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Community speaks on downtown riot

Sunday's disturbance will be focus of new task force.

July 31, 2013|By Anthony Clark Carpio

Huntington Beach residents made it clear to council members on Tuesday that not only does the U.S. Open of Surfing need to change, but so does the overall atmosphere of the downtown area.

Surf City's council chambers were packed to the gills for the town hall meeting city officials called for, where 51 residents addressed concerns about the disturbance after the end of the nine-day surfing competition and offered solutions to prevent such an action from happening next year.

Many residents, including surfing legend Peter Townend, said the U.S. Open isn't a surfing competition anymore, but more of a place for teens and young adults to party and be seen.

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Downtown resident Jeff Freud said he grew up in Newport Beach and as a child wasn't allowed to go to Huntington Beach because of the culture in the city at the time.

He said he had three offices in downtown but has moved them to Newport after seeing the devolution of the area. Now he said he's even considering moving his family to Newport as well because of how bad things have gotten in the past few years.

"I let them pee on my grass. I didn't want conflict," Freud said. "I let them throw their bottles onto my grass and we picked them up."

He told council members that the Open isn't a surf contest and asked them to travel to other surfing events in the state and try to replicate them in Huntington Beach.

"We hosted a young South African surfer in the contest and once he was eliminated, he wouldn't go back down there," Freud said. "This is a guy that travels the world surfing and he didn't want to go watch surfing."

Seana Cormack told council members that during her youth, she was one of the delinquents in the city. But having grown up and now owning a business, she said the city's priorities in downtown have shifted.

"We as a community have been sold out," Cormack said. "We've been sold out for profit over safety objectives, resources and rationale of our community."

Downtown business owners said the Open doesn't help bring them revenue. One owner said he saw his sales go down 90% at one point during this year's competition.

"We're not making the money you think we are," said Susie Smith, who owns Makin Waves Salon on Main Street.

Huntington Beach police Chief Ken Small gave a presentation before the public comments, giving a timetable of what occurred Sunday night.

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