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Sharkeez burned down in May 2006.

In December 2006 the city council approved an ordinance (# 06-1276) amending the Zoning Code to ease the rules on the reconstruction of damaged nonconforming buildings - such as Sharkeez.

In February 2007 Sharkeez went before the planning commission with plans to rebuild, which included the addition of a second story, a net increase of 2000 square feet.

The proposed increase in square footage brought with it a 20-space parking requirement. The city's Zoning Code as then written would have required Sharkeez to provide 1/4 of the needed spaces on-site - clearly very difficult for a business on the Plaza.

So, on March 13 the city council approved a new ordinance (# 07-1278) amending the Zoning Code so that none of the required spaces would have to be built on-site. The new ordinance, which will go into effect on April 12 unless stopped by this referendum, will apply to all businesses on the Plaza.  (Note added August 18:  The referendum drive was successful, and the ordinance was rescinded.  For more details, see the Results page.)

We believe that the new ordinance should have been written to give the "break" only to those projects involving the addition of office or retail space - not restaurant.

During the March 13 hearing, a citizen (not associated with this referendum) spoke at length about the proposed new ordinance, including this passage:

"It's not a parking ordinance, it's a permit ordinance to build another bar and another footprint, vertical or sideways, and let that person get away with no parking.  And what that opens up for the future that anybody on that row that has one can eventually build a second story, buy themselves some artificial parking, and build themselves another bar or restaurant."

"And only in the CUP is it listed that he stay open 'til midnight. Which can be easily changed."

"So what you've done is given him a parking lot, given him in-lieu of his parking, given him an ordinance to build another bar that eventually could stay open again with no restrictions."

"Just because he can write a check."

Later during the hearing, a councilmember spoke of the need to create an overall plan ("SPA" or Specific Plan Area) for the Plaza - and about his long-held desire to do so - but conceded that he would still vote for the new ordinance.

Another councilmember, who voted against the new ordinance, spoke of his concern about the process:

"...a couple of my colleagues have suggested that perhaps at some future time we can look at this and do it right, but tonight let's just go ahead and slap this together with the holes, scars and warts that it has. Put this thing out there and see if it floats. Why? Well, because we've got a favored business apparently, that someone wants to see have all these exceptions."

"I have no problem if it was this business, another business, any business at all down on the pier. All I'm concerned about is making a bad policy and we are sitting here tonight and we are going to make a bad policy because we either don't have the time or the interest to do it right.  And I can't vote for that.  I'll never vote for a policy that is being done for the simple purpose of expediency or favoritism. I don't know which it is tonight, but I'm disappointed that we're going to pass an ordinance that is clearly something that is not good for the city because we don't have the time or the interest to do it correctly."

Why should the citizens of Hermosa be concerned about the new ordinance, if most of the council is not?

The new ordinance will apply to the entire Plaza, from The Strand to Hermosa Avenue.  If it is allowed to take effect, Sharkeez certainly will build their two-story restaurant, without delay.

We might also quickly see new applications from other sites on the Plaza, as predicted by the owner of Sharkeez:
  "It's gonna cause a lot of other businesses to upgrade their businesses."  (Beach Reporter, February 22)

He didn't specify which businesses, and what kind of upgrades, so here's some guesses.

1.  The owners of Sharkeez also own the building across the street, housing Cafe Bonaparte and Il Boccaccio.  It already has a second floor, which is being used as an office.  Under the new ordinance that could be turned into restaurant space.

2.  Under the new ordinance the ground floor retail spaces in the Loreto Plaza buildings could be turned into restaurant.  One easy project would be to turn the southeasterly retail space into a dining room for Paradise Sushi.
(Note added April 15, updated July 25:  Make that "a dining room for the Fishack."  At their meeting of May 22 the City Council heard a request by Paradise Sushi for later hours, and turned it down. The July 19 BarFly column in the Easy Reader noted that the Fishack will be taking over Paradise Sushi's space.)

On March 24 there was a televised Town Hall meeting about the design of upper Pier Avenue.  Members of the public were encouraged to speak.  One speaker, a well-respected local architect and a key member of the 1992 Rudat committee, spoke for a while about upper Pier,  but ended with a strong caution about the Plaza:

"I'm an architect.  I have an office down on [the last block of] 11th Street in Hermosa."

"I've been a long-term resident of the community in the past.  I lived here all through the eighties and nineties."

"I was on the Rudat committee with Dean of course and so spent many hours trying to get to a point where we could have an event happen in our community.  I'm very proud of the efforts that were put in spearheading the original Rudat program and I think a lot of good things came out of it, some things unexpected."

"And I think we need to continue to try to improve on what that is, in the upper Pier Avenue area.  Conceptually, I think that upper Pier Avenue has an opportunity to be developed as a mixed-use corridor.  I do think that people living in the downtown district makes a lot of sense.  It does work in many communities around the Southern California area.  I think we're all seeing the prudence of many communities, such as European communities, East coast communities with the old brownstones, in Philadelphia, Boston, and so forth, where it does work.  You can have live-work facilities like that.  It does make sense."

"I know that the political will lately has been to not allow that to happen in the downtown district due to problems in the enforcement of a number of things that have occurred down on lower Pier Avenue.  And I think that those are things that really need to be addressed.  And I think that we're just skirting the issue if we don't think about what does go on down there and how we actually can change that for the upper Pier Avenue corridor."

"I'm not a naysayer.  I've always been somebody that has been very involved in my community.  I've been a planning commissioner in Rolling Hills Estates for 6 years, and an arts commissioner in Manhattan Beach for 7 years when I had my business in Manhattan."

"Lastly, I think that there has been a profound setback in the process by the approval of the Sharkeez project and expansion.  I think that it shows that we don't really have the proper direction for ourselves in town here."

"My business has been down there.  I've watched it.  I've pulled my underage kids out of that place in the past -- and their friends."

"A leopard doesn't change its spots.  Those folks came to me to develop that building, because of my knowledge of this city.  I turned it down."