Housing projects will prompt serious infrastructure needs

Letter to the Editor

There is no outside study stating that 18% in salary is warranted to any non-public safety employee in Los Alamitos.

There is no outside financial report showing the city can afford to provide an 18% increase in salaries for nonpublic safety employees over the next 5 years.

Cities use outside consultants to make these calculations based on accurate financial reports, comparative salaries and job duties in equal size cities with equal size budgets.
Your city manager has not provided you with those studies.

The City Manager is sticking his hand into the cookie jar and taking taxpayer money without providing any FACTUAL basis for entering into a long-term contract to fund city employees.

The City Manager presented a 2021-22 Financial Report replete with dozens of financial errors;
• A $10 Million error in reporting income
• A $3.6 M error in reporting expenses
And for some reason $700,000 is missing – either through incompetent reconciliation of financial records or outright theft.
The City Manager and Finance Director cannot explain how in one year the $22 Million in pension deficit magically decreased by $7 Million in this financial report. No payments were made.

(Note: The Finance Director responded to the question of “how much is the unfunded pension debt today?” His response was $26,000,000. If, and only if, the City manages to “beat CalPers investment returns”, the “$26,000,000 pension debt”, will be retired in 12 years. )

In fact the calculation prepared by the Finance Director to set aside $260,000 a year was modified to set aside $50,000 a month, or $600,000 a year. An error of more than 100%.
The public cannot trust any financial information coming out of Los Alamitos.

Public Request for copies of financial reports from the City investment institutions are ignored by the City Clerk, and the City Manager refuses to provide back up documents for warrants paid. There is no way for the public or council members to verify the accuracy of any financial report prepared by the Finance Director.

The Finance Director has failed to explain why there is a 1.3 million difference in the market value of his investments, and the cost he paid for them.
Why did the City Manager and Finance Director remove almost 80% of the city’s investment from Local Agency Investment Funds?

The result of these investment decisions appears to be an overall loss in excess of $1 a year for at least 2 years. The same investment lost was not recognized by LAIF had the City investments been managed by LAIF.

Nefulda, Hasselbrink and Doby voted against an outside audit to rectify the 2021-2022 errors.

It is highly suspect that the State Controller’s office decided to do an audit of the City’s financial report anyway, and the City Manager chose NOT to disclose the existence of the State audit to the public or council members.

Residents should know if an audit is pending, and the City Manager should not make wild financial decision until that audit is cleared.

Hibard and Murphy pointed out numerous errors in the latest budget proposal presented by the City Manager and Finance Director and asked for corrections, BUT the same three council members who did not want to audit the 2021-22 financial report, voted to submit the budget to funding agencies without first correcting the errors and seeking council approval. Who in their right mind advises elected officials to approve a budget with known errors?

I do not object to the salary increases to the police department. They are underpaid based on competitive salaries in other police departments. To keep your Police staff, you need to provide them with competitive salaries and benefits.
However, bulking up nonpublic safety employee salaries in not only unnecessary, it is reckless.

The city almost declared bankruptcy around 2018. The City Manager proposed a voter approved tax increase and used a public relations campaign to convince residents to approve the new tax based on the promise the funds would go to the police department.
Rossmoor residents are paying extra taxes because they are in the same zip code but receive none of the benefits of that tax.

Rossmoor is seeking a new zip code to eliminate their tax burden, and that will result in the lowering of sales revenues to Los Alamitos.

The city’s website demonstrates that its Financial Director has failed to provide the 2022-2023 financial report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023. It is almost a year behind its due date. There is no way for the council to determine its actual revenue and expenses in the absence of that Report.

Given the fact that the 2021-22 Financial Report contained numerous errors and is under State audit, and the 2022-23 Report has to be reconciled with the 2022 Report, it is unconscionable to approve 18% salary increase for non-public safety personnel over the next 5 years.

Let the State finish its audit; find the missing $700,000; produce the 2022-23 and 2023-2024 Financial Reports , and conduct an audit by an independent municipal audit firm to establish accuracy of the documents, BEFORE entering into a 5 year contract promising 18% raises that the City cannot honestly say it can afford to pay.

Except for the Police Officers Memorandum of Understanding, this 18 % salary increase is a grift on the taxpayers.

Carol Churchill
Los Alamitos


Prepare for Serious Impacts from High Density Housing Projects in Los Alamitos and Seal Beach

A few years ago Los Alamitos faced a financial crisis threatening bankruptcy, to which the City Council responded by asking residents to vote to tax themselves – the same Council whose policies had helped create the crisis. Seal Beach residents are likewise facing substantial cost increases to replace deteriorating infrastructure adjacent to their housing projects, and have already proposed increases of 140% to water rates to upgrade existing pipes.

Whether you are for or against new housing in your neighborhood, your finances will be covering the costs of expanding the infrastructure needed to support hundreds of new housing units and thousands of new residents. As population pressures increase, so do demands for costly municipal services: police, fire, social services, streets, lighting, water, gas, electrical lines.

Further, cities must budget for salaries, insurance, and the income needed to cover pensions for retired and disabled city employees. If city revenues do not keep up with escalating salary and maintenance demands, of course residents’ taxes will rise.

Set against this compelling financial reality are two projects that you must pay attention to NOW: Los Alamitos Lampson Project (247 units) and Seal Beach Old Ranch (167 units).
Why? These projects are located next to each other and will produce substantial pressures on Lampson Avenue with severely increased traffic congestion and will add to what is an already high rate of fatalities on the street. These projects will require the expansion of storm drainage systems, sewer systems, and significant expansions of water, electric, and gas delivery systems. Of course, the costs will be passed on to all residents through higher fees and taxes.

Project 1 – The Los Alamitos project replaces twelve acres of open space with 247 units along the boundary of the Joint Forces Training Base. The Los Alamitos Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was released on April 24, 2024 and written by the developers. Obvious financial conflicts of interest were “overlooked” by Los Alamitos City Management and Members Nefulda, Doby and Hasselbrink.
Seal Beach will have to expand its sewer system for the Lampson project and its residents must consider the costs being passed on to them caused by Los Alamitos City Council’s failure to require “Pay As You Build”.

Project 2 – Seal Beach released the Notice of Preparation and Scoping Meeting for Old Ranch Country Club (ORCC) in January 2023. The new facilities will include 167 housing units, 25,000 square feet of medical office space, and a 150 room hotel – the increase in congestion of all kinds is obvious. Seal Beach employed environmental consultants that do not share the same conflict-of-interest concerns as Los Alamitos.

The combination of these two projects will add at least 414 housing units to Lampson, which has two lanes on each side of the roadway. Both projects are within 1/4 of a mile of each other and directly impact the College Park East (CPE) community. Obviously, the congestion explosion will also impact the surrounding cities of Rossmoor (Seal Beach Blvd) and West Garden Grove (Valley View). These streets are the main arteries to/from the housing tracts and the 405 Fwy.

Please take the time to send written comments/suggestions/objections on your city’s Draft Environmental Impact Report before the due date. Discuss the cumulative effects of the Los Alamitos Lampson Project and the Seal Beach Old Ranch Country Club Project.
Include suggestions to improve public safety, air pollution, traffic congestion, emergency service response time, pedestrian and bike safety, public health/welfare concerns re the flight path of the Joint Forces Training Base – and demand YOUR City Council requires developers to Pay As You Build. No New Taxes or Fees.

Christine Arfwedson
Los Alamitos

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