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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : SEAL BEACH

Group to Preview Ocean Avenue Project

The City Council approves a three-day demonstration of wider parkways. Opponents say the city should spend the money elsewhere.

September 13, 2000|ALEX MURASHKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A community group raising money to improve and beautify a stretch of Ocean Avenue won approval from the City Council to give residents an idea of what a proposed widening of parkways on the sides of the street would look like. They just have to use their imaginations.

The Trees for Seal Beach Foundation will lay tape 3 feet from the curbs on both sides of the thoroughfare, "narrowing" the street between 1st and Main streets in an effort to also show that traffic can flow at safer speeds. The council this week approved a three-day demonstration, which will be paid for by the foundation. No dates have been set.

Members of the nonprofit group, which has raised $80,000 for the estimated $500,000 project, hope to receive grants and some city money to widen the parkways.

The group originally wanted to add a tree-lined median in the street, but that proposal met with stiff resistance from other residents. Some opponents suggested widening the parkways as an alternative.

"We think it's a good alternative," foundation president Jim Watson said.

But at the council meeting Monday night, some residents objected to any city involvement, saying priority should be given to other streets and alleys in need of improvement.

Mayor Patty Campbell sided with the residents, saying the city should first take care of deteriorating infrastructure.

"We have alleys and streets that are in horrific condition," Campbell said. "This is a matter of needs and wants, and we need to take care of our needs first."

Although the council voted unanimously for the foundation's demonstration, some members were leery of the project. Councilman John Larson said he would love to see parts of Seal Beach Boulevard improved, but he doubted residents would rally to donate money for those projects.

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Watson agrees that other parts of the city need help with infrastructure, but he said his group just wants to speed up the Ocean Avenue improvements.

"We do have a lower priority than the alleys and other parts of the city," Watson said. "But we have grass growing [in the cracks of the street] and water that doesn't drain."

Longtime resident Norman Schutzberger views the project as mostly aesthetic, and he questions its necessity.

"I don't see the value of [the project] for city grounds," Schutzberger said. "City efforts toward this detract from any efforts for higher-priority issues."

He also is opposed to private funding of the project.

"It's one thing to landscape your own backyard, but not public roadways," Schutzberger said.

Alex Murashko can be reached at (714) 966-5974.

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