(photo credit: Brian Wilkins)
The city of Hermosa Beach may be small, but it’s got some mighty issues it is dealing with.
For one, the City’s search for a new police chief has taken nearly two years and has caused some riffs between councilmembers. However, that issue has come to an end recently with the City Manager’s recent decision.
But one problem, that has plagued this city for years has to do with oil drilling. In 2014, the matter may finally be put to rest as voters will head to the polls to give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down. The proposed project is the result of a recently resolved legal battle between the city and the Macpherson Energy Corporation. Macpherson sued the city for damages over a previous plan that the city backed out of.
As Walt Disney once said, “you may not realize it, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
These controversial and highly important issues are some of the reasons why Hermosa Beach city leaders have decided to engage the community in a series of dialogues in a process called “Hermosa Beach Moving Forward.”
“It’s really about engaging the community. We wanted to give the community a chance to see if these were their goals and to really weigh in. The idea is to have the community understand, especially in terms of the oil project, that they’re in charge and ultimately they will decide,” said Tom Bakaly, City Manager.
This process will allow residents to communicate what they believe the community values are and have a say in decision making by coming together in small and large groups to participate in, as well as co-lead, a series of discussions to enable the community to clarify its core values and to collectively determine what is important.
“The community doesn’t want these big decisions to happen to them, so the only way to do that is to understand where you are and the trade-offs and priorities and ultimately the people will decide and they’ll give input on oil and other redevelopment projects,” said Bakaly
He also says this will also give city leaders a chance to update the general plan. “I think it’s been 15-20 years since we comprehensively updated our general plan, and then we also have some potential redevelopment happening along the waterfront, so we thought it was an excellent opportunity for the community to say what’s important to them.”
The first community dialogue happened in July to a crowd of folks. Next, there will be a picture activity where residents can take pictures of the city they feel best represents them. Also, there will be an online survey. For now, city council members are not allowed to participate or attend meetings.
“We wanted to be very clear that this wasn’t a city driven activity that this was really the community gig,” said Bakaly.
In fact, the council went through a similar procedure earlier this year.
“Council has set their long term goals and some did have value statements in them but this is really about getting the values of the community and I think that needs to be done by the community.”
Bakaly, a former Park City, Utah employee, says the values the residents came up with in that city, continue to have an effect as it’s in “all staff reports and applied to all decisions.”
He brought the concept to Hermosa Beach because he believes it will have a big impact on the little city.
“Often times, people look to city hall to do it all and in this case, we think really the community needs to take the lead and so far, they’re enjoying it and as we expected, stepping up.”
By the beginning of next year, Bakaly hopes to have a set of values “that we’ll use to make future decisions and then we’ll also have a tool for people to basically weight those values in decisions they make. One thing that’s different in Hermosa Beach is we’re really going to have a real way to test it out with the vote on oil and then future decisions on redevelopment.”
A set of values in which to define oneself, that’s “Hermosa Beach, 2020 and beyond.”