicine and related fields. Dr. McDaniel, momentarily at a loss for words, pointed out that she was a specialist in these areas. Going for the hat trick, Barragan wrapped up by emphatically letting Dr. McDaniel know that she had her back if the good doctor felt she was being harassed by any of Barragan’s council colleagues city staff and last, and not least, the oil company.
Resident supporters of the project having formed our own group, Protect Hermosa’s Future, separate from E&B, are looking forward to the release of the final EIR, EBA and HIA and the ongoing discussion about the oil recovery project.
Better Beverly Hills than Detroit
Hermosa Beach drilling opponents claim oil drilling will reduce property values and decrease tourism. They say it will tarnish Hermosa’s image. I don’t know how they can substantiate these claims when Beverly Hills, which has four operating oil islands (and one retired one) the size of the one proposed for Hermosa, doesn’t have property value, tourism, or image problems.
I’d like to see Hermosa follow the path of Beverly Hills instead of the path of a city like Detroit. Beverly Hills has allowed oil drilling for decades and its citizens, property values, and image have profited from the decision. Of course, as in Hermosa, Beverly Hills also had some vocal oil opponents. They claimed the oil wells on the high school grounds (Yes, one of the oil islands is right on the high school campus) were giving people cancer. Their claims were proven to be unsubstantiated by multiple unbiased sources.
Detroit is a city shackled with debt, and its citizens, property values, and image have suffered because of it. I would like to keep Hermosa out of debt. I would like Hermosa to be known as the Beverly Hills of the Beach instead of the Detroit of the Beach. I want to see Hermosa rich and thriving instead of deteriorating with the cancer of debt. The way I see it, the people of Hermosa can allow drilling and vote Hermosa rich or they can ban drilling and vote Hermosa poor.