Huntington Beach City Council members spar over mask usage

Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz addresses the City Council during Monday night's meeting.
(Screencap by Matt Szabo)

Tempers flared at Monday night’s Huntington Beach City Council meeting, as a clear divide has been established on the dais on the issue of mask usage during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz and City Councilman Dan Kalmick, each of whom were elected in November, were at the heart of the dispute.

Following a COVID-19 update by City Manager Oliver Chi and Huntington Beach Fire Department Chief Scott Haberle, Kalmick addressed the council. He noted that two of the seven members, Ortiz and Erik Peterson, were not wearing masks.

“We have to lead by example,” Kalmick said. “I’d just like to register my formal disappointment in council members Ortiz and Peterson ignoring the mayor’s letter asking them to wear masks as this meeting. I feel that it puts us at risk, and I’m just very disappointed that that’s the position that you’re taking.”

Ortiz, who also did not wear a mask at his swearing-in ceremony earlier this month, responded by accusing Kalmick of taking off his mask at a Veterans Day event last month that both attended.

“As soon as the cameras turned off, you took your mask off amongst a bunch of older veterans that were there,” Ortiz said.

Kalmick immediately denied Ortiz’s claim during the meeting and again on Tuesday.

“There was video footage and many, many other folks there that can attest that I wear my mask all the time,” Kalmick said in a text message. “I do so for both the safety of myself and others and because I’m not a hypocrite.”

Huntington Beach City Councilman Dan Kalmick addresses the council during Monday night's meeting.
Huntington Beach City Councilman Dan Kalmick addresses the council during Monday night’s meeting.
(Screencap by Matt Szabo)

During the meeting, Mayor Kim Carr was passionate about the need to wear masks.

“This is not a ‘plandemic,’” Carr said, using a word that Ortiz used during his speech two weeks earlier.

“This is very real, and it’s up to us as Huntington Beach residents to protect one another ... I’m sorry if I sound a bit exasperated, but it is absolutely emotional for me that we cannot get people just to do something simple as to wear a mask.”

Short-term rentals approved for regulation

The City Council unanimously approved short-term rentals in Surf City, as long as the unit is owner-occupied as a “hosted stay.”

Short-term rentals had technically previously been prohibited, though hundreds were being rented throughout the city. According to a staff report, Chapter 5.120, which will be added to the Huntington Beach Municipal Code, has a purpose of protecting the character of residential neighborhoods, maintaining the long-term rental housing stock and ensuring the collection and payment of Transient Occupancy Taxes.

Unhosted short-term rentals in Sunset Beach will be allowed.

Third block of Main Street to reopen

The City Council voted 4-3 to keep the second block of Main Street closed to traffic but to reopen the third block as soon as possible with modifications.

Peterson’s motion, which would leave the second block closed through at least the end of February, was also supported by Ortiz, Carr and Councilwoman Natalie Moser. Council members Barbara Delgleize, Mike Posey and Kalmick voted no.

The second and third blocks of Main Street have been closed to vehicular traffic since last summer.
The second and third blocks of Main Street have been closed to vehicular traffic since last summer.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The original agenda item would have kept the second and third blocks closed through Labor Day 2021.

The second and third blocks of Main Street were closed last summer to encourage outdoor dining, though some business owners in the third block have expressed displeasure at the setup.

The second block closure will be reexamined at the Feb. 15 City Council meeting.

H.B. joins Orange County Power Authority

The City Council voted 5-2 to join the Orange County Power Authority, a Community Choice Energy program.

Huntington Beach will be one of the initial cities to be involved in the program, which has been spearheaded by the city of Irvine. The CCE is a public energy program that would buy different types of energy for residents and businesses.

Other cities that have agreed to join the OCPA include Fullerton, Buena Park and Lake Forest.

Peterson and Ortiz, who were each absent from an emergency meeting on the subject on Dec. 11, each voted no on the item.

“I just don’t think we need to compete with the private market,” Peterson said. “That’s not our job. Our job’s to clear the way, so that capitalism works.”

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