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Rossmoor Homeowners Group Backs Cityhood

Rossmoor Homeowners Group Backs Cityhood 

September 20, 2008

By JOHN CANALIS

ROSSMOOR - The Rossmoor Homeowners Association issued a statement this week in support of making the unincorporated tract on Long Beach's eastern flank Orange County's newest city.

"We are the ones who have given up weekends and work days to attend meetings in downtown Santa Ana, on matters important to Rossmoor," the RHA board said. "We know from our personal experiences how difficult it is to get the county to respond to our neighborhood problems.

"The county has bigger problems to solve than worry about Rossmoor levels of services."

The homeowners group endorsed the cityhood initiative, Measure U, in July and is urging its passage in the Nov. 4 election.

However, the RHA board, as a panel, will not be directly campaigning, though individual members may.

"The RHA board has studied the incorporation measure in much detail and feels strongly that Rossmoor's quality of life will improve, the visibility and identity of Rossmoor will improve, and the community will enjoy having our local issues solved at home," Richard Niemeyer, president of the homeowners group, said Friday.

In order for the 50-year-old suburban tract behind the red "Signature Wall" to become a city, voters will have to approve a utility tax of 7 percent or 9 percent to offset a relatively modest sales tax base.

The 7 percent tax would mean about $16 a month per household; 9 percent would mean about $21 a month.

The RHA board endorsed both taxes.

Cityhood opponents have argued that Rossmoor is served well as an unincorporated community, and there is no reason to alter working governance.

In ballot arguments against the measure, opponents say the county cannot legally refuse to provide services to Rossmoor, and the community's relatively weak sales tax base could mean future taxes to keep a municipality afloat.

"A new city will be more bureaucracy and more expensive to operate," according to the ballot argument.

The subdivision - bordered by Long Beach to the west, Los Alamitos to the north and Seal Beach to the south and east - is governed by the county seat in Santa Ana and a small agency, the Rossmoor Community Services District.

If voters approve cityhood, members of the RCSD board would not automatically become council members. Voters will be asked on the same ballot to elect a City Council.

Eight candidates are seeking five seats. Voters also would decide whether to create council districts by neighborhood, as neighboring Seal Beach and Long Beach do.

Supervisor John Moorlach, whose 2nd District includes Rossmoor, has long supported cityhood, arguing that the county should focus on providing regional services.

The difference between what Rossmoor residents pay in annual taxes and what they receive in services is about $590,000, according to the county.

Utilizing available revenue, such as a portion of property and sales taxes, state vehicle license fees and a utility tax, would give Rossmoor projected revenues of $4.9 million its first year against expenses of nearly $4.5 million.

The district spends $1 million in an annual budget that covers street sweeping and lighting, parks and recreation, and tree-trimming.

County services provided to Rossmoor include animal control, law and code enforcement and issuing building permits.

The new council would decide on contracting for city services, including law enforcement, now handled by the Sheriff's Department, and animal control.

The Orange County Fire Department would continue providing protection.

If the ballot measures pass, Rossmoor would become a city on Jan. 1. The county would provide services through June 1, which is when the utility tax would go into effect.

Though not often involved in politics, there is precedence for the RHA board to take a political stance.

In the 1960s, the RHA opposed an effort by Los Alamitos to annex Rossmoor. In the the 1990s, the group supported building sound walls along the San Gabriel River (605) and San Diego (405) freeways and a special tax to rebuild the Signature Wall.

john.canalis@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1273

ROSSMOOR MEASURE AT A GLANCE

The Nov. 4 ballot measure asks Rossmoor's roughly 7,000 voters to make decisions on the following issues:

Incorporation

Issuing a 7 percent utility tax

Issuing a 9 percent utility tax

Electing a five-member city council

Creating council districts by neighborhood