HB Council Candidate Forum Results

hbt-candidate-forumThanks for all who attended Huntington Beach Tomorrow’s candidate forum on October 5 at Goldenwest College, and to everyone who watched on Channel 3. The forum was a success and our city is fortunate to have nine diverse and thoughtful candidates vying for our votes to represent us on the council.

If you didn’t have a chance to catch the candidates, here is my own real-time synopsis of each candidate’s responses to the five questions posed:

1. High density — Residents are very concerned about the negative impacts of the many recent high density residential projects in the City. Concerns include poor design, lack of open space, inadequate setback from the street, increased traffic, insufficient onsite parking, fiscal impact on City services, and overall diminished quality of life for residents. How would you respond to these concerns?
  • Patrick Brenden: favors “responsible” development.
  • Joe Carchio: “quality of life is what matters to you people,” won’t approve beyond city regulationss.
  • Mariann Ettiorre: I do not support high density development.
  • Amory Hanson: opposed to private high-density but the city can build high-density buildings if it wants.
  • Jill Hardy: has the strongest record against high density on council. Majority council [e.g., Carchio] voted for the Edinger corridor despite public opinion. Motivated car dealerships to leave.
  • Edward Pinchiff: chairman of planning commission. Came on after corridor was approved. Supports community driven decision making. Council should follow public opinion. We are not LA, I agree with opposing high density. Development should model character of the city. Council doesn’t listen. I will listen.
  • Mark Rolfes: Council missed on this one: high density should never have been built. Needs to work with developers on other items. Projects should be put to voters for approval. Take factors into consideration at dev’s expense.
  • Lyn Semeta: I stand with community outcry against more development. Has been a planning commissioner for 2.5 years. Voted for amendments on setbacks, reducing units. Need a break on high-density development until after current buildings are done with construction and occupied, we can assess what’s needed then. Need more commercial, not residential, to add tax base: we need to be able to pay infrastructure, income.
  • Ron Sterud: a citizen who got involved because of sudden high density with no setbacks. Certain amount of blight, no problems with development, growth so long as meets current code. Don’t support changing code. Need to fit suburban beach culture.
(Outcome: unanimously against more high-density development in the near term, except Brenden and potentially Carchio)
2. Old Rogers Senior Center Site: how do we balance park space with development?
  • Sterud: city needs to keep its promise to keep it a park. Don’t go down road of selling off parks to balance our books.
  • Semeta: don’t sell off our parkland. Agree with Sterud: Don’t go down road of selling off park to balance books. Can renovate other space.
  • Rolfes: site was destined to become a park. Whatever the use is up to council/people. Need to fund parks; tight budgets usually look to public spaces. Have developers foot some of bill of city beautification.
  • Pinchiff: agree with community to keep as parkland. Preserve parks, beaches, wetlands. Endorsed by OC League of Conservation. We can afford our parks: we don’t have that bad a budget crunch, no emergency. Always a backlog of what we can do, but we’re in a decent position.
  • Hardy: I was first to support keeping it a park. Has been lone vote to preserve open space. Bartlett park, behind Newland House, decades of nondevelopment… changed fencing to make more inviting to community. Thankful to community groups who care for parks.
  • Hanson: needs to remain parkland. Don’t have necessary experience on parks. Should be decided by community service department.
  • Ettorre: keep parkland. Possible rent out the space for revenue. Talk to residents. Hot button: fiscal responsibility. Preserving parks should be priority.
  • Carchio: there are 76 parks in the city. Most in need of repair. I established private-public partnership, raise money for UAP (universally acceptable park). I raised the money through Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions Club. That park will be available end of Oct. start construction. Available to children, adults. If we curtail building, park fund will be depleted. Measure T from senior center never promised it would be returned as a park. Chevron owned. We acquired because they forgot to file paperwork, it’s ours. Should keep parkland, but need to know all facts.
  • Brenden: why did this sneak up on us? Park was deeded in 1911, converted in 1975 to sen ctr. Return to park? But what kind? Needs to be right kind, that we can afford, no neg impacts. People are concerned for funding, we have unfunded liability. Parks make life better, better parks make life even better. How to finance projects to keep open space. Central Park Conservancy? I like that. Bring in all parks to that. Bring in community to keep open space. Surplus city property? Why sell this if we have others?
(Outcome: unanimity except Carchio and Brenden, who focus more on need for financing/funding)
3. What role is there for HB in the future of Poseidon?
  • Ettorre: do not support Poseideon. Only accounts for 7 percent water supply.
  • Hanson: why is our water provided by a private co?
  • Hardy: always voted no on P. What would we do with more water? probably build more houses somewhere. Why a 50 year contract that gets more expensive? Cost of pipes also have to be paid by ratepayers. Instead, we should rely on replenishment. Emergency water? Poseidon is on the wrong side of the quake fault.
  • Pinchiff: financial contract a big problem, 50 years, rates tied to market rate. 50 years is a long time. Cost savings will all go to Poseidon.
  • Rolfes: “Nothing worse than being thirsty.” P not ready to be implemented, we still have conservation and groundwater. 130MM gallons a day, 80 percent of our supply. Need to exhaust other possibilities first.
  • Semeta: 50 year contract is a big problem, tech changes fast. Financial terms aren’t good. P is more for south county, but we’re bearing burden of streets being torn up for new pipes. Took tour of water district, our use is steady, we don’t need more. We do a great job of reclamation already.
  • Sterud: opposed. agree with Semeta. Question is: what is HB’s role assuming P is built? P would be built, in HB, put a meter on the supply. Utility tax would let us charge and profit from that. Coastal Commission will likely deny them from building though, which I hope.
  • Brenden: I support P and desal. Decided by city, not for us anymore. Between P and water district. District said they wanted lower rates up front. P said fine, need longer term. P bearing the risk. We import a lot of water from the delta. Earthquake after overfarming would risk our supply. P is only 7%, not replacing a significant portion of our supply.
  • Carchio: also support P and desal. Desal is inevitable. Water one day will be precious as gold. 2 city councils have studied this. We have first right of refusal on property if not built. We don’t need it. $176k year franchise tax fees. $1.9MM paid to general fund, $4MM to city for the land. 3000 jobs. over 50 years, saving rate payers $75MM.
(Outcome: unanimous oppose except Brenden, Carchio)
4. Short term rentals: should the city allow them, and if so, should they be subject to a licensing system and/or occupancy tax?
  • Pinchiff: want to hear more community input. I see both sides. leaning against it, but should be community driven.
  • Hardy: Sunset Beach allows it because of annex agreement. Struggle with the debate, need comm input. leaning against allowing. It’s not just the loud parties — even regular people behave differently on vacation.
  • Hanson: be careful how ordinance is drafted.
  • Ettorre: don’t favor telling people what to do with their house, but balance community needs. It can be done with a compromise as long as there aren’t 10 vacationers on a street.
  • Carchio: when buying homes, might not be aware there are rentals nearby. Dana Point is the model: see if it works: would have to get permit, post a bond, if violations, bond is forfeit and can’t have vacation rental again. Losing out on $$ now because we’re not taking advantage. If we have rentals we should make some rentals. Watch Dana Point.
  • Brenden: study of 18 sites for rentals: 678 unique listings for HB. Can’t say it will just stop if we don’t allow it. Use tight criteria, 48 minute owner response time, strict occupancy, no weddings, house rules posted.
  • Sterud: opposed. I own one in Big Bear. Property rights advocate. But everyone here bought under a law that disallows rentals of under 30 days. Also threaten our hospitality business, a substantial revenue. Bad for downtown residents (I am one). Quality of life issue.
  • Semeta: opposed. 1. protect hospitality. 2. quality of life. 3. hard to regulate, can’t capture the revenue/identify the rentals. Hotels police their own, single owners don’t have that.
  • Rolfes: tourist town. if we allow, should have occupancy tax, bonded, minimum stay (no one-nighters, maybe 3, 4 days, a week). Complaint enforcement system.
(Outcome: Sterud, Semeta opposed. Hardy, lean against. Others, open)
5. Sober living homes. How do we balance them with quality of life, and given state and federal restrictions, what if anything can the city do to limit them?
  • Hardy: quality of life, good neighbors. Frustrating topic at council. Agency doesn’t have control: state and federal laws limit us. State bills got dropped because of federal laws ADA, would have allowed to track the sites. Need to allow for local agencies to have input.
  • Hanson: dangerous, not needed. These people should be in hospitals.
  • Ettorre: affiliated with MADD, agrees alcoholism is a disease. Agree with Jill, up to the residents to report the issues. Until state/fed laws change not much we can do. Open to ideas.
  • Carchio: in 2008 when the problem first arose, they were prevalent in Newport, Costa Mmesa. I worked with Alan Mansoor. Costa Mesa filed with the state, but the state denied. NB took it up, sent back to state, denied again. State law will protect these homes. Bill right now would allow code enforcement to file initial complaint — now, if complaint is filed goes to board of health, state will allow local residents to do preliminary initial code enforcement. But when the lobby heard about this, filed a harassment lawsuit. Everywhere you turn, there are new ideas, but the lobby is very strong — doctors, bloodwork, etc — a lot of money is being made.
  • Brenden: state says you can’t require a permit. CM has been somewhat successful with ordinance that requires concentration of numbers within distance of each other. Requiring ramps / ADA compliance at the homes as a barrier to entry? Can report nuisances as a tool to curb abuses.
  • Sterud: I live within 400 yards of 4 such homes. Disappointed that there’s not much to be done. Follow CM on proximity rules. The concept is great, but the concentration, locations, are being abused.
  • Semeta: true that we’re limited, so we have to get creative. Poorly run homes are the problem. The victim is the patient, spending insurance dollars for no value. A rating system could be created to rate the homes; this is a tool the insurance companies could use to decide where to send dollars, leveraging the market to encourage responsible homes and weed out bad ones. City attorney looking at beefing up nuisance laws.
  • Rolfes: need oversight.
  • Pinchiff: need more local control, but need pressure at state and federal level. need to write letters to state and feds. not fair to put in the middle of neighborhoods.
(Outcome: not much to be done, Semeta, Brenden had best strategic ideas)
HB Tomorrow thanks all of the candidates for participating and sharing their views with the public.

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