Growing by a Sunset

The annexation of Sunset Beach is the top story this year, with criminal trials, building projects rounding out the list.

December 29, 2010|By Michael Miller and Britney Barnes,

Surf City, here they come.

Here comes expansion, as tiny Sunset Beach, one of the last unincorporated islands of Orange County, joins the 200,000-resident fold of Huntington Beach.

Here comes the culture of one of the Southland's most offbeat neighborhoods, dominated by one-of-a-kind bars and restaurants and beloved for decades as a celebrity hangout.


And here comes the legal battle, courtesy of a citizens group that sued the city and county a few weeks ago over what it considers unfair taxation.

The annexation of Sunset Beach, and the turmoil that led up to it, qualifies as Huntington's top story of the year. But it was far from the only major event in 2010, when the city saw a former police officer on trial, a packed race for City Council, its local PBS station prepare to go regional, and much more.

Here, in order, are the Independent's picks for the top 10 stories of the year.

1. A new day for Sunset

A month from now, the 1,300-resident coastal strip known as Sunset may be part of Huntington — and so far, it doesn't appear that the neighborhood, in which homes perch on the sand and residents walk to the post office, will change much after the transition.

But that's hardly to say that the annexation has gone smoothly. In the first eight months of the year, the neighborhood's de facto governing body, the Sunset Beach Community Assn., raised more than $150,000 toward trying to incorporate Sunset. In August, though, the Huntington Beach City Council voted to annex the land, which the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission put under Huntington's control in July 2009.

The commission approved Huntington's annexation application in December, but by that time the community was embroiled in another dispute over taxes. A group of Huntington residents had threatened litigation if Sunset was annexed without having to pay the same taxes as the rest of the city, and in November, City Atty. Jennifer McGrath declared that Sunset residents would have to shoulder the additional costs.

A newly formed residents group, the Citizen's Assn. of Sunset Beach, filed a lawsuit in December, claiming the city and county could not go through with the annexation unless Sunset residents were allowed to vote on taxes.

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