Path clear for wheelchairs on Hermosa Beach Greenbelt
by Kevin Cody
Debate over making the Hermosa Beach Greenbelt more wheelchair accessible elicited opposing views, even among wheelchair users during a pilot demonstration Saturday morning, hosted by Mayor Mike Detoy.
A bright blue, Mobi-Mat, used to provide wheelchair access across the beach sand, was laid atop a stretch of the Greenbelt’s wood chip path.
“I’m ecstatic,” said handicap activist Geoff Hirsh, who has been wheelchair bound since suffering a stroke seven years ago. Hirsh led the effort to get Mobi-Mats on Hermosa’s beaches. He has been advocating a wheelchair-friendly surface on the Greenbelt for five years. He noted that 10 percent of the population will have mobility difficulties prior to their deaths.
“Finally, we have a city council that gets it,” Hirsh said.
Last Thursday, the city council approved replacing one-quarter mile of the Greenbelt’s wood chip path, between Pier Avenue and Eighth Street, with firmer decomposed granite.
“It’s a waste of time and money,” contended wheelchair bound Gary Clark.
Clark made a point of driving his electric wheelchair on the wood chips during Saturday morning’s gathering.
“My wife pushes our grandkids in a stroller, and I ride alongside them on the Greenbelt every weekend,” the longtime Hermosa resident said.
Newly appointed Public Works Director Joe SanClemente told the two dozen residents who attended the demonstration that wood chips are not sufficiently stable to satisfy the American Disabilities Act (ADA), passed by Congress in 1990. The law requires public access to public facilities for people with mobility issues.
Several residents expressed concerns about bicyclists riding on the handicap path, making it unsafe for pedestrians. Opponents also feared the proposed path would be extended the length of the 1.7 mile Greenbelt, which bisects the length of the city from north to south.
SanClemente acknowledged bike riding on the Greenbelt is legal, but said the proposed quarter-mile hardened surface is too short to attract many bicyclists. He also said the proposed quarter-mile would not need to be extended because the distance is sufficient to satisfy ADA requirements.
Former City Councilman JR Reviczky noted that the city acquired the Greenbelt, in 1986, making it except from the 1990 ADA legislation. He also said the ballot measure that approved the purchase of the right-of-way stipulated that nothing be built on the Greenbelt.
Mayor Detoy pointed out that workout stations, water fountains and the September 11 Memorial have been built on the Greenbelt.
He agreed that the Greenbelt is exempt from ADA legislation, but added, the council has committed to a 30-year, $50 million plan for citywide ADA compliance.
The city has budgeted $662,000 in the 2021-2022 budget for handicapped accessibility.
San Clemente stressed the handicap Greenbelt path is a pilot program, and will be reviewed throughout the coming year. ER