Hermosa Beach Residents Still Feeling Burned by Carbon Neutrality

Carbon neutrality dominated the conversation last Thursday when PLAN Hermosa, an update of the city’s General Plan and Local Coastal Program, went before the Hermosa Beach City Council for the first time in a study session.

When Mayor Justin Massey told the standing room only crowd at council chambers that public comment about PLAN Hermosa wasn’t going to take place until around 10 p.m., several members of the crowd became vocal, one yelling “That’s outrageous.” The tone was hostile at times during public comment with one resident asking, “Can we have some decorum in this room?”

Acrimony wasn’t only with the community. Mayor Justin Massey and Councilmember Hany Fangary took aim at Councilmember Carolyn Petty for spreading “misinformation.”

Fangary said he has been attacked at meetings and online because “she decided to convey to people that somehow I was going to vote in a certain way.”

“She exposed me to significant insults and confrontations with my neighbors and friends and my family begin exposed to it. It’s unfair for our colleagues to do that,” Fangary said.

Petty said after becoming a councilmember in 2013 she has been growing increasingly concerned about the “casual manner” that carbon neutrality had been discussed by councilmembers and city staff. She has been a vocal opponent of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), a state-governed policy where municipalities can purchase alternative energy supplies such as solar, wind and natural gas power.

“If you see the vote time and time again it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say I see where this is going … I guess me saying it got through to people … they came to the planning commission meeting and they were furious as they should have been because it’s an unbelievable overreach,” Petty said.

Mayor Justin Massey said he always supported incentives to reduce the carbon footprint in the city and was opposed to mandates as well as purchasing carbon offsets. In order to become carbon neutral, the city would need to purchase carbon offsets, which pays for a reduction in greenhouse gases that has already occurred. At a Strategic Planning meeting last year, Massey said eliminating the idea of carbon offsets was “crystal clear.”

“In that Strategic Planning meeting, you told people if that carbon neutrality was a goal, people wouldn’t be able to have barbecues, they wouldn’t be able to have fireplaces, they wouldn’t be able to drive cars that weren’t on an approved list of the city,” said Massey to Petty. “None of that was true. Barbecues and fireplaces aren’t even on the greenhouse gas inventory, so they are not even a source of emissions that we have to concern ourselves with. That was regrettable that you spread that information when it was patently untrue. You spread information about what your colleagues on the council supported that was patently untrue, based on our clear public statements in meetings that you attended.”

Councilmember Stacey Armato said she wanted to clarify a few things about PLAN Hermosa.

“There’s no carbon neutral mandate on our residents, there are no recommendations to purchase carbon offsets, and it reinforces that only owners of private property can designate their own property as historic,” Armato said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Duclos said the city should focus on paving a way to a “low carbon future.”

At a February Hermosa Beach Planning Commission meeting, residents came out in force voicing their displeasure at “aggressive” mandates to reduce greenhouse gas in PLAN Hermosa, which sets a goal of carbon neutrality by 2020 for the municipality, a top goal for the city since 2013. That means transitioning to energy-efficient options for streetlights, lighting in city-owned buildings and purchasing city electric vehicles. At last week’s PLAN Hermosa meeting, councilmembers expressed their concerns about the 2020 goal. Longer term goals, which are still being debated, include carbon neutrality for the entire community by 2030 or by 2040.

The Planning Commission revised PLAN Hermosa. Instead of the city becoming a fully carbon neutral community by 2040, the language was changed calling for Hermosa to become a “low-carbon community meeting state greenhouse gas reduction goals.” The greenhouse gas emission goal was also aligned with state targets: to reduce by at least 66 percent below 2005 levels by 2040.

Many of the near 40 residents who spoke before the City Council Thursday night repeated those concerns. Several of those against carbon neutrality thanked Petty for being a vocal opponent.

Resident Kent Allen called carbon neutrality an “overreach” of a “leftist Berkeley agenda.”

“The green jihadists are out there doing what they do … this is just a overreach of monumental proportions,” Allen said. “I think the whole thing should be thrown out and I believe, at the very least, we have to live with state mandates.”

Resident Miles Johnson called carbon neutrality “very fanatical” and questioned if the City Council, aside from Petty, cares about the taxpayer.

“You just like to spend our money,” Johnson said.

Monica Fortunato said she and her husband Robert have been referred to as “green jihadists” as well as “eco-morons, eco-elite and eco-tards.” Robert was also called the “energy czar of Hermosa Beach,” according to Monica.

Resident Sheryl Main lamented the lake of civility and decorum during the meeting.

“I think we’re getting some comments that are inappropriate and are misguided and unfortunate,” Main said. “Carolyn, some of that comes from your rhetoric.”

Resident Joan Arias said she expected to be “terrified” by PLAN Hermosa, but that was before she read the lengthy document.

“When I looked at the plan, I thought I would find something that would lock me in my back room and empty my back account,” Arias said. “I found that there was nothing that was going to force me to have solar panels on my house … there was nothing that was going to pry me out of my car.”

There will be two more public meetings focusing on the General Plan. The next meetings will take place May 23 and 31 at the Hermosa Beach City Council Chambers.

Hermosa Beach Residents Still Feeling Burned by Carbon Neutrality, by Michael Hixon, The Beach Reporter, April 29, 2017.

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