Hermosa Beach councilman chose sister city

Jack Wise, a colorful, controversial builder, lifeguard and one-term Hermosa Beach city councilman passed away Wednesday morning, following a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Wise was 84.

In 1967 Wise was instrumental in Hermosa BeachselectingLoreto,Mexicoas Hermosa’s sister city. Jack Belasco, another former Hermosa councilman wrote in his history of the sister city program, that Wise persuaded the city to select Loreto because of its sport fishing, despite the fact that there was no highway to Loreto. But the city did have a landing strip.

“Communications [with Loreto] were still limited to a patching of a marine type telephone,Western Uniontelegraph, or very uncertain mail. Wise, pointed out that [Hermosan] Ed Tabor regularly flew a DC-3 to his Sportsmans Lodge in Loreto,” Belasco wrote.

Wise was elected to the City Council in 1970, a time when the city was involved in a controversial debate over residential density. It was also pre-Brown Act and pre-Coastal Commission. As a result, as much city business was conducted at Mayor Quentin Thelen’s Mermaid restaurant as was conducted in City Council chambers. Wise was widely rumored to have an informal partnership with city building inspector Bud Trott and Mayor Thelen, whose wife was a Realtor.

One of Wise’s most controversial transactions with the city involved the construction ofLoretoPlazaonPier Avenue. Wise owned two contiguous lots and the city owned the neighboring lot to the west. Over the objections of the Hermosa Beach Garden Club, which had planted a garden on the city lot, the city agreed to swap its lot for one of Wise’s lots. As a result, Wise was able to build on either side of the city lot, with second story passageways connecting his two buildings. A wishing well was built on the city owned lot, which served as a plaza and passage way for Wise’s development.

Four decades after Wise left the City Council, his impact on Hermosa continues to be felt, often in unexpected ways.

At a recent City Council meeting, a neighbor of the North End Bar inNorth Hermosacomplained that the bar’s liquor license should be revoked because the neighborhood was not zoned for liquor.

Pat McAuley, a longtime neighbor of Wise’s on the Hermosa Strand, pointed out that, in fact, North End was zoned for liquor. McAuley owned the bar when it was known as Critters.

“When I opened Critters with Mike Bringhurst in 1971 we had a beer and wine license. So we entered the lottery for a full liquor license, and, with the luck of the Irish, we won a license. But Critter’s wasn’t zoned for full liquor. So I talked to Jack and the property was rezoned. I still remember Mike Ludwig (a Hermosa builder and planning commissioner), asking me “How’d you get liquor there without the zoning?”

At press time, services had not yet been scheduled.

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