After spirited debate and a political game of musical chairs, the Los Alamitos City Council voted to create a subcommittee to explore the annexation of Rossmoor’s only commercial property, at the corner of Los Alamitos Boulevard and Katella Avenue.
Any step toward annexing the Rossmoor Village shopping center has been seen as an act of aggression by a majority of Rossmoor residents, who have come out against pressures to merge with Los Alamitos. However, Los Alamitos officials have long wanted that piece of Rossmoor, and County Supervisor John Moorlach has indicated support for such a move.
The council voted 3-1-1 to name Mayor Pro Tem Troy Edgar and Councilwoman Marilynn Poe to an annexation Ad Hoc Subcommittee. After first nominating Mayor Kenneth Stephens and Councilman Warren Kusumoto to the subcommittee, then asking to serve on the subcommittee herself after the mayor declined, Councilwoman Geri Graham-Mejia voted against the nominations of Poe and Edgar. After advocating for Mejia and arguing that Poe has too many battle scars in her recent dealings with Rossmoor, Kusumoto abstained from the vote.
“To create this kind of adversarial environment is unwise,” said Graham-Mejia.
Since Poe and Edgar attended a Rossmoor community meeting several months ago to talk about the city’s intentions toward Rossmoor, relations between officials in the two communities have been tense.
“It seems like they are adding fuel to the fire instead of choosing diplomacy,” said Michael Maynard, newly appointed member of the Rossmoor Community Services District Board of Directors. “The subcommittee seems very predatory. Annexing our sole commercial segment is hostile, I feel.”
The commercial property is home to the several businesses such as the Original Fish Company, Boot Barn and the Rossmoor Car Wash. According to county officials, it generates roughly $250,000 a year in sales tax revenue.
The formation of the annexation subcommittee is not a step toward annexing all of Rossmoor nor is it part of an effort to undermine Rossmoor, said Poe.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with trying to take a source of income away from the Rossmoor community,” she said.
The Local Agency Formation Commission designated Rossmoor as being within the sphere of Los Alamitos’ influence even though the city didn’t ask for that, Poe said.
“We are interested in annexing that corner, and that’s it,” she said.
After Rossmoor residents voted against cityhood in 2008, LAFCO placed the area within the Los Alamitos sphere of influence seemingly in response, said Edgar. Last week, Rossmoor officials voted to petition LAFCO for latent powers to oversee policing, trash hauling and animal control services. It was a move designed, in part, to short-circuit the pressure toward annexation. However, the county agency could deny the petition and, once again, ratchet up the pressure to merge the two communities, added Edgar. Los Alamitos should be prepared for that possibility, he said.
Located just off the San Gabriel Freeway (605), the shopping center is the final piece to a downtown commercial zone in Los Alamitos. Obtaining authority over the property would be a major step toward the goal of creating a unified downtown commercial center that serves as a draw for businesses and shoppers and a source of tax revenue, city officials have said. As someone elected to look out for the best interests of Los Alamitos, Edgar said he doesn’t want to be known as the council that missed out on the opportunity to annex the commercial property.
Graham-Mejia has said Los Alamitos should not play a role in bullying Rossmoor toward annexation. Instead, the issue should go to a vote of Los Alamitos and Rossmoor residents, she said. In a January community meeting in Rossmoor, Graham-Mejia accused Poe and Edgar of double-dealing with Rossmoor in lobbying the county for the commercial property behind closed doors. Because of that, Edgar said Monday night that he could not support Graham-Mejia’s bid to serve on the Ad Hoc Subcommittee.
“So it’s a punishment? That is what it is,” Graham-Mejia said.
“I think you need to take responsibility for your actions,” replied Edgar.
Graham-Mejia concluded her remarks with a warning to Rossmoor officials. “Rossmoor, I’ll tell you to keep your eyes open,” she said.
Los Alamitos resident Richard Murphy praised the council for creating the subcommittee.
“This is the type of governance, I am looking for from you guys – forward thinking, taking the bull by the horns,” he said.
Far from an act of aggression such as sending in the Calvary, the council is merely preparing for an eventuality, said Murphy.
Rossmoor’s Maynard disagreed.
“While you guys aren’t sending in the cavalry, you are, in a sense, sending the first shot over the bow,” he said.