HUNTINGTON BEACH : Panel to Look Into Revelry, Drunkenness

A new city task force will look into complaints by residents that rowdies and a party-time atmosphere are disturbing the peace and quiet of their downtown neighborhoods.

One resident told the City Council on Monday that it is no longer safe to take a walk after dark.

Public drunkenness and loitering have increased in recent years, according to residents, but problems came to a head in a melee over the July 4 weekend.

"We can't take another Fourth of July," said Mike Shuttleworth, who told officials that residents are "literally in a state of siege."

Revelers, allegedly refusing orders to disperse, set fires in streets and hurled fireworks down manholes, causing fears that subsurface oil and methane gas might ignite.

Linda Moulton-Patterson, one of three council members appointed to the task force, agreed that wild parties and public drunkenness have increased.

Moulton-Patterson, who lives downtown, said a 10 p.m. curfew for minors must be enforced. She complained that there aren't enough police officers or code enforcement workers.

Longtime resident Loretta Wolfe said conditions have been deteriorating and that she is afraid to walk alone at night or visit downtown businesses after dark.

Wolfe said there has been a proliferation of liquor licenses in the area that she believes contributes to unsavory conditions.

Wolfe and other residents will meet Aug. 1 at Community Bible Church to go over their concerns and recommend solutions.

Serving on the city task force, in addition to Moulton-Patterson, will be Mayor Grace Winchell, Councilman Jim Silva, Police Chief Ronald E. Lowenberg, representatives of downtown residents and others.

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