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Drawing the Line : Controversy: Los Alamitos opts to end debate over liability for quake-damaged Rossmoor Wall by moving the city limits.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Tired of disputing responsibility for the crumbling Rossmoor Wall, the city of Los Alamitos decided it would be easier to kick the wall out of town.

So it did.

This week, the City Council directed its staff to move the city limits 18 inches to the east, to ensure that the five-foot brick wall that snakes around homes in unincorporated Rossmoor is no longer its concern.

The wall, it seems, needs about $100,000 worth of repairs since the Landers and Northridge earthquakes.

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“It’s never been called the Los Alamitos Wall,” said Councilwoman Alice Jempsa, who explained that portions of the wall were accidentally annexed to the city and Seal Beach in 1970 when both cities widened their main thoroughfares.

But that little fact doesn’t make it theirs, they say.

Because the wall was built in 1959 by Rossmoor developer Ross Cortese at the request of the county, and funds were--at least in the beginning--set aside by Ross moor residents for its upkeep, it’s their problem, the council says.

“Though we want to be as cooperative as possible . . . the Los Alamitos citizens can’t be responsible for maintaining a wall around Rossmoor,” Councilman Robert P. Wahlstrom said Wednesday. “Common sense and a look at its history show the intent was for the residents of Rossmoor to maintain the wall.”

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Because of “engineering oversights” and/or “human error,” members of the Los Alamitos council said, the wall straddles three political jurisdictions: Orange County, Los Alamitos and Seal Beach. None want responsibility for the wall and its damage from the 1992 and 1994 earthquakes.

Until now, most of the 3,500 Rossmoor homeowners who benefit from the wall have agreed that it is their responsibility--in theory.

In a November, 1994, election, 66.4% of voters in the unincorporated area said that their Community Services District should expand its duties to include repair and maintenance of the wall. The problem was that only 64.3% of residents agreed to pay a $15-a-year tax to cover it. And since the tax initiative needed a two-thirds majority, both measures failed.

Shirley Bailey, president of the Rossmoor Homeowners Assn., said that Los Alamitos’ move may force residents on her side of the wall to ante up.

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Los Alamitos’ redesign of its border requires the approval of the Local Agency Formation Commission, which could take as long as nine months, city officials said.

In the meantime, Jempsa said, Seal Beach may also decide to kick the wall out of town.


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