Questions and Answers
1) High density housing – I have never spoken to a resident in favor of high density housing, and from all research it seems residents are universally against such housing, yet it appears that as recently as last month, high density housing applications for building permits continue to be approved. How is it possible that our elected officials, whose job it is to represent the will of the people, continue to approve building permits for high density housing when the people universally reject such housing. Discuss how you will stop further approvals for high density housing.
ANSWER: The State of California has mandates that cities have to follow. HB has to build over 1,000 units or face state penalties. Huntington Beach put itself in this predicament with the state by not using land appropriately when we did have land to use. Now we have no large areas left and we are being forced to build HDD because of these mandates. So who was looking out after the henhouse? WHO SPOKE UP FOR THE CITIZENS AND THE CITY IN THE PAST!?
My vision is “Putting the Town Back in Surf City”. HDD does not do that because it affects our infrastructure and sense of community. So what would I do?
One, vote ‘NO’ to any new construction on complexes that are over 24 units per acre (above that is universally considered HD). To give you an example, an old 20 Acre school site could handle 400-480 units easily with parking, green belts, and other amenities, and that would put us almost halfway to our mandated goal. Pacific City, which is considered HDD, has 516 units on 14 acres. So you can just imagine the difference with fewer units on 50% more land. Next, on land that is available, the city can zone for quad-plexes, apartments, and other small multi-family, and single family dwellings on the space we have left to satisfy any state requirements. HB must work with the owners of the property to try to work out plans as to what will be built so everyone involved comes out a winner.
Next, challenge the state in court, if needed, for self-control over the building of units. Huntington Beach is built out, and as a charter city we need to be in control of our own destiny…especially with what makes sense. Plus, who will pay for the infrastructure needed on the mandates? The city? The state? If the state demands it then they must help pay for it. We came out victorious on AB 54, and I believe we could do it again.
How can we eliminate some barriers to both the builder and home owner/renter? One, eliminate building fees to make it less expensive for the builder. Two, ask that they lower their prices so it is less expensive for those wishing to rent or buy, based on the city's decreased fees. Three, pick builders who will build interiors/exteriors that are less costly. For example: Formica-not granite, carpeting-not tile or hardwood, no top of the line appliances, use green technology for energy efficiency…keep the material pricing down whenever possible, and the labor costs will follow suit. Allow for future upgrades, but build inexpensive for those needing housing. Allow for easier permitting for homeowners to build ADU's on their own property (additional dwelling units).
These are a few of the ways in which we can make it less expensive for both the builder and the occupant, and be compliant with the state mandates on housing for Huntington Beach.
2) Police Chief Robert Handy vs. “rank and file” officers – This is a year’s long issue that, from my research and personal experience, pits Chief Handy against police officers in favor of enforcing the law, particularly as it relates to enforcement against illegal aliens and the homeless. Also at issue is the Chief failing to allocate budget for equipment to protect officers (vests, cameras, etc.) Perhaps the City Council hasn’t allocated the budget allowing such items. While not getting into specifics, staffing often leaves officers alone in dangerous situations when they should have backup available. Please discuss how a united and effective police force will be achieved.
ANSWER: As always, there are two sides to the coin. I have met with both our officers and Chief Handy. Both say they want cameras. The officers were insistent that they would wear them, but had concerns over the budget and control of the video…Chief Handy assured me they were offered, but were rebuffed, because the officers did not like how the video would be managed, stored, or paid for. So, who is correct? They both said they want cameras.
I know the city can buy cloud services, hardware, the devices, and hire the personnel needed to store and retrieve video, but that would be a tremendous additional cost. The City would best be served by using Axon International, or another similar company, to implement the program. They do all the work and they incur the burden of everything. Their current prices are <$100.00/mo per camera. This pays for everything including archiving and retrieval services. This is a very reasonable amount of money to insure transparency and safety for our officers.
To your next point…Esprit de corps is missing from our department at the moment. Contrary to what has been said, and what others feel, we do need a few more officers. We are down over 15 from a few years ago and we even annexed more area…Sunset Beach. So how can we take care of that area with even fewer police?! We can’t! Those residents are furious over the lack of coverage and I do not blame them. In their words from a recent meeting, “We had great service from the Sheriff’s Department, but not now.” Police are on overtime, they are tired, and it shows. How can they be at their best when tired? They need help in the form of more coverage.
Some possible solutions are: put any sworn desk officers out on the street; hire the Sheriff to look after some areas; hire security (like the downtown B.I.D. has done); and figure out ways to trim the budget to add more positions. ALL options should be on the table, reviewed, and approved. As a town, as a beach/destination resort, and as a community that looks to the future, safety should be our #1 priority.
Next, the Chief wants a modern police force, one that is more public centric, more approachable, more accountable, and has a different policing method. This is a paradigm shift from year’s past and therefore is a hard sell to a force that is use to a certain way of doing things. Is his program wrong? Probably not. Did he implement it properly? Probably not. Can it be fixed right now? Absolutely!
- The Chief needs to admit mistakes were made…where mistakes took place.
- The rank and file also need to understand that the world of policing has changed and they must do so as well.
- The Chief must have the back of his officers first.
- And finally, to change the paradigm there must be buy-in, and to do that the Chief needs to form working groups within the department to help orchestrate the changes. That way the change comes from within the department, not driven from above. This will help put things on the right track so the department can be a more cohesive force.
Finally, the inside of the Police Department is a labyrinth. The Chief’s office (and others of rank) is tucked away in an obscure corner of the building in a room far removed from the workings of the station. As a business leader, with knowledge of working space best practices, the person leading the charge should have an office near the front of the entire group. This allows for easy access and makes the Chief and the rest of leadership team more approachable. Leadership should not be hidden away, but up front, and this helps build the camaraderie that is needed, and would be the final piece of the puzzle.
Adding officers, working less, providing cameras, fixing up police headquarters, providing cameras, and effectively changing the policing paradigm will build the Esprit de corps and make the HB Police an even better police force.
3) Sanctuary City – Again, I have never spoken to a resident that favors Huntington Beach being a sanctuary city, and it appears the City Attorney has taken steps to remove our city from California’s (illegal) sanctuary city regulations, certain elements within the city actively work to limit enforcement of current laws by not pursuing illegal aliens or prosecuting the laws they break. Discuss how proper enforcement of the law will apply to all residents of Huntington Beach, including illegal aliens living or visiting here.
ANSWER: Note: Our recent lawsuit against California, where charter cities came out victorious in that decision, has just settled this point. So we do not have to follow SB54. Our officers and city can do what is needed to arrest those that do harm without fear of breaking the California’s law.
Here is what I have posted on my FB account:
“SB 54 (Some call it the Sanctuary Law) was flawed in certain areas. One was that it asked cities not to cooperate with Federal authorities on criminals being arrested. I do not agree with it because of the dangers it would have on public safety, and the cost to the system for incarcerating another country's criminal. This would have potentially hand-cuffed our officers and would have made deportation much harder to accomplish on those criminals who are violent.
So HB sued the State, along with other Charter Cities, and last week our City's opinion was upheld...As a Charter City we are not bound by SB54. I believe this is a proper and just ruling, which I support, because we must be able to do what is necessary to protect our citizens.”
Now it is up to the state. We may be going to court again, but let’s hope not.
4) Water quality – A recent report of the drinking water in this city has revealed particulate contamination at 250% of the national average. The water also has a foul smell. This is not just my home or my neighbors, but at all corners of the city. Since we purchase water from Fountain Valley, and that water is “reclaimed”, one source of the particulate contamination is something none of us wants to even consider; sewage. What steps can be taken to force Fountain Valley to improve their filtering methods for particulate contaminants and dissolved gasses to improve the quality of the water in our city, or find other sources for the water provided to the city.
ANSWER: I cannot comment on a report I have not seen or examined. I know we are scheduled for infrastructure overhaul because of poor pipes and fixtures, and that should take care of some of this.
Also, HB sits atop an oil field, and chemicals of all types were used in this region. There is a Superfund Cleanup site on the SE side of town, by Edison High School. After years of permeation, these toxic chemicals can leach through the ground and could affect the source water, our groundwater, and leach through the pipes, so this could be the culprit as well.
The bottom line is the city needs to check the source water, check the water at various points in the system, check at end points to map out exactly what is happening, and then they can isolate the problem. Once that is done we can address the solutions. They spend $40,000 a year on water quality testing, so maybe the results on the tests can be posted on a monthly basis for all to see. That will insure water quality transparency.
Just changing sources without identifying the problem makes no sense, and that is a road I do not want to take.
5) Halfway Houses / Sober Living Houses – While there are definite financial benefits to the owners of the houses being used for these activities, the community is negatively affected by these businesses. Whether it is sober living, where people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction serve the remainder of the sentences or treatment with little or no security, or criminals transitioning back into society, there seems to be little or no control over these sites. While some deserve the benefit of the doubt, and seriously want to transition to a better life, others chain-smoke while swearing on cell phones outdoors disturbing their neighbors. Certain crime elements we simple don’t want in our city. For example, pedophiles have a 2% recovery rate, meaning there is a 98% chance that criminal will repeat that offense. Discuss how these halfway houses will be monitored, both for who is allowed of occupy them, and how they behave while there.
ANSWER: If they are a State regulated and licensed house, then there are procedures/rules in place that have to be followed or they lose their licensing. Our officers can crack down on those type right now and they could be shut down by the state if they do not follow protocol.
Unlicensed facilities are what the city is dealing with now, and they are the culprits of causing a world of problems. Our Mayor and City Attorney are in the midst of passing an ordnance requiring them to be “a registered business”, so that way we can go after them, fine them, ticket them, arrest people or do what ever is needed in order to keep the peace.
The Fair Housing Act and ADA are culpable in this because they allow them to exist in a manner that cannot be regulated. We must support congressional efforts to change those two acts. Proposals are in Congress right now to change the FHA and ADA and we need to support those when turned into HR Bills.
Laguna Nigel has a law on the books requiring all Sober Living Homes to register as such by October 18, 2018. And as of January 1, 2019, all rules and regulations must be adhered to or they would face penalties or possible closure. This is exactly what we should look at implementing…and it is what we need to do in order to combat this. We need to fight for our rights, even if it means being subject to a suit. Here are the steps we need to take:
This is the Laguna Nigel law…effective 10/18. We need to do something similar.
Group Home Permit (LNZC Section 9-1-38; 9-1-111)
Unlicensed group homes, including sober living homes, that would otherwise be
considered large boarding houses, will be permitted in all single-family zones (RS-1, RS-2, RS-3, RS-4, RP, and RA) subject to ministerial review and approval of a group home permit by the Community Development Director. Application requirements will include, but will not be limited to, property owner, facility operator and house manager. Information; copies of facility policies and procedures; a signed statement by the operator that only individuals with disabilities (other than the house manager) will reside at the home; and a signed property owner consent form.
Group homes will be required to have no more than six residents (excluding the house manager), rental agreements of no less than 30 days, a resident house manager, on-site parking for all vehicles associated with the facility, and emergency contact notification of occupant eviction and provision of transportation for the occupant to their last known address. New group homes will not be permitted to locate within 1,000 feet of existing group homes or state licensed residential care facilities. The operator will be required to provide a 24-hour contact to the City and, upon request, allow the City access to the facility premises and records as needed to confirm compliance with permit requirements.
In addition, sober living homes will be required to ensure that all occupants are actively participating in legitimate recovery programs, implement regular drug testing, limit access to medications, implement visitation policies that preclude visitors under the influence of drugs and alcohol and do not allow visitors past 10:00 p.m., and implement good neighbor policies limiting activities that would interfere with a neighbor’s use and enjoyment of their property (e.g., excessive second hand smoke, noise, and profane or obnoxious behavior).
If Laguna Nigel can author such legislation, then HB can do the same. We cannot let S.L. homes exist in our neighborhoods where they become a menace to our kids and our way of life.
6) Homeless – The homeless population continues to grow, and they have inhabited nearly every park in the city, the beaches and other areas. Central Park is difficult to approach, and is full of used drug paraphernalia, drug users, drug dealers, human waste and trash. Many of the homeless have psychological issues and are dangerous. Since there appears to be no enforcement, the problems continue to grow. The intent of our public land and parks is not to provide for the homeless. Homeless shelters only add to the issue seen with halfway houses. There are Federal programs that will provide housing to a homeless person for $6 to $50 per month, and they will be provided over $200 per month to ensure they can pay the rent and have food. There is transportation available to these people, job training, counseling, and other assistance. There is an outreach program to ensure all homeless have access to the information that help is available. The only area the expert I spoke to (a current social worker, Master’s Degree in Social Work from USC) felt was lacking was access to mental health assistance. Please discuss what can be done to keep the homeless out of public areas, and provide safety for children in the parks.
ANSWER: There are many good things HB is doing right now. Those are addressed below. As for my education on the subject, I have attended HTF Meetings, Inter-faith Council Meetings, walked the streets with the HTF to see what they experience first hand, and I attended the HB/United Way Homelessness 101 Seminar, and met with their directors to get more information on the subject.
So here’s what we are doing that is right.
We have a wonderful Homeless Task force, but they need help. I’ve travelled with them and heard their stories. They are out there servicing the homeless and their needs every day. They even pass out to the homeless a booklet that gives a listing of the wrap-around services so they can get help. And Vets get shelter first if they wish to be helped.
The city is working with the Inter-Faith Community Council to resolve issues by partnering with the local faith based community churches. I sat in on their last Homeless Solutions Coalition meeting and was amazed at what they are doing.
The United Way sponsored a Homeless 101 Seminar in September. All citizens were invited (I was the only non-incumbent to attend) and it was a packed house…but more people should have been there.
We have some good things going, but we need more help. So here is what I propose:
The Homeless Task Force needs help. They need full time liaisons to work the streets in order to identify the homeless, and quantify they help they need to get. Currently they have three part time people…and they are overworked at that. After identifying what is needed they can reach out to one of the shelters in the area or a local church or hospital to get that person the assistance they need.
The HTF needs at least two more Police Officers (FTE) to help curb the problem. Even Chief Handy proposed this for this year’s budget but it was denied. The officers are needed to help get those in need into transitional homes (they often drive them to locations), and to help move them into safer places when needed. But we also need the officers to help stop the crime that is taking place by those who operate out of vehicles and such. That is why we need more help on the streets.
The City needs to advertise/promote to the citizens a report showing what they are doing to assist the homeless population. They need to show how working with the Inter-Faith Council has helped those in need, and has moved them off the streets and into a better circumstance. They also need to engage the residents so there is a conduit of communication to where everyone knows what to do when helping someone who is homeless, and who to call if there is an emergency or crime.
Please look at the United Ways “United to End Homelessness”. Their Shelter First Program is a model we should be examining and trying to implement if feasible for the county. It would be a combined effort from the Federal Govt. (HUD Funds), the County, the Cities, and Non-Governmental organizations (like our Inter-Faith Council). Data shows it costs 50% less to run this than to constantly manage the chronically homeless at the street level. This model reduces crime, gives the homeless shelter, and saves the county over $150 million dollars a year. It would create a Joint Powers Authority to run the program. For information, go to: www.unitedtoendhomelessness.org
These are some of the solutions to helping those in need, and protecting our citizens here in Huntington Beach. We can implement numbers 1-3 here in town, but the Shelter First Program would be a countywide program/solution to help end homelessness in the county.
7) Coyote encroachment into neighborhoods – Once limited to the ecosystem of the wetlands, unchecked breeding by the coyote population has increased their numbers to the point where they have encroached into neighborhoods to find food. That food is often domestic pets. While I’m not aware of a coyote attacking a child, I have heard of a pack of coyotes growling at a child, threatening attack, until adults came to the child’s side. Our pets, our children, and our population in general should be safe from these animals, and something needs to be done before a child is attacked. Some ideas include euthanizing or sterilizing coyotes to reduce their population. Discuss what will be done to deal with the over-population of coyotes.
ANSWER: Coyotes have done a great job adapting to a city environment, an environment for which they do not belong because of the nuisance and danger they create.
First, there are many things that citizens can do to make sure coyotes do not come around their neighborhoods. There are pages on the city and county websites that address those steps. Citizens need to take these steps to help. When they encounter a coyote they need to call the county hot line to report it as well.
Next, the county, working with the cities, needs to develop a joint coyote tagging and removal program that addresses coyote removal to a point that makes them less threatening to our citizens, youth and animals. This could be a sterilizing program, a relocation program or euthanizing program. Any, or all, could be effective in reigning in this problem.
Finally, this has to be solved before the coyotes have run out of their natural food resources. It has to happen now, before their hunger drives them to taking a child who is just playing outside. So let’s get this done before it is too late, otherwise I’m afraid citizens will start taking matters into their own hands. And that would be horrible for everyone.
8) Infrastructure – Street repair, sewers, electrical grid, water (discussed above), parking, beaches, etc. all need upkeep and replacement as they age. Parts of the city are quite old, and the repair or replacement of these facilities is an ongoing task. The rapid construction of high density housing has stressed the infrastructure in those areas. This issue becomes complex, and the electrical grid is supposed to be maintained by Southern California Edison, but they have done a less than adequate job in several parts of the city. Please discuss how upkeep of the infrastructure will be maintained or improved, including budget allocation and interfacing with other companies or agencies to insure proper maintenance.
ANSWER: According to our City Charter, we must adhere to the following rules.
Here is our charter:
Infrastructure Item 617, HB City Charter: (b) Revenues placed in the Infrastructure Fund shall not supplant existing infrastructure funding. The average percentage of general fund revenues utilized for infrastructure improvements and maintenance, for the five- (5) year period of 1996 to 2001, is and was 14.95%. Expenditures for infrastructure improvements and maintenance, subsequent to 2001, shall not be reduced below 15% of general fund revenues based on a five- (5) year rolling average.
We need to adhere to this and not fall below these standards. Our last four years we were budgeted below this level, but we were above it in FY 14/15 (rolling 5 year rule) thus making us compliant. But the underfunding caused some gaps in service and this needs to be corrected.
Public Works is an area where we can hire outside services to do repairs and work on improvements. This is an area where we could possibly save money (personnel and supplies) and then apply those saved funds it to other infrastructure expenditures.
HB must also seek reparations from the state for any mandated High Density Development. If Sacramento is requiring it, then they must help pay for any infrastructure improvements, and not the City of HB. If the city cannot afford the expense, then it will be transferred onto the builder, and then that just drives prices up on all new units. That will continue to make affordable-housing un-affordable, as the builder must re-coup their costs in some fashion.
HB must trim our budget so that money is set aside for infrastructure improvements and other long-term liabilities that we have facing us. Trimming our expenses by 8-10 million dollars a year will help ensure that we have money set aside to do those things properly, and it exceeds our mandated 15% charter requirement. We can also raise new revenue through visitor taxes/fees that will pay for their impact on the system as well.
Finally, any infrastructure funding due HB from the State, must be used as mandated by law. The Infrastructure Commission that is set up by Article 617 of the City Charter can help review it to insure it is being spent properly.
Let’s make sure that all these monies get spent on our infrastructure so they do not end up being used by another department, and are used in a way that gives us the best return on our investment.
9) Budget – Many of the areas above affect the budget, as well as pension funding, city salaries, police, fire, etc. Please discuss how the budget issues will be dealt with, including debt reduction, long-term reserves to support infrastructure renewal, disaster reserves, etc.
ANSWER: My plan is simple the budget has grown exponentially over the last few years and it cannot continue to fund itself with the revenues we have coming in.
Here is what we need to do:
- Make each service in HB their own business unit. They have autonomy over spending, and personnel decisions. Each manager is held accountable for his or her numbers, staying under budget, and making good personnel choices.
- For the 2019/2020 budget, each Business Unit will draw up financial plans showing what can be done with less funding.
- Business Units will be asked to look at lower cost outside resources in which to get things done, so HB might be able to cut back on FTE’s in the system.
- Representatives from each Business Unit will have input into funding the CalPers Plan. Each Unit must accept that raising contribution rates, examining medical plan costs, and other perks will be on the table, and that their input is needed in order to help solve the problem.
- The city needs to be made flexible, that’s why units are created…they can change course quickly if needed. Be more autonomous and be given more responsibility. Why is this important? Revenue from the state could fall, the economy could falter, or other factors can change the budget in an instant. The managers, and the Business Units need to be able to respond to this as soon as possible in order to better manage the city.
- The city needs a comprehensive budget analysis that shows the benefits of implementing 401k plans for new hires. The positive and negative impacts of those plans need to be addressed in open debate, and all stakeholders need to be able to bring facts to the table.
- We must also make sure that the General Budget pays for the safety of the city, and the cost to repair our infrastructure. These are our most important services and we need to make sure these are well funded.
- Savings need to be used to pay off/retire our long and short-term debt. This will allow us the flexibility to increase funding for certain business units and fund the CalPers debt. If we need to sell of assets to pay for this then we need to address that as well.
- TOT- (Occupancy Taxes) We need to look at these taxes to see that they are in line with other cities. If we can raise them, then we need to do just that. Visitors should help pay for beach use, and this is one way to do it.
- Beach Passes- Lower the price of beach passes to HB Citizens by allowing them to buy them as an item on their utility bill. The city can realize a huge increase in revenue as the bills go out to over 45,000 households. With roughly 6000 passes sold last year, this sales effort could triple the sales of passes. When residents know that the Air Show and July 4th weekend cost over $30.00/day, the pass could pay for itself after 4-10 uses.
- Parking: Raise the prices on beach parking and metered parking at the beach during the high traffic times of June-Sept. This puts us in line with what other beach cities do during this time of year. Selling more lower-priced resident passes increases our revenue from within, while charging visitors more for parking at the beach (during peak season only) gives us more revenue from those that visit us during the summer months. A quick budget analysis will show that this could reap the city several million additional dollars that can then be used to offset other liabilities in our safety and infrastructure departments.
10) Ethics –Without succumbing to unfounded allegations, there are rumors of certain ethical issues in city offices. While these might be prompted by news reports about other cities’ issues, or based on actual incidents I can’t be sure. In any case, ethical dealings should be insured in all areas of city business. Please address how ethical dealing in all aspects of city business dealings will be promoted and insured.
ANSWER: As an Eagle Scout, a Teacher who taught Character Development, a person of faith, and of high moral and ethical standards, I do not know how to seriously answer this. When inducted we all have to pledge to uphold the U.S. Constitution and sign paperwork on ethical behavior. Power corrupts, and those that succumb to it without having faith in their message, and or vision, show their weakness and human fallibilities. They then must be prosecuted if in violation of any law.
As for me:
I will have an open door policy on all matters (I am retired, so coffee anywhere works, or a board meeting at the pier)
I will have monthly “meet n greets” to discuss city matters
I will appoint to office those that are truly qualified to be on a commission…not just friends
I will keep a blog on my website detailing the happenings in City Hall
Basically, by being open I am showing citizens that there is no room for corruption on scandal under my watch. I would ask that all councilmembers follow suit in this as well.