Zoning drives new MBNA, rival says - Manhattan Beach Community Group president criticizes breakaway organization

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Democracy, inclusion, diversity – all these high-minded ideals have been given to explain the formation of the newly-formed Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association (MBNA).

But the president of the 67-year-old Manhattan Beach Community Group (MBCG) says that the divisiveness in Manhattan Beach these days is about one thing only – building bigger houses.

“The difference between the two groups is zoning,” Ira Zalcman told members of his group gathered inside the faculty dining room at Kingsborough Community College for their monthly meeting..

Zalcman challenged earlier claims by former MBCG members like Alan Ditchek and Al Smaldone who said they were treated improperly.

“Nothing I did was going to change their minds,” Zalcman said.

According to Zalcman, disgruntled members of the Manhattan Beach Community Group, who last year failed to convince neighbors to support revising existing zoning regulations, were ready to break away in December and held a secret meeting to discuss the defection in January.

The MBNA president dismissed complaints that sweeping changes he instituted forced the hand of zoning reform advocates.

“We should have a heavy heart that Manhattan Beach is divided,” Zalman said.

Last week, MBNA member Edmond Dweck challenged Zalcman’s characterization of his group as a one-issue group devoted to rezoning Manhattan Beach.

“We are not about one particular issue,” Dweck told fellow MBNA members at P.S. 195.

At least one city agency head already appears fed up with all the squabbling in Manhattan Beach.

Emanuel Kahn, chair of the MBCG’s Parks Committee, told fellow members that Parks Department Commissioner Julius Spiegel “blew his top” the last time he spoke with him about removing the concrete pots on Oriental Boulevard.

The huge planters were part of an almost million-dollar beautification project stretching the length of the Manhattan Beach thoroughfare.

Some complained that they were a hazard to motorists, however, and the MBCG voted to have them relocated off the Oriental Boulevard medians.

Dr. Oliver Klapper said that Kingsborough Community College would be happy to have the pots on its campus. But Spiegel reportedly told Kahn that the planters “aren’t going anywhere and they can’t be donated.”

“He bawled me out,” Kahn said. “He said I’m not going to deal with you anymore. Go through Community Board 15. You don’t know what you want.”

The Parks Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Judy Baron, meanwhile, chair of the MBCG’s Traffic Committee, said that she was reticent to talk about her efforts to get a new traffic light on Irwin Street for fear of “criticism.”

She did, however, reveal plans to provide Manhattan Beach trash cans with green plastic liners.

“We want to revive the green basket program,” Baron said. “It worked the last time and I think we should try it again.”

Zalman charged that the path the MBNA was on would “only lead to confusion” and that his group was “fine politically.”

“The community will decide its future, not politicians,” he said.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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