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Top Stories on This Webpage: Starting February 9, 2006
HB interim police chief to take reins Monday - David Barr, a former chief of the La Palma Police Department, has been named interim police chief for Hermosa Beach, City Manager Steve Burrell announced Wednesday. Michael Lavin, who has headed the city's Police Department for the past five years, officially retires March 1. However, today is his last day at work. Barr starts work Monday as interim chief. Burrell said he has already started the process to recruit a new chief.
After complaints by residents, plan to bleach beach revised - Worries about chlorine smell in Manhattan Beach prompt changes in cleanup of area affected by sewage spill. Environmental group Heal the Bay opposes approach. Sanitation officials have put a temporary hold on their plans to drench a contaminated portion of Manhattan Beach with a bleach solution after worried neighbors complained about the strong chlorine smell.
Hermosa Beach's chief to move up retirement - Hermosa Beach Police Chief Michael Lavin, who has struggled through a turbulent year at the department's helm, said Wednesday that he will retire in March -- two months earlier than he intended -- because of personal reasons. The past year has been difficult for Lavin, who as chief has faced challenges ranging from civil lawsuits alleging excessive force to internal strife between line officers and senior management.
LA County residents must be ready if terror strikes - A new survey of Los Angeles County residents finds that most of us would be thoroughly unprepared in the event of a terrorist attack, even though 60 percent of residents expect such an attack to take place in the coming year. The study by researchers at the RAND Corp., UCLA and the county's Department of Public Health indicated that only a third of respondents had either developed a family response plan or stockpiled emergency supplies.
Retrial opens in alleged Hermosa Beach sex assault - A new jury Monday began hearing about an alleged sexual assault by a former Catholic school teacher outside a Hermosa Beach bar, including details nearly identical to those a different jury heard more than a year ago. Delaney, 29, is accused of raping and sodomizing an allegedly drugged South Bay schoolteacher on a walk street near North End Bar and Grill in the early morning hours of June 28, 2003.
Police ram car in Hermosa, end high-speed chase - Inside the car, officers found a loaded shotgun, a loaded handgun and burglary tools. A man and woman led police on a high-speed chase through Hermosa Beach on Friday afternoon and were arrested after officers rammed their car in Redondo Beach. The unidentified pair were taken into custody and booked on suspicion of possessing firearms and burglary tools, said Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott .
HB disaster forum impels action - I attended the Hermosa Beach Emergency Town Hall Forum on Dec. 14 and was very impressed with the information the city officials shared with us. They were able to tell us what they will be able to do in case of a disaster. Well, what will I be able to do?
Charles Weinberg enters plea agreement that will send him to prison for eight years for molesting teen boys - A 59-year-old Hermosa Beach man facing accusations of sexually molesting teenage boys for more than two decades pleaded guilty Wednesday to four counts related to the abuse. Charles P. Weinberg will return to court Jan. 17, when he will be sentenced to eight years in state prison as part of the plea agreement.
Beach run-over case is settled - The county will pay $100,000 to a woman run over by a lifeguard truck. There have been four similar accidents since 1996. An El Camino College instructor run over by a lifeguard truck while she lounged on the beach in 2003 was awarded a $100,000 settlement by the county Monday. The County Counsel's Office recommended the settlement, saying that Claudia Prada could submit evidence of damages, losses and medical expenses totaling $325,000 if the case were to go to trial.
Verizon chooses Hermosa Beach for fiber-optic cable TV - Fiber optic network, which already provides high-speed Internet service, will carry television signals in this battle between telecom and cable companies. A new source of cable television competition arrives in the South Bay in mid-2006 -- courtesy of a telephone company. Hermosa Beach will become the first city in Los Angeles County-- and only the fourth in the state -- to receive a much-hyped state-of-the-art cable television service Verizon has dubbed FiOS TV.
Rash of BB gun attacks on Hermosa & South Bay cars spreads - Hermosa Beach police reported last month that they had taken about 100 reports from vandalism victims. And about 130 incidents occurred in Torrance and the beach cities in the past month. The plague of attacks on car windows by vandals with BB guns that has infuriated South Bay residents in recent weeks appears to be moving into the Harbor Area and Carson, adding to the dozens of reports recently from victims in Torrance and the beach cities.
HB official says police are out to defame him - A Hermosa Beach councilman lashed out at police after a sergeant took a report from a code enforcement officer who complained that the city official intimidated him on the job at a Pier Plaza restaurant. Ron Gleistein reported that he didn't issue a noise citation to Sangria restaurant because its owner, Michael Santomieri, appeared at the door with Councilman Michael Keegan, introducing him as a good friend. But Keegan said Thursday this is another attempt by the Police Department to tarnish his name politically, especially two months before an election in which Keegan is running as an incumbent.
Arson suspect left profane note at the Hermosa Ave. house - A woman accused of setting fire to a Hermosa Avenue house with 11 people inside left a profanity-laced note at the scene and then sat watching from the steps of a nearby diner as firefighters put out the blaze, police said. Nobody was injured. The 31 year-old Carson woman faces an August 11 court date on charges of arson of an inhabited building, and burglary stemming from a separate incident in which computer equipment was taken from a 15th Street apartment. She has pleaded innocent. The arson incident May 16 was touched off after the woman went to a party the night before at the clapboard house in the 1700 block of Hermosa Avenue.
The Daily Breeze February 9, 2006
HB interim police chief to take reins Monday
David Barr, a former chief of the La Palma Police Department, has been named interim police chief for Hermosa Beach, City Manager Steve Burrell announced Wednesday.
Michael Lavin, who has headed the city's Police Department for the past five years, officially retires March 1. However, today is his last day at work. Barr starts work Monday as interim chief.
Burrell said he has already started the process to recruit a new chief. "I expect it will take three to four months," he said.
Barr, who retired as La Palma's police chief six years ago, also served as associate dean and director of the Criminal Justice Training Center at Golden West College in Huntington Beach.
Barr is credited with implementing ethical standards at the La Palma Police Department. In 1997, his department received one of three Integrity Pioneer Awards from the Florida-based National Institute of Ethics.
The Hermosa Beach Police Department has faced a tumultuous year with more than a dozen civil lawsuits alleging excessive force.
The department also has struggled through internal problems between senior management and line officers. At least four officers filed lawsuits alleging the department had violated their rights, targeted certain officers and showed favoritism in promotions.
Lavin, 50, has said he will spend his retirement in Utah with his family.
The Daily Breeze February 9, 2006
After complaints by residents, plan to bleach beach revised
Worries about chlorine smell in Manhattan Beach prompt changes in cleanup of area affected by sewage spill. Environmental group Heal the Bay opposes approach.
Sanitation officials have put a temporary hold on their plans to drench a contaminated portion of Manhattan Beach with a bleach solution after worried neighbors complained about the strong chlorine smell.
Workers began the process of soaking a large bacteria-infested area near 21st Street with a diluted bleach solution at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, said Don Avila, a spokesman for the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County.
But within an hour, Norma Navarro, a resident of The Strand who lives in front of the closed area, called the Manhattan Beach Fire Department after she breathed in some of the fumes.
"It smelled very strong," she said. "And it didn't feel good at all."
Navarro said sanitation officials should have informed residents before beginning the large-scale spraying of the chemical.
She said she had received a letter last week about the cleanup and the use of bleach, but said officials should have let her and other residents know when they would begin the spraying so they could get out of the way of the fumes.
The area between Marine Avenue and 19th Street, which was most affected by a massive raw sewage spill on Jan. 15, has been off-limits to the public since Jan. 31 when officials found an elevated level of fecal bacteria in the sand.
Jim Stahl, chief engineer and general manager of the Sanitation Districts, told Manhattan Beach City Council members Tuesday night that the bleach treatment is the quickest and most effective way of exterminating the bacteria.
"The solution we are using is basically one cap full of bleach in one gallon of water," he said.
Avila said Wednesday that the solution will be diluted further so residents will detect less of a smell.
"We'll be using nozzles that don't spray high in the air, but closer to the ground," he said. "And we'll also do smaller areas so there's less bleach in the air."
But that means that it will take longer to complete the job, Avila said.
"We'll need to use more of the solution because it won't be as strong," he said.
The county Department of Health Services will monitor the level of bleach in the air, Avila said.
Workers are also installing devices on the ground to make sure the chlorine and other chemical byproducts don't mix with ground water or make their way into the ocean, he said.
Avila said he spoke to five residents in the neighborhood Wednesday and all of them seemed satisfied that the work is progressing.
"One gentleman said he could smell it and his eyes burned, but he would like to see the work completed and the beach open again," he said.
But the environmental group Heal the Bay is taking a stand against the bleach-the-beach approach.
"We're not big supporters of dumping chlorine on the beach," said Executive Director Mark Gold. "We believe that using sunlight and mixing up the sand is a much more environmentally sound manner to achieve disinfection."
Gold said chlorine does break down quickly in the sand, but "doesn't magically disappear."
"It reacts with the organic material and forms other chemicals," he said. "The chlorine may solve one problem quickly, but it potentially has the risk of creating another problem."
Stahl said the Sanitation Districts will also conduct a pilot test simultaneously to aerate the sand in a 3-by-3-foot area.
"To aerate the whole contaminated area might take several months," he said. "But we're breaking new ground here by testing the sand. There are no established protocols for what we're doing. This has never been done before. So, we're learning as we go."
Stahl assured City Council members that the sand will not be open to the public until complete decontamination has been achieved.
The bleaching will begin again Monday after sanitation officials inform local residents and address their concerns, Avila said.
But Navarro said she will not be convinced until she sees written orders.
"I want to see who is signing off on this," she said. "It makes me upset that such actions, which can have serious health consequences for me and my 3-year-old son, can be done so quickly and without any information."
The Daily Breeze January 26, 2006
Hermosa Beach's chief to move up retirement
Michael Lavin, who has headed department since 2001, cites personal reasons in move to Utah.
Hermosa Beach Police Chief Michael Lavin, who has struggled through a turbulent year at the department's helm, said Wednesday that he will retire in March -- two months earlier than he intended -- because of personal reasons.
The past year has been difficult for Lavin, who as chief has faced challenges ranging from civil lawsuits alleging excessive force to internal strife between line officers and senior management.
Last fall, the 50-year-old chief said he would retire May 1, fulfilling a promise he made to himself when he became chief that he would end his career in the town where he started it. But Lavin said Wednesday that he had to advance his plans because of a "personal situation that has come up."
"So I've been forced to move things up by two months," he said.
Lavin said his last day at work will be Feb. 9, but his official retirement date will be March 1.
He wouldn't go into detail about the reasons for retiring earlier, but said he and his family will move to Utah, where his youngest son will go to college.
"I also have a daughter who is getting married soon," he said. "So it's going to be a turbulent year ahead for me, but in a good way."
Lavin, a Mira Costa High School graduate who has spent most of his life in Hermosa Beach, is a 28-year veteran of the department. He was named chief in May 2001. He replaced Val Straser, who retired after 27 years on the force.
Lavin's biggest challenge has been to maintain order on Pier Plaza and the city's downtown area, which has gained notoriety as the most popular night spot in the South Bay.
Most of the civil lawsuits that have plagued the city for the past year or so stemmed from incidents involving alcohol and fights on Pier Plaza.
In the last year, at least four police officers filed complaints in court against their chief and department alleging violation of their rights as peace officers. Most of these officers stated in court documents that they felt ostracized by senior managers, who they said favored some officers over others.
Lavin said he would miss the beach, his colleagues in the Police Department and City Hall.
What he will certainly not miss are the bitter encounters he has had time and again with the justice system, Lavin said.
"We live in a litigious society where people are driven by greed," he said. "And as police chief in the last year, I've seen the worst of it." The internal lawsuits and management's skirmishes with the police officers association haven't helped either.
"They're completely unnecessary and have placed a huge financial burden on the city," he said. "All this is going to cost a lot of money."
Hoping to protect the city from unwarranted allegations in the future, Lavin said the department recently established a policy that all officers should carry and use digital audio recorders.
"The union is fighting that in court," the chief said. "We had cameras installed and put this policy in place to protect the officers when lawsuits come up. But even that is challenged in court."
Among his accomplishments, Lavin lists hiring and promoting able officers and controlling the city's raucous Fourth of July celebrations. But Pier Plaza is a different matter, he said.
"Unfortunately, I can't say we have a handle on Pier Plaza," he said. "We might have put a lid on it for now, but that's all we've been able to do."
Drunken people on Pier Plaza will continue to pose a problem for the city for the foreseeable future, Lavin said.
"We have several officers out on injuries because of incidents on Pier Plaza," he said. "Unless the city decides to close the bars by midnight, this situation is not likely to change."
Lavin acknowledged that his successor has a daunting task. He said he believes someone from within the department might be able to take charge right away.
"I was groomed by former Chief Straser for this job," he said. "And I've groomed Capt. Tom Eckert as my successor. Of course, everybody goes through the process, but I believed it was my duty as a chief to train someone."
City Manager Steve Burrell called Lavin "an ethical and an honest police officer."
"He has done a great job for our city," he said.
Burrell said he will appoint an interim chief before Lavin's last day, but wouldn't say if it would be someone from within the department or from the outside.
He then will begin a full-fledged search to recruit a new chief, Burrell said.
"We would look for someone with strong leadership qualities who can provide the services our residents expect and deserve," he said.
The Daily Breeze January 25, 2006
LA County residents must be ready if terror strikes
A new survey shows that black and Latinos residents are better prepared for a disaster in Los Angeles than are whites and Asians. It's time to get the ball rolling, folks.
A new survey of Los Angeles County residents finds that most of us would be thoroughly unprepared in the event of a terrorist attack, even though 60 percent of residents expect such an attack to take place in the coming year.
The study by researchers at the RAND Corp., UCLA and the county's Department of Public Health indicated that only a third of respondents had either developed a family response plan or stockpiled emergency supplies.
The survey data was collected from October 2002 to February 2003, so residents' responses today might be different in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and last week's audiotape from Osama bin Laden, which threatened more attacks within the United States.
The survey found whites and Asians to be the least prepared for a terror attack, while blacks, Latinos, immigrants and the disabled were more likely to have taken action to prepare for a disaster. That may be because these groups feel their communities would receive fewer services in the wake of an attack -- or that their backgrounds had instilled a greater sense of self-reliance.
The survey should prompt county residents to redouble their preparations to ride out a terror attack, which could leave countless people on their own for three days or more without essential services.
Such preparations should include an emergency supply kit that contains water (one gallon per person per day), ready-to-eat canned meals, high-energy foods such as granola bars, a first-aid kit, medicines such as aspirin and prescription medications, pet supplies, blankets or sleeping bags and important family documents such as wills, birth records and financial account numbers.
For more tips on preparations, visit the county's public health Web site, lapublichealth.org.
County residents can't rely entirely on first responders who may be overwhelmed during the days after a terror attack. The RAND survey should motivate all of us to achieve a minimum level of self-sufficiency in the event disaster strikes.
The Daily Breeze January 24, 2006
Retrial opens in alleged Hermosa Beach sex assault
First jury to hear testimony deadlocked. Prosecutors allege woman was drugged and raped outside of a bar by ex-Catholic school teacher.
A new jury Monday began hearing about an alleged sexual assault by a former Catholic school teacher outside a Hermosa Beach bar, including details nearly identical to those a different jury heard more than a year ago.
Still, a markedly different trial is expected to unfold in Aran Delaney's retrial in Torrance Superior Court. Some pretrial rulings about the evidence, coupled with Delaney's switching from a private defense attorney to a public defender, have ensured a different tone for the new trial. Delaney, 29, is accused of raping and sodomizing an allegedly drugged South Bay schoolteacher on a walk street near North End Bar and Grill in the early morning hours of June 28, 2003.
A new trial was ordered in 2004 after the first jury deadlocked 8-4 in favor of not guilty on a digital penetration charge, 10-2 in favor of guilty on the rape charge and 9-3 for guilty on the sodomy charge. As before, Delaney contends that the sexual encounter was consensual and his attorney intends to pick apart the alleged victim's actions surrounding the incident to poke holes in her credibility.
But unlike in the first trial, Deputy Public Defender Michael Ooley is allowed to present evidence that the woman smoked marijuana a few days before the alleged assault. The defense hopes this detail will serve two purposes: bolster the contention that she left the bar with Delaney to smoke marijuana and diminish her credibility because she'll appear to the jury to be a drug user.
Ooley also is allowed to question the woman about a lawsuit she filed against Delaney and his parents. Ooley sought permission from Judge William R. Hollingsworth to allow the evidence so he can argue that she has unsavory financial interests in the outcome of the criminal trial.
However, after a short hearing with no jurors present, Hollingsworth sided with the prosecutor and ruled that if the woman is questioned about the lawsuit, she will be allowed to explain why it was filed.
During the hearing, the woman testified she went to an attorney after Delaney's parents threatened and tried to bribe her in three hand-delivered letters at her home in September 2003 -- just three weeks before she was scheduled to testify at Delaney's preliminary hearing.
Dr. James Joseph Delaney, 69, and Gail Irene Delaney, 67, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to dissuade a witness, dissuading a witness, offering a bribe to a witness and making criminal threats. They were sentenced to 16 months in state prison in December 2004, but were paroled last year.
The woman told Hollingsworth she wanted to know how to protect herself and her young son, and that the threats had forced them to move, change schools and alter their everyday activities while seeking protection from police. "Nothing in my life was the same," she said.
Ooley did not mention the still-pending legal action in his opening statement, and would not comment about his plans for it or any other evidence outside of court. In a different ruling, Hollingsworth also said this Torrance Superior Court jury, unlike the first one, will not see a copy of one of the threatening letters, finding it prejudicial against the defense.
Deputy District Attorney Jodi Link sought its inclusion because it suggests Delaney's guilt since his parents almost concede the assault happened. It reads, in part, that the woman could take solace knowing she "showed compassion and forgiveness for someone who may not deserve it."
The legal defense bills apparently depleted the Delaney family, forcing Delaney to give up his high-priced attorney, who presented a defense filled with high-price experts.
Ooley likely will call experts on his client's behalf, but much fewer. The experts will be limited to medical professionals who are expected to testify that the injuries the woman claims she received as a result of the sexual assault were not really injuries.
Link called the victim to testify, and is expected to follow up with one of her friends, the doorman at the bar who reported seeing the woman go from sober to unusually intoxicated in a short amount of time, as well as two sexual assault nurses and a police officer who is an expert in date rape drugs.
During her opening statement, Link said she expects the evidence to show that the woman had the symptoms of being drugged, although she said it was not Delaney who drugged her but one of his friends who bought the woman a drink.
Ooley, who won a pretrial ruling that prohibits that man's criminal activities from being discussed, told the jury the woman was taking medications that would have produced symptoms similar to a date rape drug when mixed with alcohol. Like he did in the first trial, Delaney is expected to testify that the two engaged in consensual sex, and then she fell down and hit her head and became disoriented.
The woman claims she left the bar to get some air because she was feeling strangely intoxicated after less than two drinks. Delaney came with her and, after some consensual kissing, she said he forced her over a wall into some shrubs and assaulted her.
She claims she had to fight him off after repeatedly telling him to stop. She said she blacked out and doesn't remember anything until the next morning. If convicted, Delaney, who remains free on bail, faces up to 24 years in prison.
The Daily Breeze January 21, 2006
Police ram car in Hermosa, end high-speed chase
Inside the car, officers found a loaded shotgun, a loaded handgun and burglary tools.
A man and woman led police on a high-speed chase through Hermosa Beach on Friday afternoon and were arrested after officers rammed their car in Redondo Beach.
The unidentified pair were taken into custody and booked on suspicion of possessing firearms and burglary tools, said Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott .
An officer stopped their car at First Street and Pacific Coast Highway around 4 p.m. after watching it allegedly make an illegal left turn, Wolcott said.
As the officer approached the car, it sped off.
Officers chased the car up Ardmore Avenue, then east on to Gould Avenue. Manhattan Beach police officers joined the pursuit as it continued on Artesia Boulevard.
The pursuit came to an end a few minutes later and about 2 miles away in the 2400 block of Carnegie Lane when officers used a patrol car to bump the suspects' vehicle, Wolcott said.
Inside the car, officers found a loaded shotgun, a loaded handgun and burglary tools.
It's too early in the investigation to determine if the weapons and tools were used unlawfully, Wolcott added.
The Daily Breeze December 30, 2005
Friday Letters to the Editor
HB disaster forum impels action
I attended the Hermosa Beach Emergency Town Hall Forum on Dec. 14 and was very impressed with the information the city officials shared with us. They were able to tell us what they will be able to do in case of a disaster. Well, what will I be able to do?
A couple of other moms and I have been thinking what have we been doing to prepare ourselves, our families and our neighbors so that we may be better prepared in the event of a disaster. Since then, we have created Hermosa Beach MOMS with Kelly Reedy-Kovac, Nancy Amato and I, in the hopes of getting our school families and all members of our community more prepared by providing a special fund-raising event offering U.S. Coast Guard-approved survival kits which would be invaluable to a family should any type of disruption in their lives occur. Information on these kits can be found at www.HVPTO.com and more information on this subject and order forms for the kits can be found at www.hbneighborhood.org/HBMOMS.htm.
We also feel it is important to get our community involved and have decided to organize a Neighborhood Watch/Community Preparedness Association to help assist the emergency services of our city as well as be first responders for our families and our local neighborhood. So just from one town hall meeting we are beginning to make the city of Hermosa Beach more prepared as individuals and families.
I would like to thank City Manager Steve Burrell, Fire Chief Russ Tingley, Police Chief Mike Lavin, the Area "G" disaster coordinator Mike Martinet, Councilman J.R. Reviczky, the Hermosa Beach School District, the Beach Cities Health District and all the others that are working hard for the citizens of this wonderful city. I would also like to thank all the residents who attended the meeting or watched it on TV. I know that we as concerned citizens will take the information shared at this meeting and incorporate it into our lives, so that, as Mike Martinet said, "People have to be prepared."
-- TRACY HOPKINS
The Daily Breeze December 22, 2005
Hermosa Beach man pleads guilty to sex abuse
Charles Weinberg enters plea agreement that will send him to prison for eight years for molesting teen boys.
A 59-year-old Hermosa Beach man facing accusations of sexually molesting teenage boys for more than two decades pleaded guilty Wednesday to four counts related to the abuse. Charles P. Weinberg will return to court Jan. 17, when he will be sentenced to eight years in state prison as part of the plea agreement.
Weinberg pleaded guilty to one count of continuous sexual abuse on a child and two counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts on a minor, in addition to a misdemeanor lewd and lascivious act count, according to prosecutors. Had he gone to trial in Torrance Superior Court on all 11 counts he was charged with, he faced 19 years and eight months in prison, according to Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Steve Endom.
"He could have got substantially more but he cooperated with the investigation and it avoided the kids having to get on the stand and recount what occurred," Endom said. "I think justice is served pretty well."
Endom said there were four named victims, but estimated there are another 30 to 40 whose molestations Weinberg was not charged with -- either because they were too old to prosecute or the victims were uncooperative or unavailable due to being incarcerated or drug addicts.
Weinberg befriended boys who were otherwise neglected or at risk. He provided marijuana and a fun refuge that was free of rules at his beach-side apartment. He provided a compassionate ear to the boys, a place to store their surfboards and, in some cases, money. "He's a typical pedophile," Endom said.
Police began investigating Weinberg in April when a man who was trying to come to terms with his brother's drug-related death -- which may have been suicide -- started looking at reasons why his brother might have met such a tragic end.
The surviving brother realized that his brother was likely molested by Weinberg, too, and he contacted police.
Weinberg was put under surveillance and was arrested after he was seen leaving his apartment at 7 a.m. with two boys, Endom said. Police questioned the boys and realized they were victims, Endom added.
During their investigation, police spoke to a man now in jail who told them Weinberg let him live with him for years. In return, the man said he brought other boys to the home for Weinberg to molest. After Weinberg's arrest, neighbors reported seeing a lot of boys come and go from the apartment. His neighbors thought of him as an eccentric, helpful old man.
He told them the boys were his nephews or grandsons, and he was a retired psychologist whose wife died in a car accident. Weinberg never married or had children. He lived off a family trust fund. Endom described his lifestyle as "minimalist," and said his car and apartment were kept in clean, efficient order.
During a search of his apartment, police found a couple dozen antiquities from archaeological digs Weinberg participated in. Federal investigators have looked into the pieces and found that they are authentic and were wrongly pilfered from the sites, Endom said. No charges have been filed.
Weinberg was also investigated to determine whether his travels to exotic locales, including Thailand, India and Egypt, involved sexual relations with children. Endom said there is no evidence Weinberg participated in the child sex tourism industry.
The Daily Breeze December 20, 2005
Beach run-over case is settled
The county will pay $100,000 to a woman run over by a lifeguard truck. There have been four similar accidents since 1996.
An El Camino College instructor run over by a lifeguard truck while she lounged on the beach in 2003 was awarded a $100,000 settlement by the county Monday.
The County Counsel's Office recommended the settlement, saying that Claudia Prada could submit evidence of damages, losses and medical expenses totaling $325,000 if the case were to go to trial.
Prada was lying on Hermosa Beach on the evening of Aug. 29, 2003, when a county lifeguard drove onto her hip, pinning her to the sand, according to county documents. Putting the truck in reverse only made the tire spin on her thigh, and several beachgoers worked together to push the truck off her.
Although Prada consistently maintained that one of the truck's tires rolled onto her hip, county lifeguards acknowledged only that the truck's underside nudged up against her. However, county documents said that an "independent witness" agreed with Prada.
She continues to suffer constant hip pain, according to the documents. When she filed a lawsuit in 2004 -- one year after the accident -- she said she was doing her best to "walk straight and do my physical therapy."
Neither Prada's lawyer nor attorneys with the County Counsel's Office returned repeated phone calls for comment Monday. No one in the county lifeguard division was available to answer questions.
A representative from the county's risk management division said the lifeguard division has instituted policy changes to prevent similar accidents, but could not provide further details.
Prada is among at least four people run over on a beach by county lifeguards since 1996.
One of those incidents, at a Santa Monica beach in 1996, resulted in the death of a 2½-year-old boy. Also in 1996, a woman was run over by a lifeguard truck in Marina del Rey, and in 2002 a man was hit by a lifeguard vehicle while near El Porto beach in Manhattan Beach.
The Daily Breeze December 18, 2005
Verizon chooses Hermosa Beach for fiber-optic cable TV
Fiber optic network, which already provides high-speed Internet service, will carry television signals in this battle between telecom and cable companies.
A new source of cable television competition arrives in the South Bay in mid-2006 -- courtesy of a telephone company. Hermosa Beach will become the first city in Los Angeles County-- and only the fourth in the state -- to receive a much-hyped state-of-the-art cable television service Verizon has dubbed FiOS TV.
Verizon also plans to offer the service to households in Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach later in 2006, once it negotiates franchise agreements with the respective city governments. The Hermosa Beach City Council approved an agreement with Verizon last week after eight months of negotiations.
FiOS TV stands for fiber optic television service. Verizon is investing tens of millions of dollars to bring a fiber optic connection to every home -- called fiber-to-the-premises or FTTP -- in the densely populated, affluent beach cities.
Company officials said that will provide the capability of offering much clearer television pictures than conventional cable or satellite television on more than 330 channels as well as video on demand. Residents of Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach have been able to receive high-speed Internet service over the fiber optic network since Aug. 1.
"What Verizon sees in the future is a very data-centric and Internet-centric world," said Tim McCallion, Verizon's Pacific Region president. "The demands for data applications and broadband applications are just going to increase. ... With this investment in the fiber network we'll be able to provide the fastest speeds that are available from a technical standpoint."
It's the first local salvo of what's expected to be an expensive, high-stakes national competition as telecommunication companies try to muscle in on new turf -- entertainment. The likes of AT&T and Qwest Communications also reportedly have similar plans. Cable companies have been doing much the same thing in reverse.
Time Warner, for instance, which serves Torrance and will take over Adelphia's cable franchises in the three beach cities at the end of the second quarter of 2006, has offered telephone service for the last year. "We have a million subscribers nationwide," said Deane Leavenworth, Time Warner's vice president of corporate relations. "We are now the nation's 10th largest telephone company."
The stategy is all about the buzzword of the moment: convergence. For consumers, that means the convenience of paying one bill to one company for multiple services -- cable television, Internet access and telephone.
It also promises an ever-greater array of services at more competitive prices. Fiber optic cable, McCallion says, has a virtually unlimited bandwidth that could be tapped by video bloggers and others on the cutting edge of technology. "It will provide a platform for future applications we can only just imagine right now," he said.
Of course, for now the technology is in its very earliest stages. Verizon launched FiOS TV in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Keller on Sept. 22 and in Herndon, Va., last month.
The Tampa Bay, Fla., suburb of Temple Terrace followed Dec. 6 and last Monday it became available in six more Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs. FiOS TV service will begin in the California communities of Beaumont, Murrieta and Apple Valley early next year, with Hermosa Beach next.
Because of the intensely competitive nature of the industry, Verizon is releasing no figures on how many people have signed up for the service, where it could show up next or even how much the service will cost when it arrives in California next year.
But consumers can expect to benefit. Verizon likes to point out that when FiOS TV began in Keller, the cable operator there, Charter Communications, cut its cable fees in response. If Verizon's pricing is similar in the South Bay, the same sort of price wars could occur here.
For instance, FiOS TV offers about 180 digital video and music channels for $34.95 per month. Time Warner offers 210 digital video and music channels for $39.95, while DirecTV has a digital video and music channel tier of 135 channels for $41.99.
Time Warner's most popular type of Internet service costs $39.95 per month in which the customer also takes cable television service with a downstream speed of five megabytes per second.
A comparable FiOS Internet service costs $34.95 per month. Traditional cable and satellite television providers say they're ready for the competition. "We recognize there will be a more vigorous level of competition," said Robert Mercer, DirecTV spokesman. "It remains to be seen how strong the telco/FiOS rollout will be and how successful." Indeed, not everyone is convinced Verizon's chance of success is good.
Marvel or overkill?
In fact, A. Michael Noll, a professor at USC's Annenberg School of Communications, observed telecommunication companies have tried this strategy before, investing millions in failed pilot programs.
For instance, Bell Atlantic -- now Verizon -- reportedly hooked up cable television service to 2,600 New Jersey homes in the mid-1990s, but eventually discontinued it because of the cost of building the system. "They seem to have no idea of history," Noll said. "It was a joke. They didn't know anything about content.
"They're allowing themselves to get overly fascinated by technology for technology's sake -- this is very expensive technology," he added about the latest effort. "It's like delivering the San Diego (405) Freeway to your door. It's overkill. ... How much (bandwidth) can you use? You're not going to watch 100 channels simultaneously."
Noll likens telecoms and cable companies to two huge dinosaurs at each other's throats, but unaware they will soon become extinct. Eventually, he said, such middlemen will be cut out and people will download, say, a Disney movie from a Disney server. Another problem is that under current state law telecoms must negotiate franchise agreements with each community they want to operate in, a time-consuming and expensive endeavor.
So the industry has created a nonprofit group called Consumers for Cable Choice to lobby legislatures in states like California and New Jersey to change the laws and allow telecoms to establish cable franchises anywhere they offer telephone service. Texas recently changed its law to accommodate the industry.
By the end of next year, Verizon estimates about one-third of its land-line telephone customers there will have access to FiOS TV, representing about 400,000 households. Unless laws change here, that sort of growth is unlikely.
But at least some local South Bay residents will soon have a choice of cable providers, said Hermosa Beach City Manager Steve Burrell. "No one has ever made the effort to build a second (cable television) system in the city because of the huge capital cost," he said. "It remains to be seen what the competition will bring --whether people will embrace it or not."
The Daily Breeze December 16, 2005
Driver who hit cyclist in MB pleads no contest
A man who hit a bicyclist in Manhattan Beach and put him in a coma has pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and causing injury and is expected to be sentenced to seven years in prison, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Thomas Jon Beaty, 37, of Los Angeles changed his plea from not guilty Wednesday after prosecutors agreed to drop two other charges, including one count of hit-and-run driving, according to Deputy District Attorney Brad McCartt.
Beaty, who will remain in a locked treatment facility until he returns to Torrance Superior Court on March 22 for sentencing, also admitted he caused great bodily injury to Danny Maguire.
Maguire, 20, was riding his bicycle when he was hit by Beaty's sport utility vehicle July 17 in the 1200 block of Manhattan Beach Boulevard.
Beaty drove away but was later arrested in Hawthorne.
With two prior convictions for driving under the influence, Beaty faced a maximum of 13 years in state prison if he had been convicted at trial.
Maguire, a musician and student who was home from college for the summer, was still in a coma in September. The Daily Breeze reported then that he was making slow improvement, including opening his eyes and kissing family members.
Whether his condition has changed could not be determined Thursday.
The Daily Breeze December 15, 2005
HB will accept applicants while mulling decision
Council is deadlocked on election versus appointment for seat, but a final ruling is expected Jan. 10.
Hermosa Beach City Council members are split on whether to call a special election or appoint someone to fill the council seat left vacant when Howard Fishman declined to take office after the November election.
But after a deadlocked 2-2 vote on the vacancy Tuesday, the panel voted 3-1 to call for applications from those interested in an appointment, in anticipation of revisiting the issue at the Jan. 10 meeting. Sam Edgerton cast the dissenting vote in the call for applicants. The council seat became open when Fishman bowed out because his wife was diagnosed with a serious health condition.
Councilmen Michael Keegan and J.R. Reviczky said they support an election while Edgerton and Mayor Peter Tucker said they would be willing to appoint Jeff Duclos, who polled fourth in the Nov. 8 election behind Reviczky.
Edgerton said he believes voters had their say in the election. "We had an election and the people spoke," he said. He said he would rather pave worn-out city streets than spend $40,000 on an election.
Reviczky said he is concerned about an appointment because the new council person would serve a full four-year term. "We bear responsibility for that appointment for the next four years," he said. "I struggle with that."
Reviczky pointed out that appointments have been made by the Hermosa Beach City Council only twice in the city's history. The first was in 1958, when the council appointed someone to serve out the last three months of a four-year term, and the second was in 1960, when the appointee served on the council for three years. "The only way to know for sure what the people want is to have an election," Reviczky said.
Some residents who spoke Tuesday night said they detected a political agenda in the council members' positions.
Edgerton endorsed Duclos in November and Keegan said he supported the fifth-place vote-getter, Patrick "Kit" Bobko, because Bobko had favored Keegan's proposal for citywide free wireless Internet.
Edgerton said he had no such agenda. "I would've made the same suggestion even if the fourth-place vote-getter was my political pain-in-the-neck," Edgerton said.
Reviczky also weighed in, saying he wouldn't agree to an appointment even if Bobko had ended up in fourth place.
Residents who spoke were as divided as the council.
Duclos won the fourth place convincingly against Bobko, who was 400 votes behind him, resident Dency Nelson pointed out. "We had a good election and we were fortunate to have a good turnout," he said. Appointing Duclos would be the logical step, Nelson said.
But resident Steve Francis said the decision requires more thought because it is a four-year appointment. "Voters in November voted three people in," he said. "We have no way of standing here and predicting who would've gotten elected (if Fishman weren't a candidate). I know there's a cost involved in special elections. But democracy is not cheap."
Applications for the City Council appointment are available in City Hall. The deadline to submit completed forms is Jan. 3. The City Council is expected to make a final decision Jan. 10.
The Daily Breeze December 15, 2005
Hermosa Beach settles suit that claimed police misdeed
City pays $1.1 million to former Club 705 owners who said officers repeatedly harassed them.
The city of Hermosa Beach has signed off on a $1.1 million settlement with a former club owner who alleged racism, harassment and use of excessive force by police officers, officials announced Wednesday.
The city's insurance carrier agreed to pay plaintiff Cecil Roberts Jr. and his family, which previously owned Club 705 on Pier Avenue, now known as the Saffire Nightclub and Lounge. Attorneys for both parties said Wednesday that they had reached an "amicable settlement" and declined to comment further, saying the agreement requires that neither party disparage the other.
The lawsuit, filed April 30, 2004, in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, states that Hermosa Beach police officers consistently harassed the club owners and chided them for bringing black people into town.
In one of the incidents on Sept. 20, 2003, the lawsuit states, officer Chris Alkadis arrested Roberts on a made-up charge of "illegal discharge of waste." The complaint states Roberts had a brain tumor at the time and suffered a seizure while seated in the back of a police car. The officers also denied his request for medical attention, the lawsuit says.
In the following months, various officers continued to harass club owners and utter racial epithets especially offensive to black people, the plaintiffs alleged. The lawsuit sought unspecified damages, and the case was headed toward a jury trial in January.
The case was one of nearly a dozen lawsuits against the city this year, a majority of which make similar allegations against Hermosa officers of false arrest, violation of civil rights and excessive force.
City Councilman Michael Keegan said he could not go into the case's specifics but said that, generally, the City Council feels strongly about fighting frivolous lawsuits. "This case was settled because we hit our deductible of $250,000," he said. But the frequency of such settlements could increase the city's insurance rates, Keegan said.
The city is insured for general liability, but must pay a $250,000 deductible on each claim. Hermosa Beach currently partners with 30 other cities in Southern California to receive this type of coverage.
Keegan emphasized that the settlement amount in the Roberts case will be paid by the insurance company, not by the city. "The city spent $250,000 on legal defense in this case," he said. "And we will continue to fight other cases that don't have merit. And cases that do have merit, we'll look to settle."
The Daily Breeze December 14, 2005
Attempted Robbery, w/Firearm: 9:45 p.m. December 7, 3300 block of The Strand.
The victim said he was grabbed from behind by two males who had just walked past him and trapped him between them and a wall. One pointed a gun at his abdomen and demanded money. When the victim said he had none, one of the males took his watch but then examined it and returned it. Both males then ran north. The male with the gun was described as no more that 18 years old, white or Latino, 5-foot-9, 150 pounds with a young sounding voice and wearing a black hooded sweat shirt pulled over his head and lighter colored jeans. The other man was described as being either white or Latino and similarly dressed. Police searched the area but did not find the robbers.
Attempted Robbery, Battery: 8:15 to 8:30 p.m. December 6, 1500 block of Pacific Coast Highway.
A male walked up behind a woman who was waiting outside her workplace for a ride. The suspect demanded money and searched her waistband for a cell phone. The woman opened her purse to show the man she had nothing in hopes he would go away. The man responded by saying, Youre lying, and punched her in the back off the head. The victim said she did not get a good look at the suspect because he was standing behind her and described him as either white or Latino, 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds with a heavy muscular build and wearing a black mask, gloves ad jacket, white tennis shoes and jeans.
Assault and Battery: 1:45 a.m. November 27, Hermosa Avenue and 14th Street.
The victim said he had just been kicked out of the Underground and was walking around to cool off when a man yelled at him. The victim said he yelled back and that the man, who the victim identified as an ex-boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend, punched him. The victim said he was also kicked in the ribs several times, but did not know if it was only the ex-boyfriend or if any of his friends did as well.
The Daily Breeze December 14, 2005
Sobering study on tsunami risks
The Port of Los Angeles and other parts of the California coast are vulnerable to tsunamis, according to a recent report. Its recommendations should be acted upon.
Even in the wake of the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people in the Indian Ocean basin, developing a tsunami-response plan in Los Angeles County has not been easy, especially when responders must also contend ongoing terrorism threats.
But a just-released report from the California Seismic Safety Commission titled "The Tsunami Threat to California" may change that. The report found that major tsunamis are a rare but real threat to the people and economy of California.
The commission documented 80 tsunamis along California's coast over the past 150 years, with 11 causing at least some damage to ports and harbors. The worst of these occurred after the 1964 Alaska earthquake, when a tsunami caused 12 deaths and $15 million in damage in California.
The report says the Cascadia subduction zone off the coast of northern California poses the greatest risk of a catastrophic tsunami. It quotes American Indian accounts of Cascadia earthquakes generating tsunami waves of 60 feet.
In the South Bay, meanwhile, researchers have pointed to the possibility of local tsunamis caused by offshore faults or underwater landslides. Such local events come with much less warning time than distant quakes -- less than 15 minutes.
The commission report offers pointed warnings for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which operate just 9 feet above the average high-tide seawater level. The report warns that a tsunami wave of 15 feet or greater could inundate port operations. A two-month shutdown of the two ports would cause economic losses of $60 billion, the report says. And on any given work day, 8,000 outdoor port workers would come in danger if a tsunami were to slam into the port, causing heavy objects such as thousands of cargo containers, boats, vehicles and mobile equipment to become water-borne.
The report offers four worthy suggestions to reduce the tsunami risk to California. They are improving building standards in affected coastal areas to resist the horizontal blow of tsunamis, public education to give people basic instructions on what to do if a tsunami is imminent, having effective warning systems in affected counties and evacuation planning to get people to quickly move several miles inland to higher ground.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that more than 1 million Californians live in coastal areas vulnerable to tsunamis. The state report labels that significant. Just as significant is the need for emergency service personnel in Los Angeles County to provide evacuation plans and effective lines of communication in the event of such a disaster.
The Daily Breeze September 16, 2005
Rash of BB gun attacks on South Bay cars spreads
Hermosa Beach police reported last month that they had taken about 100 reports from vandalism victims. And about 130 incidents occurred in Torrance and the beach cities in the past month.
The plague of attacks on car windows by vandals with BB guns that has infuriated South Bay residents in recent weeks appears to be moving into the Harbor Area and Carson, adding to the dozens of reports recently from victims in Torrance and the beach cities.
Los Angeles police received nearly 100 reports of such crimes since mid-August in Harbor City, Wilmington and San Pedro. Sheriff's deputies received 32 reports Wednesday and Thursday in Carson and the unincorporated area west of the city.
The crimes occurred between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. on roads including 218th, 220th and 228th streets, the 2200 block of Grave Avenue, and on Vermont and Normandie avenues and Figueroa Street, Lt. Thomas Grubb said.
None of the police agencies in the affected cities has evidence that would lead them to the culprits, who have cost residents thousands of dollars in repairs. Harbor Division police Lt. Rick Angelos said the LAPD in the Harbor Area has no witnesses and no suspect descriptions. "They are not doing anything that would generate prints," Angelos said.
Police need help, he said, from anyone who might have seen vehicles speeding from their neighborhoods. In the Harbor Area, vandals also have thrown rocks at windows and slashed the left front tires of a number of vehicles, Angelos said.
From Aug. 12 to Sept. 12, police received 40 reports from residents in Harbor City, 30 from San Pedro and more than 20 in Wilmington. A large concentration occurred in an area bounded by 240th and 252nd streets and Western and Belle Porte avenues in Harbor City. Most of the crimes occurred from 6 p.m. to midnight.
The vandals appear to just be having fun, Angelos said. "I think this is something that just cracks them up," he said.
Torrance, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach police reported last month that they had taken about 100 reports from vandalism victims. Torrance police received 60 of those reports.
Redondo Beach had three more reports in the last week in the 200 block of South Helberta Avenue, police Sgt. Phil Keenan said. "Many of these things are like $400 windows," Keenan said. "You start doing the math."
The Daily Breeze August 26, 2005
HB official says police are out to defame him
A Hermosa Beach councilman lashed out at police after a
sergeant took a report from a code enforcement officer who complained that
the city official intimidated him on the job at a Pier Plaza restaurant.
Ron Gleistein reported that he didn't issue a noise citation to Sangria restaurant because its owner, Michael Santomieri, appeared at the door with Councilman Michael Keegan, introducing him as a good friend.
But Keegan said Thursday this is another attempt by the Police Department to tarnish his name politically, especially two months before an election in which Keegan is running as an incumbent.
The incident occurred about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 18 when Gleistein was about to issue a ticket to Santomieri for an alleged noise violation. It was at that time the councilman, who appeared to be intoxicated, intervened, Gleistein said.
Keegan told him, "I think you should let (Santomieri) off with a warning," Gleistein reported to Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Raul Saldana, who wrote the incident report.
Gleistein did not issue a citation to Sangria, but later called Saldana and told him that he was "intimidated by Keegan's presence and comments."
Hermosa Beach Police Chief Michael Lavin said his department has no intention of making Keegan a political target.
"It was a routine report and all Sgt. Saldana did was document something that was reported to him," Lavin said. "I've always had a lot of respect for the councilman. I think he's astute and I've been impressed with the manner in which he comes well prepared to council meetings."
But Keegan believes there is hostility because he has supported Robert Nolan and Michelle Myers, who were defendants in a misdemeanor disturbance and public drunkenness case, and because of his tough stance against use of steroids by police officers.
Nolan and Myers were acquitted of all charges in February, but filed a complaint against Hermosa Beach police with the U.S. Attorney's Office, alleging violation of civil rights, false arrest and excessive force. The FBI is investigating their complaint.
Keegan said police saw him speaking with Nolan and Myers at the courthouse during their case and they weren't pleased.
Lavin said it was unusual for a councilman to talk to defendants in a criminal case, but added that he didn't make much of it.
On the night in question at Sangria, Keegan said he merely had a discussion with the code enforcement officer about the council's newly enacted noise ordinance -- noise traveling more than 80 feet may warrant a warning or a citation.
"It just gave me a chance to talk about it, that's all," he said. "I thought we were having a productive discussion."
Keegan denied that he was intoxicated. Ken Klade, who had invited the councilman to an Art Walk event at Sangria, said he saw no signs that Keegan was inebriated.
"I didn't see what happened with the code enforcement officer," he said. "But I said goodbye to him right around 10:30 and he was talking and acting fine."
Keegan has been the subject of two earlier police reports. In January, Keegan and former Planning Commissioner Rick Koenig allegedly threatened to close the Dragon bar on Pier Avenue if employees did not shut the doors to block out noise.
A memo dated Jan. 14, 2004, from the Hermosa Beach Police Officers Association said Keegan referred to police officers as "a bunch of overpaid security guards" during a Christmas party and that he "exhibited inappropriate, unprofessional behavior in the presence of our members and their spouses."
Keegan said police don't like him because he tells it like it is.
"A lot of elected officials support and protect the police because they want an endorsement," he said.
"But I tell things to their face. I think there's serious trouble in our Police Department and it starts at the top."
The Easy Reader - June 30, 2005
Arson suspect left profane note at the Hermosa Ave. house
A woman accused of setting fire to a Hermosa Avenue house with 11 people inside left a profanity-laced note at the scene and then sat watching from the steps of a nearby diner as firefighters put out the blaze, police said. Nobody was injured.
The 31 year-old Carson woman faces an August 11 court date on charges of arson of an inhabited building, and burglary stemming from a separate incident in which computer equipment was taken from a 15th Street apartment. She has pleaded innocent.
The arson incident May 16 was touched off after the woman went to a party the night before at the clapboard house in the 1700 block of Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach Police Sgt. Steve Endom said. At some point during the party she lost her cell phone, and she returned in the early morning hours to look for it, Endom said. She was allowed inside where she rummaged around, bothering the residents, and was told to leave, police said.
Outside, the woman found lighter fluid that had been used for a barbecue at the party and, using newspaper from a rack outside a nearby bar, she set the fire at the southwest corner of the house, police said.
The house filled with smoke and firefighters were called. The fire was put out quickly, and a resident told firefighters that a strange woman with a cast on one arm had attended the party, Endom said. On the way back to the firehouse a firefighter saw a woman with a cast on one arm sitting and watching and called police, who identified her as a suspect and arrested her, Endom said.
Police said a note found in a beverage cooler outside the house read, You all can burn in hell. F - - k you all. You get what you deserve, karma is a bitch. I hope you enjoy where you live now, burnt bitch. Oh well, f - - k you all, especially the a - - holes who were f - - ked up. Dont f - - k around with this motherf - - ker.
Investigators determined that the note was written by the suspect, Endom said.
The Beach Reporter - June 16, 2005
Hermosa Beach News
Council approves citywide Wi-Fi, but with a twist (6/16)
By Whitney Youngs
In a surprising turn of events, the Hermosa Beach City Council Tuesday night voted to direct City Manager Steve Burrell to draft up a nonexclusive franchise agreement with Treyspan Inc. to deploy a citywide wireless system within the public right of way. The service once installed would be a fee-based system with packaged rates ranging from about $20 to $40, and would essentially replace a wireless system free to residents and visitors that Councilman Michael Keegan has attempted to push through in recent months.
"This item is in response to a letter we received," said City Manager Steve Burrell. "Basically what the company wants in this proposal is to begin the process to negotiate a franchise and we would return for final approval. They would like use of the street poles and lights owned by either the city or Edison, and they would be constructing facilities to operate a wireless system for which they have a business plan. In return, they would provide the city access to their system."
Over the last several months, the council deadlocked on whether to approve a free wireless system and whether or not to ask voters if they would be interested in a wireless plan in the form of a ballot measure. Keegan and Mayor J.R. Reviczky have always supported the idea of a free Wi-Fi system offered to residents and visitors of Hermosa Beach. Councilman Peter Tucker has maintained his position that he will only approve a system if it can pay for itself while Councilman Sam Edgerton voted for the pilot program but felt it financially imprudent to fund full deployment.
In January, after much public debate and input, the City Council deadlocked on the issue of whether to move forward and approve the second phase of a citywide Wi-Fi system that would have provided free wireless Internet access to residents and visitors of Hermosa Beach. At a November meeting in 2004, the council deadlocked in the same way with both Tucker and Edgerton voting against the idea that was first spearheaded by Keegan and supported by Reviczky. Tucker said he feels it imprudent to spend government funds on such a service when it could go toward public works improvements like the repaving of roads.
Hermosa Beach initially put the project out to bid and received bids from seven companies for the entire project in the spring. In May, the council voted to award the contract for the first phase of the installation to L.A. Unplugged for an amount of about $35,000 with the intent of awarding the remaining phases of the same project to the company at a later date.
The cost for full deployment of the system, which is and would have been Wi-Max-compliant, would have been about $125,000, which included a $20,000 cost to bring the fiber connection into City Hall, which will serve as part of the city's system and the Wi-Fi system that would have been fully operational in March. The latter cost would have been treated separately. The total cost of the Wi-Fi system would have been about $141,000, an amount that included the cost to install the first phase of the project.
Councilman Art Yoon, who was absent from Tuesday's meeting, has always abstained from the deadlock votes related to a citywide Wi-Fi system since he is employed by Cox Communications, a company that provides high-speed Internet, and believes it to be a conflict of interest.
Mike Paley, CEO of Treyspan, is essentially a lifetime resident of Hermosa Beach and, "...will carry the costs associated with the building, deploying, managing and operating of the network." The company will allow the city to use the network for free, and in return the city will help negotiate with Southern California Edison for use of its poles and use of the city's publicly owned lights and poles. "It is our intent to work closely and cooperatively with the city, and we look forward to a longstanding and mutually beneficial relationship," said Paley.
The Daily Breeze - May 26, 2005
HB city-provided WiFi issue remains unresolved
Members are split, 2-2, with one not voting because he works in the industry.
The issue of free wireless Internet service for residents is deadlocked yet again after the Hermosa Beach City Council split on whether to put the issue before voters in November.
Hermosa Beach launched the free service in August covering 30 percent of the city, but council members could not come to an agreement on whether to expand it citywide.
Council members Michael Keegan and J.R. Reviczky support such a move, but Sam Edgerton and Pete Tucker say they are reluctant to spend taxpayer money on a luxury when the city is struggling to keep basic services afloat. Art Yoon has recused himself because he works for a telecommunications company.
On Tuesday, the issue was whether to put two measures on the November ballot: whether the city should offer free wireless Internet or whether it should offer a service that would require a $100 annual subscription.
Tucker seemed to lean toward asking people if they would be willing to pay for it, but later stuck to his initial contention that Wi-Fi is not a good proposition for Hermosa Beach because of its tight budget. "Of course, everyone is going to vote for Wi-Fi," he said. "But who is going to pay for it? I don't want to mislead voters and tell them we're going to do this one way or the other."
But Mayor Reviczky said he would like to hear the voice of the public on this issue, although it may cost up to several thousand dollars to put it on the ballot. "All I need to ask is a question," he said. "It may be a $6,000 question, but we need to know. The only reason you wouldn't want to ask the question is if you were afraid of the answer."
Edgerton, the program's most vocal critic on the City Council, said discussing the issue was flogging a dead horse. He and Tucker started a fund-raiser three months ago to get seed money for the project, but the fact that it didn't take off is an indication that many don't care, Edgerton said.
"We have a lot of problems in our city right now," he said. "We have declining sales tax, unfunded capital improvement projects, improvements to the fire station and raises for city employees. This is not a time to go wild on something that's unfunded and is going to be a recurring cost to the city."
Keegan, who headed the effort to jump-start the program and came up with the proposal for the ballot question, said the issue may be dead for now, but will be resurrected during the election.
This November, three council members -- Keegan, Reviczky and Yoon -- are up for re-election.
"If we have a new council member, he or she could help break this deadlock," Keegan said.
This issue could even be a likely platform for prospective candidates, he said. "The residents want this program," Keegan said. "And this council can't even agree to ask them a simple question."
The Hermosa Beach Neighborhood Association