MOORLACH UPDATE — Super City — February 22, 2011

I was interviewed for the piece below a week or so ago.  It was published on the Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch.com website on Sunday.  Since the interview, I’ve enjoyed a luncheon meeting with the Mayors of Seal Beach and Los Alamitos, Michael Leavitt and Ken Stephens, along with the President of the Rossmoor Community Services District, Jeffery Rips.  We had a long and exhaustive conversation on many subject matters.  Discussing the idea of a combining these three geographical areas into a “super-city” was first and foremost during our time together.

The leadership of Rossmoor vociferously requested that I allow this unincorporated area to pursue cityhood.  The way for an election was cleared in 2008 and the results were disappointing.  The residents wanted to remain an unincorporated island.

The long-term directive at the county has been to move unincorporated islands into neighboring cities.  This focus preceded my election to Supervisor.  The easy road is to leave the islands alone.  However, I came here to do things, not just bide my time and keep disgruntled constituents to a minimum.  My first year as Supervisor saw me attempting a “global solution” with islands within the cities of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.  This is on hold, pending the development of Banning Ranch, another unincorporated island.  I was able to annex West Santa Ana Heights into the city of Newport Beach.  In my second year as Supervisor, I enjoyed the efforts in Rossmoor.  In the third year, I was able to move one of the two islands into the city of Fountain Valley.  The fourth year found a successful effort to annex Sunset Beach into the city of Huntington Beach.  This year I want to move one of the five islands in the city of Stanton into the city.  Banning Ranch and Rossmoor seem to be on hold.  (I use the pronoun “I” for reading purposes, but it took teams of cooperating leaders to accomplish these efforts.)

Funny things happen, though.  Rossmoor is happy to be a county island, but has over sensationalized its coyote concerns.  It has also made numerous false claims about our responses to this concern.  Clarifying the obfuscation would take another 800 words.  What is the proposed solution vociferously being recommended?  Give Rossmoor the latent powers to manage animal care.  Unfortunately, our studies indicate that it would cost Rossmoor more money to do so.   And, the Local Agency Formation Commission is most likely not in the mood to approve such a recommendation.

Rossmoor doesn’t want to merge with Los Alamitos.  Seal Beach doesn’t want to merge with Rossmoor.  The “latent powers” proposal doesn’t pencil out.

There are three other options to review.  The first is the idea of a super-city, which is the topic of the Patch.com piece below, and is probably the best alternative to consider.  The second is for me to discontinue holding back the fourth corner (the southwest corner of Los Alamitos Boulevard and Katella Avenue) from the city of Los Alamitos.  This city has been cooperative with me and LAFCO at every juncture.  They have been patient throughout.  A partial annexation is better than no annexation.  The third is to put a utility users tax (U.U.T.) on a countywide ballot that would require unincorporated islands that are subsidized by the county to make up the difference.  It is not ethical to have certain areas subsidized by other taxpayers.  Implementing an equitable tax burden should be considered.

There it is in a nutshell.  I’ve been working with the residents of Rossmoor since I arrived.  Now that they are receiving misinformation on how the county is handling its coyote concerns, I can appreciate their frustrations with me and my office.  Simply put, I’m doing my best to follow a long standing directive that is fair and reasonable.  Consequently, we’ll work on gathering data to take a hard look at the super-city model in the coming weeks and months.

If you want to read more on this subject, here are two recent links that I do not believe I included in my Updates (to avoid repetitivity):  http://www.ocregister.com/news/services-288015-lafco-annexation.html and http://www.ocregister.com/news/rossmoor-287595-community-residents.html

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Could Los Alamitos, Rossmoor and Seal Beach Merge to Create One "Super City?"

County Supervisor John Moorlach sees merit in the merging of the three communities. Do you?

By Paige Austin

The communities of Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and Rossmoor are as intertwined as they are distinct from one another.

They share a school district and a police dispatch center along with youth sports leagues and recreational resources.

If Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach has his way, they’d also share a name. Moorlach has long suggested that residents in the three cities consider merging to form one “Super City.”

It’s a politically charged suggestion that hasn’t gained much traction in the past. However, as Rossmoor faces pressure from the county to join forces with Los Alamitos, the idea, once again, has people talking.

In a time of budget deficits and cutbacks, there are economic benefits to be had from such a merger, said Moorlach.

“It’s a win, win, win all around,” said Moorlach. “It would give the same benefits of a private sector merger.”

However, there really is no precedent for the merger of cities, acknowledged Moorlach.

The real challenge would be to overcome people’s sense of territorialism, he said.

“You can keep your identity and your charm but have more effective governance,” said Moorlach.

By merging, the cities could eliminate duplicate services and departments but still maintain their independent sense of identity much the same way Newport Beach encompasses distinct communities such as Balboa Island and Corona Del Mar, he said.

If history is any indicator, such a merger would have major obstacles – public and political will being the biggest.

Decades ago, Seal Beach annexed the portion of land that now houses The Shops at Rossmoor. It was a controversial move then and remains so today as The Shops are patronized by Rossmoor residents, but the sales tax revenue goes into the Seal Beach coffers. The wound was reopened a few years back when Seal Beach City leaders opted not to annex Rossmoor.

In 2008, Rossmoor residents voted not to incorporate to become a city. The cityhood measure is one that divided the community and echoes of that division can be heard in the community’s current efforts to resist annexation by Los Alamitos.

At a meeting in Rossmoor last month, Los Alamitos city leaders offered to provide police and animal control services to Rossmoor and openly discussed the possibility of the two cities one day merging. It was a suggestion met with distrust, hostility and rejection by dozens of Rossmoor residents who spoke up at the meeting.

At a subsequent Local Agency Formation Commission, Moorlach and county officials discussed the possibility of Los Alamitos annexing Rossmoor’s only commercial center at the corner of Katella Avenue and Los Alamitos Boulevard and providing police services to Rossmoor in exchange, said Rossmoor Community Services District General Manager Henry Taboada.

“He dropped a bomb on us,” Taboada said.

Such a move would effectively destroy Rossmoor’s ability to ever support itself as city (sic) because Rossmoor would need the sales tax revenue from that corner to sustain itself. Forcing Rossmoor to accept services from Los Alamitos is about a step away from trying to force Rossmoor to be annexed by Los Alamitos, said Taboada.

Rossmoor residents would benefit greatly by merging with Los Alamitos and Seal Beach because they don’t currently have any political say, said Moorlach. The merger into one Super City would create a new city with much more political capital, he added.

Getting Seal Beach to reconsider annexing Rossmoor would be a big hurdle, acknowledge (sic) Moorlach.

It would be a challenge because each community has its own distinct flavor, said Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce President Erik Dreyer-Goldman.

“Plus the last time I checked, the beach doesn’t go that far inland,” he added.

If people examine the benefits of such a merger, it’s not such a far-fetched possibility, said Moorlach.

“At the end of the day, the big issue is what name we would use, and I think Seal Beach is fine,” said Moorlach. “It’s got salability and an intrinsic means of increasing property values.”

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