Green signs okayed, rental regs rejected

The City Council has agreed to place business-sponsored signs with ecological messages on roadsides, rejected a plan to regulate party-hardy rental homes, and finalized water conservation measures.

The council moved to contract with the company EcoMedia to place at least eight signs with environmental messages on Hermosa streets. The signs will also bear the names of businesses that would pay EcoMedia, and pay the city a total of perhaps $10,000 a year.

Councilman Jeff Duclos cast the lone dissenting vote, contending that the three and-a-half foot wide signs, which could in time number 25, could result in “corporate advertising in the guise of an environmental message.”

Duclos is a longtime environmental advocate who has been honored for his work on Surfrider Foundation’s national Board of Directors.

Another local environmental advocate, Dency Nelson, cautioned the council that “corporate villains” could use the signs to “green-wash” their reputations on environmental issues.

Councilman Kit Bobko said city officials can work to mitigate concerns about the signs as they approve them on an individual basis.

“This is found money,” he said.

In a separate matter the council, on a split vote, rejected a plan to regulate short-term rentals at seaside homes, some of which have drawn complaints from neighbors weary of loud, party-oriented vacationers.

Councilmen Jeff Duclos, Pete Tucker and Howard Fishman voted to end discussions that could have led to the formal regulation of the rental homes, while Mayor Michael DiVirgilio and Councilman Kit Bobko argued unsuccessfully to continue studying the regulation.

Proponents of an ordinance to regulate rentals of 30 days or less have said it would give the city a new tool to clamp down on neighborhood nuisances, while collecting perhaps $45,000 a year in hotel taxes from the renters’ landlords. Opponents have said the ordinance could increase short-term rentals by formally legalizing them.

Tucker pointed out that a tentative ordinance under discussion would have allowed 12 people to rent a four-bedroom home.

“Where are they going to park,” he said. “To me the [hotel tax] is not worth it.”

Tucker said the city should concentrate on enforcing existing noise restrictions to control disturbances from short-term renters.

DiVirgilio said passing an ordinance would allow the city to enforce standardized regulations on short-term rentals. Looking down at the tentative ordinance on the dais before him, he said, “We have to make some tweaks, but I think this is the way to go.”

Additionally, the City Council finalized a move to join neighboring towns and limit the daily water use of residents and businesses.

The council unanimously finalized a new ordinance governing water use, against a backdrop of three years of drought that have shrunk California water reservoir levels by 25 percent.

The water conservation ordinance, which is similar to ordinances adopted in the neighboring beach cities, Torrance and Lomita, limits lawn watering to 15 minutes per evening, unless the watering is done with drip or below-ground irrigation systems or with a handheld hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle.

The ordinance also requires coverings for pools and spas, and outlaws water runoff. It requires residents washing vehicles to use a bucket or a hose with a handheld shutoff nozzle, and requires new commercial carwashes to maintain water recycling systems.

Drought emergencies could trigger greater restrictions.

The council also finalized a landscape ordinance that duplicates a state law by requiring large development projects to submit water-efficient plans.

In addition, the ordinance requires small projects to use organic mulch in some planted areas, and to avoid water runoff. It also forbids the planting of some water-intensive plants.

The water and landscaping restrictions can be enforced with fines, but city officials have stressed they will seek voluntary cooperation instead. ER

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