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Note: This is another segment of an interview with Huntington Beach mayor  Keith Bohr, conducted in November, 2008.

Water Conservation in Huntington Beach.

Q: What are some specific things we can do in Huntington Beach to conserve water?

Mayor Keith Bohr, Huntington Beach, California

Mayor Keith Bohr, Huntington Beach, California

Well you start with education before you make it a law. Don’t water down your driveways, sweep them. Do your sprinklers every other day. Only do them for five minutes.

People already know that. Right? They’ve been educated about that.

There’s still room for a ton of improvement. I’m trying to educate my gardener still. It’s a constant battle. What they’re doing with groundwater replenishment, that’s huge. A huge expense and I think it’s been well worth it. Don’t go make it salt water and try to desal it. Let’s capture it early. Put it in, let it filter itself through the whole normal process basically. I say do all three prongs. But then as we get closer, mandatory; it’s the law, you get fines if you get caught watering your driveway down. If you have a swimming pool like I do you can’t change that water but once every five years. You end up going on a shared water system and you get punished like on an electric bill.

Do you think there’s any chance of getting that passed on this new city council?

I would like to maximize the education and figure out how the gap relates on those tiers, like how many kids and people are in your household. You have to do several things to hit different baselines. If you have six kids obviously you should use more water than somebody who has no kids…When I lived in a condo for 15 years I had an electric bill of $15. Then I moved into a house where’s it’s several hundred and I go `holy schmoley, what’s going on?’ I went to fluorescents. So you pay attention. So the tier system would help incentify that, right? You think that water’s cheap. It is. You think of water, it’s something that’s so fragile and so scarce, it is…So it makes you wonder why it isn’t already more incentified. So I think that one of the things that we absolutely are going to. I don’t know if that’s going to happen on our term or not, but we need to start looking at that, absolutely. (more…)

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From Mark Bixby
Huntington Beach resident

The City of Huntington Beach is about to proceed with the first major charter revision since 1978.  The city council will be appointing a 15-member Charter Review Committee that will be tasked with proposing a new charter. Applications for appointment to this committee are being accepted until May 22, 2009.  It is expected that this committee will begin its work in June 2009 with the intent of producing a new charter to be voted on in the November 2010 general election.  After the committee submits the new charter to the city council, the council will be able to make additional modifications prior to placing it onto the ballot.

The goal of this page is to provide unbiased tools to allow the citizens of Huntington Beach to participate in a fully informed manner during the coming process.  I, Mark Bixby, have skimmed through every charter on this page and in the process of doing so discovered many progressive innovations that would greatly benefit the citizens of Huntington Beach.  I strongly urge other people with intense interest in charter reform to similarly skim through every charter — it is time well-spent.

To browse through the city charters click here.

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This is Part II of a series of excerpts from a lengthy OC Voice interview with Mayor Keith Bohr of Huntington Beach. We spoke to the mayor about the long delayed efforts to clean up the ASCON toxic waste site in southeast Huntington Beach and the nearby desalination plant planned by Poseidon Resources Inc.

Note that the interview was conducted last November, when George W. Bush was still president of the United States and prior to the ASCON study session referred to in the interview.

By John Earl
OC Voice

Q: There hasn’t been any change at ASCON toxic waste dump in southeast Huntington Beach for decades now. In every election every city council candidate has said we want to clean that up. Fundamentally, not a thing has happened.

H.B. Mayor Keith Bohr. PHOTO/OC VOICE

H.B. Mayor Keith Bohr. PHOTO/OC VOICE

Something has happened. We’ve had the polluters identified. They said ‘Yes we’re responsible.’ And they have five or six alternative plans that are listed by the Department of Toxic Substances. And we’re supposed to have a study session the first quarter of next year that says this is what DTS recommends as the clean up solution. And then we have to have the neighborhood talks. All of the cleanup choices include thousands of truck trips. Do you want it cleaned up to the point that you can put residential on it? I think that’s probably too expensive and the clean up people don’t want to do it and I think the neighborhood would probably say ‘We’d love that but we probably don’t want to do five years or whatever it is of clean up.” So we are moving. (more…)

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The following the first part of a series of excerpts from a wide ranging interview with Keith Bohr, the mayor of Huntington Beach, California, conducted by OC Voice editor John Earl last November.

Part One: Goals for the next year, New Urbanism and transportation.
Tomorrow: The proposed Poseidon desalination plant.

Q: Where do you want to lead the city and where do you see it going in the following year?

Mayor Keith Bohr, Huntington Beach, California

Mayor Keith Bohr, Huntington Beach, California. Photo/OC Voice

I will preface everything by saying that I am just one of seven. I can try to steer a little bit and set some tone but I need at least three others to agree with me.

When I came on the council it was about generating revenues. Of course, you should do everything you can to keep down costs, but with my background in development and with the city in redevelopment it’s about increasing your sales tax, your bed tax from the hotels and the property tax.

That goes to projects. So you look at the Strand [hotel]finishing here [in downtown] … You’re going to have the new retail stores. In the spring you will have the Strand Hotel, The TOT (transient occupancy or “bed” tax) to go along with the rest of the hotels that are operating now. [Get] Pacific City started again. You have 517 condos and the hotel, which is about 250 rooms, and the retail that goes along with that and restaurants.

Bella Terra Phase I has been completed since I’ve been on the council; we just approved Phase II, which they’re calling the Village at Bella Terra, which will be 700 units and about 140,000 square feet of retail.

We’re hoping to provide all the opportunities we can for people, including myself and my wife not to shop at Westminster Mall and South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island. So the more we do that the more we capture those tens of millions of dollars that leak out of Huntington Beach every year. And the extent that we can [we want to] provide something that nobody else has and that makes them come down to Huntington Beach and spend money. (more…)

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By JOHN EARL
OC Voice

Note: This article was originally published in the OC Voice Oct. 2007 print edition. It is reprinted here because it relates to Joe Shaw’s column about the banning of street signs by the Huntington Beach City Council. His column focused on the economic consequences, this article focuses on the related constitutional issues at they played  out in the city of Costa Mesa.  Also read Shaw’s column here.

Costa Mesa day laborers looking for work on street corners at two separate locations in the city, Placentia Avenue and 17th Street, and Placentia Avenue and Victoria Street, say that city police are routinely harassing them and making it difficult for them to find employment.

police-carAlmost without exception, workers at both corners who were interviewed by the OC Voice on three separate occasions during September claimed that police routinely—from once in a while to several times a week—approached them while they were standing on sidewalks or in parking lots and told them, sometimes without giving a reason, that they had to leave the area, sometimes threatening them with tickets or even arrest if they returned.

Costa Mesa Chief of Police Christopher Shawkey says that his officers are only enforcing a city ordinance that prohibits anyone from soliciting employment, commercial, or charitable transactions on public streets in a manner that distracts motorists and creates a potential safety hazard, and that prohibits the same types of solicitation in private parking lots where the owners have posted signs banning those activities. (more…)

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Part 3 of a series

By John Earl
OC Voice

Poseidon Resources Inc.’s website claims that the desalination plant it wants to build in southeast Huntington Beach, at Newland and Beach avenues, will be a “cost-effective solution to provide residents with a safe and reliable water supply by using existing structures—at no cost to taxpayers.”

NOT THE VIRGIN MARY: The OC Voice took this photo of the city's new seal and later noticed the mysterious man in the background.

NOT THE VIRGIN MARY: The OC Voice took this photo of the city's new seal and later noticed the mysterious man in the background.

Elected officials who voted to approve the desalination plant three years ago have consistently echoed Poseidon’s claim: Poseidon would privately own and operate the plant for its own profit and for its investors—a strictly free market affair with no taxpayer investment or risk, they said.

City council representative Don Hansen praised the project’s supposed free market values to a crowded city council chamber before he gave Poseidon his vote along with three other council members, Keith Bohr, Gil Coerper and Cathy Green.

“My belief is that the market is going to drive the majority of these decisions. I truly believe that,” Hansen said.

If the Poseidon desalination plant is not profitable, he added, it “will never see the light of day. And it’s purely born on private investment dollars, the risk that they [Poseidon] are going to take.”

In a candidates’ debate last year, Hansen warned that “We’re going to need the water” and reassured again that “It’s not us building the plant. It’s all private investment.”

If all goes well for Poseidon, its Huntington Beach plant will produce 50 million gallons of drinking water per day by sometime in 2011. It still needs to obtain additional government permits and must work out a franchise agreement with the city first.

Poseidon plans to build an almost identical desalination plant in the city of Carlsbad. That project is further along in the permit process and if financing comes through it could start construction this summer. Poseidon’s CEOs dream of building large desalination plants at other California coastal locations as well.

Hansen’s appeal to the free market instincts of the voters is persuasive in a city where the call for smaller government is almost a religious doctrine. But attributing either Poseidon project to to free-market karma is misleading because the company could benefit from as much as $1 billion in taxpayer supplied subsidies that would make it easier for Poseidon to attract the private sector financing that it also needs but still lacks in order to build and operate the two plants. (more…)

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By Joe Shaw
OC Voice Columnist

(This column was written in February, 2009)

sign_spinner_2 California lost 600,000 jobs in January. The jobless rate in California is now 9.3 percent. Huntington Beach’s Quiksilver recently announced 150 layoffs in their workforce. Boeing laid off 64 local workers. Home Depot’s Expo Design Center and Circuit City is closing, leaving more workers without a job.

And Huntington Beach home sales remain down and foreclosures continue to edge up.

Perfect time for the HB City Council to create some jobs and help our small businesses, right? Wrong. A move by planning commissioners to remove a ban on human signs was rejected by the city council 5-2.

Why wouldn’t the council vote to lift one of the many rules and regulations that frustrate small business and cost them money? Why wouldn’t our city council support free trade, small business and creating jobs?

Councilman Don Hansen told the Los Angeles Times the signs were a “form of visual blight.”

Sounds like hypocrisy from the councilman who just named a realtor as his new planning commissioner. Ever driven around Huntington Beach on the weekends and seen all the real estate signs on every corner? (more…)

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