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Supervisor Sees Los Alamitos, Seal Beach, Rossmoor and Sunset Beach as one 'supercity.'

Supercity

By PEGGY LOWE and SCOTT MARTINDALE
The Orange County Register

January 10, 2007

It's worked with sodas and fast food, so why not geography? Call it supersizing, city style.

New Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach is proposing that four communities in his northwestern Orange County district become one "supercity."

Moorlach is thinking of combining two cities – Los Alamitos and Seal Beach – with the nearby unincorporated communities of Rossmoor and Sunset Beach. The supercity would have a population of nearly 50,000.

Moorlach's proposal was met with cries that it would be a political nightmare and suffocate the towns' individual identities.

"Bad idea," Seal Beach Mayor John Larson said. "The cities have diverse interests. Seal Beach certainly doesn't want to be combined with another city."

Moorlach says he expected the initial negative reaction, adding that communities may like his plan better when they learn they could get better services, have more local control and save the county money.

"It's a different idea, and I know it's going to shake some people up," Moorlach said. "But this might turn out to be very beneficial to the taxpayers. I think it needs some public dialogue. If we have too many incoming missiles, we'll find out. But I want to take the risk."

Moorlach and some Rossmoor officials hope to get some much-needed time to explore the proposal by requesting a delay on a decision expected today at a meeting of the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission. The commission is set to vote on a recommendation to place Rossmoor in the planning boundaries of Los Alamitos.

The commission, operating under a state law that says it must look at "sphere of influence" issues every five years, has been studying Rossmoor since 2002, said Joyce Crosthwaite, the commission's executive officer. If an unincorporated area is added to a city's sphere of influence, it is essentially placed in the larger town's planned geographical boundaries and gets served by its providers.

Rossmoor residents have said they would like better police protection and that the Orange County Sheriff's Department responds too slowly.

The commission believes Rossmoor should be in Los Alamitos' boundaries because it is surrounded on three sides by the city; the two communities share water and sewer providers; and they have common roadways, she said.

But even if the commission approves moving Rossmoor into Los Alamitos' jurisdiction, Rossmoor can reject the plan.

Eric Christensen, president of the Rossmoor Homeowners Association, said the community wants to pursue the possibility of incorporation, based on responses from a residents' poll last year.

"We believe we would be successful as a small, independent city," Christensen said. "We have a walled city with very homogenous neighborhoods, low crime, low costs of services. We can outsource services to gain efficiencies."

Los Alamitos is neutral on the issue, Mayor Catherine Driscoll said. But, she added, "Los Alamitos should be in control of its own destiny."

The autonomy that cities and to a lesser degree unincorporated areas wield are significant obstacles for county officials trying to merge municipalities. For instance, the commission in 2005 recommended that Villa Park and its water district be dissolved, but residents fought back, collecting 1,300 signatures. The commission dropped its recommendation.

Moorlach, who hopes to be appointed to the commission, said he likes the supercity idea because it works as an economy of scale.

"Some of the residents will blow up," he said. "Then that will calm down, and people will say, 'We could save money and get better police service.' Then people may say, 'Why not?' "

Contact the writer: 714-285-2862 or plowe@ocregister.com