Counterpoint: The Green Door—the DWP settlement giveaway

Some may remember the 1956 recording that had the tantalizing line, “Green Door; what’s that secret you’re keeping?”

I believe our city hall has such a green door and the secret behind it is the settlement agreement between the city of Seal Beach and Bay City Partners, owners of the property known as the Department of Water and Power site.

Some dedicated residents went to City Hall and bought a copy. It didn’t take long for them to discover why it was being kept secret.


The city will give Bay City Partners $900,000 of taxpayers’ monies; no refund, no credit, no reimbursement, nothing. Bay City Partners will lease to the city the entrance to River’s End parking lot and the bike trail for not more than four years. It would appear the city has a prescriptive easement on this property since it has been used by the city, openly, since at least 1980 when I began residence in Seal Beach. Why should the city have to pay $900,000 for use of land they have an easement on?

Oil and gas lines by DECOR run under the alleged Bay City Partners property and their easement is recognized. How did our city lose its prescriptive easement?

Also for the $900,000, Bay City Partners will give an easement for what is called the “sewer parcel” which lies just east of the driveway into River’s End and is used for sewer access to the sewer line running south of Ocean Ave. Again, it would seem the city has a prescriptive easement on this parcel. In effect, the City is paying nearly a million dollars for something it has every right to use.

Bay City Partners will have to obtain a Coastal Development Permit from the California Coastal Commission. The Settlement Agreement says, “ … as a matter of fact, (the parties) mutually represent to one another that such consideration is foreseeable, reasonable, and expected.”

A done deal?

The city staff shall use its best efforts to secure consideration of the Residential Project Plans and Bay City Partners’s application for land use and other entitlements, what ever those “entitlements” may be.

The specific plan for the Bay City Partners parcel calls for 70 percent open space and 30 percent commercial, such as a hotel. The agreement reduces this to 50 -50. In the recent election, two candidates promised never to retreat from the 70 – 30 requirement.

The agreement allows Bay City Partners to be relieved of paying Quimby Act fees for parks, any park improvement obligations, and any affordable housing requirements. Thus, 48 new homes have no parks.

The city also agrees to pay Bay City Partners $1,100,00 for approximately 50 percent of what is left of the parcel, less 1,200 square feet, plus relinquishment of the driveway to River’s End, the Bike Trail and the Sewer Parcel.

The city also gives to Bay City Partners 7,000 square feet of city land at the corner of 1st Street and Marina Drive.

By paying Bay City Partners $2,000,000, the city will be hard pressed to build a park on the 50 percent left of the parcel. In effect, the city will own a vacant lot that we will have to turn into a park at our own expense. To keep this eyesore hidden from the 48 new homes, the city must build a fence, at its own expense, between the homes and the vacant lot.

The city agrees to testify before the Coastal Commission in support of the Bay City Partners’ housing project.

Usual city fees for processing a housing project and issuing permits is recited as 17.5 percent. This agreement reduces this to 8 percent.

The agreement makes no reference to Ocean Avenue, which runs through Bay City Partners’s alleged ownership. Somehow, this city street becomes Bay City Partner’s property.

Actually, old photos show a sand bar and open water south of Ocean Avenue and not part of Department of Water and Power property.

While most developers pay cities to offset infrastructure costs, such as fire, police, streets, sewer and water, here we have the city paying the developer some $2,000,000. It also appears the city will have to pay for the streets in Bay City Partners’s housing project. As I recall, when Mr. Parker was city manager, it was determined the DWP property was contaminated. Will the city have to clean it up as one of Bay City Partners’s entitlements?

This agreement was signed off by Mayor Michael Levitt and Chairman David Sloan of the Redevelopment Agency, both Leisure World councilmen.

Now, the public will see what is hidden behind the Green Door. This is the biggest give-away since the Panama Canal.

You must admire Bay City Partner’s lawyer who negotiated such a favorable agreement for his client. The city’s lawyer is the same one that gave away our schools and then the City had to buy back the land. What the city needs is a full-time, elected city attorney who will represent the residents.

Bruce Stark of Seal Beach is an attorney who has argued successfully before the United States Supreme Court.