We live in a bubble. Deep down, we all know it. There is a sense that we have been transported in time by Seal Beach. On the surface, our town seems kinder, gentler and so much more stable. It seems though the rest of the nation, indeed the world, convulses with strain relating to the housing market and equity, we in Seal Beach just keep in our places, gently bobbing by the sea. Perhaps a few less shoppers in general, but mostly the same as the last thirty years. Our lifestyle seems unimpaired by much of what we see on the news? Or has it? There are still nine vacancies at the Seal Beach Center near Pavilions, there are no takers for the former Circuit City up in the Shops at Rossmoor and our Main Street has at least four vacancies only one of which is likely to be filled in the immediate future.
The irony is that if the last 100 years of economics have proven for us, bubbles don’t last. The fundamentals of economics indicate that though the world has become both more “flat” as Friedman suggest in his best seller Hot, Flat and Crowded (in that we are able to access more people more easily), it has become much more “crowded” in that more people are competing for the same resources. This environment is not well suited for any bubble. They burst – the stock market crash, the hedge fund collapse, the housing collapse and soon, the next one – automotive perhaps?
Currently, our local government is evaluating one of the critical pieces of our community – the Housing Element. This will determine how areas of our community are subdivided and ultimately zoned which will include such things as “emergency shelters” (translation: homeless center) or what areas can certain areas be zoned for low income housing. In addition, the Planning Commission along with City Council seems to be very concerned about parking in our Main Street area. There is discussion about huge public work projects – like the storm drain project on Electric Ave, which will effectively shut down the North side of Electric from Seal Beach Blvd. to 14th and some of the numbered streets for months. Can you say “residential parking nightmare?” Do you know about these and other major government issues coming up?
Herbert Hoover, our 31st president said: “My country owes me nothing. It gave me, as it gives every boy and girl, a chance. It gave me schooling, independence of action, opportunity for service and honor. In no other land could a boy from a country village, without inheritance or influential friends, look forward with unbounded hope.” Perhaps you should consider being part of these discussions in an active way – not because you are associated with a special interest, but because it makes good sense to know what is happening in our town. We look proudly to our community events – the 5K/10K Run which had a record breaking fundraising year and to our Chamber of Commerce Classic Car Show which broke both attendance and reservations for the next year, so much in fact next year’s show is over half full as of the day after the event.
So let’s get back to our bubble. It is clear we are in a bubble because of the amazing work that our community has done for years in keeping Seal Beach both quaint and solvent. After attending two days of budget workshops and considering the 235 page biannual budget report what struck me most was the absence of any vigorous disagreement or discussion, and by the nearly constant agreement by most of City Council and Staff. I was particularly pleased that many of the items that were suggested by the business and neighborhood communities were both picked up by various councilmen, staff or others. For example, the creating a “beachbuggy” that might move community children and the elderly from one part of our city to another to enjoy the beach, tennis center, community activities or other centers of shopping sounded great! If we want to preserve the life that we enjoy, we need to remember to participate as President Hoover recommended. We should not react too grossly to the news, but to continue to be strong in our commitment to reasonable growth, community events and careful participation in local government. This will keep us not in a bubble (which might still burst), but a sphere of peace and prosperity. And remember, as always – shop and spend local.
Seth Eaker is the current President of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce and is the founder of Black Marble Consulting, LLC., a business consulting and marketing firm.