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2018 in review: Top stories of the year in Huntington Beach

Supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 54, a California “sanctuary state” law providing protections for undocumented immigrants, hold signs as then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, left, speaks in Newport Beach in April. Huntington Beach successfully challenged the law in court.
(File Photo)
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Huntington Beach made headlines this year through high-profile legal cases, racial issues and a fight against airplane noise, among other matters.

Here are some of the city’s top stories of 2018:

Huntington Beach challenges ‘sanctuary state’ law

Huntington Beach received national attention in September when Orange County Superior Court Judge James Crandall ruled that California “sanctuary state” protections for undocumented immigrants infringe on Huntington’s local control as a charter city, making it the first city to successfully challenge the controversial Senate Bill 54.

Two months after Crandall’s order, the state filed a notice of appeal, pushing the case to the state 4th District Court of Appeal for review by a panel of three judges.


Two residents of Huntington Beach’s Oak View neighborhood also filed a request asking Crandall to reconsider his ruling.

The legal battle, which began in April, is continuing.

Voters elect newcomer and 3 incumbents to City Council

Kim Carr joined the Huntington Beach City Council in December after being elected Nov. 6 from among a field of 15 candidates vying for four available seats.

Carr’s election pushed out incumbent Billy O’Connell. Incumbents Erik Peterson, Mike Posey and Barbara Delgleize won reelection. The council subsequently chose Peterson to be mayor for the next year.


Fighting high-density development, repairing aging infrastructure and maintaining open spaces and public safety are issues of concern to Carr, but she said her top priority will be addressing an increase in homelessness in the city.

Agency identifies source of pungent odor offending coastal residents for years

The Port of Long Beach, the nation’s second-busiest container port, is pictured Sept. 18. An oil tanker was issued a violation notice after air-quality officials received complaints of petroleum-like odors downwind from where the ship was docked in Long Beach.
(File Photo / Getty Images)

After years of periodic pungent odors wafting through coastal Orange County, the South Coast Air Quality Management District in November said it had pinpointed “fugitive emissions” from a 2-million-barrel crude-oil tanker ship as a culprit.

It was the first time the agency identified a source of the odors. The agency issued a violation notice in Long Beach to Nave Photon, a tanker that sails under the Hong Kong flag and transports crude oil to the United States from the Middle East.


The AQMD has received more than 2,000 complaints since the beginning of 2016 from residents of Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Seal Beach and Costa Mesa, as well as Long Beach, about odors similar to chemicals, gas or rotten eggs.

H.B. partners with district attorney to crack down on illegal businesses

Huntington Beach City Attorney Michael Gates partnered with the Orange County district attorney’s office in September to crack down on illegal businesses such as short-term rentals, massage parlors and sober-living homes.

After receiving the green light from the City Council, Gates and then-District Attorney Tony Rackauckas took legal action against five in-home businesses in Huntington Beach in the first round of a planned series of lawsuits.

Gates also requested extra support through the hiring of a new attorney, a part-time expert consultant and a part-time investigator, but the City Council voted to consider his proposal during the city’s annual budget process in 2019. Until then, Gates will rely on his current team and its partnership with the district attorney’s office to target businesses operating illegally


4 alleged members of H.B.-based white supremacist group arrested

Robert Rundo of Huntington Beach is arrested at a 2017 rally in Berkeley that turned violent. Charges were later dropped. Rundo was identified by ProPublica in this image taken from a YouTube video.
(File Photo / YouTube)

Memories of old racial tensions surfaced in October after the arrests of four men authorities believe are members of a Huntington Beach-based white supremacist group.

Huntington Beach resident Robert Rundo was among those the FBI arrested on suspicion of conspiring to violate the federal riots statute. Rundo is believed to be a key member of the Rise Above Movement, an alt-right group that participated in a Make America Great Again rally at Bolsa Chica State Beach in 2017. According to the FBI, members attacked counter-protesters and two journalists.

A federal criminal complaint charges the four with traveling to political rallies across California to engage in violent attacks and conspiring to violate riot statutes.


JetBlue plans to retrofit jets to make them quieter following complaints from H.B.

In the wake of noise complaints from Huntington Beach, JetBlue announced in October that it planned to retrofit its entire Airbus fleet with noise-reducing vortex generators by 2021, marking a victory for residents who said the airline’s jet noise harmed their quality of life.

Vortex generators, also known as air deflectors, interrupt wind passing over parts of a wing and causing what JetBlue describes as a “whistling” tone when a jet descends. The airline announced it would install the devices on 130 Airbus A320 aircraft and eight A321s.

Several officials, including then-U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, called on JetBlue to retrofit its planes and have them fly at the highest altitudes possible when approaching Long Beach Airport.

He also proposed four amendments to the Federal Aviation Administration’s reauthorization bill, though those failed on a vote by the House of Representatives.


Man is shot and killed by police after car chase in Huntington Beach

A man was fatally shot by police following a chase in Huntington Beach in October.

The pursuit began about 12:30 a.m. Oct. 11 when officers tried to pull over a car that had been reported stolen, but the driver didn’t stop, according to Huntington Beach police Officer Angela Bennett. The chase ended near 12th Street and Palm Avenue, where a man and a woman ran from the car, Bennett said.

Police shot the man multiple times. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Bennett said. No officers were injured in the shooting, she said. It wasn’t clear what prompted police to open fire. Authorities said a gun was found at the scene.

The woman was arrested.


It is the only local officer-involved shooting of the year so far. The Police Department had seven such shootings in 2017, including two in which a suspect was killed. Last year’s total exceeded any other year this decade, according to department archives.

Plan to expand 2 homeless shelters stalls amid financial woes

Officer Gabe Ricci of the Huntington Beach Homeless Task Force looks in a tent while Officer Daniel Chichester talks with Rigoberto Espinosa, right, at a homeless encampment off Ellis Avenue in September.
(File Photo)

A plan by Huntington Beach, Westminster, Orange County and the nonprofit American Family Housing to expand two homeless shelters in Midway City came to a standstill in September as officials said they were seeking funding for the project.

The proposal would add 55 beds to the shelters, which now have a total of 20. Officials have declined to specify the shelters’ location, and it isn’t clear how much money the cities and county would contribute to the project.


Orange County cities are struggling to figure out how to address the homelessness issue after U.S. District Judge David Carter required cities in April to identify potential shelter sites. A county proposal for temporary shelters in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach was scrapped amid protests from residents and city leaders.

Judge upholds H.B.’s city attorney requirements

A local attorney was barred from running for city attorney in Huntington Beach in September because he did not graduate from a law school accredited by the American Bar Assn., one of the city’s four requirements to run for the office.

Jerry Friedman contended the requirement was unconstitutional, but an Orange County Superior Court judge determined that Huntington Beach had a “valid interest” in candidates’ qualifications because its status as a charter city “imposes a wide range of responsibilities” for an elected city attorney.

With Friedman eliminated as a candidate, Gates ran unopposed and won reelection in November.


Friedman was involved in another dispute with the city this year in which Gates took legal action in April intended to stop Friedman’s client Daniel Horgan from circulating a petition seeking to put a proposal on the local ballot to ban semiautomatic and automatic guns in Huntington Beach. Gates argued that Horgan’s proposal was “unconstitutional, invalid and not entitled to a place on the ballot.”

Friedman filed a motion in May accusing the city of violating his client’s free-speech rights. Gates later asked the court to drop the city’s lawsuit after learning that Horgan wouldn’t submit signatures from his gun petition, making the case moot.

In July, Friedman filed a court motion seeking $14,385 from the city for 46 hours of work on behalf of his client. A judge denied his request Aug. 3.

Mother of man killed by H.B. police appeals in effort to keep lawsuit alive

The mother of a 29-year-old man who was shot to death by Huntington Beach police in 2017 appealed a federal judge’s ruling this year throwing out her civil-rights lawsuit against the city. She contended a jury should decide the matter.


Attorney Dale Galipo filed a notice of appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 21 for Angela Hernandez, whose son, Steven Schiltz, was shot by police officers Trevor Jackson and Casey Thomas on a soccer field at the Huntington Beach Central Park Sports Complex on March 9, 2017.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford threw out Hernandez’s lawsuit on Aug. 1 by granting the city’s request for summary judgment, or a ruling without trial. Guilford wrote in his 13-page ruling that the city provided “significant evidence showing that the officers acted reasonably, in defense of the safety of others.”

Woman is removed from 2 school district panels over alleged ‘colored people’ comment but remains on H.B. Finance Commission

Gracey Larrea-Van Der Mark, seen in an image from video, remained on the Huntington Beach Finance Commission after Councilman Patrick Brenden said he found “insufficient evidence” to remove her.
(File Photo)

A Huntington Beach woman who was ousted from two school district committees after she was alleged to have referred to minorities as “colored people” in a YouTube video remained on the city’s Finance Commission in May after an investigation by Councilman Patrick Brenden determined there was “insufficient evidence” to remove her.


Gracey Larrea-Van Der Mark, who is Latina, came under fire in April when several people, including Peter Levi, Orange County regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, called on the city to take action against her.

But several of Larrea-Van Der Mark’s supporters called the allegations a political blow initiated by Ocean View School District trustee Gina Clayton-Tarvin, who last year appointed Larrea-Van Der Mark to a district bond oversight committee but this year called for her removal from the panel and from the city Finance Commission after the alleged “colored people” comment surfaced.

The Ocean View school board voted April 24 to remove Larrea-Van Der Mark from its committee, and a week later, the Huntington Beach City School District removed her from a bond oversight committee.

Brenden’s decision came days after Larrea-Van Der Mark publicly addressed the allegations during the May 7 City Council meeting. She denied claims in the community that she is racist and contended that “liberals have become increasingly intolerant of diverse viewpoints.”


Larrea-Van Der Mark ran unsuccessfully for the Ocean View school board in November.

Twitter: @vegapriscella