Thursday, March 4, 2010

Changes by the Sea

Recently, I have had the opportunity to look closely at the visual history of Seal Beach. From the early 1880’s to the present day, seeing the ebb and flow of change is both humbling and instructive. Our town has been through many eras of size and shape. “They say time is the fire in which we burn,” spoke poet Delmore Shwartz and it is true, the one thing we can never get back is each moment.
Seal Beach has been burning in the fire of time for nearly 95 years now. Where is it going? I would suggest to you that it seems to be growing – perhaps cautiously and with some resistance, but it seems to be changing ever so slightly. We seem to have deepened a relationship with the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station and the USS Dewey. The weeklong activities, from tree planting on Lampson Avenue to a reception at Boeing, culminate on Saturday March 6th, at 11 am when the ship is formally commissioned.
We have an award winning school district that is the envy of much of Southern California and the business community is busy supporting Project Seek and other fundraisers for them. It does seem that the business community continues to step to the plate when asked by events. PONY baseball had an amazing opening day, filled with business sponsors of teams and the field. I especially want to thank those who sponsor so many wonderful Chamber events and those this week for the Dewey commissioning like O’Malley’s and Grace Community with the LIONS who did the crew BBQ on Monday.
We have begun a community discussion about what might happen with the DWP property and the committee is interested in what the public has to say on the issue.
We are talking this month about Title 11 – the complete zoning code for the City. Who can forget the over 24 months of hearings, battles and bombastic proclamations from all sides during both City Council and Planning Commission hearings? Those study sessions are happening and are posted at City Hall. Do you have any issues about zoning? Now is your time to have your voice heard.
What does this have to do with time as “the fire in which we burn?” It is simply that: change comes. It will come to our town. It is inevitable. Just as we will rebound from the recession (hopefully sooner rather than later), so will we go through periods of growth and expansion. Equally, we will have contraction and stagnation.
In the 1920’s, Seal Beach was an entertainment and vacation destination. Over 20,000 people a week came from all over Southern California to visit the Joy Zone, the rollercoaster from the 1915 San Francisco Exposition and the Jewel Café which could comfortably seat 500 diners at a time. Seal Beach has had a huge boom time!
We have had gambling casino boats and dancing girl clubs! Seal Beach has had its period of even a “Red Light” district Main Street.
All that may be history, but it is part of the “fire” that exists in our past. Shouldn’t it be recognized and honored for what it was? We don’t need to return just to casinos but our centers of shopping and Main Street need to stay vibrant to both residents and visitors.
Along with that change, isn’t the crosswalk pedestrian sign on Main Street between Electric and PCH great? You can be less fearful of being hit and cars have really been slowing down rather than just worrying about the light.
Change is coming to Seal Beach, slowly and inexorably, but that is as it should be. For times change, people live, grow and pass and our Seal Beach continues to evolve. It was the Founder’s Day Publicity committee which really created the drive to write this column, and they know who they are! I for one am glad Seal Beach is such a remarkable place, and through all of our participation and support in community, it will continue to be our “Jewel by the Sea.” Remember as always, SHOP LOCAL!

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