One major development faltered, but several others are well underway in Hermosa Beach.
The 155,000 square-foot Strand and Pier Hotel project developers got cold feet, telling the city they needed more time to reevaluate the project following concerns raised by locals about the project's scope, which featured 100 hotel rooms and nearly 22,500 square feet of mixed use development.
Skechers continued to expand its footprint in the beach cities with the groundbreaking for its headquarters in Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach at the start of 2019. The project doubles the company's office, design and showroom space to more than 330,000 square feet, said President Michael Greenberg in January 2019.
Other substantial construction projects that started included the construction of North School, painting and repairs of the Community Center, and a nearly $2 million upgrade of the city's fire station.
Greenbelt and stormwater controversy
The city changed course this year on a Stormwater Infiltration Project on the Greenbelt after a largely negative response from residents.
The project was originally slated for the Greenbelt and then potentially South Park, until numerous residents protested the project.
In May, it was announced that the city had lost more than $3 million in grant funding from the State Water Resources Control Board. The city put that money in jeopardy when the City Council voted to dissolve a Memorandum of Understanding with neighboring cities to find a home for the project.
As the lead agency, the city of Hermosa Beach had hoped that Redondo Beach would take the lead on the infiltration project. But in July, Redondo Beach demanded the return of more than $400,000 that was set aside for the project.
Torrance and Manhattan Beach have also contributed to the design phase and previously agreed to fund portions of the project — a formula that was decided based on how much storm water from each city ended up in the Herondo Avenue drain. Redondo Beach agreed to pay the largest portion of the cost at 50.8%, Torrance at 33.1%, Hermosa at 13.6% and Manhattan Beach at 2.5%.
While the city lost the grant funding, they can reapply to the State Water Resources Control Board.
Teen Choice event
While the likes of global superstars Taylor Swift and The Jonas Brothers rocked Hermosa Beach at the Teen Choice Awards in August, many business owners and residents were frustrated by the event's impact in the city.
At various meetings, business owners said parking was a main issue along with the Hermosa Beach Pier being blocked off, no notice of closures, and little communication from the producers, as well as the city, during the planning stages of the event.
City officials said a goal was to host a family friendly event to the city while generate exposure for the city. But councilmembers said that they will work closer with business leaders if the event returns in 2020.
Cypress District rezoning
A confusing city zoning and permit process in the Cypress District, home to everything from art galleries to surfboard shapers, came to the forefront in February when art studio owners complained about receiving citations for holding events without proper permits.
ShockBoxx and Resin art studios, along with other businesses and creatives, are working to transform the Cypress area into a magnet for the arts when they received the citations.
The Hermosa Beach Planning Commission began studying bringing the Cypress District into alignment with the creative light industrial use and exploring whether permitted uses and zoning standards should be modified to allow businesses to host special events and provide limited retail sales as accessory uses.
Following a Study Session in November, the Planning Commission began considering modifications to the M-1 zoning standards. The Planning Commission recommendations will lead to City Council consideration of amendments to the Municipal Code at a future meeting. The long term solution is amending the municipal while issuing an additional event permit is a short term solution.
According to ShockBoxx gallery co-founder Mike Collins the Planning Commission is working to finalize language for an additional event permit that will allow for small openings and events to take place at a “slightly more frequent” rate that the current permit allows. The new permit might last two years and allow the city to study “what's happening and working and/or not working in that area,” according to Collins.
In May, CrossFit Horsepower gym closed its doors, the owners claiming the city's enforcement visits and soundproofing requirements have made it impossible to stay in business. The Cypress Avenue neighborhood gym opened in 2014. Less than a year later, it became the subject of noise complaints and code violations for using the public streets for workouts.
CrossFit co-owner Jed Sanford sued the city, claiming unequal laws, political favoritism and that ShockBoxx opened illegally and was allowed to stay open because Collins is married to then Mayor Pro Tem Mary Campbell, who is now mayor. The city and Collins denied the allegation.
In July, business and property owners in the Cypress District went before the City Council to seek the relaxation of zoning regulations to allow more creativity in the area.
New deputy city manager
The city approved the new city position of deputy city manager in June, in spite of some misgivings from some members of the community and City Council.
The position, requested by City Manager Suja Lowenthal, has a salary range of $123,000 to $142,764. The total cost of salary and benefits for the position exceeds $193,000.
Originally Lowenthal had requested staffing for an assistant city manager, with a salary range of $157,872 to $182,760. With benefits, that position would have cost the city nearly $220,000 a year.
Mayor Stacey Armato had some concerns about the cost of the new position but still voted yes while Councilmember Hany Fangary was the one no vote.
Hermosa Beach police department in flux
Hermosa Beach Police Chief Sharon Papa announced her retirement earlier this year because of a medical condition and acting Police Chief Milton McKinnon, who took over for Papa on an interim basis, also announced his retirement, which became effective at the end of the year.
While the city named Michael McCrary interim chief, dozens came out in force at a Dec. 17 City Council meeting in support of the city's police officers during lingering contract negotiations with the city.
The Hermosa Beach Police Officers Association has claimed that “staffing levels are dangerously low,” which will lead to more crime, slower response times and decreased community interaction.
The city denied the claims.