Hermosa Beach City Council debate

Trent Larson, Justin Massey and Michael Detoy pictured at the first Hermosa Beach City Council debate Sept. 30. The three vie for two seats Nov. 5, 2019. (photo by Michael Hixon)

Justin Massey, Trent Larson and Michael Detoy spoke on issues from the Teen Choice Awards to homelessness at the first Hermosa Beach City Council debate on Sept. 30, which will help determine who will fill two of the three seats available in the November election.

The debate was sponsored by the Hermosa Beach Neighborhood Association. 

Candidates first pitched why they should be elected in November for a 5-year term.

Massey, the only incumbent running, said the City Council has successfully tackled many issues over the past four years since he's been on council including permanently ending oil drilling rights in the city, bringing in L.A. County fire and balancing the city's budget.

“We’ve accomplished a great deal,” Massey said.

Larson, a major accounts manager who has run for city council in the past, said his five years of active involvement in city issues allows him to “hit the ground running” when he is elected in November.

“The Hermosa Beach City Council requires a genuine taxpayer advocate who will focus his efforts on visible, usable improvements... protecting our Hermosa Beach small town charm,” Larson said.

First-time council candidate Michael Detoy, a city of Riverside firefighter appointed to Hermosa's Emergency Preparedness Commission in 2017, said being a father of an 18-month-old has put the city's infrastructure needs and quality of life issues at the forefront.

“We're spending much more time in our parks and our libraries while pushing her stroller around town," said Detoy. "I notice the conditions of our sidewalks and the safety of our streets."

Teen Choice issue

One of the recent hot-button issues in Hermosa Beach was the Teen Choice Awards, which took over the Pier Plaza in August and featured global superstars Taylor Swift and the Jonas Brothers. While it caused plenty of buzz, the event raised the ire of downtown business owners who said they were negatively impacted.

“When it came to us, the network wanted to (remain) confidential and approved by the staff and our understanding was there was a local businessman who was co-producing the event and would be able to sort of watch out for the footprint in terms of time and space and how much it took up,” Massey said. “For whatever reason, it became what it became and the footprint was problematic.”

Massey added if the event is considered next year, changes would be implemented to allow more input from businesses and planning the event outside of the summer months would be one of those considerations.

Larson said he is in favor of events such as Fiesta Hermosa and, at first, the Teen Choice Awards because of its positive message to teens. But things changed.

“It was really not well designed or planned and it really disrupted the small business... most people don't know that every day counts in business,” Larson said.

Detoy said he was “not in favor of the way it was planned at all.”

“It was planned in secret, minimal discussion... it hurt businesses greatly,” Detoy said.

Detoy added, “Business owners need a seat at the table... we have to listen to them.”

Stormwater project

Another issue that cause consternation in the city was the stormwater infiltration project that was originally planned for the city's Greenbelt and then possibly South Park, but resident's anger at the size of the project helped halt it. In May, Hermosa Beach lost more than $3 million in grant funding from the State Water Resources Control Board. Then in July, Redondo Beach, one of the project's partners, demanded the city return more than $400,000 set aside to design a stormwater capture system.

An issue with the neighbors of the project was a lack of communication on the scope of the project, which Massey said they are now addressing. Massey said the discussion is ongoing between Redondo, Torrance and Manhattan Beach about the project's future. Currently, Hermosa Beach is only accountable for 15 percent of the runoff.

“Right now were working through making sure that we capture the same volume of stormwater, but we do it in a way that's equatable with our partners,” Massey said.

Larson said “ripping up the Greenbelt” and South Park was “bad idea” and accused the city of “not listening to the residents.” He suggested moving the project to the AES site in Redondo Beach, but Massey said that, even if that was approved, it would take years to construct because of the contamination at the site.

“I would even be in favor of capturing Hermosa stormwater with smaller projects that we can do on our own,” Larson said.

Detoy pointed out Manhattan Beach has similar smaller projects on their Greenbelt that reportedly have worked for that city. He also agreed that “communication was an issue,” with that project as well.

Homelessness

Homelessness is another issue that Hermosa Beach and most cities in Los Angeles County have been tackling in recent years.

Massey said in the most recent count, there were 25 people experiencing homelessness in Hermosa Beach, 15 of whom live on the streets.

“It's unconstitutional to criminalize sleeping in a car or on the street unless you provide overnight accommodations in the city limits,” Massey said.

So Massey said Hermosa Beach has worked with neighboring cities, police, nonprofits and other agencies to spearhead a regional approach to the growing issue. One of the goals is to provide the homeless the information they need to find services.

Larson said his goal is aiding the homeless so Hermosa Beach does not become another Venice or Santa Monica.

“There may be a time where mandatory sheltering is part of the solution because they are incapable of taking care of themselves,” Larson said of the “seriously mentally ill or drug addicted.” “ We can't allow this as good people to watch this.”

Detoy said “we just can't get rid of the homeless” and the city needs to focus on longterm solutions.

“We must work together with our neighboring cities to help get homeless individuals and families into permanent housing... invest in programs that will help keep them in their homes,” Detoy said.

The debate will be re-aired on Spectrum Cable Channel 8 and Frontier FIOS Channel 31, up until the Nov. 5, election day.

The next City Council debate takes place Monday, Oct. 7, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the City Council Chambers located at 1315 Valley Drive. The debate is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Beach Cities.

For more information, visit Hbneighborhood.org, or hermosabch.org.

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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