As Hermosa Beach City Councilmember Jeff Duclos finishes up his second term on council this week, he said it's an emotional time. He will soon move from the city where he and wife and former educator Christine raised two children and where they have made their home for 40 years.
Early next year, Duclos will be moving to Carlsbad, Calif. to be closer to those children and his five grandchildren.
“It's doubly emotional for me because I'm leaving council and I will be leaving Hermosa Beach, obviously that’s going to be tough,” Duclos said. “But for me at this point in my life I think it's the new chapter.”
Duclos said his two tours as a city councilmember has been life changing.
"It has given me opportunities to grow personally, to put myself out there in a way that maybe I might not normally have done," Duclos said, who added he met a variety of residents, business owners and fellow electives in other cities he otherwise would not have met.
Duclos received a glowing send-off at Monday's City Council meeting, especially from his fellow councilmembers, who voted Monday to rename the Hermosa Beach Community Garden in his honor.
Mayor Stacey Armato praised Duclos for his leadership and service.
“I'm going to miss your humor and your quick wit, always very reliable on that front,” said Armato. “I'll miss your passion and your unrelenting efforts to show that we want to protect and care for our environment. I'll miss having you as a champion for our children's health as we continue to tackle the ever-growing vaping crises that has effected so many in our community and across this nation. I'll miss the untold stories of Hermosa's history as we make decisions that are going to effect the future of Hermosa.”
“You have served as a mentor, as a person I always learned from and I aspire to be like,” said Councilmember Hany Fangary.
Councilmember Justin Massey added, “Your mark is all over the city, we'll do our best to build on your legacy.”
Mayor Pro Tem Mary Campbell called Duclos a “coastal superman” who has “been there on the front lines without fail” when it comes to his environmental efforts.
Campbell said she will follow in his footsteps in efforts to preserve the city's history.
“I will happily take up that banner and help be one of the champions,” Campbell said. “There are many in our city, but I will be one of them to keep jazz alive, to make sure our history is in front of us and celebrate it forever.”
Being a volunteer, especially concerning environmental issues, has always been a priority for Duclos. When he first moved to Hermosa Beach in 1979, he would take his young daughter to the beach, at a time when the Santa Monica Bay was “extremely polluted.”
“You saw no dolphins or bird life, you saw nothing,” Duclos said. “Growing up a surfer, I’m in the water a lot…. in those days, you got the warning to not go out. You sit in the water and see all the pollution, plastic junk in the water.”
Duclos’ first entry in volunteering came when he joined the Surfrider Foundation. He later ran the Malibu chapter and also joined the national board.
“Being on the City Council gave me another opportunity to continue with those interests… protecting this resource we have out here,” Duclos said.
City council involvement
Duclos, a San Diego native, discovered Hermosa Beach when he and his wife were looking for a place to live while he was attending UCLA grad school.
He was first elected to the Hermosa Beach City Council in 2009. He served one term before losing a re-election bid in 2013 by seven votes. He was elected again in 2015.
But before was elected in 2009, he ran unsuccessfully twice.
“I always did well, that was the thing that kept me engaged,” Duclos said of the unsuccessful council bids. "(But) I had the dubious distinction of being the highest vote getter not elected.”
During his first term on city council, resident took up a fight against oil drilling in the city.
The potential for drilling in Hermosa Beach had been an issue since 1984 when voters approved the removal of a ban in the city. Then, in March 2015, residents resoundingly opposed E&B's plan to drill in the city's maintenance yard, voting 80-20 percent against Measure O.
The city had to pay E&B $17.5 million, plus interest, when Measure O was passed. That number came from a settlement with Macpherson Oil in 2012, where that company agreed to drop litigation against the city by granting E&B its drilling rights.
Duclos said the community engagement was unprecedented.
“When the lawsuit was active, the city of Hermosa Beach was facing million(s) in damages, lawsuit, in terms of breach of contract," said Duclos. "That was like a stigma that was sitting over the city and effected everything. It created a sense of paralysis in the city in that we couldn't be bonded, we couldn't initiate a lot of projects, it created this sense of the unknown.”
Hermosa Beach eventually settled with E&B in 2017. The $1.5 million settlement eliminated any potential for oil drilling by E&B.
The anti-oil movement sparked activism in some residents who are still making their mark in the city, including Mayor Stacey Armato.
The city’s Strategic Plan, under the guidance of former City Manager Tom Bakaly, was able to be accomplished, thanks in part to the resolution the oil drilling, Duclos said. The Strategic Plan eventually led to four years of work and the completion of PLAN Hermosa, an update of the city's General Plan and Local Coast Program. Bakaly is now the CEO of the Beach Cities Health District.
“Jeff led Hermosa through a difficult time of transition and was able to balance Hermosa’s history and beach culture with the community’s desires through the adoption of the City’s General Plan (PLAN Hermosa), which has become a model for other cities,” Bakaly said recently to The Beach Reporter.
Bakaly added, “Jeff was a visionary leader with the Blue Zones project in his first term of office, and had the foresight and ability to build community consensus around being well. This resulted in many accomplishments such as Hermosa’s community garden, a decline in smoking and the certification of the three beach cities as a Blue Zones Community in 2016.”
Hermosa Beach’s history
While the city has celebrated recent landmark anniversaries like The Comedy and Magic Club’s 40th and The Lighthouse celebrating decades of jazz, Duclos said there is little protection for historical structures in Hermosa Beach.
It's easy, he said, to overlook part of the beach town's culture.
Thus, Duclos spearheaded “La La Land” Day in the city, in honor of the Oscar-winning film starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone that featured the Hermosa Beach Pier and The Lighthouse.
“With 'La La Land’ someone celebrated our city and saw it in a way we didn't,” Duclos said. “It attracted people to our community. We should do something to commemorate that.”
The city’s history of music and surfing is distinct and Duclos feels that needs to be addressed.
“There is something about Hermosa Beach that struck a chord and I think it has to do with the fact that we're a small city that has a rich history,” said Duclos who added having a lot of people living in a confined space creates a certain kind of energy.
“We can say it's the vibe," said Duclos. "I felt it when we bought 40 years ago. People today feel it the same.”
*Updated Nov. 20, 2019. Duclos is relocating to Carlsbad, Calif., not Calabasas.