The Huntington Beach City Council is looking to restore compensation for future council members.
In 2012, the City Council passed an ordinance that would remove expense allowances for future members as a form of solidarity with other city departments, whose budgets had been cut because of the recession.
On Monday, the council voted to direct the city attorney to create a new ordinance that would essentially negate the earlier one. The vote was 5 to 2, with Mayor Matthew Harper and Councilman Joe Carchio dissenting.
Those on the council before the 2012 ordinance retained their expense allowances. The three who came afterward were granted a much lower flat $125 a month. They would not be able to take advantage of the new rule unless reelected.
All council members currently make $2,101 a year.
"Now that the city is coming out of the recession, the pressure to cut the budget has passed," Councilwoman Connie Boardman said at Monday's meeting.
The councilwoman added that the ordinance is about having equal pay among council members in the future and would not affect those who are currently there, unless they are reelected.
Former council members Debbie Cook and Devin Dwyer both spoke during public comments in support of Boardman's item, stating that it was the right time to bring back the compensation.
"Huntington Beach has had balanced representation, and any abuses in power have been singled out and dealt with immediately and clearly," Dwyer said. He added that there won't be Bell-like behavior in the city, referring to the scandal-plagued city in Los Angeles County.
Those Huntington Beach council members elected before the ordinance — Boardman, Harper, Carchio and Councilman Joe Shaw — are allowed an expense allowance.
Those who came into office afterward — council members Dave Sullivan, Jill Hardy and Jim Katapodis — were barred from amenities and instead allotted $125 a month to pay for expenses incurred while on the job.
In 2013, Boardman, Harper, Carchio and Shaw had an average compensation of about $23,000 each, boosted largely because of claimed expenses. Sullivan, Hardy and Katapodis were both paid $4,041 that year.
Sullivan said he was fine with the one suit he owned when he retired from the council, but was quickly reminded by his wife when he came back in 2012 that he couldn't wear "that ratty old suit every night."
"There's a lot of expenses that you have to have to run for the council, and we should get at least a dollar and 2 cents an hour," he said.
Senior restriction approved
In other action, council members voted 6 to 1, with Harper dissenting, to give final approval to a zoning change that would allow the 10 senior mobile home parks in the city to keep their age-restricted status.
A number of elderly residents thanked the council for giving the ordinance the green light and allowing them to retain their senior communities.
"Tonight we are here to cheer you on, just one last time, to vote, to keep senior parks senior parks," Rancho Huntington Mobile Park resident Betsy Crimi said.
While the majority of council members said they saw the zoning change as a way give seniors another option for affordable housing and to be in a community of those in their age group, Harper said he believed the new rule would open Huntington Beach to lawsuits.
Community Garden at Irby Park
Huntington Beach council members unanimously voted to ask city staff to look into creating a community garden at Irby Park.
The city currently has one garden where Atlanta Avenue meets the Santa Ana River. The nonprofit Huntington Beach Community Garden operates the facility and would be the organization to oversee the proposed plot.
Irby Park is 10.9 acres at 6770 Ruth Drive, between Heil Avenue and Edwards and Goldenwest streets.
The project would take up the undeveloped 7.5 acres of the park. The community garden would be about 2.5 acres, while volunteers would restore the rest of the lot as a passive park, Shaw said.
Some residents voiced concerns about an increase in traffic on the streets surrounding the park. In response, Shaw and Community Garden President Annette Parsons said the neighborhood would get first dibs on the plots before taking applications from others.
A plaque for the Golden Bear
A plaque to honor the oft-remembered Golden Bear nightclub is in the works.
The City Council unanimously voted to have the Historic Resources Board and the city manager figure out the costs and where to place the commemorative piece to honor the music venue, which closed in 1986.
The city aims to get the plaque installed by Memorial Day.