Ongoing and upcoming local issues

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• Gum Grove Tree removal lawsuit costs: Seal Beach ended up with less money from the settlement of the Gum Grove Park lawsuit than originally demanded to restore the trees removed from the park in 2016. This week, City Attorney Craig Steele provided an update on the cost of the lawsuit against businessman Rockey Gentner over the removal of 153 trees from Gum Grove Park in 2016. Last week, Steele told the Sun he “believed” the cost was $120,000. This week, he said that was incorrect. “I missed a significant invoice. I apologize for the error,” Steele said in an email to the Sun. “Our records indicate that the total of legal fees billed to the City for the Gentner incident, from prior to the lawsuit being filed to the culmination of the settlement, was $154,161. In addition, we billed the City for $24,330.30 in direct cost reimbursements which the City paid. These include expert witness fees, court reporter costs, the private investigator that had to be hired to serve the defendants and preparation of evidence for trial. Recall that the case settled literally on the eve of trial, meaning that all of our preparation was nearly complete. I understand that these amounts are consistent with the City’s records.”

The numbers Steele gave total $178,491.30. The case was settled for $250,000. Subtracting the cost leaves $71,508.70. The city originally demanded $89,300 to replace the tree grove. The city has not begun restoration of the grove.

• The pier: City Manager Jill Ingram this week told the council that staff will have an update on the status of the pier at the first council meeting in October.

• Pool: Councilwoman Deaton said the city is continuing to spend the $5 million set aside for the municipal pool project on keeping the current pool operational. The city talking to the Navy about putting a pool on the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. According to Gregg Smith, public information officer for the base, the chief of Naval Operations has approved the project, but the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy has not. “Once we receive all approvals, we will start formal negotiations with the City of Seal Beach for funding, lease development, surveys and appraisals, etc.   If that goes well we could see a formal lease signing sometime in 2019, which would pave the way for pool construction,” Smith said.

• Beach area lease with State Lands Commission: District One Councilwoman Ellery Deaton recently said beach cities had successfully pushed back against a State Lands Commission effort to charge Seal Beach rent for use of the beach area. The city attorney is reviewing a letter to the commission concerning the lease. Public Works Director Steve Myrter told the council this week that he expects State Lands staff to bring the letter to the commission in November.

• Beach parking fees: According to Beatley, the permit application to the California Coastal Commission to allow Seal Beach to raise its parking fees is still being processed. The Sun asked the assistant city manager if the city would be required to get a permit to charge local businesses in lieu of parking fees (that is, fees paid to the city in place of parking spaces). Beatley said: “The Main Street Specific Plan already allows for (in lieu parking) fees. If the question is with regard to charging a new fee then my sense would be yes if the fee is not related to development.”

• West End Pump Station: A couple of weeks ago, Seal Beach residents noticed water in the West End Pump Station bay. The city reports that the pump was being tested. Public Works Director Myter said: “The WEPS is inspected weekly … this includes “dry” running (without the forebay full of water) each pump. We do a ‘wet run’ (we fill the forebay with water) of each pump annually just before the rainy season. The dry run enables us to efficiently test a majority of the pump station systems with the exception of the water surface level sensors without wasting thousands of gallons of water. The ‘wet’ pump run enables us to test the water surface level sensors as well, but requires us to use two fire hydrants to fill the forebay (thousands of gallons of potable water) only to be pumped out in 20 seconds.”

If you have a question about a continuing issue, email Editor Jesus Ruiz at