What a year, Manhattan Beach. I do not think I am alone in saying, this has been by far one of the most challenging years we’ve ever had. Our routines have been altered, our traditions have been modified and the normal events we cherish during these times have been cancelled or postponed. Nonetheless, what this year has reaffirmed is that Manhattan Beach is a resilient community, up to any and all challenges. To get through these times, I’m reminded to focus on two aspects of my life that push me forward everyday – faith and gratitude. I have faith we will get through the coronavirus pandemic, and gratitude for how the community has rallied to assist each other.
Your City Council works hard to preserve our wonderful small beach town. This year proved the lengths to which we will go to assure it remains so, even during a pandemic. On that note, let’s reflect on what we’ve done together in 2020.
When the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced the first confirmed coronavirus cases, the City took decisive action that prioritized caution in an uncertain time. Whether it was the openings or closure of businesses, playgrounds or events, navigating the ever-changing regulations was frustrating for us all. However, we’ve learned more about the virus over time and come to understand transmission, protective measures and how we must remain vigilant in addressing this deadly disease.
As a City Council, we met three times per week for three months to ensure we acted quickly to provide the services our community needs. This meant undertaking a balancing act that protected public health, assisted businesses, and enhanced our communications all-around.
COVID-19 has presented a multitude of challenges to providing the essential services our community relies upon. From ensuring public safety to recreation to permitting to capital projects. While City Hall was closed in March, we haven’t stopped working to provide essential services in a virtual environment. One service of note, has been our community development permits. A few years ago, the City had the foresight to offer online permitting and forgo the need for regular visits to City Hall. Thankfully, this online permitting service went live in January, before the pandemic, and goes to show how planning for a virtual future is a wise investment for our community. City Hall continues to offer services like these and we’re only a phone call away at 310-802-5000 or a web visit at www.citymb.info
One critical action our City has taken was establishing an Older Adult Hotline which assisted older adults and disabled individuals. I’m proud to say that thus far, the City has answered 674 calls for service to these vulnerable residents and delivered countless goods and groceries.
As the lifeline of our local economy, businesses and their employees were an integral consideration to assuring our community survives the coronavirus pandemic. In the beginning of the pandemic, the City deferred license and tax collection to ensure businesses had the capital to sustain operations. At the same time, the City protected residential and commercial tenants from evictions caused by COVID-19.
As do businesses in this pandemic, the City has remained flexible and adaptable to regulations. In response to indoor-dining restrictions, the City allowed businesses to utilize public streets and parking spaces to offer outdoor dining. When regulations changed, the City then created outdoor public seating areas for business use while enhancing our face-covering enforcement. These kinds of actions showcase how our City strives toward striking a balance between assisting our business community but safeguarding public health. I encourage the community to keep showing that “Local Love MB” as we continue navigating the coronavirus.
Budget and Financial Outlook
Our City’s history of prudent policy decisions has positioned us well to continue essential services and plan strategically for future community investment through our budget process. Just as every household has during the pandemic, we scrubbed our finances to ensure we were ready for the economic impacts. In fact, the City identified approximately $2 million in cuts that had minimal community impact. Following multiple City Council discussions, the City adopted a nearly balanced budget that maintained essential City services and reserve funding in a time where many cities made drastic service cuts.
While not directly related to the pandemic, the City Council directed immediate efforts to address our long-term financial sustainability by authorizing the issuance of Pension Obligation Bonds. In issuing these bonds, the City projects savings of up to $31.8 million over the next 25 years.
The City is committed to strong stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and will continue to delve into future financial impacts.
Public safety and core City services have always been, and will remain, our top priorities. The Manhattan Beach Police Department works extremely hard at fostering community trust and demonstrating fairness, professionalism and unbiased policing. As Police Chief Derrick Abell has stated, “We teach our officers and other police staff to demonstrate professionalism at all times and de-escalate situations in an effort to bring about peaceful and meaningful solutions.”
At a time when civil unrest was taking place throughout the nation, our Police Chief stood up to the call and took steps to assure the public’s trust in our Police Department. On the front lines of a protest, Chief Abell communicated with those protesting and spoke of common values to ensure public safety was maintained. Thank you, Chief.
In a time where healthcare professionals’ commitment and care are being recognized, it’s imperative we recognize our very own Manhattan Beach Fire Department. With hospitalizations surging in the State, our Fire Department has been available to offer emergency medical aid necessary to stabilize someone for transport to local hospitals. In the meantime, our Fire Department has also been offering assistance with fighting major wildfire fires throughout the State.
Civil unrest this year brought to light the history of Bruce’s Beach. On October 20, 2020, City Council appointed 13 members and two alternates to the newly-created Bruce’s Beach Task Force. This task force will make recommendations to the City Council within the next few months to address the history of Bruce’s Beach and community forums on a number of topics related to inclusion and equality.
The City continues our environmental efforts to create a healthy, sustainable, and resilient city. In order to protect the City’s coastline and infrastructure and comply with state mandates, the City is studying its vulnerability to sea-level rise within the “Climate Ready Manhattan Beach” program. Take a 360° tour of Bruce’s Beach, Manhattan Beach Pier, and El Porto to see predicted future sea-level rise and what’s possible with climate action. As part of “Climate Ready Manhattan Beach,” the City is using virtual reality to help residents and visitors better understand the impacts of sea-level rise and their role in implementing climate solutions. Please check out our videos on the City’s YouTube Channel.
As I indicated earlier, our City staff continues to oversee critical city services despite the pandemic. They’re looking after our water system, cleaning our streets, and maintaining our parks. You may have noticed some enhancements to our Downtown and North End. As part of beautification measures directed by City Council, we’ve installed trees, grates, new landscaping, street benches, wayfinding signage, and scrambled crosswalks.
Another project under construction is on Sepulveda Boulevard. The Sepulveda Bridge was built in 1930 and then widened in 1972 to six lanes. Since then, traffic has increased creating bottlenecks during peak traffic periods. Utilizing grant funds, the east side of the bridge will widen to provide one additional northbound lane, six-foot-wide sidewalks, bridge railings, new landscaping, and necessary seismic retrofits of the existing bridge. This project is expected to be completed by Fall 2021.
Since the last Parks Master Plan was adopted in 1998, the community’s demographics and interests have evolved while infrastructure has aged significantly. Although the City has made substantial efforts to maintain an effective level of functionality in its parks facilities and programs, the physical and communal changes have required additional planning and resources. After nearly two years of reviewing multi-focal feedback from 1,800 members of the community, synthesizing survey results, reviewing past project proposals, and conducting physical on-site inspections, the City Council adopted a new Parks Master Plan. This plan will chart the course for future park improvements, and develop funding options in the future.
The City continues to collaboratively address homelessness in our region and we’re seeing the result of those efforts. Following the $330,665 grant awarded to the cities of Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach, the City contracted with a homeless services provider, Harbor Interfaith Services (HIS), to house our homeless population. Since January 2020, HIS has interacted with 153 homeless individuals, placing 37 of those into interim housing, 14 in the State/County sponsored Project Room Key locations, 7 into treatment programs, and 16 in stable housing placements. These are remarkable efforts and showcase our City’s effort to outreach to our homeless population with housing solutions. If you see a homeless individual in need of services, please utilize LA-HOP.org to connect them with a case manager who can assist them with the housing process.
YOUR City Council
With the November election behind us, congratulations are in order to my colleagues, Councilmembers Napolitano and Montgomery, on their reelection, as well as to newly-elected Councilmember Joe Franklin. I look forward to working together to advance the collective interests of our community. I would also like to thank Councilmember Montgomery for his leadership and professionalism from the beginning of the pandemic during his tenure as Mayor. Thanks also to former Councilmember Nancy Hersman for her service to our community as City Councilmember, School Boardmember, Commissioner and volunteer. Finally, congratulations to Tim Lilligren for his reelection as City Treasurer.
Please continue to reach out to me at email@example.com with your thoughts, concerns or opinions. It’s an honor and privilege to serve as your Mayor.
I wish everyone Happy Holidays and have faith that our best days are ahead of us in 2021 and beyond.
Mayor of Manhattan Beach