Surf City Drama

Drama MasksAlthough most of the country did not experience the projected “red wave” in last week’s midterm elections, my hometown of Huntington Beach, California was a different story. GOP endorsed City Attorney Michael Gates and four Republican-backed city council candidates created a “Fab-Four” slate (their term not mine) and won the majority of votes.

Of course, there was drama. Surf City politics always includes multiple plot twists. Gates was victorious over a challenger who had previously worked for him and sued for age discrimination. The city paid out 2.5 million dollars to settle the case and 1.5 million in court fees.

Surf City is no stranger to law suits. In 2019, Governor Newsom filed suit against Huntington over a lack of affordable housing. Michael Gates countersued, claiming that charter cities like Huntington were exempt from housing mandates. Gates has sued the state of California multiple times over amnesty, homeless shelters, and Covid mandates.

Tagged Street SignsSurf City residents tend to bristle at mandates.

After Mayor Pro Tem and Mixed Martial Artist Tito Ortiz abruptly quit in June of 2021, the council appointed a replacement which created a progressive majority. The council decided not to appeal when the California courts ruled that being a charter city did not excuse Huntington from state housing mandates.

Attorney Gates was not happy about this decision. Many Huntington Beach residents were not happy either. A group called “Save Surf City” started a recall attempt to remove six of the seven council members. The recall ultimately failed in April of this year. The cost to the city was $144,000.

When three of the incumbent council members termed out this year and one decided to run for State Representative, the “Fab-Four” saw their chance. They ran campaigns that were well organized and robust, including 110 meet-and-greets at various Surf City eateries since the Fourth of July. Their campaign signs were everywhere. Their promise to Huntington Beach residents was that they would fight against high-density-housing, have Michael Gates continue to sue the state of California on required housing mandates, and initiate a 90-day plan on homelessness using nonprofits and churches to “solve the problem.”

It’s an ambitious agenda considering that no city has been able to “solve” homelessness period, much less in 90-days. California cities who are not in compliance with state housing regulations now risk something called “builder’s remedy,” which means the city loses any local control of projects with an affordable housing component.

Suing the state again also puts Huntington back on Governor Newsom’s radar. The governor survived the recall attempt on him last year and was easily reelected to another four-year term. The Fab Five needs to fasten their surf leashes. Red wave or not, it’s bound to be a bumpy ride in Huntington.


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