Super city proposal heats up

Ellery Deaton

The Seal Beach City Council is expected to review a draft letter on Monday, April 25, that will tell Orange County Supervisors they oppose merging Seal Beach with Rossmoor and Los Alamitos to create a so-called super city.

In related news, the chairman of the Orange County Local Agency Formation Com-mission said OC LAFCO has no authority to force the communities to merge against the will of residents.

The issue came up at the Monday, April 11 City Council meeting.

District 1 Councilwoman Ellery Deaton said she had seen a guest column by Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach calling for the merger of three West County communities into one city.

In fact, the Moorlach column, “Time to re-draw the lines,” has appeared in the Sun Newspapers, the Orange County Register, and Rossmoor-Los Alamitos Patch in March and April.

Deaton recommended that the council write a letter to each member of the Board of Supervisors to let them know Seal Beach leaders oppose the merger.

District 4 Councilman Gary Miller seconded the motion.

District 3 Councilman Gordon Shanks said the signatures of all council members should appear on the letter. “I think it should be representing all the council people,” he said.

Deaton said the letter should be signed by all the council members and sent to all the supervisors.

According to the OC LAFCO Web site, three county supervisors also sit on the Agency Formation Commission, which has authority over annexations and community mergers.

Mayor Michael Levitt, councilman for District 5, said he met with Moorlach and made the council’s opposition to the “super city” clear.

Meanwhile, Moorlach confirmed that LAFCO has a consultant working on a report on the possible financial benefits of merging three small communities into one city.

“We are working on some numbers, correct,” Moorlach told the Sun on Monday, April 18.

Moorlach is chairman of OC LAFCO and one of three supervisors who sits on the commission.

The Sun asked why there was no mention of the super city proposal in the OC LAFCO minutes or agendas for 2010.

“It’s not really been a priority,” Moorlach said.

However, the subject of the merger had come up in several of Moorlach’s e-mail updates to his constituents.

Moorlach said his updates were based on media accounts that he found through Internet search engines such as Google.

“Although pursuing a Super-City was not on my goal list for 2011, it sure has become a topic of discussion,” Moorlach wrote on March 12.

In February, Moorlach had lunch with the mayors of Seal Beach and Los Alamitos as well as the president of the Rossmoor Community Services District. At that meeting he brought up the “super city” idea.

Seal Beach Mayor Levitt has said he told Moorlach that Seal Beach is not interested.

Moorlach has been talking about the merger proposal in the news media since 2007.

Asked if LAFCO had the authority to impose the merger on the communities of Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Rossmoor, Moorlach said: “No.”

He said that even if the leadership of the three communities agreed, it would have to go to the voters.

Moorlach argues that merging the three communities would be more efficient. One Sun Newspaper guest columnist suggested a larger city would be free of special interests.

Moorlach chuckled when he heard that.

“This is really a fun little debate,” Moorlach said.

Commenting on the subject in his Wednesday, April 13 Update, Moorlach wrote:

“Humans are very possessive.  I get that.  Change is very difficult when it comes to ownership issues, especially land.  Heck, wars have been fought over real estate.

“On the other hand, corporate mergers have brought about much better business entities after combining forces.

“Consolidation, resizing, and streamlining departments and services is a proper course of action.”

His remarks were in reference to an interview with a local news Web site explaining the resistance to his proposal for a city that would have a population of roughly 50,000.

Councilwoman Deaton wasn’t impressed with his arguments. “Mr. Moorlach is right on two counts:  Seal Beach is territorial.  It has taken generations of people more than 95 years to create, nourish and maintain the special life style we have in Seal Beach.  And, he is right when he says we are resistant to change.

“When you have the jewel we have it takes hard work to keep those who would change us at bay.  However, Mr. Moorlach is wrong if he thinks Seal Beach will agree to his Super City idea.  Seal Beach wants no part of Mr. Moorlach’s Super City which is his answer to his problem of what to do with Rossmoor.”

Moorlach said that at least Rossmoor residents were talking about the future of their community.

“If they have to beat me up, that’s fine,” he said.

Political obstacles to the Moorlach proposal are significant: Seal Beach selects council members by district. Los Alamitos selects council members by citywide election.

Apparently only a minority of Rossmoor residents want to join Los Alamitos. The majority of Rossmoor residents apparently prefer to remain an unincorporated community—even though it is Orange County policy to annex unincorporated communities into the nearest city.

Seal Beach officials have opposed annexing Rossmoor and Sunset Beach.

William Chiat, executive director of the California Association of LAFCOs, said that merging two incorporated cities and an unincorporated community into a single unit would be called a reorganization. Merging two incorporated communities would be called a consolidation.

Chiat said he believed the last time a consolidation took place in California was in the 1960s.

“That rarely happens in California,” he said.