November 13, 2020
Mrs. Marie Antos
Mr. Charles Antos
Seal Beach Historical Society
Seal Beach, CA 90740
RE: Seal Beach Historical Society Lease with the City of Seal Beach
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Antos:
The City Council and the residents of the City of Seal Beach appreciate all the work the Seal Beach Historical Society (“SBHS”) has done over many years to accumulate and preserve relics that help bring to life the rich history of our City. Most specifically, we thank you and SBHS for the long-standing efforts to try to preserve the historic Pacific Electric “Red Car” currently located on the Green Belt. In recent years, however, it has become apparent to the City, and to many in the community, that the physical condition of the Red Car has deteriorated so much that it is currently unusable as a community resource.
The City wants to help preserve the Red Car in its current location in a condition that, combined with the City’s preserved “Blue House,” will provide a unique window into the history of Seal Beach for all to enjoy. However, we believe that the steps necessary to repair and preserve the Red Car for the benefit of the community, and the costs of those steps, are now so extensive that they appear to be beyond what SBHS currently can provide. Therefore, the City believes that significant changes are necessary to accomplish what we assume is also SBHS’ preservation goal. We are willing to continue the current lease agreement with SBHS only if SBHS agrees in an amendment to the existing lease to make the following changes:
1. SBHS amends its corporate bylaws and controlling documents, as well as its corporate management practices to provide for the following:
a. The membership will appoint a working Board of Directors made up of at least 5 members from throughout the Seal Beach community. No member of the Board of Directors may be related by blood or marriage to any other member ofthe Board. A representative of the City shall be appointed as an ex officio member of the Board.
b. There will be no approval required for membership in SBHS, and any person who pays the annual membership dues shall become a member.
c. SBHS will timely file all required corporate documents, including IRS tax documents.
d. SBHS will hold an annual meeting, open to its members, and provide annual financial and program reporting to the members, subject to approval by the Board of Directors.
2. SBHS will undertake annual fundraising efforts and commit to spending a mutually agreeable amount each year on maintenance and repairs of the Red Car. The City will permit and support the fundraising efforts necessary to hold fundraising events on the Greenbelt or adjacent City property each year. Although a special event permit may be required for such fundraising events,the City will waive any permit fees and provide, at City expense, special event insurance coverage for each event.
3. As soon as practicable after raising the necessary funds, SBHS will rehabilitate the Red Car completely and, thereafter, maintain it in a condition suitable for public viewing and tours in the opinion of the City’s Building Official. If necessary, the City will engage and pay for a historic resources consultant to provide a report on the condition of the Red Car and necessary repairs and preservation.
SBHC will cooperate in the preparation of such report and provide the consultant with access to the Red Car.
4. Once rehabilitation is complete,the City will pay for and install an improvement necessary, in the discretion of the City’s Building Official, to meet the accessibility requirements of the ADA and State law, if such access is feasible.
5. The City will waive permit fees applicable to the rehabilitation work.
6. Once rehabilitation is complete, and when safe to do so, SBHC will allow public access to the Red Car through docent-supervised tours on a regular basis, and as often as practical.
The condition of the Red Car is deteriorating so significantly that it is in danger of becoming a public nuisance and a liability concern to the City. If SBHS is not willing to make these changes in the very near future for the benefit of the community, and to ensure that a community resource is preserved, we see no path forward where the Red Car can remain on City property. In that event, we will have no choice but to recommend that the City Council take action to terminate the lease between the City and SBHS and direct that the Red Car be removed. Nobody wants that to happen, and we have proposed reasonable steps above to prevent it.
In the alternative, we take seriously Mrs. Antos’ apparent suggestion recently in the Sun Newspaper that perhaps another entity should take ownership of the Red Car and preserve it. The City is willing to do so if the City and SBHS could agree on that alternative. We are willing to explore the City’s acquisition of the Red Car from the SBHS to relieve SBHS of the future cost of maintaining this asset. In so doing, we would be willing to reimburse SBHS’ documented costs of maintaining and repairing the Red Car over the past 5 years. In consideration, the City would commit to establishing a Seal Beach Historical Resources non-profit corporation to own, preserve, and provide public access to historic resources such as the Red Car, the Blue House, and other resources that document the history of this area. Such a corporation would be established by the City, with an initial financial contribution by the City and a separate Board of Directors. As required by applicable law, this Board of Directors would comply with the Brown Act so that discussions and actions would occur in open and public meetings.
We want to reiterate the City’s respect and appreciation for the work the SBHS has done already, and our willingness to work together to preserve this important community resource. But the status quo is no longer acceptable, and we feel strongly that the changes proposed above are necessary for us to keep working together. We would appreciate your written response to this letter not later than December 10, 2020.
Thank you for your
Mayor pro Tem
cc: City Council