Parking and beach trash were cited by local citizens as challenges facing Seal Beach in 2020, according to an informal online survey. The replies totaled more than 3,700 words. Most of the 95 comments received on three social media pages emphasized the challenges rather than the opportunities. However, some survey participants called for improving the downtown area.
The Sun asked “on the record, for possible publication in the print edition of the Sun, what do you see as the opportunities and challenges for Seal Beach in the year ahead? Do those opportunities include promoting the city?”
The Sun posted the question on two Facebook groups and on the Nextdoor platform.
Seven comments were related to the city’s revenues.
Opportunities cited included making the downtown area more attractive.
The direct quotations below have been lightly edited for spelling and for minor punctuation errors. In some instances, remarks have been paraphrased.
Where practical, comments have been grouped together by subject for the convenience of readers. The subjects were ordered based on a “word list” analysis of all 95 comments generated by https://www.wordclouds.com.
• Jim Bohlin, replying to Warner, said, “Downtown L.A. has the Dash and it works pretty well. Last time I rode it, it cost a quarter and the little busses ran frequently. Perhaps some nearby but slightly remote parking would help. The Navy has tons of land minutes from Main Street. Maybe something could be negotiated.”
• Bret Colson said, “Some of the issues to focus on in the coming year … lack of parking in Old Town, river trash washing up on the beach, lock in a restaurant at the end of the pier, affordability for residential renters and commercial businesses, fiscal responsibility from City Hall, a dog park in Old Town (maybe somewhere in the Electric Ave greenbelt), the grand re-opening of the Bay Theatre (using it as a focal point to promote the city and keep the merchant base healthy), and keeping excellent relations with the adjoining military bases (maybe doing some kind of We Love Our Troops event in conjunction with them, like a block party on Main Street or something similar).”
• Larry Kelly said, “I think homeowners should be barred from renting rooms out to people to help offset their mortgage. This only causes more parking issues in Old Town and does not fix the parking at all. But only complicates it.” Kelly expressed concern about owners of large homes contributing to the problem.
• Jim Bohlin, replying to Kelly, said, “Too many people with too many cars and too few parking spaces is the problem. To blame the whole problem on a particular subset of those people is specious and usually done to promote a particular political agenda.”
• Char Warner said, “SB is a lot more than just Old Town; you have the Hill, Leisure World, Naval Base, and College Park [West and College Park East].” Warner argued that most of the residents are taxpayers. The majority of these are homeowners that pay taxes. You also have the shops at Rossmoor and Target and adjoining. So when promoting SB let’s remember more $$ for SB is probably coming from outside old town. Old Town is a great part of SB but not the only part! Those of us that don’t live in Old Town might spend more time down there if parking was better which has not changed for the better, just gotten worst in the 30 plus years I’ve lived in the neighborhood.”
• Karen Lovelace said, “I think our challenges include homeless, trash down the river to Seal Beach, traffic safety, tree trimming and maintenance, flood control … Promoting of the city would not be on top of the list.”
• Maite Mauri said, “I’d like to see us as leaders in protection of our beach and ocean. E.g. River trash filtering before it reaches the ocean, and reduction in single use plastics (straws, Styrofoam) which end up polluting our sand.”
• Amy Roesner-Ramsey said, “They should put the litter catching nets over the drain pipes in the river bed.”
• Amy Roesner-Ramsey, replying to Wildasinn-Ward, said, “I bet Long Beach City would go in at least for half of the nets cost too; it effects their beaches too.” She suggested adding “giant art creatures” made from the collected trash. She proposed having seals on the town’s beach. Her comments were punctuated with a smiley face emoji.
• Karen Narz-Ferretti said, “Nets over the drain pipes won’t work. This has been discussed several times. The amount of trash would break the nets, rendering them useless. Then there’s the question of who would empty, when, how often, etc.? There has to be another answer.”
• Wildasinn-Ward said, “How about steel nets?”
• Narz-Ferretti said, “Same question … what happens when those steel nets get blocked with too much trash? They have used booms in the past and when they get filled up with trash it just flows over it. All the 42 cities up the San Gabriel river have a requirement to have catch basins on all their gutters. Seal Beach is only 55% done (I believe that’s the correct number, I’ll try to find the article), Bellflower is 100% compliant. They have 10 years to get it done, but they need to be pushed. Seal Beach can’t be the only city to push them, we need our local and state representatives to push them. Write them a letter!”
Narz-Ferretti posted a link to a September 2019 Sun News article, “Consultant says Seal Beach ‘ahead of curve’ on catch basin installation.”
District One Councilman Joe Kalmick and Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos this confirmed that the city is planning an outreach program to determine the future of the pier.
• Marc Moore, responding to the online survey, said, “I’d like to see Ruby’s (or like restaurant) back on the pier. It was one thing that made our city special. Didn’t the old building have insurance? Where is the money to rebuild it?”
On Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, the Sun emailed the assistant city manager to ask if the city’s insurance covered the former Ruby’s building as well as the pier.
• Amber Hillis said, “Fishing restrictions on the pier. I can’t pick up another piece of line and not punch someone.”
• Jan Lacerte said, “River’s End restaurant was a place we always took visitors. And loved to go to ourselves. Very unique. AND we need a nice diner type at the end of the pier again.”
• David Halahmy said, “No restaurant at the end of the pier, if you allow fishing then more patrols to make sure people clean up! A menorah would be nice around Hanukkah. (Christmas of course should still be the focus).”
• Karen Narz-Ferretti said, “[A]family friendly restaurant (like Ruby’s) on the end of the pier. I don’t think a high end restaurant will do good on stormy days, but I loved walking out on the pier in a storm and going into Ruby’s. Not sure I’d do that all dressed up. And, if you can take the family, it just means more business. High end will just be too restrictive for most visiting Seal Beach.”
• Sally Wildasinn-Ward agreed with her and called for “a small family style restaurant. I’d hate to see all that space being used only for a restaurant … maybe a shake shack with outdoor seating.”
• Steve Miller said, “Increasing revenue for the city. The tax hike helps, but it will be short lived with rising costs. Promoting Main Street and the shops at Rossmoor are key.
“Keeping the beaches clean. With storm drain covers being required in the future, Seal Beach needs to take charge and get the cities to do it sooner.
“Do something with the end of the pier that is fun. If that’s food trucks, a restaurant, picnic tables or whatever just do it. Everything takes forever in this town. Get it done so we can enjoy it.
• Amber Hillis said, in part, “I would like to see a better variety of shopping around town. We have a ton of pointless shops that go out of biz quickly.”
• Dale Watkins said, “I’d like a new (even an enlarged) restaurant at River’s End. I think the pier is just fine without a restaurant. I find it truly amazing that the same people wanting to keep the small-town feel of Seal Beach want a restaurant built on the pier knowing full well the restaurant wouldn’t be a ‘mom [and] pop’ operation but rather a franchise. They are also undoubtedly part of the crowd complaining about parking in and around the downtown area. Make up your minds folks. You can’t have it both ways!”
• Michael Maldonado said, “The city is amazing and has a quality all of its own. In regards to tax revenue, home prices in 2008 were in the 500,000, now nothing is less than 1$ million. So we have had a major hike in tax revenue. How to make Seal Beach better? Keep the homeless on the Long Beach side of the bridge. The issues that follow the homeless include cholera and other forms of illness which is a by-product of the homeless dropping pants and leaving an unwanted item on the sidewalk. The crime level in Venice is far higher than Seal Beach. In regards to commerce, 1. Close sections of Main Street and have a street faire during the week of the summer months. 2. How is the chamber networking with the people who move into a five mile radius of Seal Beach. Huntington Marina has one of the highest price per sq. ft., hence expendable income, but are we marketing the new home owners to make Seal Beach their new habit.”
• Cory Alexander, replying to Maldonado, said, “And the city won’t see any revenue from those increases unless a homeowner sells the home. Prop 13 allows most of our citizens to still live here.
• Maldonado said, “Agreed, but the last three years the number of sales outpaced the three years prior to that, so we should have high revenue.”
• Mark Worden said, “The opportunities are making the downtown area more welcoming for all residents. The sidewalks are walking hazards and impossible to navigate for those with walkers. The challenges are the same.”
• Arlene Teff Finger replied to Mark Worden by saying, “The sidewalks may be quaint but terrible to walk on.”
• Kim Mica Ramaila, replying to Mark Worden, said “They fixed the sidewalks last year and filled in spots. I know, I have a shop on Main and saw. Plus, once we got new mayor we had pebbles filled I. At the trees so there is no unevenness.”
• Mark Worden, replying to Sally Wildasinn-Ward, said, “Our sidewalks are severely non-ADA compliant.”
• Halie Griffin, also replying to Mark Worden, said, “You have a point. Most of the restaurants on 2nd street are getting sued for non-ADA compliance, is the city of Seal Beach next?”
“Opportunities: leveraging the Newly rehabilitated Bay Theatre. A Seal Beach film festival?”
• Lisa Ciarfella Bring back the Bay Theatre! Why, oh why, has it been shut down soooo long!!!”
On Monday, Jan. 6, Paul Dunlap, president of the Dunlap Property Group and owner of the Bay Theatre, said the following in an email to the Sun: “Work is underway creating the new auditorium so that from the curb on through the theatre it will all be ADA compliant. Soon the concrete will be poured for the new elevations.”
Promoting Seal Beach
Lynette Choy Uyeda said, “S. Beach is best kept secret of all the beach cities. OK to promote SB among us locals. I am very proud and attached to our little ‘Mayberry USA.’”
• Kristina Marie Lennon said, “Like every suggestion about what will bring people down, and out and about for special activities to promote the businesses on Main gets shot down by all those who don’t like the concept of change. They will literally make it their agenda to make things NOT happen. The idea is crazy to me.”
• Jim Bohlin said, “Challenges. The encroachment of franchise establishments destroying our uniqueness, which is one of our main attractions. Finding a balance between restricting summer rentals and becoming too crowded and overbuilt like Newport.
• David LaCascia said, “A third of SB lives in Leisure World. The traffic lights need to be reevaluated. The lights at the SB Blvd. [and] Golden Rain Road entrance must be confusing since many drivers driving toward Los Al on SB Blvd. ignore the red lights as they probably see that the next lights, which are less than 50 [feet] away, are green. At SB Blvd. [and] St. Andrews the SB Blvd. ocean-bound drivers are stopped and the inland bound drivers are allowed to make a left turn on green arrow—BUT—the SB Blvd—ocean going drivers- fail to stop or have to slam on their brakes.”
• Robert Goldberg said, “The major challenge ahead for the City in 2020 will likely become apparent late in the year as the City begins updating its housing plan.
“Last month [November 2019] the City was informed by the Southern California Association of Governments that the update due in October 2021 will need to allow for 1,228 additional housing units. Of these, 453 must be ‘high density’ in order to be potentially affordable to those who earn 80% or less of the area medium income ($87,450 for a family of four in Orange County in 2018). In the last update to our housing plan in 2013, ‘high density’ was defined as 20 units per acre which is the zoning in Old Town (RHD 20). At that time, the City and community struggled to identify a location to accommodate a total of 21 units.
“Ultimately, the Accurate Storage facility next to the Police Station was rezoned to RHD 20, giving the owner the option to build housing. The City does have pockets of higher density such as the condos that are behind the Rossmoor Shopping Center (46 units per acre).
“However, even at this density, 1,228 units would occupy over 26 acres. While Accurate Storage has not opted to build housing, doing far more extensive rezoning of commercial or retail areas may in fact lead to the loss of businesses. Alternatively, perhaps we will be able to count the potential number of “granny flats” that are now allowable on the Hill and in College Park West and East. The City of Fountain Valley is going to try this approach. However, if this does not work, expect many long Planning Commission and City Council meetings.”
• Marc Moore said, “I think the city should stop being a landlord as they are bad at it. Examples again are Ruby’s and the River’s End. Help the new River’s End tenants to open or find new tenants. I don’t believe the tired story that it’s a Coastal Commission issue as all the major piers have restaurants and Shea Homes got through the process quickly after purchasing the land on the river.”
• Virginia Fraser said, “Do we really need the street sweeper every week? It is just a revenue taker and the tickets are so expensive. It becomes an extra tax for living here.”
• In reply, Fraser said, “Street sweeping helps keep the storm drains clean. It costs much more to run the sweepers than they make in tickets.”
• Dixie Redfearn, replied to Fraser, saying, “There are so many things that would save money — 14th St. in Old Town is swept 2X a week—rain or shine, summer or winter. Totally unnecessary and a way to save the city needed money!”