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Park to Get Under Way After 19 Years of Debate : Recreation: The Hermosa Beach council votes not to put the issue on the ballot for what would have been the 14th time. The facility should be ready by February.

August 11, 1994|JAMES BENNING | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The oceanfront lot in Hermosa Beach where the Biltmore Hotel used to stand will soon be transformed into a seaside park after two decades of debate and 13 ballot measures.

The City Council had discussed putting the issue on the ballot again, but decided Tuesday on a 3-2 vote against asking voters to decide the issue for the 14th time.

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 1992, the last time the matter was put to a vote, residents approved the development of a park on the site, which is slightly less than an acre. The new ballot measure would have given residents an alternative--to have 60% of the land designated for commercial development.

Councilwoman Julie A. Oakes, who said July 26 that she supported placing the measure on the November ballot because she believed an oceanfront park would create too many maintenance and security problems, voted against the plan this week. She was joined by Councilmen J.R. Reviczky and Sam Y. Edgerton.

After researching the issue recently, Oakes said, she came to believe the smaller lot abutting a park would not attract developers. "There's not much someone could do with it," she said.

Councilman John Bowler said the city's financial situation has worsened since voters approved the park two years ago and said the development of a portion of the site could raise several million dollars for strained city coffers.

"We already have 19 parks in a 1.3-square-mile town," he said.

Plans are under way for a sand and grass park, but the council voted to reduce spending from $89,000 to about $55,000 by eliminating night lights and several of the proposed concrete seatwalls, which are seawalls on which people may sit. The park is expected to be completed by February, officials said.

Although residents will not vote on the development of the oceanfront lot, they will have a chance to vote next year on a ballot measure designed to kill a proposed oil-drilling project.

*

Opponents of the project collected 1,628 signatures to put an anti-drilling initiative on the November, 1995, ballot. Because they had not collected enough signatures in time to qualify the initiative for the 1994 ballot, they had hoped the council would vote to place the measure on this year's ballot.

But the council split on the decision, so the measure will probably appear in a November, 1995, election. Reviczky abstained from the vote.

"I'm disappointed," said Hermosa Beach resident Rosamond Fogg, who spearheaded the signature drive. Fogg said she and other members of the Hermosa Beach Stop Oil Coalition are working to collect enough signatures to force a special election earlier next year.

After voters approved two pro-oil initiatives in 1984, MacPherson Oil Co. of Santa Monica was granted a lease from the city to drill 30 wells in a city yard at 6th Street and Valley Drive.

Donald MacPherson Jr., president of the oil company, said a vote either way will have no effect on the project because he already holds a contract with the city.

Mayor Robert (Burgie) Benz and Bowler opposed placing the measure on the ballot in the fall.

The project is expected to bring in $40 million to $120 million in revenue to the city.

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