A Long Beach City Council member is questioning why two established local businesses were passed over for permits to teach kitesurfing in Belmont Shore in favor of three companies who operate in or recently relocated from Huntington Beach.

“I don’t know how these businesses that are brick and mortar, that have invested in our city, are going to stay here … when they don’t even have a license to do their business in our city because we have awarded this to Huntington Beach businesses,” Councilmember Cindy Allen said at a recent council meeting.

The City Council was scheduled to award the permits based on staff recommendations on June 18. Instead, the vote was delayed until August at Allen’s request.

The permits, which allow companies to teach kitesurfing lessons at the beach, are vital, according to Sabrina Parisi, owner of Captain Kirk’s Watersports in Cambodia Town. She estimated that 80% of the income at her brick-and-mortar store is from customers that kitesurfing instructors direct there after lessons.

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Bobby Bluehouse, owner of Always Kiting on Pacific Coast Highway, which also offers lessons at the beach, said he’s had to compete with instructors who are illegally selling gear out of vans parked on the Granada and Claremont launch ramps in Belmont Shore.

“It’s kind of like the Wild West down there,” he said.

Bluehouse and Parisi’s permits to teach in Belmont Shore were set to expire on July 1. After operating at the beach for years, they each said they were confused about why they were passed over in favor of out-of-town businesses that the city is now considering.

Parisi, an Italian immigrant who earned a doctorate in aerospace engineering from Harvard University, bought Captain Kirk’s from the previous owner and relocated the business from San Pedro to Cambodia Town nine years ago.

She left her full-time career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab researching kite technology to give more attention to operating the school. Parisi still works part-time in research and development for Gin, a Swedish kiteboarding company.

Sabrina Parisi, owner, stands in her store Captain Kirk’s Water Sports in Long Beach, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. The store is known for its kitesurfing, windsurfing, and water sports school. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Captain Kirk’s has held a license to teach at Belmont Shore for the past seven years. Parisi said she had a former employee who completed the last permitting process help her with the new application.

“He’s so meticulous. He’s the type of guy that if you send him a text message and it’s missing a comma, he’s going to tell you,” Parisi said.

Parisi’s application for the teaching license is not being considered because it was incomplete when she submitted it at last September’s deadline, according to Jennifer De Prez, a spokesperson for the city.

De Prez said Parisi was missing three elements from her application, which was communicated to Parisi via several emails including a final one early last November. Parisi, however, said she was told only about one missing form related to estimated revenue and she brought it to City Hall the day after she was informed.

City Council members are now questioning whether the application process worked properly.

“We don’t want people locked out of a process because the system itself, whatever the technology, has precluded them from submitting a full application,” Councilmember Joni Ricks-Oddie said at the June 18 meeting.

Bluehouse said he went through the application process and interviewed with Parks, Recreation and Marine Department staff but was not told why his proposal was not passed along to the City Council for final approval.

He moved his business from Arcadia to Long Beach after getting passed over for a license nine years ago, Bluehouse said.

Allen questioned several aspects of city staff’s recommendation of the three Huntington Beach businesses, including why Bluehouse’s Long Beach business was not recommended after he went through the application and interview process.

Several other council members voiced support for some leeway in future requests for proposals, including Councilmember Daryl Supernaw.

“I think we owe it to folks who have invested in this community to at least give them a shot,” Supernaw said. “If this is it, if they missed some paperwork or missed a deadline, I just don’t think that’s the spirit of which this council wants to act.”

Allen’s request to delay the vote was approved while city staff examines why the Long Beach businesses were passed over during the process. The City Council will discuss the matter at the Aug. 6 meeting.