The Huntington Beach City Council gave city staff the green light Monday to update its report on the possible annexation of the remaining portions of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and uplands.
In a 5-1 vote, with Councilman Dave Sullivan dissenting and Councilman Jim Katapodis absent, the city agreed to spend around $5,000 to update the study.
"We have a huge pension problem over our head. The magnitude is going to be massive," Sullivan said. "We cannot afford to take this on. It's protected by government agencies. I'm satisfied with the county's stewardship of it and anything that happens becomes our problem. And I don't want to even waste the $5,000 to study the matter any further."
According to a staff report, a study to annex the remaining portions of Bolsa Chica was prepared in 2009 but the City Council didn't pursue the land.
Now that the city has annexed Sunset Beach, bringing in Bolsa Chica would make Huntington Beach whole, Councilman Joe Carchio said.
"In San Bernardino County, the city of Redlands has a famous doughnut hole similar to this, but a little bit different," Mayor Pro Tem Matt Harper said. "It's a developed area in the unincorporated area in the middle of the city of Redlands and it presents quite a challenge in terms of governance because the priorities of the board of supervisors don't always match the priorities of the city council, in terms of that area."
Harper added that the city has gotten leeway from Bolsa Chica's supervisors but thinks that might change later down the road and wants to see the unincorporated land part of Huntington Beach.
Social Hosting Ordinance
In other action Monday, the City Council adopted a social hosting ordinance allowing police to fine those who knowingly serve alcohol to underage partygoers.
In a 4-2 vote, with Harper and Councilwoman Jill Hardy dissenting and Katapodis absent, the council approved a law that those serving alcohol to teens in private residences can be fined a flat fee of $250, but administrative fees can push fines to $750 for first-time violators.
Harper voiced his opposition of the ordinance, asking city staff if there was any documentation from PTAs or student organizations supporting the changes. When city staff said there weren't any, Harper said the silence spoke for itself.
Though Huntington Beach High School PTA President Gina Gleason spoke during public comment in support of the ordinance, it wasn't enough for the mayor pro tem.
"It's very telling," he said. "When we last visited this issue, one of the notations was that the parents and the teenagers were begging for this ordinance in particular. With only one speaker and no organizations coming forward in regards to supporting this initiative, I agree with the problem that's identified that this is trying to solve…The problem is this ordinance doesn't not solve the problem and does not directly address the problem. I think this is redundant, vague and full of unintended consequences."
Carchio rebutted, while holding up a binder full of notes from the DUI Summit in February, saying that it wasn't necessary to have multiple people support the ordinance.
"It's not necessary to have 100 people show up here. We had the president of the PTA," Carchio said. "It's not necessary to have 100 people show up and explain to you why this was the topic of conversation at the DUI Summit. This is what's important: All the kids that are dying out there, and it starts with alcohol and ends up with drugs."
Sunset Beach Junior Lifeguards
Also, members of the currently defunct Sunset Beach Junior Lifeguards asked council members Monday to reconsider its written agreement with the Sunset Beach Community Assn. and instead to allow the program to continue.
There were eight speakers and a dozen more sitting in the council chambers trying to convince the City Council to change their minds, but they were met with opposition.
"This City Council hasn't taken a vote on that. It's not up for a vote," Councilman Joe Shaw said. "We have a memorandum of understanding with the Sunset Beach [Community] Assn. who we recently annexed. And in part of that annexation, we gave them the authority to decide whether or not to allow the junior lifeguards to stay."
For Shaw, the lifeguard program was too late to ask for any change.
"The junior lifeguards have known for two years that they were going to be not allowed to stay. You've had two years to fix this problem," he said. "If you wanted to change it, it seems like to me it would have been a good time to come at the beginning of these two years, but you're coming at the end of the two years because you can't find another place to go."
Larry Jacklin, director of the Sunset Beach Junior Lifeguard Program, said the group has gathered 300 signatures from the Sunset Beach community from those in favor of the program and hopes City Council will change their minds.
"We're all human. We make mistakes," he said. "But what makes us better people is going back and changing a mistake that we did to better ourselves, to better the community. This is a good opportunity for us humans to make a better decision and allow this junior lifeguard program to continue."