Less than two years after graduating from Boston College, Phoebe Lyons is running for Manhattan Beach City Council. If elected, the 23-year-old will become the youngest to ever do so in the town’s history.
Manhattan Beach has over 35,000 residents. One-in-six are between the ages of 18 and 30, but the average age of the town’s city council is over 50.
“I am going to bring a fresh voice and fresh ideas to the City Council,” Lyons said. “I’m really committed to bringing fresh eyes to our budget, to issues that may come before the Council and thinking of things from my perspective that the current Council members don’t have.”
Lyons graduated from Boston College in 2019 with two bachelor’s degrees in economics and music. She never had any political aspirations, and still doesn’t.
“I’m really just doing this because I care about my hometown and think that I could be an effective leader and an effective representation of some of the younger voices,” Lyons said.
What those younger voices care about, Lyons said, is inclusivity and equity.
Manhattan Beach is a predominantly white community, with 0.5% Black residents. Only 8.3% of the population is Hispanic and 12% is Asian.
After the killing of George Floyd by a police officer on May 25, a young Manhattan Beach couple organized a Black Lives Matter protest at the town’s pier. Lyons was inspired by the unity and change demanded by younger residents.
“Looking at the young people of my town, it was amazing,” Lyons said. “Then looking at the City Council we have and seeing it’s pretty monolithic in terms of age and has been for a while.”
Madeline Taylor, Lyons’s campaign manager, said Lyons wants to have police transparency throughout the town with policing statistics easily accessible on the Manhattan Beach website. According to Taylor, the four main issues Lyons is out to tackle are communication, transparency, environmentalism and inclusion.
The South Bay community itself has a troubled, and rather glossed over, past.
In 1912, Willa Bruce purchased a plot of land overlooking the ocean. On it, she ran a lodge, café and dance hall which would quickly become a hub for the Black people. Everyone referred to it as Bruce’s Beach. When other Black families bought and built their own cottages nearby, a community was born, but it was unwelcomed by the white residents.
White neighbors and Ku Klux Klan members firebombed the Black-owned homes, slashed their tires and put up fake parking signs to deter non-resident Blacks from entering the areas. When these tactics failed to drive Black people out of town, city officials seized more than two dozen properties through eminent domain.
The reason? An urgent need for a public park.
The land was never returned to the Bruce family. After the land seized went through numerous name changes, the Manhattan Beach City Council voted 3-2 to rename the park Bruce’s Beach in 2006.
Lyons commends the current City Council for creating a task force to address the history of Bruce’s Beach and reimagine the plaque currently located in the park that misrepresents the land’s history, but said it is by no means the end of the conversation.
“We have a great opportunity as a city to step up and show everyone who has become aware of the situation that we are a town that is not going to shy away from tough discussions about race and equity,” Lyons said. “We could be facilitating more diversity and have visitors and people who want to move into the town who are not white.”
To do this, Lyons said the best solution is education. If elected, the lifelong Manhattan Beach resident would work to introduce diverse curricula, including anti-racism and tolerance, throughout all of the grade levels. Lyons hopes the students will bring these lessons home with them and discuss it with their parents to facilitate tough conversations.
Lyons is running against seven candidates for the three City Council seats up for reelection.
Two of the candidates, Richard Montgomery – who currently serves as mayor – and Steve Napolitano, are incumbents. The remaining seat does not have an incumbent running.
Like Manhattan Beach, Montgomery has a rocky past. In 2013, instead of going to trial, he paid a fine and surrendered his Real Estate Appraiser License after the Office of Real Estate Appraisers brought a complaint against his company, RichMont Appraisals, to the Attorney General of California.
The other candidates include Chaz Flemmings, Grettel Fournell, Mark Burton and Joe Franklin. This is Franklin’s second campaign for City Councilman, and Burton’s second campaign for City Councilman after being elected and not reelected.
This is Lyons’s first City Council campaign.
Lyons’s love for Manhattan Beach stems from its people. She went to school with the same people from kindergarten to her senior year of high school, who she still keeps in touch with. Taylor, her best friend since the third grade, is now her City Council campaign manager.
Lyons hopes to inspire young Manhattan Beach residents to become town leaders. She wants her passion for her town to be recognized by being elected City Councilwoman.
“It would really feel amazing,” Lyons said. “Not only would it be a great personal accomplishment, I think that it would just demonstrate that as a city, we are really focused on the future and how we can continue to improve our town.”
This coming election day, Manhattan Beach residents can vote by mail starting Oct. 5. They can also drop off a vote by mail ballot at the local post office until Election Day, or at any Vote Center in the county.