Sounding Off: There are benefits to Sunset Beach annexation

Recent comments in the Independent by Jack Markovitz of the Citizen's Assn. of Sunset Beach give the impression that most of the residents of Sunset Beach are opposed to being annexed by Huntington Beach ("Sunset annexation hearing postponed," March 3).

Let me point out some important facts.

What are the motivations of those opposing annexation?

1. Economic: Many property owners rent out their properties on a weekly basis, especially in the summer. Very often, the renters invite their friends to large parties right next to homes inhabited by families with children. So what are the problems? Congestion, noise, parking, foul language, heavy drinking — not suitable for a residential neighborhood.

What does Huntington Beach propose? Allow weekly rentals provided that owners obtain a conditional use permit for their properties. Huntington Beach would check the properties for safety and any code violations and then issue permits to properties that are in compliance with codes. Most property owners who do weekly rentals do not want to abide by those rules.

2. Again, economic: Many businesses are housed in illegal, non-conforming buildings with such problems as insufficient parking and unpermitted changes and additions made to the structures. Huntington Beach would allow existing legal non-conforming structures to remain as they are, but the city could require that illegal non-conforming structures be brought into compliance.

3.Identity: Many residents feel that Sunset Beach will lose its identity and be swallowed up by the larger Huntington Beach. How many people know that Corona del Mar and Balboa Island were annexed by Newport Beach? Yet they have managed to keep their unique identities. There are monument signs at the entrance to both Corona del Mar and Balboa Island, just as there would be at the entrance of Sunset Beach.

4.The Citizen's Assn. lawsuit does not want utility taxes assessed to Sunset Beach without a vote by residents. If a resident pays $200 in utilities in a month, the bill would increase by 5% or $10. When Sunset Beach was attempting to become a city on its own, the proposed utility tax was 10%.

What is the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO)?

It is an independent regulatory commission created by the California Legislature to control the boundaries of cities and special districts whose main purposes are to discourage urban sprawl and to encourage orderly government.

The small island annexation program allows LAFCO to annex unincorporated areas of less than 150 acres without a vote of the people. Before 2004, the acreage limit was 75, and Sunset Beach would have been allowed a vote on annexation. Any change in LAFCO's present mission would require a bill to be passed in the state legislature and signed by the governor.

What benefits would Sunset Beach receive if annexed by Huntington Beach?

1.Faster police response. Huntington Beach police have to drive through Sunset Beach to reach part of Huntington Harbour, so they are in the area. Sheriff's deputies are often serving other areas of the county and have to drive a considerable distance to Sunset Beach when a problem occurs.

2.Better control of weekly rentals and a more family-friendly environment.

3.Better code enforcement.

4.Better control of such undesirable businesses as massage parlors and tattoo shops. At last count, there were four tattoo parlors on the slightly-over-one-mile stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Sunset Beach.

Many residents want the annexation to succeed because they believe the quality of life in Sunset Beach will improve when it becomes part of Huntington Beach.

PHYLLIS MAYWHORT is a Sunset Beach resident.

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