Here are the Independent's other top stories of 2011:
2. Little Leaguers go big
The Ocean View Little League Majors All-Star team went on a historic journey during the summer. The Huntington Beach squad captured Section 10 and Southern California Regional tournament championships to move on to the Western Regional at San Bernardino, where it topped Red Bluff Little League of Northern California, 2-1.
The dramatic win earned Ocean View a ticket for a first-ever trip to the 65th annual Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa. Ocean View saved its ultimate drama for last: On the final day of the World Series on Aug. 28, a two-out, bases-loaded single by Nick Pratto lifted the All-Stars to a 2-1 victory over Hamamatsu City, Japan.
A day later, a crowd of nearly 1,000 people and various news agencies greeted the Ocean View team upon its return to Huntington Beach.
3. Shooting leaves eight dead
Huntington Beach resident Scott Evans Dekraai was allegedly seeking revenge on his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, when he walked into Salon Meritage in Seal Beach at 1:20 p.m. Oct. 12 with a bulletproof vest and three guns.
He is accused of killing Fournier, whom he was targeting following their bitter custody battle over their 8-year-old son, and seven others. The rampage was the worst in Orange County history.
Dekraai now faces eight counts of first-degree murder, and the Orange County district attorney is seeking the death penalty.
4. Sunset Beach annexed
Two years after the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission put Sunset Beach under Huntington's sphere of influence, the small seaside community finally became part of its much larger neighbor.
The commission declared the annexation final in August after Orange County Superior Court Judge Frederick P. Horn ruled against a petition by the Citizen's Assn. of Sunset Beach. The grass-roots group had sought to block the annexation, which the court stayed in January, until Sunset residents could vote on paying the same taxes as the rest of Huntington.
The association, backed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., has filed a notice of appeal and plans to deliver its opening brief by February.
5. Chief has top paycheck
At $363,608, former Huntington Beach Fire Chief Duane Olson retired with the highest paycheck among municipal fire chiefs statewide in 2009, the most recent year for which there was data, according to the state controller's office.
His pay that year was boosted by more than $70,000 in accrued sick time and more than $56,000 in accrued general leave, among other payouts.
Olson, 62, now receives a monthly pension of $16,001, an amount that will only increase for the rest of his life based on the cost of living.
6. Sex offenders banned
The Huntington Beach City Council voted 4-3 in November to prevent registered sex offenders from entering parks, following the county Board of Supervisors' adoption of a similar ordinance and a letter from Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas urging cities to do the same.
But Surf City went a step further, making its ordinance even more restrictive than the county's, which has a provision that allows some registered sex offenders to enter county parks with permission.
The city's ordinance, however, lacks any room for exceptions. UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, a renowned constitutional scholar, said the council's decision could lead to legal challenges.
7. Landmark burns down
More than 100 years of Surf City history went down in flames April 30 as a fire eliminated most of the Woman's Club of Huntington Beach headquarters.
The building at 420 10th St., which dated to 1910, had provided a meeting place for the club and other groups for years. Fire officials declared the blaze accidental but said the exact cause may remain unknown, although Deputy Fire Marshal Jeff Lopez said an electrical malfunction was most likely.
City officials said the club could build a new structure in the same place, but modern codes would prevent it from being an exact replica of the old building. President Jackie Judd said club members are considering fundraising options for a new facility and hope to start in January.
8. Fireworks debate sizzles
The City Council voted 5-2 in December to lift the ban on the sale and usage of fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday.
The proposal passed despite strong opposition from the police and fire chiefs, who told the council that lifting the ban would further stretch the city's resources and could have major safety consequences.
The proposal was brought forward by Don Hansen as his first item as mayor of the city. He said if surrounding cities can do it, then Huntington Beach can as well, and its residents should be able to enjoy the tradition of fireworks. City staff are expected to draft an ordinance and bring it before the council for a vote early next year.
9. Plastic not H.B.'s bag
The City Council voted to ban single-use plastic bags at supermarkets and other stores. The move divided the council and residents, as some said the ban is symbolic and would not result in any real change. Others, though, hailed it as a step toward preserving the environment.
Plastic bags used to separate produce or meat or to collect pet droppings at Huntington Dog Beach were not banned, however. Paper bags can be used, but customers would be charged 10 cents for each one.
10. City remembers 9/11
As Huntington paused Sept. 11 to observe the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the city received a sobering remnant of that day 10 years ago.
The city's police and fire associations facilitated the delivery of two steel girders from the World Trade Center and announced plans to include them in a memorial sculpture outside City Hall. New York firefighter Chris Howard, the son of a police officer who died in the World Trade Center, visited Huntington to present one of the girders.
Afterward, the associations invited community members to submit designs for the memorial, which must involve both girders, mention the locations of the attacks and avoid religious messages. The deadline passed Dec. 15, but officials, still awaiting submissions, have pushed it back to Feb. 15.