Ongoing and upcoming local issues: A quiet Halloween in Seal Beach, oil spill news, personal watercraft litigation

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Editor’s note: If you have a question about a city issue—or a suggestion for filing a Public Records Act request—email Associate Editor Charles M. Kelly at editor2@sunnews.org.

Special City Council

meeting Monday, Oct. 25

The Seal Beach City Council will meet at 4:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 25. The special meeting is expected to look at applicants to the board of the newly formed Seal Beach Historic Resources Foundation.

Although the calendar on the city website gives a different meeting time, the agenda package of the last council meeting put the time for the Oct. 25 meeting at 4:30 p.m.

A quiet Halloween

in Seal Beach

• The Chamber of Commerce won’t sponsor a Halloween on Main Street event this year,  according to Chamber President Rob Jahncke. That’s because Halloween 2021 is going to fall on a Sunday and there won’t be kids coming into businesses the way they would on a weekday, according to Jahncke.

• The Shops at Rossmoor center (located in Seal Beach) is holding a virtual Halloween Costume Contest for adults only that will end with the winner being notified on Oct. 27. The winner will have 48 hours to claim the prize. For more information, visit shopsatrossmoor.com.

• The Annual McGaugh Carnival will be held Saturday, Oct. 23, at McGaugh Elementary.

• PREP Kitchen Essentials, at 12207 Seal Beach Blvd., is scheduled to have Kids Halloween Treats in person from noon to 2 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 31.

• District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic confirmed in a Monday, Oct. 18 email that there would be no College Park East event this year. She checked with the College Park East Neighborhood association.

• “The City is not scheduled to hold any Halloween events,” wrote Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos in an Oct. 18 email.

Oil spill

The Orange County oil spill of 2021 is still under investigation. On Monday, Oct. 18, news organizations reported that the Coast Guard had identified a vessel “of interest” in the investigation. A Congressional hearing was held in the field Monday to investigate the oil spill. The FBI has reportedly joined the investigation.

Rep. Michelle Steel has proposed a ban on having cargo ships idle or anchor within 20 miles off the OC coast for 180 days (as of Oct. 12).

District Two Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley (whose district includes Seal Beach), reported on Oct. 18 that “Of the 25,000 gallons of oil that contaminated our waters approximately 5,544 gallons oil has been recovered,13.6 barrels of tar balls, and approximately 474,965 lbs of oily sand/debris. There is no visible oil in the waters along our coast. We will continue to see spots of tarballs, but we are monitoring and will clean up. Do not try to pick up any tarballs yourself. Report any you find to  tarballreports@wildlife.ca.gov.”

Foley also reported that fisheries remain closed until the results of seafood sampling are known.

“A total of 13,550 feet of boom was deployed to protect sensitive areas. Leaving boom may create more environmental impacts in some areas so you will see it being pulled in most locations except Talbert Marsh, pending lab analysis of some frothy foam,” Foley wrote.

Locally, according to District One Councilman/Mayor Joe Kalmick, some “tar balls” washed up on Surfside’s beach for about three days. “We were very fortunate—I don’t think any of the floating oil came up,” Kalmick said during an Oct. 18 phone interview.

Last Tuesday, he went up in a Coast Guard plane from Seal Beach to San Clemente to view the oil.

“We didn’t see any oil at all,” he said. He said the water was pretty much clear.

The Sun recently asked about the city’s plans for protecting the shoreline from oil spills.

“On May 31, 2019, the City Council adopted a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan which provides a comprehensive assessment of the threats Seal Beach faces from natural and man-made hazard events and a coordinated strategy to reduce the threats,” wrote Assistant City Manager Patrick Gallegos in an Oct. 18 email.

(You can look up the plan here)

“Additionally, the City maintains an Emergency Operation Plan (EOP) which also provides guidance during emergency/disaster situations associated with natural disasters, technological incidents, and national security emergencies,” Gallegos wrote.

“Each department in the City has a part to play in our response to disaster and as such we prepare, plan, and train pertinent staff on disaster preparedness,” Gallegos wrote.

“Staff is well versed on the principles of the California Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS), the National Incident Management System (NIMS), and the Incident Command System (ICS),” Gallegos wrote.

“The EOP is flexible enough to use in all emergencies and will facilitate response and short-term recovery activities,” Gallegos wrote.

“Lastly, the City, when needed, works in collaboration with neighboring/regional agencies during emergencies in what is known as mutual aid where resources are shared to better protect the health and lives of community members and minimize damage,” Gallegos wrote.

The Sun also asked what the city can realistically do to protect its shores.

“We are always looking at ways in which to protect our shores whether its advocating for sand replenishment or meeting with upstream cities along the San Gabriel River to keep our beach free from trash,” Gallegos wrote.

“There is no one size fits all to protecting our shoreline and it is the reason we collaborate with many other agencies across the Orange County coastline, as well as, our elected representatives that have advocated for the same at the state and federal level ,” Gallegos wrote.

“The community is also involved in protecting our shores through non-governmental agencies (NGOs) like Save Our Beach who have dedicated volunteers that have run beach clean-ups for many years. We must all be a part of the solution as our shores face many challenges and will continue to face them down the road. Nevertheless, the City is committed to do its part to keep our shores clean,” Gallegos wrote.

Dog park and other news

Seal Beach has one permanent dog park and one temporary pop-up dog park.  “The City recently opened a pop-up dog park in Zoeter Park and it has been well received thus far,” according to an email from District Three Councilman Mike Varipapa. He was referring to the temporary dog park in Zoeter Park, next to Zoeter field, that is scheduled to be in operation until Nov. 29.

Not everyone would agree with Varipapa’s assessment.

Last week’s Sun Poll on this subject is informal, but it appears that 14.29% of the recorded responses opposed the Zoeter Park location.

However, reader Penny Gower  reported being unable to cast a vote. In an Oct. 19 email, Penny Gower reported that she got an error message that said invalid data. A Sun proofreader also reported the same problem.

“One of the advantages to a pop-up dog park is that it would allow the City to gauge the success and challenges without making a permanent change to the park itself,” wrote Recreation Manager Tim Kelsey in a September email to the Sun.

There were 2,083 current dog licenses in Seal Beach as of Sept. 30, according to Long Beach Animal Care Services. Long Beach ACS has the contract to provide animal control services to Seal Beach.

As of Sept. 30, Long Beach ACS put the population of Seal Beach at 24,440 individuals.

In other news, Varipapa wrote:

“• The city will be advertising the 6th Street Alley Improvements Project towards the end of October, 2021. This project will replace the water and sewer lines within the 6th Street Alley from Ocean to Electric, then followed by an alley pavement rehabilitation. Construction will likely take place in the beginning of 2022.

“• The Sand Berm is anticipated to start the first part of November.

“• Lampson Avenue Drainage has been awarded. Materials are being ordered and construction is anticipated to start in December 2021. This project will redirect the underground storm drain flow into the northerly channel to accommodate the 405 Widening project.

“• Upcoming slurry seal project focused in the College Park West neighborhood.”

Pool project update

“The Swimming Pool Ad Hoc Committee met for the second time on October 5th,” wrote District Three Councilman Mike Varipapa in a recent email.

“The Committee consists of Mayor Kalmick, Mayor Pro Tem Varipapa and staff.  The meeting was open to the public and staff provided the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem with a swimming pool update as well as received direction from both the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem,” Varipapa wrote.

The Sun is researching the history of the community pool project (mostly reading old council minutes).

Pickleball update

“The City added 4 new pickleball courts in the summer and as a result participation has increased tremendously,” wrote Councilman Mike Varipapa.

“Additionally, the City added a new branding sign in front of the Center, ‘T`he City of Seal Beach Tennis and Pickleball Center.’ Pickleball continues to be a very popular activity in Seal Beach and the City continues to meet the demand of this new sport,” Varipapa wrote.

Seal Beach supports San Diego appeal to California Supreme Court

The city of San Diego is asking the California Supreme Court to review an appellate court decision that essentially limits personal watercraft to 5 miles an hour when operated by citizens or municipal personnel.

Last week, during the closed session of the meeting, the Seal Beach City Council unanimously directed the city attorney’s firm (Richards, Watson & Gershon) to file a letter in support of the appeal. “They directed our office to file a letter with the California Supreme Court supporting the City of San Diego’s petition for the Supreme Court to review the court of appeal decision,” wrote City Attorney Craig Steele in an Oct. 18 email.

“The Supreme Court has to grant the petition for review before there would be any consideration of briefing and the City Council did not consider or authorize the filing of a brief,” Steele wrote.

“The Haytasingh case is a personal injury case where a surfer was injured trying to avoid a personal watercraft (‘PWC’) being operated by a City of San Diego lifeguard,” Steele wrote.

“Typically, cities and lifeguards would be immune from liability for injuries that occur in the course and scope of lifeguard duties,” Steele wrote.

“In this case, however, the appellate court found that a 5 mph speed limit in State law that applies to private PWC operators applies to PWC operated by city personnel, even though it does not apply to state or county lifeguards,” Steele wrote.

“Seal Beach lifeguards, like a number of other city lifeguard departments, use PWC in rescue efforts,” Steele wrote.

“[Seal Beach Marine Safety] Chief [Joe] Bailey has stated that such a slow speed limit makes the PWC that lifeguards operate difficult, if not impossible, to use for rescue efforts along the surfline,” Steele wrote.

“The issue that we hope will be before the Supreme Court is one of statutory interpretation, as to whether the exemption from the speed limit should apply to all government rescue PWC,” Steele wrote.

“However, the California Supreme Court accepts only a small percentage of the cases that are submitted for its review each year, so the petition may not be successful,” Steele wrote.

Ongoing and upcoming local issues: A quiet Halloween in Seal Beach, oil spill news, personal watercraft litigation