Seal Beach OKs $10 million park plan

Councilman Gary Miller

The city of Seal Beach’s  Redevelopment Agency, comprised of the City Council members, approved a $10 million Marina Park project Monday, June 13 by a 4-1 vote.

Residents of the nearby River Beach community in Council District 1, spoke out against the project.

Meanwhile, RDA Member Gary Miller, who represents College Park East’s District 4, voted against the proposal. Miller said he would have preferred a $5 million version of the project.

According to the staff report by Sean Crumby, director of Public Works, Seal Beach had a chance to win a grant of up to $5 million for a park improvement project.

“We’d like to chase after $5 million,” Crumby said.

The money would come from Proposition 84, which was approved by California voters in 2006.

“For this grant opportunity, the 4.5 acre property located at 151 Marina Dr. has been identified as the most competitive project,” Crumby wrote in his staff report. The grant money will fund purchase of the property.

The city hasn’t begun negotiating with the two oil companies that own that land, Crumby wrote. However, the grant application only requires a non-binding letter of interest from the owners. Both owners have agreed to sign the letter.

Crumby told the RDA that staff did not know what the potential cost of the project was or the cost of environmental clean up.

Staff was assuming a $3 million purchase price for the Marina Drive property.

According to the Crumby report, Seal Beach held nine meetings, including a Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, to determine what the community wanted for the park. “During the seventh meeting, the community selected Concept C with a few modifications,” Crumby wrote.

Concept C would close First Street and provide amenities in the most functional manner, according to the Crumby report.

The planning and parks commissions approved Concept C.

“Several concerns were raised by several commissioners and the River Beach Town homes. The concerns center around the location of the parking on the westerly portion of the park,” Crumby wrote.

However, the grant preparation team determined that the preferred concept had an estimated cost of over $13 million.

“The grant team has prepared two exhibits that meet a budget of $5 million and $10 million. These scaled back concepts have been prepared to offer as many of the amenities as possible within the allocated budgets,” Crumby wrote.

“The two exhibits have been prepared to detail the grant application with a commitment of $5 million from the city or with no commitment from the city,” Crumby wrote.

Crumby told the RDA that the city could walk away from the project at any time.

Some nearby residents, however, apparently don’t like the project. Hugh Nelson, one of 21 homeowners facing First Street, said the project would fundamentally change the nature of the neighborhood. He said there was not a lot of enthusiasm for the project. He also objected to a proposed 140 parking spaces.

“Please consider the River Beach people,” he said.

Carla Watson, of the Parks and Recreation Commission, said a lot of people thought the project would be an asset to both the River Beach and Bridgeport neighborhoods.

Watson said the parks commission approved the proposal unanimously.

Steve Davidson was blunt. “I am horrified, absolutely horrified, to think that this council is going to push this pool and sports center on us unsuspecting residents of River Beach,” he said.

He said that residents of First Street would lose $100,000 of property value from their homes if the project was built.

Becky James said she spoke with City Councilman/RDA board member Gordon Shanks and that conversation led her to believe that he was determined to have a pool there.

Miller said as he read the report, if the redevelopment agency approved the $5 million project, the city could add to it later. Miller expressed concern about the economics of the project. Miller said he would like to make a motion in favor of the $5 million project because the city could add to it later, but he was probably the only one who would make that motion.

Deaton made a motion to approve the $10 million version of the project.

Councilman/RDA board member David Sloan seconded the motion.