Parker Herriott, a one-time City Council candidate who says this beach city is losing its small-town charm, has launched a petition drive to recall all five members of the City Council.
Herriott announced his bid to unseat the council members after a public forum last week on a proposed 250-room beachfront hotel development, a proposal that has once again divided the community over what to do with the city-owned site of the former Biltmore hotel.
"You're pro-big developer, pro-big business and anti-resident," Herriott charged in notices he prepared for each council member. "You're changing Hermosa Beach into another Los Angeles."
Residents will vote June 11 on a proposed development agreement that would allow the firm of Greenwood & Langlois to build the $31-million hotel project on the one-acre Biltmore site and several adjacent privately owned parcels. The City Council voted 4 to 1 this spring to place the issue on the ballot, with Mayor George Barks casting the dissenting vote.
Active in Referendum
Herriott, 46, helped lead a campaign last fall to defeat a similar proposal to build a larger hotel on the Biltmore site. That project, narrowly defeated in a referendum last December, had been unanimously approved by the City Council. Herriott said he decided at that time to launch the recall against the entire council.
"I appreciate that George Barks is against this hotel," Herriott said of his decision to recall the mayor despite Barks' opposition to the proposal on the June ballot. "But he voted in favor of the hotel in 1984, and he is in favor of putting another hotel there."
Barks said this week that he is not worried about the recall effort and does not consider it a serious threat to his position on the council. Barks was reelected in 1982 with 1,192 votes out of 2,316 cast. He has served on the council since 1974.
Herriott has launched the recall bid alone, but he said this week that he expects other foes of the hotel to join him after the June 11 special election. "They are very busy fighting the hotel right now," he said.
4th Vote on Hotel
The special election marks the fourth time since 1972 that voters will consider a hotel for the Biltmore site. Herriott has joined members of the Referendum Committee of Hermosa Beach in an effort to block the special election, arguing that it comes too soon after the December election. Although a Los Angeles Superior Court judge this month agreed with the hotel opponents, the election is scheduled to go ahead pending an appeal by the city and the developers.
An actor and landlord who made an unsuccessful council bid in 1978, Herriott filed notices of intent to circulate the recall petitions with the city clerk last Friday. He said he hand-delivered the notice to Councilman Jack Wood and mailed the others to Barks and Councilmen Gary Brutsch, John Cioffi and Tony DeBellis.
City Clerk Kathy Reviczky said Herriott must collect the signatures of 2,480 registered voters--20% of the city's total--on each of the recall petitions for the effort to qualify for a special election. The council members have seven days from the time they are served notice of the recall effort to file a response, she said. Herriott then has 120 days to collect the signatures.
In his notice to the clerk and the councilmen, Herriott listed seven grounds for the recall, most of which dealt with the council's handling of the Biltmore site. His overall complaint, however, is one of excessive development.
"You're attempting to redevelop our business district into a massive commercial center," he wrote. "Excessive traffic is destroying certain residential neighborhoods, lowering property values and the quality of life."
In an interview this week, Herriott said he fears that new developments, including the partly completed Plaza Hermosa shopping center on Pacific Coast Highway and the proposed beachfront hotel, will bring too many motor vehicles into the city.
"These developments are making Hermosa lose its small-town character," Herriott said. "I think we can have quality buildings that can be built small enough to enhance the community. Something that fits in." The proposed four-story beachfront hotel would be 39 feet tall.
The recall effort, while described as frustrating and disturbing by some council members, seems not to have upset the routine at City Hall. Several council members said they doubt that Herriott can collect enough signatures to qualify the effort for the ballot, while others said the recall will fail because Herriott is living in the past.
'Need Commercial' Taxes
"Parker has been a 'love-Hermosa-as-it-is' type of guy ever since I have known him," said Brutsch, who was elected in 1982 with 1,448 votes out of 2,316 cast. "If I had my druthers, Hermosa would be a residential community, but the fact is you can't run a government on residential property tax. We need commercial development to help pay the bills."
DeBellis, elected in 1984 with 1,045 votes out of 2,040 cast, said the recall effort typifies the obstacles the council faces on any major issue.
"It is a real hard community to please because there are a lot of people involved," he said. "I think the recall is harmful to the city. It is bad publicity and it perpetuates the image that we don't know what we want to do in this city. When outsiders with money are looking for places to locate, they tend to shy away from places like that."
Added Wood, who was elected in 1982 with 1,188 votes out of 2,316 cast: "It is hard to believe that there are 2,000 people in this town who hate me enough to run me out. Nothing that Parker does surprises me. He has been around for years. He is a scattered gadfly."
Cioffi, who could not be reached for comment, was elected in 1984 with 842 votes out of 2,040 cast. Barks, Brutsch and Wood are up for reelection next April, but Herriott said he could not wait that long to attempt to oust them from the council.
"Who knows what harm they could do to our city before then?" said Herriott, adding that he will not seek a council seat should the recall effort succeed.