Council members question effort to get public's opinion on updated general plan

The Huntington Beach City Council was brought up to speed Tuesday night on the city's general plan update, and some members expressed concern about how effective city staff has been at gathering public input.

Councilman Dave Sullivan said he didn't like the idea of engaging the community via various city events, such as pop-up workshops during a beach bonfire or during the annual Easter egg hunt at Central Park.

"I don't think you really get very much input," he said, noting that city staff and planning consulting firm Pacific Municipal Consultants had talked to only about 200 people since the outreach started in March. "That's 0.1% of the population.

"Secondly, I don't see how you can get meaningful input at weenie roasts or Easter egg hunts. I think you get that with people sitting down and meeting."

Mayor Matthew Harper agreed, saying it will take more than setting up an event and expecting people to attend.

"You can't really depend on simply people coming to you," Harper said. "There needs to be a lot of outreach in terms of reaching out to people who may not necessarily visit this meeting. There are a lot of people concerned, but ... it really takes a lot of prodding to really get people involved."

Sullivan added that many residents are furious about the prospect of increasing the number of high-density apartments, fearing an increase in traffic, among other concerns.

The city planning department and PMC have several months to continue gathering input from residents before they begin to draft the general plan, which provides long-term goals for the city.

Huntington Beach has updated is general plan about every 20 years. The last time was in 1996.

The update aims to address several key issues, including the city's physical changes since 1996, the level of public-safety services, the potential rise in the sea level and the integration of Sunset Beach, which the city annexed four years ago.

Jennifer Villasenor, senior planner for the city, estimated that the plan should be completed by fall 2016.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World