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A tough ride into Sunset

Eight months after a judge officially put the small seaside town under Huntington's control, residents see both positives and negatives.

April 18, 2012|By Michael Miller
  • Students on spring break wait for instruction on how to use stand-up paddleboards at OEX Kayak Rental in Sunset Beach on April 9. The small seaside community of 1,200 was annexed into Huntington Beach's control about eight months ago, and residents see that fact in both negatives and positives.
Students on spring break wait for instruction on how to… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Stacy Londo can see the annexation of Sunset Beach through two sets of eyes.

One is that of a concerned resident who wants to preserve the pace of life in her tranquil seaside neighborhood.

The other is a child's.

Londo, who has lived in Sunset for 13 years, shares some of her neighbors' wariness about the area's August annexation by Huntington Beach. Like them, she worries that the long-unincorporated strip of Orange County will lose its offbeat vibe, and that the city may implement parking meters and other changes.

When she takes her 3-year-old son to the community playground by the beach, though, Londo can't deny that annexation has brought a few welcome changes. In this case, they're material ones: After Huntington took over Sunset, its Public Works Department removed the corroded equipment and put in new swings, a slide and more.

"At the end of the day, we're excited to get it upgraded," Londo said on a recent Monday as her son raced around the sand.

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It has now been eight months since an Orange County Superior Court judge officially placed Sunset under Huntington's control. In the two years before the decision, some in Sunset bitterly fought the move and even attempted to turn the neighborhood into its own city. An appeal of the annexation is winding its way through court.

But even as some Sunset residents fight the new taxes they pay every month, many find themselves in a position similar to Londo's — finding the changes to the neighborhood minimal and, in some cases, welcome.

The Sunset Beach Community Assn., which served as the area's de facto governing body before the annexation, still holds regular meetings, often with Huntington officials in attendance. The city has a committee of its own to deal with Sunset issues.

Some of the area's roughly 1,200 residents say the city maintains greenery better than the county and that Huntington police respond more quickly than the county sheriff's deputies.

A walk through the neighborhood, though, still reveals "No on Sunset annexation" signs in windows and a "Help save Sunset Beach" banner on the side of a popular tavern. The bulletin board outside the post office features anti-annexation literature alongside notices from the city and women's club.

"The whole community is absolutely divided," said Janese Johnsen, a 10-year resident and among those who opposed the annexation.

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A fistful of dollars

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