If Rossmoor existed on Mars, we might be able to control our own destiny.
But the fact is that our community is subject to the policies, preferences and whims of a lot of organizations that we don’t control. And two of the biggest issues confronting the community are prime examples of that: the 405 freeway expansion and the upcoming school bond.
The school bond, under Measure G on the November ballot, would raise $97 million to modernize Los Alamitos High School. The school district makes the case that it is essential to update the half century old campus.
No doubt, great educational institutions have buildings that have gravitas. I remember my high school as a serious place, built in the 1920’s boom of Detroit. It was a three story brick edifice in Spanish Renaissance architecture, complete with ornate domes, science labs and an oak-paneled two-story library that inspired serious study.
When I arrived in Rossmoor back in 1998 and saw Los Alamitos High for the first time, I have to admit I didn’t think much of its 1960’s design. I thought it might have been designed by an architect who built strip malls. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t do great work for our kids. I am extremely satisfied with the education my two children received at the district.
So I am biased toward investing in the school, but I also feel the district hasn’t told the community—particularly Rossmoor–enough about how the money will be spent.
To be sure, some high schools get built for nearly $100 million and in our case we are just updating it.
Measure G will increase annual taxes by $34.10 per $100,000 of assessed valuation and that number can rise to $60 per $100,000 based on market conditions. Because Rossmoor homes are so highly valued, we will be probably be bearing a higher per household burden from the bond than Los Alamitos or Seal Beach. It’s another example of how important Rossmoor is to the school district. And vice versa, of course.
My questions include these: how much of the money is going to be dedicated to classrooms, labs and study halls? Is the money going to be spent for a football stadium, a performing arts center or other non-core educational purposes? I am not asserting that is not important, though it will affect how some people vote. As I read the school district’s literature, it seems that all of that will be decided in the future.
The other matter that I have heard from our community involves the issue of transfer students.
About a third of the high school’s enrollment is from out of the district. The school administration has already decided that it wants to reduce the number of those transfer students. Clearly, there will always be some transfer students, which is a good policy in principle. But the updating of the high school presents an excellent time to consider how the district is funded and how many transfer students are appropriate. It should be an open public discussion.
The association will be hosting a town hall on the school district and the bond issue at our October 16 monthly meeting. I encourage the community to come and hear about the plans so you can make an informed decision about the bond.
Let me offer one other opinion about the bond. I hear some people say it will be good for property values. I think that should be the lowest priority in our decisions. We all owe it to the kids who grow up here to give them good educations and show them that the community cares about the school. The bond is far more important than an investment decision like remodeling a kitchen.
The 405 freeway expansion is another case where Rossmoor is just a minority player in a much larger picture. The association hosted a town hall on the problem of noise and air emission increases that are occurring as a result of the expansion.
About three dozen residents came to the meeting and it was nearly unanimous that they are worried about more noise, soot and pollution as the traffic lanes are moved 20 feet closer to the community.
The project has cleared mature trees and other vegetation that helped buffer some of the impacts. The residents in south Rossmoor say there is unquestionably more noise and dirt coming over the wall. The sound wall was built with a 4 foot steel extension, but Caltrans determined that they would conduct their acoustic modeling based on a 16 foot tall masonry wall. We don’t accept that was a valid engineering decision.
We have asked the Orange County Transportation Authority and the California Department of Transportation to conduct new monitoring for both noise and emissions specific to Rossmoor. That was never done in the environmental analysis of the expansion project. In fact, the RHA had made that request during the environmental process. It certainly is not too late.
Fortunately, Supervisor Michelle Steel, which represents Rossmoor at the county, is taking an interest in our issue. Tim Whitacre, who works on Steel’s staff, attended the town hall and is working on the issue. One thing that is important in this matter is for the community to stand together, because whether you live in south Rossmoor along the 405 or along the northern border of Katella, you will inevitably have projects or issues that affect your quality of life in the future.