How fortunate we are in Manhattan Beach! Every year, we have many ways in which to enjoy the season. There is the annual Pier Lighting and Downtown Holiday Open House, the north Manhattan Beach Holiday Stroll, the fantastic display of fireworks that light up the sky, Santa’s sleigh that rolls through the town bringing cheer to children of all ages, and the lighting of the Menorah at Metlox plaza. In this busy time, I encourage everyone to stop and take a moment to reflect on what a beautiful and special community we call our home. Your City Council works hard to preserve what makes such a wonderful small beach town. On that note, let’s reflect on what we we’ve done together in working toward those goals in 2019 and will continue to do in 2020.

The City has a long history of recognizing concerns about public health, safety, and welfare related to tobacco use, as well as cigarette litter. Recently, the Federal Drug Administration raised concerns that electronic cigarettes, which are often marketed in appealing flavors, can increase nicotine addiction among young people and may lead youth to try conventional tobacco products. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that if cigarette smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness. This national epidemic has affected the City’s schools as well. Officials from the Manhattan Beach Unified School District have confirmed that students have become addicted to nicotine, particularly through vaping, and use is substantially higher than the student average in California or the US. This threatens the health and well-being of our students. That being said, the City Council adopted an urgency ordinance prohibiting the sale of vape products and flavored tobacco in the City. It is my hope that more cities consider ordinances such as these to ensure vaping does not continue to be a national epidemic. Just this month, in order to reduce nicotine addiction, City Council directed that an ordinance prohibiting the sale of all tobacco products in the City be presented in early 2020, which will take effect in January 2021.

You may have noticed there has been an art revival of sorts around town. The City Council has sought to reinvigorate artistic expression throughout the City and showcase our collective community talent. In soliciting art proposals from the local community, a variety of art pieces have been appearing throughout the community utilizing mural walls, placing sculptures and beautifying utility boxes. Have you seen the balloon art in Metlox plaza? (I’m sure that may be worth a ‘like’ on Instagram…). While you’re at it, stop by the ‘refreshed’ City Light Gate sculpture in front of City Hall. The new decorative glass will be sure to amaze you with the vast array of colors you’ll see depending on the lighting and angle (make that two ‘likes’ on Instagram!). 

While you’re near City Hall, come snag some official Manhattan Beach merchandise! Earlier this year, the City launched the first ever BRANDED Manhattan Beach retail shop in City Hall. The shop showcases the City’s new logo on t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, coffee mugs, coasters and more!  

While these artistic endeavors are nice and speak to the importance we place on art, it is only possible with a balanced and stable budget. The City’s biggest General Fund revenue source, property tax, grew by 5.9% ($1.8 million) in fiscal year 2018-19. Assessed valuations, which drive property tax revenue, are projected to increase by 6.1% in fiscal year 2019-20 over the prior year, driven by demand and resulting price escalations in the local housing market. Additionally, following the passage of Measure A last March, the City expects to receive approximately $1 million more in Transient Occupancy Tax funds beginning next year. These funds will help support important City services.

The City continues to set aside funds for large capital improvements, as well as reserves to prepare for economic uncertainties. Despite our fiscally conservative posture, the demand on City resources over the next 20-25 years will need to be balanced with community priorities. Your City Council remains diligent in looking after our budget to maximize efficiencies and promote savings. 

It is often said that a budget is a reflection of priorities; approximately 60% of the City’s general fund goes toward public safety, including Police, Fire and Paramedics. The City continues to invest in public safety by utilizing technology, enhancing our safety communication tools and assessing public safety staffing levels that meet the needs of the community on a daily basis.  

Thankfully, our tremendous police officers continue to oversee low crime rates in our community. We have an outstanding Police Chief and Police Department, but we know they can’t be at all places at all times. As they say, “No call is too small.” If you see something, please say something to our Police Department. It is imperative that we work together as a community to keep our fellow residents safe. We can all do our part by speaking up, keeping our homes and cars secured, and looking out for each other.

On the environmental front, the City continues to strive toward creating a healthy, sustainable, and resilient city. The City is proud to be a leader in environmental policy and promote stewardship in our surroundings, both as a community and as a City government. This past year, in an effort to reduce litter threats to natural ecosystems and ocean wildlife that we all cherish, the City prohibited the sale and use of Mylar balloons and polystyrene meat trays, as well as the release of latex balloons. Recently, the City of Manhattan Beach received the Gold designation from the national SolSmart program for making it faster, easier, and more affordable for homes and businesses to go solar. As a City, we aim to encourage solar energy growth, remove obstacles to solar development, and promote clean energy use wherever possible. And our efforts do not stop there. The City is currently working on lowering carbon emissions, tackling climate mitigation actions, proactively developing climate adaptation strategies, and ultimately creating a climate resilient community. The City's efforts have not only kept us on track with State requirements for renewable energy, waste diversion and climate adaptation, they have also allowed us to surpass deadline goals for some State policies. I am planning on a town hall to discuss what climate change means to Manhattan Beach. Look for that in February 2020.

Short-term rental regulation is another topic that spurred many conversations, debates and concerns. After hearing the community voice their concerns, the City Council unanimously reinforced the prohibition on short-term rentals, increased the fines for those who violate the Municipal code, and stepped-up enforcement efforts by utilizing technology to assist locating short-term rental violators. Since May, staff has been monitoring the amount of Manhattan Beach properties listed on various vacation rental websites and has seen an 89% decrease in listings. The City Council will continue to monitor enforcement mechanisms and explore enhancing code enforcement.

The Manhattan Village Mall remodel and improvements continues to move along. Following significant investments by the developer working in coordination with City staff and neighbors, the mall is taking shape. Currently, the mall is undertaking the “Village Shops” construction which will consist of curated open-air dining and retail space with a modern luxury feel. A newly constructed open-air Plaza in the center of the mall will create a place for people to gather, socialize and experience coastal living at its best. The south parking lot (with 500 spaces) is planned to open on March 16. Upon final completion, the shopping center will total approximately 646,000 square feet and serve residents and visitors alike.

The City regularly evaluates the condition of the City’s infrastructure and establishes priorities for repair and replacement. In the City’s 5-Year Capital Improvement Plan, projects ranging from street repair, park equipment replacement and water infrastructure, totaled $130,296,998 across 128 individual projects. Recently, the City completed installation of a smaller project on the Veterans Parkway, with 72 low profile lights that enhance visibility and user awareness at night, while also maintaining the ambiance of the Greenbelt. These low-profile lights are a welcome measure to assist public safety efforts. 

Homelessness is an issue throughout the County, and Manhattan Beach is no different. The City has taken an active role in addressing homelessness. In collaboration with our regional partners, we are doing everything possible to ensure public safety, while also assisting homeless in obtaining the services needed and respecting their rights. The City took a leadership role in homelessness by applying for and receiving a $330,666 grant from the County of Los Angeles to offer case management and coordination services to homeless individuals in the cities of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach. We currently have mental health experts working with our police officers twice a week to assist the homeless. Going forward, outreach workers trained to assist the homeless will continue to be available.  To report incidents of non-emergency concern related to homeless individuals, please call the Police Department's non-emergency number at (310) 545-4566. If an emergency exists, please call 911 immediately. As progress is made on this issue, the City will keep residents apprised of the City’s strategic approach.

Closing Remarks

It’s an honor and privilege to serve as your Mayor. Please continue to reach out to me at nhersman@citymb.info, attend a City Council meeting, or just say hello when you see me out and about in our community. I look forward to working with you to advance our collective interests. 

As we enter the New Year, I look forward to working with residents, stakeholders, community members, and most importantly, neighbors to continue to improve our community. We are fortunate to call Manhattan Beach our home. Here’s to a safe and healthy 2020 for all of us!

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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