The budget was one of the main topics of the discussion at a Thursday, June 6, “community chat” between District One Councilman Joe Kalmick and Seal Beach residents (mostly but not all of them Kalmick’s constituents). Other issues included the Ocean Place development, the proposed community pool project, and other issues.
Kalmick said he hadn’t wanted to do a coffee chat because you get the same six people at such events.
Kalmick started the informal gathering in the Senior Center behind the Mary Wilson Library by telling his guests that this was his first “go ’round” on the city budget. He said the council had been told the previous night that the city must have a budget in place by July 1.
“Everything keeps going up,” he said. He said the cost of raising and lowering the sand berm keeps increasing. “The goal is to create a situation that we can live with,” he said.
Resident Carla Watson said she wished there was more participation from the city. Kalmick said he thought there should have been a budget workshop before there was a budget presentation.
“The only caution I would offer would be, be careful what you wish for,” Kalmick said.
Kalmick said each council member meets with the city manager each week. He conceded that council members knew about the projected budget surplus of more than $1 million in April. (The budget was recently revised to bring the projected surplus to more than $1.2 million.)
Robert Goldberg, a local budget watcher, said the budget workshops could be better. He said he had to wait for four hours before they could speak. (Recent budget workshops have allowed public comment at the beginning and at the end of the gatherings. Regular City Council meetings usually allow public comment at the start of the meeting.)
“We used to have more town hall meetings,” Goldberg said.
Kalmick said the city used town hall meetings effectively in addressing parking issues.
He pointed out that the people who attended the “chat” probably chose to be informed.
Marc Loopesko, a local activist, said, “You can approve the existing budget.”
Goldberg said, “There are costs we can’t control.”
He pointed out that the city has contractual obligations. (Kalmick has said much the same thing at recent budget workshops.)
“We used to have budget workshops in April,” Goldberg said.
Some of the conversation turned to the city manager and staff.
One man who spoke said city department heads answer to the city manager. He said the city manager is the one who answers to the council.
He said the cost of the swimming pool project “has escalated more.” Kalmick put the cost at about $15 million. (Public Works Director Steve Myrter said the previous night that the cost would be $14.8 million.) “We have some tough decisions to make about if and how to build,” Kalmick said.
He said he would ask if the Navy would be willing to help Seal Beach with the pool project. Then he opened up the floor to questions.
Carla Watson said she supported the swimming pool.
Kalmick pointed out that the city could take out a bond to pay for the pool after paying off the debt for the fire station (apparently meaning the one near Leisure World). City Finance Director/Treasurer Victoria Beatley made much the same suggestion at the Wednesday, June 5, budget workshop.
Kalmick and residents also spoke about the following:
• Building Permits. Kalmick said it takes so long to get a building permit, you could forget what you meant to build by the time you receive it. Kalmick thinks the planning and building department is under-staffed. He said the city had been operating with two interim development directors.
Community Development Director Jim Basham was placed on paid administrative leave in early February 2017. Crystal Landavazo served as interim Community Development director after the City Council rejected a staff proposal to hire a consulting firm to provide an interim development director. City officials confirmed Basham had resigned on May 16, 2017. In April 2018, Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos confirmed that Landavazo was no longer with the city. Assistant Senior Planner is currently serving as interim Community Development director.
• The trash washing up from the San Gabriel River. Kalmick said there are 43 jurisdictions on the river. He said Orange County can’t see Seal Beach. “The county is really way behind the curve in getting anything done,” he said.
Resident Carla Watson, a former member of the Seal Beach Recreation and Parks Commission, said there were two sources of trash: the homeless people living along the river and people illegally dumping trash into the river. Kalmick, however, was optimistic. He said more than 400 people attended the last beach clean up two weeks earlier.
• The pier. Kalmick said the Coastal Commission is supposed to issue a waiver to allow the city of Seal Beach to replace the pier deck planks that had not been replaced in time for the recent re-opening of the pier.
• First Street restaurant building. “First street restaurant—can’t say much,” Kalmick said.
He said the city has completed the contractually required repairs and the property is now in the “court” of the tenants. He said the project needs a full California Coastal Commission review.
• Main Street. Kalmick said the city is replacing the granite around the trees on Main Street. He said he would like LED lights on Main Street. (Public Works Director Steve Myrter had discussed changing to LED lighting as part of the rehabilitation of Main Street lighting during a budget workshop discussion of a staff proposal to revitalize Main Street.)
Kalmick said “we rely on visitors, on tourism” for Main Street.
• Oil revenue. One man asked for an update on potential oil revenue for Seal Beach.
Kalmick had no update on oil. He said if something were to happen, everyone would go “yippie.”
“But I wouldn’t spend any of that money yet,” Kalmick said.
• Ocean Place, also known as the (former) DWP property.
Kalmick said Ocean Place was moving along. Kalmick said that even though Shea Homes, the developer/property owner, have built a model house, the arrangement with the city has not changed—they must build the park before they build housing.
• Landscaping. Kalmick said the city’s new landscaping provider has been responsive. However, he said the grass on medians can’t be watered because no runoff is allowed. He said the city might get help from Caltrans to replant the median on Pacific Coast Highway.
• Naval Weapons Station Ammo Pier Project. Kalmick said the Navy would be dredging 27/7 for a year. He said the new ammunitions pier, which he called a wharf, would be 1,100 feet long and be able to serve two ships.