Guest column: LA Fitness presents ‘thorny dilemma’

Bill Thomas

Part I.  Referring to an article published in the Orange County Register on April 9, 2017, about LA FITNESS; Marty Potts, Senior Vice President of JLL Jones Lang LaSalle (the developer) Real estate consultant) was quoted: “Commercial properties and residential properties just don’t live together well” He also said “That’s why we always work to soften our footprint.”

Potts’ use of the word, “footprint” is stating it very mildly.  “Footprint” really means about 1,000 LA Fitness gym members would be driving their cars in, parking, and I,000 leaving the area, every hour, every day, from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. causing car and voice noises, and forcing many vehicle drivers to find any other available parking space.

The situation in this designated area: LA Fitness, (a commercial gym corporation) is in the process of obtaining a permit to construct a 37,OOO square foot building on the “open space” extending from the rear of Sprouts Market across to the area where the apartments and condos are located.  The mall owner has “allowed” the people who reside in the condo-apartment area to use the open space to park their vehicles.

Consequently, when the “condo residents” can no longer park in that space, they would need to park their cars in any other open parking space they can find.  Most likely, it would be at the curb in front of the nearby houses where the homeowners currently park their cars at the curb in front of their homes, thereby upsetting those residents.

The process thus far is that the Seal Beach Planning Commission had approved the 37,000 square-foot LA Fitness in the previous year.  The apartment and condo residents filed their appeal.  In July, the S.B. City Council voted 3 to 2 for the condo residents.

Then, in August,  real estate consultant and developer Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) cancelled its first application rather than subjecting the LA Fitness proposal application to a second vote that could uphold the condo appeal

A “suitability study” was completed.  Was it fair?   Is it fair when the studies of a situation are paid for by the same people (LA Fitness) who ordered the study?

The situation that the size and parking spaces created for an LA Fitness gym in no way comparable to the former, small, independently owned Rossmoor Athletic Club.

Part 2.  SEAL BEACH:  True, the City of Seal Beach obtained the Rossmoor Shopping Center via a legal vote (somewhat due to the timid reluctance of many Rossmoor residents to incorporate as a city) so now, all the retail establishments pay taxes to the City of Seal Beach.

Seal Beach residents (and potential shoppers) have many of their own traffic and parking problems.  They should solve their own “downtown” traffic and parking problems. Many Seal Beach businesses are hurting. Potential sales revenue is lost daily, now!  SB is losing potential tax revenue as probable shoppers become disgusted in losing time in finding suitable parking spaces. Too many likely customers are shopping elsewhere.  Many people make numerous purchases via computer “e-commerce stores.”  (Amazon, etc.)

Part 3. ROSSMOOR: Rossmoor is an unincorporated area of Orange County with about 10,000 residents in about 3,600 homes. Many residents are original owners. This family home area is surrounded by Katella Avenue on the north end; Los Alamitos/Seal Beach Boulevard on the east side and the 605-22 Freeways on their south side.  Only the bridge over the freeways connects Seal Beach to Rossmoor and Los Alamitos.

Katella Avenue is now one of the busiest streets in Orange County and will worsen and be further hampered by additional vehicle traffic on Katella if and when the new shopping center is built near the Los Alamitos City Hall. Katella is already smothered by trucks, buses, and other types of vehicles traveling between the 605 Freeway and the Santa Ana Freeway.

Part 4. “PARK-IN PROTEST:  On Saturday, March 18, 2017, several hundred Rossmoor residents and nearby community vehicle drivers formed an orderly “park-in” protest against the proposed LA Fitness gym.  They parked their sedan vehicles, SUV’s, and minivans in this designated area.

Their purpose was to demonstrate what so many additional vehicles in this parking lot would be like if a huge 37,000 square foot commercial gym building was constructed in that area, also with their needed parking spaces.

Other residents from the close-by apartments and condominiums waved signs that stated their mission, “NO LA FITNESS!”  These residents would have to park on the nearby streets and need to walk across Montecito Avenue, a very busy street.  The house residents who normally park in front of their homes would have to park their vehicles elsewhere if their curb parking space was occupied.

School bus and vehicle drivers, bike riders, walkers and joggers, the elderly, the school kids who walk to and from school, the local residents who drive to and from work, outside visitors, the business shoppers, and the people who visit the library and all other people who need to use Montecito Avenue will feel the negative effects of congested traffic and lack of convenient parking.

Emergency vehicles may be slowed by a great amount of “new” traffic.   Who knows how much crime may increase in household and retail store burglaries?

The additional traffic that would be caused by a very large gym membership would certainly bring many negative effects to the whole surrounding area, even affecting the traffic on Seal Beach Blvd, and the street entrances into and out of the Shops at Rossmoor area.

That’s part of our thorny situation. Do we have to live with it?  Not if we vote against LA Fitness!

Editor’s note: Residents can not vote on this issue, but it will come before the Seal Beach Planning Commission at a future meeting and the council will vote on the project.