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Seal Beach gets faster streets Charles M. Kelly | Wed, Dec 02 2009 12:20 PM

Speed limits will rise on some Seal Beach streets. On Monday, Oct. 12, the Seal Beach City Council unanimously adopted a resolution establishing city-wide speed limits.

According to the staff report presented and written by Director of Public Works Vince Mastrosimone, California law requires posted speed limits to be justified by an engineering and traffic survey every seven years. The last Seal Beach survey was done in 2002.

“If a speed survey is not renewed every seven years, or if speed lmits are posted that are not based on a study, then the speed zone is considered a ‘speed trap’ under the (California Vehicle Code) and is not enforceable by radar,” Mastrosimone wrote.

The 2009 survey recommended changes on some streets, including raising the 25 mph limit on Almond Avenue from Aster to Jasmine to a 35 mph limit. The 45 mph speed limit on Seal Beach Boulevard from Pacific Coast Highway to Bolsa would be increased to 50 mph.

Mastrosimone explained how the survey established recommended speed limits. Traffic surveys are based on the driving speed that 85 percent of motorists  recorded during the survey. Under state guidelines issued in 2003, the survey is based on the nearest 5 mph increment to the “85th percentile.”

“The City Council is essentially free to set any speed limit between 25 mph and 55 mph; but radar enforcement can only be used on those streets where the speed limit conforms to the engineering study results,” Mastrosimone wrote.

The alternative to radar enforcement would be for officers to follow vehicles. “According to the police department, this method does not work effectively,” Mastrosimone wrote.

The council had three options: adopt the speed limits based on the survey, adopt speed limits based on discussion among council members or reject the survey entirely. The council adopted the survey.

That same night, the council approved a revised policy for reimbursing council members for travel expenses.

District 4 Councilman Gary Miller had asked at a previous council meeting to establish whether mileage would be reimbursed based on actual miles traveled or based on MapQuest.

Miller suggested council members be reimbursed for actual miles driven, based on IRS reimbursement standards.

Robbeyn Bird, director of administrative services and city treasurer, explained that staff used mileage as the basis for travel reimbursement, subject to verification by MapQuest or one of two other Web sites.

Miller said that wasn’t verification in his mind. He said verification was that if he said he drove 500 miles between Seal Beach and Sacramento and MapQuest said the distance was 459 miles, then he obviously didn’t make a major mistake.

District 5 Councilman Michael Levitt said MapQuest would work in a perfect world. However, in reality, it was sometimes necessary for a traveler to take a 20 to 30 mile detour to get around a traffic choke point.

Levitt suggested staff take council members at their word about mileage driving.

Bird said told him, “with all due respect,” that if she accepted everyone at their word, the city of Seal Beach would not be in as good financial condition as it is now. 

Earlier, City Manager David Carmany explained that some of the city’s new financial procedures were in place as a direct result of the embezzlement of more than a quarter million dollars by the former city treasurer.

According to Carmany, one of the things the former treasurer did was to access payroll accounts to give himself an unauthorized raise.

The current director of administration/treasurer does not have access to payroll.

Mayor Gordon Shanks, echoing Levitt’s words, said if the public had enough respect for the council members to vote for them, than the staff should have enough respect for council members to take their word.

Councilman Charles Antos said he had been on a lot of trips for the city, had always used MapQuest to establish his miles and never had a problem.

City Attorney Quinn Barrow said he knows that council members forget to fill out the mileage form. He said for people who don’t fill out the mileage form provided by Bird, the city should use MapQuest.

“If you’re going to do mileage you have to do the form,” said Barrow.

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