Mailbag: New council members are drawing the wrong attention to Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach City Councilman Casey McKeon speaks during a press conference.
Huntington Beach City Councilman Casey McKeon speaks during a press conference to discuss the city’s battle with the state of California over housing laws.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

As a resident of Orange County I’m deeply saddened by the Huntington Beach City Council’s decision to limit the flying of the LGBTQ Pride flag. In essence, the council has sent the message that inclusion is not important, and some groups are not worth recognition. Orange County is home to individuals from all walks of life, and this decision sends a message which is entirely contrary to such diversity. This cannot stand, and I am confident that the love and perseverance of this community will shine through as we work to rectify this issue.

Diego Ortega

Watching the latest Huntington Beach City Council meeting, I’m reminded of the traveling carnivals that would come to town. For a small fee, one could be entertained and amused with carnival barkers promising merriment, games of chance, etc. While carnivals welcomed publicity, the city is now welcoming an unwanted and unneeded brand of attention finding itself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The latest show centered on flags. Specifically, banning flying of the Pride flag. Regardless of where you’re positioned on the political spectrum, treating one another with respect and a little empathy is never a bad course. However, the new council, city attorney and their worshipers seem to come at the flag issue, homelessness/housing and other issues from a darker place.

Intolerance, fear and division are instruments of the weak. Ironically, from a position of strength, the council wields these instruments like a paper sword. Fear has now turned to anger and hate, which if left unchecked becomes metastasized. What are people afraid of? Change? I suspect people think that something is being taken away from them; their piece of the pie will somehow disappear. For example, mention affordable housing and people start to have convulsions. Terms like “local control” have become code for we don’t want people living here who don’t look or think like us. Keep in mind this land was once inhabited by the Tongva and other Indigenous peoples long before we arrived. The same things that gave us all the opportunity to live here we’re now denying to others.

Families and small businesses are the lifeblood of any community. Do we think they will want to place roots here given the environment? To the business community who supported the new council, be careful what you ask for. Vans pulling its sponsorship of the U.S. Open of Surfing is no coincidence. The 2028 Olympics? Good luck!

Unlike the carnival, sadly, this sideshow will be here for the next four years. For taxpayers living here, the price of admission will be no small fee, either.

Amicus Payne
Huntington Beach

Far be it from me to throw shade on the new right-wing Huntington Beach City Council majority for wanting local control in land use and housing issues, but the fact is that developer-backed conservatives have dominated city elections this entire century and produced decisions that have led to our current affordable housing crisis. The push to put in profitable luxury condos instead of housing for moderate- to low-income buyers prevented average residents from attaining home ownership and skewed the rental market as well. Between 2000 and 2018, only five so-called “liberals” were elected to the City Council (Debbie Cook, Connie Boardman, Jill Hardy, Joe Shaw and Kim Carr). The rest (some 15 or so) have been varying shades of conservatives whose majorities have made the bulk of land use and housing decisions over the previous 20 years. And yet, the reckless and feckless current council majority has tried to blame the most recent council majority, even to the point of recall actions, for our housing woes. Worse, they have stoked their ideological fires to rail against Sacramento for the dilemma we are facing. This has caused us to lose court cases, millions of dollars and suffer blows to our city’s reputation. From the governor’s remarks on down, Surf City has become the affordable housing punching bag for the entire state.

I am reminded of the famous quote from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” that the fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves, meaning we are responsible for our own actions, not fate (or the state). For council majority members, especially a developer, to double down on the fear that developers will misuse any newfound power imposed on us to further scramble our housing market is both gratuitous and insulting. High-density fear-mongering has run rampant through our community although the fear-mongers refuse to admit their past culpability for our plight (let alone act responsibly to deal with it). Conservatives in power screwed up our affordable housing market in the first place and are letting the rest of us take the fall. Failing to come to grips with what must be done and “unleashing” the city attorney to further add insult to injury is not the prudent course to take. Working with the rest of the City Council to fashion a workable and acceptable plan is the only way out to spare us from further embarrassment and penalties. Our citizenry should not be further ill-served.

Tim Geddes
Huntington Beach

The Huntington Beach City Council majority says it wants “the free market to dictate” housing in Huntington Beach. The “free market” wants affordable housing, including duplexes, quadplexes, apartments and townhomes, as well as detached modest single-family homes. Our employers want their workers housed in the community. McMansions that sell to the wealthy will not sustain the housing needs of our community. The Builders Remedy only comes into play if the council fails to approve a legally compliant housing plan. It is not true that environmental concerns cannot be addressed if Builders’ Remedy is invoked. The law specifically allows for environmental issues to be addressed on a case by case basis. Suing the state will only result in the taxpayers again paying millions of dollars in penalties, fines and legal fees that would be best used providing city services to Huntington Beach residents.

Linda Sapiro Moon
Huntington Beach

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