Top 10 news stories for 2012


There’s never a shortage of important stories in Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley, so choosing 10 is just skimming the top.

These 10 most compelling stories are given in order of chronology. There are sad stories that end well and horrible stories that end not so well and pleasant stories that work out for those involved.

Here’s hoping the new year brings out the best in our cities and that the majority of news will be good news.



Horses Leave Town

In January, the Red Bucket Equine Rescue nonprofit was told to move out of their home in the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center by mid-February.

The rescue group had housed its horses at the center since 2009 but then the owner of the property, who had helped finance the rescue, needed the space. So Red Bucket began raising money to help them find a new place to stay. The nonprofit’s owners were able to keep the horses on some of the land for a while, but ultimately were able to find a new home.

The group ended up in Chino Hills and, according to its website, is still taking in, nurturing and adopting out needy horses.


No More Pet Sales

On May 8 the Huntington Beach City Council voted to ban the sale of pets unless they came from a shelter, humane society or rescue organization.

Mayor Don Hansen and Councilmen Devin Dwyer and Matthew Harper voted against the ban, stating their concern for the businesses.

“Business owners ... will be asking, what’s next?” Harper said at the time. “What is the next job-killer ban of the month proposal that we’re looking at?”

But Councilwoman Connie Boardman said she can do without revenues from the sale of puppy mill dogs and cats that are subject to inhumane and harsh treatments.

“You know, as concerned as I’m about city revenues, I don’t want sales tax revenue generated from the misery of puppy-mill dogs,” she said, generating loud applause and cheers from the audience.

Shops were given two years to phase out the sale of non-rescue animals.


Liquor Downtown

Between restaurants and liquor stores, many residents felt there was already enough alcohol available downtown.

In May, a 7-Eleven store applied for a license to sell beer and wine on Main Street. Protests started taking place soon after and in November, 7-Eleven withdrew the request to sell liquor.

The withdrawal of the application came after at least 44 letters arrived at the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Worries included the possibility of loitering, trash and, most of all, another liquor-serving establishment in a drink-heavy neighborhood.

Many of the letters were nearly interchangeable: “Enough is enough! It is time to consider the quality of life for our downtown residents.” ... “There is an ongoing problem with people being drunk in public in the downtown Huntington Beach area.” ... “The police force is currently unable to prevent these types of behavior, so increasing the availability of package liquor at this time seems very foolish.”

In June, Plaza Almeria developer John Tillotson told the Independent that HB Neighbors’ opposition didn’t dissuade him.

“They can’t stop legal commerce out there,” Tillotson said at the time. “I don’t drink, but I wouldn’t deny you the right to have a drink if you go to a restaurant or another establishment that sells beer and wine.”


Truck Hits Church

In June, a pickup truck crashed into the 106-year-old Warner Avenue Baptist Church at 7360 Warner Ave.

The truck ended up in the entryway of the church, smashing a post, but didn’t actually go inside. A post comprised of wooden boards was used by firefighters to prop up the entryway.

The church’s Pastor Steve Orman said it was the third time in 26 years a car has crashed into the building.


Fireworks in H.B.

In July, Huntington Beach council members voted 4 to 3 to put a measure on the ballot to prohibit the city from banning the sale and discharge of “safe and sane” fireworks, but at a second reading two weeks later it failed 4 to 3.

The council members had voted earlier in the year to have a two-year trial lift on the ban. In July, they decided it was time to go for it on a permanent basis, but the measure failed.

No shock to anyone, there was much controversy surrounding the issue. Council chambers were filled with community members who wanted their say on the issue.

“There was nothing but a war zone surrounding me,” resident Joseph Lascola, who showed pictures of large fireworks going off in his neighborhood, said during one meeting.

Of course, organizations that had just gotten a taste of the money a fireworks booth could raise were concerned about the return of the ban.

But in the end, the council majority decided not to put the issue on the ballot. The council members still have authority over the sale of fireworks for the duration of the two-year trial period.


Teachers Convicted

On the disturbing side of the news, Daniel Alma Shepard, 63, and his wife, Gay Davidson- Shepard, 60, both former teachers who lived in Huntington Beach, pleaded guilty to having an unlawful sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.

The married couple apparently plied the young man with alcohol when they repeatedly invited him to their home for board games, movies and hot tubbing.

A plea deal with Judge John S. Adams in August comprised three years’ formal probation, counseling and 60 days of community service. Shepard faces two years and Davidson-Shepard four years in prison if they violate probation.

That deal did not sit well with the district attorney or the victim’s mother.

“If my son’s life is only worth 60 hours of community service, Lord help everybody,” the mother said.

Despite a delay in sentencing requested by the district attorney in order to get some jail time for the couple, they ultimately got the deal they worked out with the judge to serve no jail time.


City Atty. Not Outsourced

It didn’t matter how popular the idea of outsourcing got around the country, or across the border in Costa Mesa — the Huntington Beach city attorney was having none of it.

In September, after the city compiled a list of firms that offered to take on the city attorney’s office’s work, Jennifer McGrath told the City Council that it had no authority to outsource her office and even if it could, it would cost the city $1 million each year.

McGrath is an elected official, but the outsourcing would have meant the termination of her staff. She said there is case law stating that one government body cannot tamper with or dismantle the authority of an elected office.

When an independent attorney hired by the city told officials that if McGrath sued, she would likely win, they opted not to try to outsource the position after all.


Nike Pulls Out of U.S. Open

It may seem like a bad joke, or a bad dream, but it’s been a while since the announcement in September, so it seems clear that Hurley, Converse and Nike, their parent company, really are pulling out of sponsoring the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.

They will be focusing on “other initiatives.” Hurley and Nike sponsored the surf portion of the competition and Converse was the title sponsor of Coastal Carnage, a skateboarding competition at the Open.

Originally called the West Coast Surfing Championship, the event started in 1959. Nike, Hurley and Converse have been credited with turning the contest into the best attended contest in the world. It brings an estimated 1 million spectators to the beach throughout the nine-day event.

In a column from that time, Joe Haakenson wrote:

“The decision to move on had to do with a sense of accomplishment about the U.S. Open. [Bob] Hurley said attracting nearly all of the best surfers in the world to compete — as well as an audience of more than half a million over the course of the event — made the four-year Nike-Hurley-Converse era an overwhelming success.

“In many ways, we achieved the goals we set for ourselves at the U.S. Open,” Hurley said in Haakenson’s column. “Now it’s time to export the magic created at the U.S. Open and invest it into other aspects of our business, like a renewed athlete focus and new and exciting ways of connecting with millions of kids.”

According to that column, IMG jumped into getting a new title sponsor right away.

“I’d like to get a deal done as soon as possible, definitely by year’s end,” James Leitz, senior vice president and director of action sports said.

A new title sponsor has not yet been announced.


Edison at CIF

The Edison Chargers did the community proud when they beat Villa Park 28-10 to earn the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division championship — the first title in 27 years for the program.

Edison was ranked No. 1 throughout most of the season. The Chargers were awarded at berth in the CIF Division II State Regional Championship game.

During its 13-2 season, Edison claimed the Sunset League championship, won 10 games in a row, and tied for the second-most victories in a single season in program history.


Devin Dwyer Loses Seat

It was the first time in 16 years an incumbent would not return to his council seat.

Former Mayor Pro Tem Devin Dwyer came in fifth in November, finishing behind Jill Hardy, Jim Katapodis, Dave Sullivan and Barbara Delgleize (who also was not reelected).

Plenty of theories circulated as the reason for his loss, including rocky relationships with police and fire unions as well as his conservative base.

Council members Don Hansen and Matthew Harper suggest his “yes” vote on a plastic bag ban turned off some voters and was probably his most damaging decision from the dais.