Long-term financial and economic sustainability, enhanced public safety, improved infrastructure and quality city services are the new three-year goals that Huntington Beach City Council members and department leaders established for the city during a planning meeting Thursday at the Central Library.
Mayor Erik Peterson told the dozen residents who attended the special day-long meeting that it would help sift through “needs vs. wants” over the next few years while keeping in mind the city’s financial constraints.
The meeting gave community members a glimpse of how department leaders and elected officials collaborate behind the scenes to push for goals they believe will provide growth for Surf City.
It also provided a loose road map of topics to expect at future study sessions.
Mayor Pro Tem Lyn Semeta and Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize were absent.
Participants brainstormed 19 possible goals before they narrowed the list to the top four.
Councilwoman Kim Carr proposed including two contentious topics within the financial sustainability category. She suggested exploring the pros and cons of short-term rentals and the revenue-generating options of cannabis, both of which are illegal in the city.
Councilman Patrick Brenden lobbied for “reducing homelessness in Huntington Beach” as the city’s fifth goal.
“It’s a problem front and center, affects quality of life [and] police services,” he told the group. “I gotta believe it should be stated.”
Orange County cities, including Huntington Beach, are struggling to figure out how to address the homelessness issue after U.S. District Judge David Carter tasked cities in April with identifying potential shelter sites after a county proposal for temporary ones in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach was scrapped amid protests from residents and city leaders.
Carter is presiding in a lawsuit filed in 2017 by homeless advocates who sought to halt the removal of an encampment along the Santa Ana River trail.
Peterson and Councilwoman Jill Hardy said Brenden’s proposal could be classified as an objective under the public safety goal.
Peterson also worried that it could attract unwanted attention from Carter.
“I just don’t want to put us out there,” Peterson said. “I don’t want to put something out there in the legal climate.”
Department leaders pitched “attracting and retaining high-performing staff,” which is included under city services.
Earlier in the day, Assistant City Manager Lori Ann Farrell described how local cities are competing for the same pool of applicants for administrative jobs.
She emphasized the importance of modifying some key positions to create a succession plan in which applicants could move up the ranks.
Some 280 staff members — one-third of the city’s workforce — are eligible to retire, Farrell said. That’s in addition to the record 48 retirements in 2018 across city departments, she said.
At the end of the meeting, Peterson said, “It’s a long day but it is productive and [we] see insight into how we all think, which is always fun.”