City raises most fees

The cost of parking at the beach will go up this summer. The City Council this week unanimously approved fee increases for most city services, including beach parking. The changes go into effect July 1. The increase in parking and other fees (such as building, planning, swimming and tennis) are part of the city’s efforts to maintain a balanced budget. The proposed $30 million budget has a projected surplus of $11,000. The council will vote on the new budget on June 26.

The beach parking lot fee has been raised from $10 to $18. However, other cities charge beachgoers more. For example, visitors to Bolsa Chica and Huntington State Beach will pay $24 a day after July 5.

The annual residential beach parking pass fee was raised from $104 to $117. (For seniors who live here, the fee is now $70 if you make less than $35,000.) Out of town residents will pay $180 for an annual beach lot parking pass.

According to Michelle Marquez, the senior accounting technician who presented the fee schedule to the council, most of the fees increased 1.97 percent, based on the Consumer Price Index. She said the swimming pool and Seal Beach Tennis Center fees increased more than the CPI. According to the 2017-2018 fee schedule, the swimming pool fee increased to $30 for a Family Swim Summer Pass for a Seal Beach family.

Marquez said there would be no fee increase for business licenses.

Fees for commercial still and motion picture photography also increased, but only a few dollars. District One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton said, “Are we competitive there or is that something we can raise?” Finance Director/Treasurer Victoria Beatley said she believed Seal Beach could significantly increase the fees and remain competitive.

District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic expressed concern about the cost of the beach parking increases for residents who can’t walk to the beach. Beatley pointed out that residents anywhere in the city are allowed to buy a one-year parking pass for $15 that allows them to park for more than an hour on Old Town streets.

That same night, the council created a Parking Authority, not to address parking issues but to reorganize the Public Finance Authority. If approved by the State Department of Finance, the reorganization will preserve the city’s finance agency and makes it possible for the city to issue debt. The Financing Authority is a joint powers authority, a government agency created when two more other agencies agree to work together. The original members of the Seal Beach finance agency were the city government and the Redevelopment Agency.

But California dissolved redevelopment agencies about five years ago. They have been replaced with so-called Successor Agencies. California Gov. Jerry Brown argued that the state could no longer afford redevelopment in a budget crisis. Redevelopment is contentious because of the financial advantage it provides redevelopment agencies and their partners, primarily cities, over school districts, counties and other property tax recipients.

According to City Attorney Craig Steele, the end of redevelopment agencies eliminated “key members” of city financial authorities.To provide a new member agency to replace the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency, city staff recommended the council create a Parking Authority. “We need to keep the Public Financing Authority alive,” he said.

Steele said the city did not want to create a special district. He also said there very few things the law would allow the city to do.

Deaton said creating the Parking Authority would not create a tax on residents. “This is a way to avoid doing that,” she said.