Seal Beach approves letter rejecting super city proposal

Ellery Deaton

In a move that didn’t surprise anyone, the Seal Beach City Council on Monday, April 25 approved a letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors rejecting Supervisor John Moorlach’s super city proposal.

The letter is unlikely to settle the issue.

Since 2007, Moorlach has advocated merging Seal Beach, Rossmoor and Los Alamitos.

Moorlach stepped up his efforts to merge the communities during a lunch meeting earlier this year with officials of  all three communities.

“This Seal Beach City Council is strongly opposed to the ‘super city’ concept currently being proposed by Supervisor Moorlach,” said the letter.

The Seal Beach letter, signed by Mayor Michael Levitt, was addressed to Bill Campbell, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

Levitt has strongly opposed the merger proposal.

Campbell and Moorlach are both members of the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission. LAFCO is the agency with legal authority to approve mergers and annexations of communities. Moorlach chairs the agency.

Moorlach and the general public were already aware of the council’s plans to send the letter to the supervisors. “On Good Friday, in my Moorlach Update, we witnessed a determined recalcitrance to the idea of a super-city,” Moorlach wrote on Monday, April 25, in an e-mail to his constituents.

This was apparently in reference to the Sun article “Super city proposal heats up,” which cited the opposition to the idea expressed by Seal Beach City Council members during the agency’s April 11 meeting.

At that time, District 1 Councilwoman Ellery Deaton proposed the letter. The other council members all expressed support for the letter rejecting the super city idea. Moorlach’s comment on the subject came on Monday, April 25, several hours before the council approved the letter rejecting his idea. “Understood, but when you are provided with a proposal that may save your constituents money, should you continue that rigidity?” Moorlach asked.

However, Moorlach has never provided exact figures on how much money might be saved.

LAFCO looking at merger

Moorlach has consistently argued that a merger would reduce costs to West Orange County residents. He recently told the Sun that LAFCO has hired a consultant to do a study to determine how much money would be saved by merging the three Sun Region communities.

It is not known when the consultant was hired or for how much. The Sun reviewed OC LAFCO agendas and minutes for all of 2010 and for 2011 to date.

The only mention of the super city proposal was a comment by Rossmoor resident Kenneth Brown in favor of the proposal.

In a March 24 opinion piece in the Sun, Brown argued that the merger would save taxpayers money and eliminate the influence of special interest groups.

Brown also argued that Rossmoor residents’ lives are influenced by the decisions made by the Los Alamitos and Seal Beach city councils.

“It is in the Rossmoor residents’ best interest to be in a position to influence those actions. That premise alone makes the super city approach attractive,” Brown wrote.

Rossmoor residents are divided on the future of the community. The majority appear to favor leaving the area as it is—an unincorporated “island.”

Orange County officials won’t accept that option. Rossmoor residents have rejected cityhood by a wide margin and many appear to be hostile to merging with Los Alamitos.

Moorlach has written in the past that the only options for Rossmoor are to be an independent city, merge with Los Alamitos or join the super city.

By state law, unincorporated communities can be annexed without protest proceedings if the “islands” cover less than 150 acres of territory.

As for the financial study of merging the three communities, Moorlach explained the lack of references to the super city proposal in LAFCO minutes by saying “it hasn’t been a priority.”

In a recent interview with the Sun, Moorlach said even with support of local officials, such a merger would require voter approval.  LAFCO has no authority to impose a super city on West Orange County residents against their will.

Seal Beach officials are apparently not supportive.

“In a recent opinion article published in the Sun Newspaper on April 7, 2011, Supervisor Moorlach identifies what he considers a problem—a ‘quilt work’ of local service providers. The article asks if there are ‘too many cities’ or if there is an ‘overkill’ of special districts,” the Seal Beach letter said.

Actually, the Moorlach opinion piece was published by several Orange County news organizations in April. Moorlach’s office apparently submitted the opinion piece to all the news media at roughly the same time.

Moorlach’s arguments did not persuade anyone on the Seal Beach City Council.

“While the county may have service delivery issues in Rossmoor, the City Council does not believe the answer is the merger of three separate and distinct communities—Los Alamitos, Rossmoor and Seal Beach—into a  ‘Super City.’ The concept is without merit and the Seal Beach City Council stands firmly opposed to the idea,” the letter said.