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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | NORTHWEST: ROSSMOOR

'Signature Wall' Gets Show of Support

July 16, 1998|LESLEY WRIGHT

It took two ballot initiatives, years of jurisdictional battles and a circuitous bureaucratic journey, but the Rossmoor "signature wall" is on its way to restoration.

Officials from Los Alamitos, Seal Beach and the county--all of which are home to the gracious if crumbling brick wall--gathered Wednesday morning to dig the first, ceremonial shovels of dirt for the project.

Construction crews will disassemble the entire mile-long wall in parts, rebuild it with cement blocks and then replace 175,000 cleaned red bricks as a facade to maintain its historical look. Although most of it stands 5 feet tall now, it will be reborn as a 7-footer when completed in about 155 days. The wall, the longest brick wall in Orange County, is named for its role in distinguishing Rossmoor from its neighbors.

The wall, which now lists noticeably as it runs along Seal Beach and Los Alamitos boulevards, was built in 1959 by Ross Cortese, developer of the Rossmoor community.

It did not fare well during the Landers and the Northridge earthquakes, and time took its toll. Each of the three jurisdictions tried to jockey out of responsibility for fixing it, and the homeowners of Rossmoor failed to approve a tax initiative in 1994 by the required two-thirds vote.

Jim Silva, who was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1994, said he remembered the wall frightening him as he sought office. "When I was running for election people told me, 'You've got to be very pro-wall,' " he said at the ceremony Wednesday. But others told him just as adamantly to avoid the wall quagmire.

"It was a race to see whether the wall would come down on its own before we could replace it," Silva said.

"It is a county landmark. I can't remember a time when the wall wasn't here."

Others joked that the dispute over who should maintain the wall transcended the careers of several city managers and bureaucrats.

Finally, the homeowners of the 11,000-member community passed a ballot measure in 1996 and agreed to pay about $24 per year for 20 years to meet the $900,000 price tag.

"This was a long day coming," said Erwin Anisman, president of the Rossmoor Homeowners Assn. "Things were looking pretty grim, but we weren't going to give up on our signature wall."

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