Nearly 250 community members gathered Wednesday morning to get overview of the past year and what's to come for Manhattan Beach.

The 2020 State of The City address, held at Manhattan Beach's Joslyn Community Center, began with a video highlighting past and future projects. 

"I don't think it's ever been fuller," said Kelly Stroman, president and CEO of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce, of this year's event. 

Outgoing mayor Nancy Hersman agreed, saying that she'd never seen so many people in the Joslyn Center.

"I'd say our city is in excellent shape," Hersman said, adding that finances are strong and public safety services are secure. 

Public and environmental health

Hersman detailed sustainability, the recent tobacco ban and housing at the podium. City Council in the past year added to its single-use plastics ban by prohibiting the sale of Mylar balloons and polystyrene meat trays, she said, as well as the release of latex balloons to protect the ocean ecosystem and wildlife. 

"That balloon mural (at Metlox Plaza downtown) is the last balloons you should see in Manhattan Beach," Hersman said. The community will also see a lot more public art throughout the city, she added.  

Manhattan Beach in November banned the sale of flavored tobacco products and electronic smoking devices, Hersman said, then took it a step further with a blanket, city-wide tobacco prohibition this month. Following Beverly Hills' footsteps, she added, this made Manhattan Beach the second city in the country to ban the sale of all tobacco.

"It takes local steps such as ours to start the conversation and move towards that goal" of a nationwide tobacco endgame, Hersman said.

The city is increasing access to solar energy to lower carbon emissions, Hersman said, and adding more electric vehicle chargers. Manhattan Beach with The Bay Foundation and the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors is starting a Beach Dune Enhancement Project this year, she said, which will restore the sandy beach and dune habitat along .5 miles of Bruce's Beach, from 36th Street to 23rd Street. Restoring the native plants will protect against sea level rise and coastal storms, Hersman said.

That's part of the city's Climate Resiliency Program, which will also create a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, analyze hazard and vulnerability including evaluating sea level rise and storm drain flooding.

Housing and SB 50

City Council is lobbying against Senate Bill 50, Hersman said, which failed. But, the bill is likely to come back in a different form and could pass in the coming year. Hersman said the goal for Manhattan Beach is to protect its already housing-dense city against the state's goal to increase housing and eliminate local zoning control. If SB 50 goes into effect, Hersman said, cities will be forced to allow multifamily units in neighborhoods zoned for single family homes. 

"They tend to do a one-size-fits-all across the state and it just doesn't work," she added. 

Projects throughout city

Public Works Director Stephanie Katsouleas updated attendees on a few of the 128 projects happening in Manhattan Beach through the next five years. The city has allocated $130 million for the capital improvement projects, Katsouleas said, including street, water, sewer and storm drain infrastructure repairs; parking improvements; park and playground enhancements; and building upgrades and repairs. 

The $20 million rebuilding of Sepulveda Bridge, Katsouleas said, will begin this fall after the city gets approval from CalTrans next month. The project, which Katsouleas estimated to take a little more than a year, is funded by local and federal grants and includes widening the fourth lane, sidewalk enhancements and seismic retrofitting.

The Peck Reservoir Replacement, Katsouleas said, is projected to begin in October and take up to two years to complete.

Solar pathway lights on the Greenbelt are underway, she said, which stemmed from a rollout of four of the lights after Katsouleas was affected by limited visibility on the path at night. She piloted the solar lights last year, she said, with signs next to them prompting pedestrians to text message their preference—if they like, love or dislike the path lights. That yielded 83% positive responses.

Katsouleas also mentioned the introduction of water meters that will conduct automatic reads and leak detection, pay-by-phone parking meters, and a three-phase way-finding rollout, which includes new parking and pedestrian signage. 

Don Ziss, vice president and senior general manager of Manhattan Village, gave an update on the mall. A 500-space, 3-story parking structure will open next month, Ziss said, and an outdoor plaza is expected to be complete in May. Manhattan Village is moving in many new restaurants, fitness centers, Ziss said, and has plans for an office space on the top floor above retailers.

Finances

The city maintains a stable budget, City Manager Bruce Moe said, and has a balanced operating budget this year and in the foreseeable future.

Manhattan Beach cut $1.5 million from its 2019-20 budget, Moe said, and has a $129 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year. He highlighted that these funds primarily come from sales and property taxes.

The city gets 1% of all sales tax, adding that those taxed purchases in Manhattan Beach produce 12% of the budget, and property taxes make up 44% of it.

Homelessness

The number of people experiencing homelessness in Manhattan Beach went from seven in 2017 to 21 last year, said George Gabriel, senior management analyst and homelessness liaison for Manhattan Beach. A five-year plan to address homelessness, introduced in 2017, has since produced a task force, grant funding, training for public safety officers, a resource guide and more access to mental health clinicians, Gabriel said.

He called the initiative a multi-prong approach, with sensitivity to the fact that people experiencing homelessness are in Manhattan Beach because they want to enjoy the city like anyone else.

School district

The city gives Manhattan Beach schools more than $1.8 million annually, Hersman said, and council has dubbed March 21 through March 28 this year as Support our Schools week.

Budget cuts sparked this initiative, said Hilary Mahan, executive director for the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation, in which organizations and businesses will offer money back to the foundation to support the city's schools.

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