Citizens name crime, transparency as biggest issues of 2017

An informal online Sun News survey found many Seal Beach residents concerned about transparency at City Hall, crime, the future of the pier and the status of Police Chief Joe Stilinovich.

The Sun asked local residents, “what do you see as the challenges and opportunities facing Seal Beach in the year ahead?” The Sun received 51 comments on two social media pages. Last year, the Sun asked the same questions. In 2016, crime and the status of the pier were high on the community’s agenda.

Other issues that some citizens raised included development and the mysterious odor that sometimes permeates the Old Town area.

Council members also cited the pier and the status of the chief being placed on leave among their primary concerns.


Several individuals expressed displeasure with city government.

Winthrop Audrey wanted to know, “Can we pray for a new mayor, city manager or at the very least some transparency?”

According to Cindy Power, “From what I have read and heard, first thing is (to borrow a phrase) ‘drain the swamp.’ Clean out those that don’t have our best interest as a City in mind. We need a strong City Council that we voted in to make some bold gutsy moves and return trust and honesty to the city.”

According to Judi Marmel, “Transparency in City Hall. If we could solve that, the community would come together to solve all of the other issues that are mentioned here. Without leadership that the community trusts it’s hard to imagine wide support for other needs and concerns.”


Residents also complained about what appeared to them to be a rise in crime. (2016 Seal Beach crime statistics have not yet been released. However, many Southern California communities have reported an increase in crime in the past year.)

According to Doree Medrano Lane, among the challenges facing the city are “increased auto break ins, and property theft around Old Town.”

According to Scott Weiss, “Challenges–making residents feel safe, keeping the small town feel. Opportunities-do a better job taking advantage of resources and people we have living in this community, have our city make a difference to the world-create sister cities around the world.”

Shelly Bolander attributed the increase in local crime to the passage of Propositions 47 and 57. But Carol Cameron argued that crime was increasing in direct proportion to local growth.


Several individuals called for the reinstatement of Chief Joe Stilinovich, known locally as “Chief Joe.” Stilinovich has been on administrative leave since September. City officials initially did not comment on the matter, then issued a statement saying a formal complaint had been made against him, followed by another statement that described the complaint as serious.

Margaret F. Garcia-Hall was one of several individuals who called for the city to bring Silinovich back to Seal Beach.


The Seal Beach Pier has been an issue since Ruby’s Diner closed in January 2013. Last year’s fire destroyed the former restaurant building and a long forgotten bait shack. At last report, city staff expects pier repairs to be concluded in 2019.

According to John Drysdale, the city should “fix the pier and build a restaurant at the end. Go forward on the Bay City property and ensure a vital open space element is built. Work with Long Beach and Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority to develop the wetlands into an open space we can be proud of.”

According to Melissa Downey, “The pier and accountability at City Hall” were the important issues.

For Tami Bell, the most important issue was “The Pier.”


Elizabeth Broaddus Kelly suggested “weekly professional help for volunteers cleaning our beaches, including San Gabriel River trash on our jetty’s sandbar and rocks.”

Kelly also called for “Daily maintenance year round of beach area bathrooms especially beside River’s End Restaurant where restaurant goers are grossed out if they need to use a bathroom.”

Kate Sergi complained about “the awful smell that comes over us once a month or so. Need answers.”

Carol Cameron objected to what she considered over development, which she cited as a contributing factor in local crime.

For Ryan Donna, the issue was “Growth.”

According to Dana Baze, “Supporting small businesses. Let’s all unite and support our beautiful city.”


According to Mayor Sandra Massa-Lavitt, the councilwoman for Leisure World, “One of the challenges the city must deal with is trying to coordinate with the Coastal Commission and the current applications under their jurisdiction. The city’s Strategic Plan will keep us on our path toward a successful year and keep our spending under control and in line with our budget. This is an effort the entire Council will be watching.”

According to District One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton, “The Bay Theatre closed escrow with the promise of a renovated theater for all to enjoy; the Blue House has finished its first phase of restoration and the new Children’s Play Yard is in and being enjoyed by both children and parents every day. At the same time we had some real challenges, which we carry with us into the New Year. Our treasured pier continues through the design process so it can be repaired as soon as we can get it through all the permitting agencies and we still have projects working their way through the Coastal Commission, which we will follow closely. Additionally, we have all felt the impact of our Chief being on leave and look forward to 2017 being a year of healing and working together as a community. May 2017 be a year of health, prosperity and memorable moments for all.”

According to District Three Councilman Mike Varipapa, “The opportunities I see are working with the new council members in a collaborative way to continue to provide great services and quality of life to our residences, business and visitors. Also, for the council to work together to obtain the goals set at our last strategic planning meeting. I see the opening of the pier as a very big challenge as well as working with the California Coastal Commission to get approval for the pier plans.”

According to District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic, “Seal Beach has a number of challenges and opportunities this year: we will begin the process of planning to rebuild our pier and determine just what it will become; continue the process of planning for a new community pool and where it will be located; and finally, as the planning for the I-405 Improvement project nears its end, to continue to try to mitigate its impacts on our neighborhoods in Seal Beach.”

Only District Two Councilman Thomas Moore raised the issue of the homeless in Seal Beach. According to Moore, “Some of the big challenges facing the City is an increase in homelessness and the potential for a rise in crime. I think it is important to look at other cities as well as talk to people involved in dealing with these problems first-hand and then get together a structured plan to try to alleviate the problems we are seeing in Seal Beach.

“The Seal Beach Police Department has done an exceptional job at managing homelessness in light of the increase, designating a Homeless Liaison Officer to assist those that are in need with the aim of keeping them off the streets. And we want to do more to ensure that our residents’ quality of life is not diminished.

“As such, we are having a Neighbor 4 Neighbor program (similar to Neighborhood Watch) meeting this upcoming Saturday, Jan. 7 in Edison Park at 10 a.m. to discuss a lot of these issues and see what we can do as residents to help.

“I have met with people in bordering cities who are very familiar with the issue of homelessness and have a lot of great suggestions on how to deal with this matter. I also plan to meet with our police staff to share potential strategies and discuss solutions based on my conversations with residents and surrounding agencies.

“With respect to opportunities in Seal Beach, I look forward to the opening of the Bay Theatre, which will bring a lot of business to Seal Beach. Additionally, I’d like to see a bigger push to ‘Buy Local’ in Seal Beach to help businesses which is good for them and the City. Finally, I would like to see how we can motivate both students and alumni to visit Seal Beach so that they can discover our great retailers and restaurants. As a board member of the Cal State Long Beach Alumni Association, I will do my part to make certain that we continue to improve the relationship between the City and CSULB.”