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Huntington Beach and its Sad Standstill

Political Grandstanding: the term often applies to politicians or other public figures perceived to be using tactics designed to call attention to themselves instead of the issues. Or after this week’s council meeting, the majority of the Huntington Beach City Council led by Councilmember Erik Peterson.

We are seeing a backlash against growth from all corners of Orange County.  From Rancho Santa Margarita to Yorba Linda and now Huntington Beach.  And in a way, I get it.  I grew up in Orange County and it has changed quite a bit since the 1960s let me tell you.  I sit on the freeway and wonder who all these people are and why are they causing so much traffic.  We all want it to be the way it used to be.  Economics and an aging population is probably not going to allow for a no-growth philosophy to win if we want Orange County to not only survive but thrive as well.

I also want to say that as a member of the Orange City Council I voted against development applications that I felt were bad for my community.  That is why we elect a city council.

But what happened in Huntington Beach this week made no sense and that is my frustration.  Orange County cities need leaders that are mature enough to do the right thing for their communities without casting a vote that is just simply political grandstanding.

Years ago, the Huntington Beach City Council voted in the Beach and Edinger Corridor Specific Plan (BECSP) that put into place specific development parameters for building in that area.  Some very large developments went in and the community is stepping forward and asking for changes to be made in the BECSP.  No problem, the council and staff have laid out a list of new rules from increasing setback, to lowering density caps, increasing parking studies, adding requirements for referring application to the Planning Commission and then Council, the list goes on.  And by the way, the study sessions to begin these changes are going to happen in the next couple of weeks, with complete changes to the BECSP to be voted on by May.

Sounds pretty good, right? A city council has heard from its constituents and is making the needed changes.  Not so fast.  This past week newly elected Councilman Erik Peterson decided to throw some red meat to residents of Huntington Beach and asked for a moratorium to be voted on that would stop all residential development from being approved within the BECSP.  Except it would not apply to applications already entitled, and it would not apply to any development being processed, and city staff is already working with future applicants to submit their development applications with the changes that council is going to be directing be made to the specific plan and by the way… the changes to the specific plan will be in the process of being drafted probably about the same time a moratorium ordinance is being drafted.  The moratorium that isn’t even needed because, well, it really doesn’t do anything that is not already being done.

So then, what is the harm you ask?  It sends a message.  It sends a message that the majority of the Huntington Beach Council don’t understand the process and that they are willing to bow to political pressure rather then lead with common sense, and that is disappointing. 

Congratulations to Councilmembers Mike Posey and Barbara Delgleize who actually agree with the changes to the BESCP that are being requested by the public, but understand they are already in the process of making it happen and that grandstanding by politicians usually just slows everything down.

By Carolyn Cavecche, President & CEO of Orange County Taxpayers Association

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