Officials from the city of Seal Beach and the Shops at Rossmoor center were on hand last week to address questions from a special Rossmoor Ad Hoc Committee on the impact of the recent construction and plans at the shops.
The committee was created by the Rossmoor Community Services District. It has no legal jurisdiction over the shopping center because the Shops at Rossmoor are, in fact, located in Seal Beach.
There was also a large group of area residents, and the officials from the Shops and the city found themselves facing some upset attendees.
Seal Beach Director of Development Services Mark Persico laid out the time line of the traffic studies done in 2004 and 2005 that were related to the expansions, including at the north end of the center. He also said that grant money was obtained in 2008 for street improvements and needed to be used before recent deadlines.
Also on hand was Seal Beach Public Works Director and Assistant City Manager Sean Crumby. But the explanations did not appease many of the attendees. Rossmoor resident Michael Obradovitch, a retired engineer, questioned the planning of the projects as being done in phases that violated the California Environmental Quality Act.
“You can’t rely on piecemeal studies,” Obradovitch said during public comments.
Obradovitch was critical of the traffic studies that have been done by the city of Seal Beach and claims that they do not adequately address the overall impact of the construction.
There were also several comments aimed at the Shops representatives for the projects currently underway and some in the planning stages.
Currently, a 47,000 square foot building is under construction that will house a Toys R Us/Babies R Us combination store. The choice of some retailers, as well as the increased traffic and safety concerns, have some residents more than a little upset.
“Nobody wants these retailers here,” said resident Cheryl Rudich.
Rudich spoke directly at Shops representatives David Josker and Kristine Smith, who were on hand for the meeting. Residents who spoke out against the issue were often met with applause.
When asked after the meeting if there was anything the residents hoped they could accomplish with their protests, Rudich said that a boycott of the Shops might be their best recourse.
“We can make an impact if we don’t shop at the shops,” Rudich said.
Also at issue is the city of Seal Beach’s desire to rezone a portion of the property for low-income housing. It’s an idea that would satisfy state requirements for areas zoned for affordable housing.
There were several questions by committee members on the choice of the Shops area for more housing, noting that there were other areas in Seal Beach that would also work for the zoning, but are not being given enough consideration.
“It feels like we have a target on our backs,” Committee Chair Ron Casey said.
Persico assured the committee that there was no target, but rather that Seal Beach simply thought that the Shops area was the best fit for the zone because of factors such as construction and utilities access. It is also the best fit the more than 20 units needed to satisfy the requirement.
But the rezoning will simply earmark the area for potential housing and actual building would fall under the authority of the Shops’ new owners. Josker, a senior director for the Shops’ management, said that there was no intention of building any housing by the new owners.
“It’s a non-issue,” Josker said.
Seal Beach Planning Commission is reportedly set to further discuss the housing element of the plan at its Feb. 14 meeting.
While opposition to the projects have been vocal, there are some who are not opposed to the projects who have spoken out as well. Joyce Bloom, a long-time Rossmoor resident and former Rossmoor Community Services District Board Member, recently wrote a guest opinion in the Sun Newspaper against the protesters.
“We all bought our homes then, knowing that [the shops] was a privately owned piece of property. People who own property like to develop their property,” Bloom wrote.
Ad Hoc Committee member Ralph Vartebedian also said that the new developments are replacing former tenants such as a discount movie theater, aging bowling alley and a 24-hour liquor store, so the changes may not have been a bad thing, he indicated.
The committee also asked Persico if he thought the city of Seal Beach might reconsider some of the proposed actions if they understood that there was a large group of Rossmoor residents who felt their actions were hostile to them? Persico said he would take the question to the City Council and planning commission.