Two Hermosa Beach merchants who fought for three months to open a trendy Pacific Coast Highway motorcycle shop won half a loaf Tuesday when the City Council granted them permission to repair the bikes, despite neighbors' complaints that the revving of engines will be unbearable.
In a decision that followed more than an hour of public debate, the City Council voted 3 to 2 to allow South Bay Cycles to broaden its motorcycle apparel business to include the repair of customized, late-model Harley-Davidsons.
The permission will be subject to review in six months, and comes with numerous strings attached: No repairs can take place on Sunday or Monday or after 7 p.m., all repair work must be done inside a closed garage, cycles outside the garage must be walked from place to place with the ignition off and the merchants must pay for a traffic study to prove that their customers are not using adjacent residential streets for short-cuts and test drives.
The decision stops short of giving South Bay Cycles what it had sought unsuccessfully in arguments to the Planning Commission this summer. The store owners want to sell and repair top-of-the-line, customized Harley-Davidsons. Although local zoning law allows auto sales and repairs, it does not mention motorcycles.
Shop owners William Campbell and Maiko Saravia on Tuesday sought only approval to begin repairing motorcycles. Next month the council is scheduled to hear a request to change the zoning to specifically allow motorcycle sales along Pacific Coast Highway.
The merchants said they were surprised but delighted at the decision.
Some council members, however, warned that the city would rue its decision to let a motorcycle shop do business within 50 feet of nearby homes.
"With a probability of 100%, this is going to bring more noise to Hermosa Beach," warned Councilman Robert Essertier, who, along with Councilwoman Kathleen Midstokke voted against the request.
"I consider the very nature of a motorcycle repair shop next to a residential neighborhood to be just asking for trouble," he said.
But Ralph Goodson, lawyer for South Bay Cycles, told the city that there was no proof the repair business would generate excessive noise, and noted that automobile sales and repairs are allowed.
"This is a business that has every right to operate, and if it's arbitrarily kept from operating, we might have legal problems," Goodson warned.
Councilman Roger Creighton echoed Goodson's argument, saying that the city could not deny the shop permission to do business on the basis of problems that have not yet occurred.
"The question is, do you deny these men the chance to be good neighbors?" Creighton said.
During the campaign against the motorcycle shop this summer, homeowners had launched a petition drive against the business, pleaded with planning commissioners not to devalue their property and got into sidewalk arguments with Saravia.
The shop owners, meanwhile, threatened lawsuits, argued that they had sunk their life savings into South Bay Cycles and charged that the city was unfairly siding with the neighbors because the ex-chairman of the Planning Commission, Jerry Compton, owns property near the shop.
So angry was the debate this week, in fact, that Mayor Chuck Sheldon warned the audience before the vote to stick to the issues and avoid personal attacks. Nonetheless, it was difficult for the two sides to give either each other or the council the benefit of the doubt.
"I'm disappointed," said homeowner Ernie O'Dell. "You'd be disappointed too if they opened a Harley-Davidson shop next to you."
His wife, Ann O'Dell, added: "We're just going to go home and wait for the noise--and then call the police."
Saravia and Campbell though pleased, were also cynical.
"I think we're finally getting a fair chance," Saravia said. "And I think what persuaded the council was our attorney."
But City Atty. Charles Vose said the council could have legally denied the permit, and Mayor Sheldon said the threat of a lawsuit had nothing to do with the decision.
"As interested as the council was in accommodating the American dream for these people, we'll be just as interested in seeing that they're good neighbors," Sheldon said. "We'll see them in six months."