Wednesday, October 20, 2010 | Just a couple of blocks from Huntington Beach City Hall, a long fence is cluttered with a barrage of campaign signs of all colors and sizes, hoisting a bevy of candidate names.
The dizzying array of signs is a good illustration of this election season in Huntington Beach. In addition to four ballot measures and a race for city attorney, there are 21 City Council candidates vying for four open seats.
Making things somewhat easier on voters, several top candidates can be divided into one official — and one unofficial — slate.
The official slate, backed by former Mayor Debbie Cook, calls itself Team Huntington Beach and says a heavily pro-development council is ignoring the city’s neighborhoods.
The unofficial slate, backed by sitting Councilman Don Hansen, is commonly called the Hansenites and consists of pro-development candidates who want to preserve property rights and align themselves with Hansen’s vision on public employee union influence.
Other top candidates, both Republicans, are incumbent Joe Carchio and Planning Commissioner Fred Speaker. Each is well-funded and has been endorsed by the city’s police and fire unions as well as the Orange County Republican Central Committee. Neither returned a reporter’s phone calls.
Team Huntington Beach
Team Huntington Beach includes former Councilwoman Connie Boardman, former Planning Commissioner Joe Shaw and sitting Planning Commissioner Blair Farley — a green team concerned that the voices of residents are ignored by a council that is too hasty in saying yes to development.
“There are four citizens groups suing the city — that tells you that there is something seriously wrong with the City Council,” Shaw said.
One of those citizens groups is the Bolsa Chica Land Trust, an organization aimed at protecting an area of open space that includes the Bolsa Chica wetlands and mesa through purchasing the land. Boardman, the organization’s president, says the City Council favored the interests of a private developer over the public when the council approved a 22-unit housing project on a five-acre site on Bolsa Chica land earlier this year.
Team Huntington Beach candidates are also against the building of a desalination plant by Poseidon Resources. They say it’s a massive, expensive project that doesn’t make much sense.
But they stress that they aren’t against all development and use the buzzwords “smart development.”
Boardman supports the redevelopment of the Beach Boulevard and Edinger Avenue corridors, which she says are blighted and plagued by vacant storefronts. What she doesn’t support is the construction of a 14-story building at the corner of Beach and Edinger, which a specific plan approved earlier this year would allow.
Team Huntington Beach also wants to see the city develop better public transportation to deal with increasing traffic in the city. That effort would be part of an overall sustainability drive the candidates support.
“If we don’t address alternative modes of transportation, the traffic problems we have in the city are only going to get worse,” Boardman said.
Hansen, a conservative who led a vote reversal on a controversial accident fee schedule, doesn’t hide the fact that he wants to stack the council with candidates who share his policy views.
Hansen has a particular gripe with public employee pensions, which he says are unsustainable and need to be reformed so they aren’t so burdensome to the city’s budget. Hansen has made sure that his candidates hold the same view.
Hansen has stumped for Planning Commissioner Barbara Delgleize, children’s home director Billy O’Connell and school board trustee Matthew Harper and said he is “vigorously endorsing them.”
They’re a conservative bunch who say they’re not coordinating their campaigns as a team, though their positions on the issues end up very similar.
Delgleize, a Realtor for 34 years, says the city needs to be focused on making its investment dollars work better. Like Team Huntington Beach, she’s in favor of redeveloping the Beach and Edinger corridors. She also voted to bring a Costco to town.
“We can no longer afford to be a bedroom community,” Delgleize said.
Although Team Huntington Beach candidates have expressed support for what they call smart development, Harper says he thinks they will make it harder to have projects approved in the area. Harper said there’s what he calls the “Team Huntington Beach treatment” of development projects in town, which he says would be a tooth-and-nail opposition to much-needed projects.
One example of the Hansenites’ tilt toward development is Delgleize’s and Harper’s support of developing the five-acre site on the Bolsa Chica land.
Delgleize calls herself an environmentalist, but she also says she values the property rights of the owner, Hearthside Homes. The owner’s property rights would be undermined if the city had denied a land-use change from open space to residential, Delgleize said.
“By leaving it [the development] open space, you negate the value to the owner,” Delgleize said.
Harper, who calls his opponents the Cookies — after their backer, Cook — says the Bolsa Chica development is a done deal and the next council won’t need to worry much about it anyway.
“That is an issue where the train’s already left the station,” Harper said.