Sunset Beach may soon apply to incorporate as a city but leave its beach in the care of Orange County, a recommendation made by a financial consultant at a recent town hall meeting.
At the May 20 meeting, which about 100 residents attended, representatives from Willdan Financial Services laid out three possible scenarios for the seaside community becoming the newest — and smallest — city in the county. In the preferred scenario, which Sunset Beach Community Assn. President Greg Griffin also said he favored, Sunset would take control of the "green belt," a long, grassy strip by the beach, but let the shore remain under county oversight.
If Sunset achieved cityhood, it would establish a five-member City Council, contract with neighboring Seal Beach for police services and with the county for public works. Huntington Beach would provide water for the 1,300-member community, as it currently does.
"The idea here is only to change what has to be changed," Willdan principal Eric Nickell said.
The community association plans to vote at its June 3 meeting on whether to file an application to incorporate with the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission. If Sunset applies, the commission will do its own financial analysis and vote to approve the application. With the commission's approval, the matter would next go to a general election ballot, with a simple majority needed for Sunset to become a city.
The commission put Sunset under Huntington's sphere of influence in July, although Huntington has not yet officially moved to annex the community. Nickell noted that despite Sunset's efforts to incorporate, Huntington could still make a ruling at any time.
"The short answer is, keep doing what you're doing if you want to be a city," Nickell said. "Huntington Beach is going to make its decision independent of you."
Huntington spokeswoman Laurie Payne said the City Council planned to discuss Sunset at a study session before its June 7 meeting. In the meantime, she said, the staff was preparing a report that should be made public in the days before the meeting.
Griffin said he favored putting the green belt within Sunset's boundaries but stopping short of the beach, citing the high costs of maintaining the latter.
"The expense of the beach is hard to bear on the backs of 1,300 people," he said.
Resident Tom Burke said after the meeting that he was willing to fight for incorporation if it meant preserving Sunset's vibe.
"We don't want to be annexed by Huntington Beach," he said. "That's what's driving this. We don't want to be 1,300 votes against 200,000. If cityhood is the only way to keep our autonomy, that's what we'll do."