Mark McDermott

Napolitano says short-termrental ban will be enforced

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Mayor Steve Napolitano gives his State of the City address at the Joslyn Center. Photo by JP Cordero/Civic Couch

by Mark McDermott

Mayor Steve Napolitano gave a State of the City address last week that was more than a happy overview of civic affairs circa 2019. The mayor made two significant policy announcements: that the city’s oft-ignored ban on short-term rentals is about to be much more strictly enforced, and City Hall will once again be open five days a week.

Both have become hot button issues in the campaign for two open City Council seats. Napolitano playfully argued that the state of the city is significantly better than campaign rhetoric might suggest.

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“There are lots of things you hear during election season. Some are even true,” he said. “But just so there is no mistake about it: the state of our city is stronger than ever. That’s no exaggeration. I’m not just saying that because you say that at State of the City speeches…Not that we don’t have our challenges, but we are better situated to deal with them than we ever have been before.”

Napolitano said that the City is close to signing a contract with Host Compliance, a company which possesses the technology to vigorously enforce the citywide ban on short-term rentals.

“You have to remember there is a ban in place right now,” Napolitano told a packed house on Feb. 27 at the Joslyn Community Center for the annual event, which is organized by the MB Chamber of Commerce. “The issue has been, for the last couple of years, enforcement —  the lack of real teeth. We have a contract in hand with Host Compliance, a company that goes after folks who have short-term rentals on the market when they shouldn’t have them on the market. We are going to have those teeth in place, with Host Compliance, very soon.”

For the last few years, City Hall has operated on a “9/80” schedule, meaning employees work 80 hours in nine days. Napolitano said the City will revert to the traditional five day work week.

“The Teamsters and a lot of our union folks at City Hall have agreed and adopted the [Memorandum of Understanding],” Napolitano said. “We are going back to five days a week.”

Napolitano addressed another frequent criticism featured in council campaigns, that the City has had a vacancy at the helm of the fire department for nearly a year.

“You’ve heard we don’t have a fire chief. We do have a fire chief. We have a chief of chiefs —  [MBPD Chief] Derrick Abell has done an incredible job doing double duty for us,” Napolitano said, as the audience broke into applause for Abell, who began serving as interim chief for MBFD only months after taking the helm at the police department.

“You cannot applaud him enough,” the mayor said. “The fact is we’ve been in a search and we’ve been left at the altar twice. If you’ve seen The Bachelor, you know what I’m talking about. We have a great candidate now, and we are just finishing things up with that candidate and we expect to have him on board soon. Nobody is happier about that than Derrick Abell.”

Napolitano also noted that the city has commissioned a study by LA County regarding the possibility of contracting fire services to the county rather than maintaining its own department, but said that the study itself does not mean a decision has been made on the matter. He said given that neighboring Hermosa Beach has already contracted out to the county and Redondo Beach has likewise commissioned a study, it only made sense for Manhattan Beach to investigate the possibility.

“No decision has been made. It’s going to be the subject of public input and discussion,” he said. “We’ll get the study back in a couple of months and we’ll start engagement then. It’s just something we are looking at. It’s not something anybody has come to any conclusion about.”

Napolitano said the three Beach Cities have joined forces to work to solve the slight uptick in homelessness recently, and are utilizing a $150,000 LA County grant and a task force to address the issue. He also obliquely referenced the citywide ban on camping, adopted by City Council last year, as a tool for enforcement.

“The point being we want to get these folks services and shelter,” he said. “At the same time, we are going to hold everyone accountable to the same standard we hold everyone else. We are not going to make exceptions; we are going to enforce the rules we have.”

The mayor referenced two partnerships the City has invested in, the $1 million the City Council pledged toward the public-private project to build a new Scout House and Senior Center and the $1 million grant given to the Manhattan Beach Unified School District to enhance campus safety in the wake of several school shootings nationally.

“That’s a community issue, not a school issue,” he said, noting that one in five residents is an MBUSD student.

Such issues, Napolitano said, underline the importance of strong civic life.

“Local government impacts your life every day in some way that no other level of government does,” he said. “Forget Washington D.C., forget Sacramento. We are on our own, but we can do things together. We really can.”

Newly appointed MB Chamber CEO Kelly Stroman, in her opening remarks, likewise sounded an optimistic note:

“Whether you live in Manhattan Beach, work in Manhattan Beach, or go to school in Manhattan Beach, we are all here for one reason, and that’s because we love this community. We all want to make it more vibrant, safer, and more successful…Together we can make this the most dynamic little beach town in California.

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