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Bus Service Canceled Amid Allegations of Racism

A racially tinged feud between Seal Beach and Long Beach prompts Long Beach Transit to yank its Passport bus service to Seal Beach.

Hurt feelings, harsh words and allegations of racism lobbed across the border between Seal Beach and Long Beach has led Long Beach Transit officials to pull its free Passport bus route from Seal Beach starting in August.

The rift between cities has left hundreds of bus riders in the lurch, more than 300 of whom signed and submitted a petition Monday, asking Seal Beach leaders to bridge the divide.

It may be too late.

At Monday’s Long Beach Transit Board of Directors meeting, officials accused residents and some city leaders in Seal Beach of harboring racist attitudes toward black residents and bus patrons in Long Beach. Based on comments made in May at a heated community meeting in Seal Beach, transit officials canceled plans to extend their bus service in Seal Beach and further eliminated existing bus routes in the city.

“Community members and your city council member in attendance expressed vehement opposition to Long Beach Transit’s proposed transit services in Seal Beach and made it clear that our customers are not welcome. The level of angry, rude, and unprofessional behavior directed toward our organization helped Long Beach Transit to clearly understand that any bus service directly linking Long Beach & Seal Beach is not in anyone’s best interest,” Long Beach Transit President and Chief Executive Officer Laurence W. Jackson wrote in a letter to Seal Beach City Manager Jill Ingram. “Although it is best if I don’t go into the details of specific comments, Seal Beach City staff present can give you a sense of the “colorful” comments from residents and the Seal Beach Council member. A prolonged dialogue putting one group of Seal Beach residents against transit users would not serve any useful purpose, but merely inflame deep-seated ugly feelings that were expressed during the meeting.”

While the Seal Beach residents’ main concern was about rerouting large buses to keep them off residential streets such as Marina Drive, one woman at the meeting reportedly expressed concerns about prostitutes coming to Seal Beach via the Long Beach buses while others reportedly called the Long Beach bus patrons "those people."

At this week’s transit board meeting, officials in Long Beach said the comments reflected an era when black people from Long Beach were not welcomed in predominantly white Seal Beach.

The accusation did not sit well with Seal Beach officials.

“It was a very strange thing to go to that meeting and hear Seal Beach being accused of being racist when we are not,” said Seal Beach City Councilman Gordon Shanks.

“We were told that we are racist and told we don’t allow certain races in Seal Beach,” Councilwoman Ellery Deaton said during Monday’s Seal Beach City Council meeting.

“That is deeply offensive,” she added.

Deaton said city officials in Seal Beach are hoping to work with Long Beach Transit officials to keep the buses running in the city.

“It’s about the passengers. It’s not about hurt feelings,” she said. “It’s about the handicapped. It’s about the poor, the senior citizens. It’s about the disenfranchised.”

Seal Beach resident Paul Cabral submitted a petition to the city calling on officials to keep the buses running in Seal Beach. Cabral, who depends on a cane and motorized scooter to get around, takes the bus once a week to see his doctor and to visit his grandmother.

“People lined up to sign this petition,” said Cabral. “This is something that is hurting our livelihood.”

Jo Peterson also helped gather signatures. After retiring 10 years ago, she opted to stop driving and travel by bus instead. When she had her second heart attack, it was the Passport bus she took to get to the hospital. It’s people such as her who are being punished by this petty feud, she said.

“I am absolutely ashamed of how adults are acting on both sides of the issue,” she added.

Residents and city leaders in Seal Beach said they are surprised that Long Beach Transit officials are punishing bus riders because of hurt feelings, especially because the tenor of the bus meeting wasn’t notably contentious compared to many city meetings.

However, despite Jackson’s letter blaming the change in bus routes on the “colorful” attitudes expressed by some in Seal Beach, the reasoning behind the decision to pull buses out of Seal Beach is a financial one, said Kevin Lee, Long Beach Transit’s marketing manager. Long Beach Transit serves 29 million people, but the agency has had to make budget cuts of late.

“Those comments aside, it comes down to service planning,” said Lee. “We did not fly off the handle.”

Currently the Passport bus comes into Seal Beach along Route 131, which circles Old Town via PCH, Main Street, Electric Avenue and 5th Street. But the agency is replacing the aging bus fleet with larger, clean-burning natural gas busses. Because the newer busses are 10 feet larger, they can’t safely follow the old route and would need to return to Long Beach via Marina Drive, contend transit officials.

If Seal Beach won’t allow the new buses to drive along Marina Drive, then the buses would have to turn around in the marina parking lot at Alamitos Bay, said Lee. That would require expensive infrastructure changes in the parking lot, which the agency could recover by eliminating bus service to Seal Beach altogether, said Lee.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to come by. The real heart of the issue is that if we can’t get access, we can’t provide service,” added Lee. “We will talk to Seal Beach again. It’s not something we take lightly at all. It’s very important to us.”

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK IN THE COMMENTS

Is either side right or wrong? Is there a solution that is best for both communities?

John Tinker June 27, 2012 at 07:50 PM
After reading this article again, I hope Kevin Lee (LBT marketing manager) is a wealthy man who doesn't need a job because Lee clearly implies that the Laurence Jackson (CEO of LBT) letter was a lot of baloney. He confirms what many of us have always believed. LBT's strange actions are based on a lack of funds. So LBT wants to burden residential Seal Beach with extensive bus traffic to cut their own costs. That doesn't seem fair to a lot of residents of Seal Beach.
John B. Greet June 27, 2012 at 10:47 PM
While the Passport busses are free west from Alamitos, anyone -other than those exempted- who rides in either direction east of Alamitos must pay the standard bus fare. This is why each Passport bus, despite being free in the downtown area, is also equipped with a fare box and bus-pass reader....to collect standard fares east of Alamitos. I think The Patch may have simply, and inadvertently, erred in its comment "led Long Beach Transit officials to pull its free Passport bus route from Seal Beach starting in August." The bus routes to and from Seal Beach are not and never have been free, except to riders who are in wheelchairs or who are blind. Those clients ride free throughout the LBTransit system. There are actually two LBT bus routes that service Seal Beach, #131, and #171, neither of those are free except for the mentioned clients.
Leslie Grover June 27, 2012 at 10:52 PM
I'm unaffected by this decision at this point in my life. Objectively speaking,Free bus service is a "community service" provided to LB citizens for a reason. That reason doesn't go away when people argue, it just gets pushed aside and put on hold. It's simple, put the needs of Physically disabled citizens FIRST. THOSE people are our main priority because they can't physically get where they need to go independently. If council members are truly too immature and thin skinned to have effective dialogue then petition them out of position. Council members have to be able to see past raw emotion which causes people to say mean things or they'll stand in constant gridlock and the entire community suffers. When the whole community starts to suffer inconvenience at the hands of a few then you'll find yourself in worse shape than you started.
jennifer harding June 28, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Thank you Shipwrek, well said.
John B. Greet June 28, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Hi Councilwoman Schipske. During your tenure as a Councilmember, have you had an opportunity to vote for or against the confirmation of any of our current Long Beach Transportation Company Board members? If so, how many and have you ever voted against confirmation?
Panglonymous June 28, 2012 at 04:41 AM
(Possibly) deeper background on Laurence Jackson & LBT than most will be interested in. CEO for 32 years. http://www.masstransitmag.com/article/10663335/long-beach-transit-running-as-a-business
Nancy Wride (Editor) June 28, 2012 at 07:29 AM
That's a very interesting story in the link. Jackson's been there three decades and talks about the board's lack of political gaming as an essential part of the transit district's stability.
Get Real June 28, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Learn to read and get over yourself Leah. The article does say free. Just because the person doesnt agree with you isnt cause for name calling. As for the LBUSD cuts, I agree that cutting education sucks. But rather than resorting to lame name calling, you need to learn the reasons why the cuts were made and then act appropriately.
lydia d June 28, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Edgar: the problem is generalized thinking, much like yours. Bigotry, prejudice, ignorance exists just about everywhere...why are you singling out Seal Beach? There is no mythical pocket of land where bad people live, they're evenly scattered about everywhere. So for you to single out Seal Beach implies that there's some other neighborhood where this DOESN'T exist, perpetuating the untrue "grass is greener somewhere else" notion. It may be experienced in different degrees in other places, but it'll still be there. The source of the problem resides in the mental condition of the individual, not the geographical location. Move from Seal Beach, move anywhere else and you'll just find yourself in the same circus but with different clowns :.P
Shawn Pearson June 28, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Maybe I missed something. Where is the documentation of a racial divide except for Long Beach Transit President and Chief Executive Officer Laurence W. Jackson's innuendo regarding "colorful comments"?
S.A.P. June 28, 2012 at 04:58 PM
That was my question too, Shawn, but it has gone unanswered.
Jeannie Dennison June 28, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Wow, unbelievable! Were any of you writing even at the meeting?! I was at the meeting and the undertone was nothing to do about racial issue and everything to do about Long Beach Transit being underhanded and twisting facts!! They presented how they were just trying to service Seal Beach Residents by adding an additional bus line through Seal Beach, when the actual fact is they were doing this to serve themselves since their new longer buses could no longer turn around at the end of Alamitos Bay. The anger was fanned by the lack of honesty from Long Beach Transit! The residents, including myself, are very happy with the current service into Seal Beach and the room applauded at keeping the current routes and not adding this additional one. It appears that if Long Beach Transit can't have what they want, they will just punish everyone. How childish and how very sad!
John Tinker June 29, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Great comment, Jeannie. I was also at the meeting and completely agree with all your observations. The last sentence of comment is particularly on point.
Leah C. Dixon June 29, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Yeah, how over-the-top and wrong of me to state it that way. By all means, return to pillaging public transit, public education and really any public services that actually help anyone (especially the Realist's "certain people" ie the poor and nonwhite), while we fund endless war in other countries without even blinking, that's totally NOT offensive. In Bizarro World.
S.A.P. June 29, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Leah, you can stay in "Bizarro World" world where is assumed that every white person is racist, name calling is the norm & its acceptable to bash the military. I'll stay here in the real world where calling a whole city "racist" is wrong without evidence and those who serve our county are honored & respected.
S.A.P. June 29, 2012 at 06:30 PM
So, Jeannie & John, you were actually at the meeting & nothing racist was said?
John Tinker June 29, 2012 at 11:15 PM
You can be sure that if anything of a racial nature was said the Jackson letter would have included specific examples. The meeting was only about the negative impact of large commercial buses on the quality of life in a residential neighborhood.
Jeannie Dennison June 30, 2012 at 03:28 PM
Yes my husband and I, surrounded by many of our immediate neighbors were at the meeting. The tone of the meeting was certainly that of anger felt towards the LB Transit using a disingenuous presentation to get their buses access to an area they could no longer reach in Long Beach. If there were racial comments made by one or more individuals in the group of 40 plus, I missed them. To say this was the message of the whole group is absurd & an out & out lie! I appreciate your previous comment noting the article is misleading. I feel The Patch owes it's residents a follow up article with specifics as to the charges of racism. They should also have presented how many of us stated keeping the existing routes and applauded. Why would we do this if we did not welcome LB Transit's customers? On a final note, if we were "all" so angry & rude, why did many residents stay after the meeting & help clean up the room with LB Transit & SB City staff?
CDC July 03, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Seal Beach is the worst! Look how they treat Rossmoor and Los Alamitos. Seal Beach basically does anything they want with total disregard for other communities. Does not surprise me AT ALL that SB is full of racist mighty whities.
CDC July 03, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Hey Tinker, Since when does Seal Beach give a rats ass about negative impacts. We in Rossmoor are fighting YOUR paid off traffic control, planning dept., and City Council on the Shops in Rossmoor OVER DEVELOPMENT with zero cooperation. YOUR leaders in Seal Beach are greedy, rude, crude and totally self-serving. They are a bad example for people in your city. Your city is the Syria of SOCAL! Your leaders crush any out cry and logic argument for money. I'm glad this disturbing information has finally been disclosed about your community. Maybe less people will visit racistville-by-the-beach.
CDC July 03, 2012 at 01:57 PM
So I take it you must be a Clown?
CDC July 03, 2012 at 02:09 PM
"So LBT wants to burden residential Seal Beach with extensive bus traffic to cut their own costs. That doesn't seem fair to a lot of residents of Seal Beach." Spoken like a true self-serving greedy SB idiot. Why don't we park all the new Shops of Rossmoor buildings on Main Street and see how you like it. Did anybody in Rossmoor have any SAY on this crap and traffic YOUR City dumped on us. You people are NIMBYs on steroids. I pray everyday that more truth like this comes out about your Pleasantville.
CDC July 03, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Yes Edgar, Seal Beach is a true Pleasantville. Mitt Romney would love it there, no color.
CDC July 03, 2012 at 03:54 PM
"The article was misleading"??? Really Shipwrek? Maybe you would like the LA Times spin on it or your on OC paper version. You people in Seal Beach need to wake-up and smell the coffee. You just learned one of the laws of physics... Law III: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. Hence, no more bus service for acting like a crazy shouting lynch mob. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/30/local/la-me-bus-racism-20120630 http://www.ocregister.com/news/beach-361298-long-seal.html
S.A.P. July 03, 2012 at 04:31 PM
CDC, do you have reading comprehension problems? Yes, I said it was misleading and I meant it. There is no new information in the links you provided. ONE person, who had his feelings hurt because SB residents don't want his gigantic new buses on a small residential street, decided to play the race card with NO evidence. Not one quoted statement from a SB resident was cited. When you come on here, frothing at the mouth and rambling about shopping centers in Rossmoor, you don't do yourself or your credibility any favors.
S.A.P. July 03, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Don't like Seal Beach? Don't come here. That was easy.
S.A.P. July 03, 2012 at 04:41 PM
CDC, "no color" in Seal Beach? The 6,287 Asians, Hispanics, Blacks, Native Americans & people of mixed race who are Seal Beach residents would beg to differ. Or perhaps you'd prefer to ignore them since they don't fit into your current tirade.
Revilla Leah July 13, 2012 at 03:03 AM
I live in long beach! and I go to seal beach on the bus. they are hurting there own people if they stop running into seal beach. I think they need to go into seal beach.
CDC July 13, 2012 at 03:50 PM
Stability? Personally, I think the City of Long Beach will be declaring bankruptcy very soon so this issue is sort of minor. The city is a financial mess. They are constantly raising fees for NO reason. A good example are the marina slip fees which go up almost yearly. I was told by some that the city can't get out from their entitlement payment problems, which get worse every month.
John B. Greet July 13, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Sorry, CDC, but your premise is flawed. LBT is an entity that is operated, for the most part, entirely separate from the city. There are political connections between the Mayor/Council and the Transit Board, of course, and LBT does contract with LBPD for police services, but other than that the bus company's finances are entirely separate from those of the city. LBT is actually one of the most successful bus-only systems of its size in the nation, with consistently high marks in reliability, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.

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