1967 – Annexation of Rossmoor Center

This was originally written in 2011 for a Rossmoor website, but it has some information pertinent to Seal Beach.

You’d have to be a hermit or living in the Bin Laden compound to be oblivious to the recent John Moorlach- inspired local conversation about Rossmoor, Los Alamitos, and Seal Beach and “Super-city”, annexation, sphere of influence, and shared powers

June 1960 – Rossmoor Shopping center Announced

The issue has motivated a number of people to speak up.  Some of them actually knew something of what they spoke about. (Normally, we don’t fall into this latter category.)

But in yesterday’s Sun, guest columnist/editorialist Enea Ostrich said something that made even my overworked head turn.  (Actually she said a number of strange things, including implying that people in Rossmoor don’t pay property taxes, but I’ll let others respond to that.)  Enea said she had read letters about Rossmoor, and the angst over Seal Beach stealing the Rossmoor Center.   Enea stated “This is false information at best.  What many do not know is that Seal Beach acquired the land way before it became commercial.”

Enea, Enea, Enea… you’re out on the limb by yourself with this one.   Saying “Seal Beach acquired the land before it became commercial,” is like saying, we defeated the Nazis BEFORE entering World War II.  OK, maybe a little stretch on the hyperbole but you get my point.

The Rossmoor Center was officially announced to the public in Spring 1959, the first tenants opened for business  in June 1960 and was fully commercialized by December of 1961.   Seal Beach annexed Rossmoor on March 7, 1967.  That’s a difference of over five years by the calendars I go by.

The Rossmoor Center was built and had its grand opening in April 1961.  Rossmorons had not only been eating at the Kress lunch counter since April 10, 1961, they were soon also watching movies at the Fox, getting ice cream at Thrifty Drug, buying the latest fashions at the Boston Store, throwing gutter balls at the Rossmoor Bowl, and having cocktails at the Rossmoor Inn (later Panda Panda) for almost six years before Seal Beach ever got their hands on one penny of sales tax revenue from the Rossmoor Food King or Rossmoor Pastries.

Rossmoorons loved their center.  It was considered a very successful model business center.  It was the example for many others.   It was producing $80,000 annually in combined sales and property taxes.   That’s the equivalent of over half a million dollars today.  It was a very commercially active piece of property when Seal Beach filed notice in November of 1966 that they wanted to annex the property.  If you don’t believe me, perhaps this Long Beach Press-Telegram article from December will convince you.

2 DEC 1966 – LB Press Telegram, pB3.

Rossmoor to Battle Annex of Center by Seal Beach.

By Barbara Knesis.

Angry Rossmoor residents voted to seek legal help Thursday night in a highly charged meeting to protest Seal Beach annexation plans.
Spearheaded by the Rossmoor Homeowners Association, more than 150 residents crowded into Rossmoor School auditorium to stage their protest gathering.
Residents in the unicorporated community are up in arms over a Seal Beach proposal to annex the 58-acre Rossmoor Shopping center at Los Alamitos Boulevard and St. Cloud Street.

“Taking away the shopping center would be cutting out Rossmoor’s heart, sacrificing it on the star of avarice cupidity,” charged John Dackawith, 2828 Tigertail Drive.

REFERRING TO Seal Beach as “the invader”, Dackawich said it was up to Orange County officials to “protect” the Rossmoor citizens.

A local developer, Marvin Haney, suggested the anexation was for one purpose, and one purpose only… to allow the shopping center property owners to build apartment houses in this area.”[ref] Marv Haney had very good knowledge of the behind the scenes dealings of this area.  His father was on the race Track Board of Directors, and he had business with many of Long Beach’s largest developers.  Haney lived in Rossmoor from 1960 to 1967, and he also headed up the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce in 1984.   He puts all the blame squarely on Alfred Gittelson who was one of Cortese”s partners in the Lakewood Rancho Co., which developed and owned the shopping center with the Bixby Ranch Co, headed by Preston Hotchkis.  Cortese had sold off his interest to Gittelson in the shopping center to fund his Leisure World projects — he had overexpanded at this time, and had to give up almost all interest in the Northern California site and he was developing the Lagfuna Hills site.  “Gittelson couldn’t care less about us,” said Haney.  “He just wanted his apartments.” Gittelson, a Superior Court judge,  would soon after gain a lot of attention  by ordering court-ordered busing in Long Beach and Los Angeles schools.  [/ref]

“They are making a deal with Seal Beach,” he said.

The crowd cheered when one unidentified women called for a “token boycott” against the shopping center but no formal action was taken.

ANOTHER SPEAKER was jeered and heckled when he told the crowd they were wrong in attempting to dictate to the shopping center owners about what to do with their property.

“If this shopping center goes to Seal Beach, I don’t see what difference it makes,” he said.

In a letter read by Mrs. Lori Patelski, [Rossmoor Homeowners] association president. from Seal Beach city manager Lee Risner, the official promised—if the annexation is successful, to construct a community recreation building in the center; to install a traffic signal at the north entrance, to introduce more adequate bus service to the center, and provide a new fire station.

Two months ago, Rossmoor residents voted down by a 2-1 margin an attempted annexation by Los Alamitos.

SEAL BEACH, which would gain about $60,000 in sales tax, and another $20,000 in propoerty taxes annually, filed official annexation notice on November 14.

A hearing on the Seal Beach proposal has been set for 2pm, Dec. 14, in Santa Ana by the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission.

Mrs. Patelski, who urged a mass turnout forn the Dec. 14 hearing, said the protesting homeowners received new support from the Rossmoor Center Businessmen’s Association, and a coordinating council representing 16 Rossmoor organizations.

She added the group will seek the services of an attorney to represent them at the hearing.

Now I don’t blame Seal Beach for annexing the property.   After Rossmoor had repeatedly rejected its own incorporation and annexation with Los Alamitos, the property was there for the taking and the property owner (at this time, led by Judge Alfred Gittelson who would gain fame for ordering court-ordered busing to integrate schools) mainly wanted to be incorporated so some city government would pay for more policing. the construction of infrastructure, so they could build some apartments and condos.

Rossmorons had numerous chances for incorporate or annexation and turned them all down.  Arguably a dumb move.

Los Alamitos also had a chance to annex the shopping center alone (as they did College Park East as well) and they too turned it down because as former Mayors Jim Bell and Chuck Long said, they didn’t want to forward fund the infrastucture.[ref] interview, Bell and Long, History of Los Alamitos, LATV television program, 1988[/ref]  In retrospect, this was certainly a questionable move as to the long-term, especially since a similar action  — or lack of action – had already caused Los Alamitos Race Track owner Frank Vessels to join with Cypress who agreed to run sewer lines to his property, after the Los Alamitos sewer district wouldn’t.  (This was in 1955, when there was no incorporated  city of Los Alamitos, but the leaders of the sewer district were for the most part the same people who organized and led the city in its early years.)

Seal Beach really had no options.  Garden Grove and Westminster were gobbling up every contiguous subdivision in sight (Take a look at a map, and see Garden Grove’s aggressive and malignant westward growth centered around Lampson).  The very real fear was that if Seal Beach hadn’t stopped them the concern was they would have taken the property all the way to the county line.  Plus, all that potential sales tax revenue was there for the taking…

I don’t have articles on how the December 1966 LAFCO meeting went, but it obviously did not go well for those opposed to the annexation, because on March  , the Seal Beach City Council officially confirmed the dirty deed.  Again, I cite the Press-Telegram:

7 MAR 1967 — (LB Press-Telegram, pB-1),

Rossmoor Center part of Seal Beach

By Barbara Knesis.

The Rossmoor Shopping center officially became part of the city of Seal Beach Monday night when the city Council signed an agreement with the owners of the 68-acre complex.

The annexation, which raised a storm of protest from Rossmoor residents when initiated, drew not a word from an audience of only seven persons.

All that remains now, City Manager Lee Risner told councilmen, is to file the agreement with the county recorder and secretary.

The 18-page agreement with Lakewood Rancho and Los Coyotes Land Company specifies that the city:

1. Proceed immediately with plans for a $55,000 community service building n the center’s property. Target date for its completion is one year.

2. Construct, maintain, equip and staff a full-time fire statuion within one and a half miles of the center. Risner said the city is now negiotiating with the Navy to obtain a site at Bay Boulevard and the Garden Grove Freeway,

3. Construct a traffic signal on Los Alamitos Boulevard about 500 feet south of Bradbury Street,

4. Provide traffic law enforcement if requested by the owners.

5. License all businesses now located in the Rossmoor Center.

6. Request the Orange County Board of Supervisors to exclude the territory from county lighting maintenance district 14, as well as removing the county fire protection tax.

The center will bring the city about $60,000 annually in property tax and another $20,000 in sales tax.

At this point, all that was left was for Seal Beach to put the knife further in the back, by renaming Los Alamitos Boulevard (south of Bradbury) to Seal Beach Boulevard.

Rossmoor Shopping Center Related Links:

Scott’s Blogspot – a return to Rossmoor

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