How did a cable television company earn such nice digs?
A lot of people driving down Central Avenue in Old Town Seal Beach--if unfamiliar with local history--have probably asked themselves that question.
The sign in front of the half-block-long, Mediterranean-style building reads Comcast Cablevision, but something seems amiss. The building, with its stand-out clock tower, seems to be the city's center, its meeting place.
And it is. Sort of.
The part of the building that fronts 8th Street and Central Avenue is Old City Hall, built in 1929 and now home to Comcast Cablevision's western region office.
The new city hall, though, is an extension of the old, literally. It occupies the part of the building along 8th Street that was built on to the existing building in 1969.
Old City Hall is on the National Registry of Historical Sites and was the first and largest publicly owned building in Seal Beach.
It was designed as a civic center complex to house the fire and police stations, the town's jail, City Council chambers and the city library. There was even an apartment built in for the fire chief.
When the city realized that it had outgrown the building in the late 1960s, it bought some adjacent land and added to the current structure, using the same type of architecture.
Most city offices moved into the new administration building wing in 1969. The Police Department stayed in Old City Hall until 1978, when it moved to its current site on Seal Beach Boulevard. A fire station has since been built across the street and the city no longer has its own prison or library.
Old City Hall was used by the city as a storage facility from 1978 until 1981, when the City Council decided the deteriorating building should be renovated. Knowing such a project would be too costly for the city to undertake, the council agreed to lease the building to a developer who could properly preserve it.
Sacramento-based California Historic Properties was chosen, and the company subsequently subleased the site to the now-defunct Group W Cable in 1983. Comcast Cablevision bought out Group W in June, 1986, and took over the lease.
Today, the building is used by Comcast Cablevision as headquarters for its western region office, which oversees 250,000 cable customers in Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, Ventura and Orange counties.
There is a public access and local origination studio on the second floor, which used to be the old City Council chambers.
"The public is always in and out of here, with the studio upstairs," said Jim Bequette, Comcast Cablevision' western region vice president.
He said Comcast's purchasing director works where prisoners used to cool their heels--his ground-floor office is where the town's prison used to be.
And his own office used to be that of the watch commander for the Seal Beach Police Department.
"It's even got a bathroom," Bequette said. "I guess (the watch commander) couldn't go far from his desk."
The old tenants may have moved on to other digs, but they are not forgotten.
Address: 201 8th St. (at Central Avenue), Seal Beach