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State of the City: A 'Very Exciting Time' To Be In Manhattan Beach

Feb 11, 2016 10:45AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Mayor Burton is joined by local leaders Kelly Stroman, Kyle Ransford, and Mike Matthews at the podium

Declaring this "a very exciting time to be in Manhattan Beach," Mayor Mark Burton delivered a forward-looking State of the City address on Wednesday at a Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce gathering. Following the mayor's remarks, this year's event included presentations by local business and education leaders.

Burton spoke of a "cultural transformation" taking place across the city government,  including a new community development director, a new human resources director, a new 'economic vitality manager,' and an economic development advisory committee. He also noted that city employees are supportive of the revamped 9/80 work schedule that allows them to get more accomplished. "In Star Trek terms, we've gone from Warp 2 or 3 to Warp 9," he said.

Burton also enumerated projects that lie ahead for the city, including the new vision plan for downtown, and goals such as a plan to revitalize the Sepulveda corridor, the Rosecrans corridor, creating great mobility (walking and biking) opportunities within the city, building a five-star hotel in the Parkview complex behind the Manhattan Village Mall, and more. 

"People want to come to Manhattan Beach. Businesses want to come to Manhattan Beach. Businesses recognize good opportunities and seize them," he said, noting the recent sale of Manhattan Towers for $96 million. "We have to leverage that now. We have to build."

Burton said that much of the city infrastructure was built in the 1970s and needs upgrades to meet current needs. Top on the list of facilities in need of a re-boot are the East Manhattan Fire Station (built in 1954), Begg Pool, and the Manhattan Beach City Hall (which would be scraped and rebuilt with underground parking).

Burton also urged residents and businesses to engage and give feedback with the city council. "We need you to engage - it's vitally important that we hear from you."

Additionally, he noted, many times residents are hesitant to call 911 if they see something unusual because they don't know if it rises to the level of an emergency. But he emphasized that the police have a policy of "no call too small." "If you see something out of the ordinary, call," he said.

Following the mayor's remarks were presentations from Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO James O’Callaghan, Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent Mike Matthews, Kelly Stroman, executive director of the Downtown Manhattan Beach Business and Professional Association, and Kyle Ransford of the Downtown Commercial Property Owners.

O'Callaghan highlighted chamber efforts such as Bite at the Beach and Dine MB that draw high-profile attention to Manhattan Beach businesses. He noted that last year the chamber drew 500 million media impressions, and has set a goal of 700 million for this year.

Matthews cited top achievements of the high-performing Manhattan Beach Unified School District, noting that it is in the top one percent of all districts in California, and that all of its schools had achieved Gold Ribbon status.

Matthews added that the schools' curriculum was moving away from "repetitive drill-and-kill problems" and instead were helping kids to be better problem-solvers who persevere through difficulties. "That's what businesses want," he noted.

Matthews said that the district, which is one of the lowest-funded districts in California, is looking toward a facilities bond in November that would take on projects like continuing to install air conditioning, improving safety, and updating the Mira Costa High School gym.

Stroman gave results from a survey conducted over the summer showing that Manhattan Beach drew visitors from six continents. Parking continues to be a major concern downtown, she said, noting that the organization was continuing to work to find solutions for both visitors and downtown employees. She added that the popular Ocean Express Shuttle has brought more than 730,000 visitors to Manhattan Beach in the past 12 years.

Ransford had praise for the city's leadership and responsiveness during "dynamic times."

"The wonderful thing about our city is that everyone is participating in a positive way," he said. "I can't say enough about the leadership of our city council and the city staff," he added, noting that their willingness to engage and balance were "second to none."

Afterwards, Burton said he was pleased with the addition of business and education leaders to the State of the City presentation because it demonstrated how the groups work in partnership. Having those different voices and perspectives at the podium "really energized the room," he said.

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