“This opportunity in California is a super way for me to finish my career,” he said. “It’s not so much leaving here as going there.”
As the new Community Manager of The Sea Ranch, which is located about three hours drive north of San Francisco along California’s Highway 1 near Gualala, Bell will oversee a staff of about 45. His tentative start date is March 23.
“It’s a really good move for him,” said Mayor Stu Fraser, who expressed sadness at Bell’s imminent departure, but recognized it as a positive career move for Bell.
“I’m going to miss him a lot, but he’s moving to a job that would be difficult to turn down,” he said.
Conceived in the 1960s as an eco-community, The Sea Ranch maintains its environmental focus with very restrictive development codes, Bell said.
“The entire place is a quite private, high-end community,” he explained. “The homes are built to fit in to the natural landscape and they have a really strong environmental agenda.”
According to The Sea Ranch Association website, the community has approximately 2,288 lots on over 3,500 acres and is at more than three-quarters build-out.
It has its own airstrip, several recreation centers, a privately run lodge, a golf course, a non-denominational chapel, an extensive network of trails, and access to public beaches.
“It’s set up like a municipality, it’s just private,” Bell said.
With no commercial development (Gualala provides the closest commercial services) and “relatively basic infrastructure,” “They have a lot of service delivery challenges and they’re really reaching out to understand what they’re going to look like in 10 years,” he said.
Bell is in the process of putting together a transition plan that he will present to council at its next meeting on February 16.
“We’ll know more after the 16th and what involvement I will have in the greater transition,” he said.
“My hope is to work with council and to have a smooth transition,” said Bell, who indicated that he plans to continue in his position full-time until he departs for California.
Despite the town’s budget woes and council’s dependence on Bell for frequent updates, Fraser did not see the timing of Bell’s pending departure as especially inopportune.
“The budget seems to be getting better,” said Fraser. “Last year at this time would have been very different, but we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a skip loader or a train or anything like that.”
“I think the world of Frank,” Fraser said. “The last four years have been tremendous working with a man of his knowledge base. He was amazing; he guided us through some very difficult times.”