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Oceanfront Site May Go on Ballot Again Despite '92 Decision for Park : Hermosa Beach: Fearing high maintenance costs, council members are considering another vote on the former Biltmore Hotel acreage. It would be the 14th time the issue has gone before voters.

July 28, 1994|JAMES BENNING | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Hermosa Beach residents may have a chance--for the 14th time--to decide the future of an oceanfront lot where the Biltmore Hotel used to stand.

Since the Biltmore was razed in 1965, 13 ballot measures have been placed before voters to determine how to use the city-owned lot on The Strand between 14th and 15th streets. In the latest vote in 1992, residents designated the land as open space.

Now, with plans under way for a grass and sand park, officials are considering putting the issue on the ballot one more time.

Three City Council members said at a meeting Tuesday they have doubts that a park is the best use for the site, which is slightly less than an acre.

"I'm not altogether sure people knew what they were voting for on this thing," said Mayor Pro Tem Robert (Bergie) Benz.

The council plans to vote Aug. 9 whether to put the issue on the November ballot in conjunction with the statewide election and give voters another alternative--to have 60% of the site designated for commercial purposes.

A park "can be a maintenance nightmare and it could be a security nightmare," said Councilwoman Julie A. Oakes. Although voters approved a park in 1992, Oakes believes the city's financial situation has worsened and said maintaining the park might be too costly.

"I've been a member of the Sierra Club for 20 years; I love parks," she said. But Oakes said similar parks in Venice have attracted crime. She prefers that only a portion of the site be made into a park.

"I would like to see perhaps a bed-and-breakfast and a nice outdoor restaurant that residents could use," Oakes said.

The council voted 3 to 1 to consider the issue at its next meeting. Mayor Sam Y. Edgerton was absent and Councilman J. R. Reviczky opposed the plan.

Although Reviczky voted against the development of a park in 1992, he said the council must uphold that vote.

"As an elected official I'm forced to do things I don't necessarily agree with," he said.

Among the city's plans for the land in the past were houses, businesses, open space and combinations of the three. In 1991, residents voted to designate the land for commercial and residential use, but the city sat on the land in the face of a lagging real estate market. Parker Herriott, a Hermosa Beach resident, spearheaded a movement in 1992 to convert the lot into an oceanfront park. "They're rotten, dirty, filthy bums," he said after the vote Tuesday. "They don't believe in elections."

Development of the park will continue as planned, despite the controversy, officials said. Construction, estimated to cost $89,000, is not expected to begin until November.

The proposed design calls for granite pathways to meander through grassy knolls and sandy areas around the site, but council members said at least part of the park must be redesigned for safety reasons. Proposed sandy areas adjacent to The Strand could cause roller-skaters and cyclists to fall, and grassy knolls could allow lawbreakers to hide, said Herriott, who favors the safety modifications.

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