On The City Council Agenda – July 7, 2015

Hidden Agenda ClipartI hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th of July. We are fortunate to have a great fireworks show each year at Tustin High School. It has been awhile since we have had anything to write about. Although June is the month for community events, things around our town Tustin have been kind of slow and we have had to deal with the realities of a death in our family. So, my apologies for not being where the action is…was.

We turned to the Tustin city website to write our weekly blog entry on the agenda and, lo and behold, they have given us a virtual cornucopia of color to deal with on the newly designed site. It may take us awhile to learn to navigate this wonder. Fortunately, not everything is new and it was fairly easy to find the city meeting agendas.

As I write this, I am listening to a joint city council – planning commission workshop that shows why the Tustin Planning Commission has been silent these last few weeks. It seems the Community Development Department has been working behind the scenes to develop a presentation on urban living. We’ll reserve judgment until we have had a chance to listen to the entire presentation.

For those of you who are interested in why the sudden push, however, Item 2 on the workshop agenda is a presentation by Irvine Asset Group for a Redhill Avenue project they are proposing to establish a mixed use of apartments, lofts (euphemistically called “live/work” lofts) and retail space. It looks to be an interesting project in any case.

Well, we know how the live/work lofts worked out for the Utt Juice Building project a few years ago. It doesn’t appear that anyone living there actually works there. That is, unless you want to count the “spa” on the corner of Third and Prospect. Don’t fret if you didn’t know it was there. Neither did Google Maps.

On the Tuesday agenda of the Tustin City Council, the Closed Session has no surprises. The usual litigation issues head up the list followed by the ongoing discussion with Tustin Unified School District reagarding Legacy property issues.

Labor negotiations have been ongoing for the past few weeks. It looks like this is the final discussion as the city council will vote, under regular business, on MOUs for both the rank and file and police non-worn contracts. Labor negotiations in our town have not been known for much dissension, however. Most of the time the employees have rolled over and accepted whatever the city demands as they screw the rank and file while rewarding the executives. In other words, business as usual for Orange County.

The Consent Calendar also hosts few surprises. Item 5, Resolution of Intent to Grant a Franchise to Wickland Pipelines, will allow folks serving John Wayne Airport to run Jet Fuel under the south side of our town. This project is a few years old so there are no real surprises here.

I am surprised that our resident water guru, Councilman Allan Bernstein, isn’t chomping at the bit to discuss Item 6, Water Conservation Update – May 2015. In perusing the staff report, it looks like we Tustinites have stepped up to the plate and accomplished our water conservation goal and then some. Required to conserve 28%, we actually saved 29% over our 2013 water use. Bernstein should be giddy.

Looking a little deeper into the report, it looks like staff are attributing the savings to a relatively cool month. Come on, though. Those sign out and about town dictating watering days for everyone probably had some impact, along with the huge PR campaign the city has had. It doesn’t hurt the city contracted an experienced conservation code enforcement officer to target scofflaws, either. 36 violations have been reported but it’s not clear in the report whether they were all remedied.

It’s doubtful the sole Public Hearing will generate much dissent. Item 9, Streamlining City Building Department of Solar Panel Permits, will make it easier for residents to obtain permitting for solar panels. It will also help the city to achieve a state mandate on alternative energy.

Under Regular Business, Item 10 – Memoranda of Understanting with TMEA and TPSSA, the city council will accept the contracts for the bulk of city employees. As a reward for all the “concessions” the employees gave to an arm-twisting negotiator over the past 6 yeasrs, employees will receive a 3% raise for each of the next two years as well as a lump sum payment. The agreement also specifies other increased benefits, including the recognition of Martin Luther King Day as an official paid holiday.

Although our city employees are among the best paid in the county, this raise and benefit package is long overdue. You get what you pay for and, frankly, Tustin residents have gotten a whole lot more the past few years. Hopefully, there is no dissent among the city council over this contract. Let’s hope our sworn officers in TPD do as well.

The only other interesting entry on the agenda is Item 14, Appointment of Replacement Successor Agency Board Member. Councilwoman Beckie Gomez is resigning her position on the board for personal reasons (We have an email in to her but haven’t received a reply). Although the staff report says the city council can appoint anyone, my bet is it will be another member of the council, likely Dr. Bernstein. Any bets?

On The City Council Agenda – June 16, 2015

Hidden Agenda ClipartApologies for being MIA the past few weeks. We’ve had family business to take care of and, as most of you know, the blog is a passion not a career. In any case, there hasn’t been much happening politics wise during the first part of June. I hope everyone enjoyed the Annual Chili Cookoff and the Tustin Police Open House. Both events are highlights of our town Tustin. On to the business at hand.

As far as activity, there will probably be more for the Tustin City Council to do during Closed Session(s) than during the Open Session meeting. The city council will consider several possible exposures to litigation plus the current litigation with the state over RDAs.

It looks like City Manager Jeff Parker will don his negotiator hat to work on several parcels of Legacy property as well. Under negotiation is price and terms.

On the Regular Meeting Agenda, a presentation will be made to the city for last year’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (they are rather pretty). Pamela Arends-King and her cadre deserve a lot of credit for keeping the finances straight in our town.

The sole Public Hearing Item 1, is on rate increases for solid waste. In other words, the monopolistic CR&R is asking for a rate increase to haul our trash. Locked into a ten year contract, we don’t have much choice unless the city council finds a majority protest. That’s not likely considering Mayor pro tem John Nielsen is in their pocket. Citizens could fill the council chambers to overflowing and they would still vote the rate increase.

The Consent Calendar holds no surprises with the usual items listed for approval. Tustin PD is asking to destroy certain records no longer needed for investigative purposes. Nothing to see here, move along….

Under Regular Business, Item 9- Budget Appropriations and Salary Schedule, the council will be asked to approve three resolutions for the city, housing authority and salary schedule for the coming year. Not much to see at this time other than general budget items. You can see the resolution and appropriations here.

Likewise, Items 10, Appropriation Limit for Fiscal Year 2015-2016, and Item 11, Successor Agency Resolution No. 1502, are budget items that set limits and other issues for the city and the Successor Agency to the defunct Redevelopment Agency. I know the city council holds out hope for successful litigation on RDAs but, let’s face it- they were play toys for the conservative branch that did little more than dole out corporate welfare. Goodbye and good riddance.

If there is anything of real interest on the agenda, it is the final Closed Session meeting. Labor negotiations are in full swing and it looks like there may be lots to talk about. Sales tax and other revenue are up and the city future is looking good with development of the old base property in full swing. After all of the cuts and sacrifices our well paid employees have made (except for Jeff Parker who secured a pretty sweet deal when he came on board as the highest paid employee) they may deserve a bit of a raise. Let’s see how they fare this year.

On The City Council Agenda – Tuseday June 2, 2015

parking permitsAmong other hot topics, opponents of the permit parking ordinance for the Veeh Drive/Nisson Road area will get a last chance to thwart the NIMBYS at tonight’s meeting of the Tustin City Council.

Care Ambulance will start off the evening with a presentation on why they are the best suited to haul our sick and injured folks around. Care was recently awarded the county ambulance contract after protracted discussions, arguments and threats over the past year. It seems that no one could decide who was best suited to award the contract.

The presentation will be followed by two Public Hearings. Item 1, Public Hearing to Consider leveying of Annual Assessment of Tustin Landscape and Lighting District, comes up every year. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone speak on this mostly pro forma issue.

Item 2, Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance 1457, will give water guru and city councilman Allan Bernstein another chance to wow us with his expertise on water conservation again. He still hasn’t told us how our cutting edge efforts have netted us another 3% over the state mandate that our city must now conserve.

Most of the Consent Calendar is the usual approvals for expending funds and destroying records. However, I am wondering about Item 3, Waive Reading in Full of All Ordinances and Resolutions on the Agenda. Why? I am sure it is something discussed in Closed Session that we will never know why. I assume it is for this agenda only.

Then, we come to the big ticket item.

I can imagine that, regardless of the leanings of the city coucil, people may still want to discuss the pros and cons of Item 12, Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance 1455. Anytime you are taking a basic right away from a group of people (yes, I think parking on city streets is a basic right), there had better be a good reason. While complaints from the area and a resulting investigation showed some pretty surprising parking issues for the homeowners, many of them expressed concern over the proposed permitting because it would not really solve the overall probelm. Unless there is an all out demonstration in council chambers, this item will pass, probably unanimously. And, in a few months time the city will be dealing with a new area.

Item 14, Resolution Supporting the Senate Constitutional Amendment SCA 2, is a feel good vote for the city council so they can stand with the rest of the righties in showing their patriotism. Mind you, I am also in favor of the heart of this amendment that should not have to be. I mean, this is America after all. And, while I will defend your right to burn, stomp or otherwise desecrate our flag because that’s your personal right (remember the First Amendment?), a public school or any public institution should not be allowed to ban the symbol of our country from being flown. Period. This state amendment should not even be necessary. But, if it’s the only way to get bureaucrats to understand basic flag law, then so be it. I wonder if John will have a tear in his eye when they read item? Oh, wait, they won’t. They aren’t going to read any of the ordinances or resolutions, remember?

If you are one of those to believe the drought may be here to stay, you may be interested in the final item on the agenda before Dr. Bernstein gives us his water lecture.

Item 15, Amendment of the Municipal Water District of Orange County’s Turf Removal Program. The turf removal program of the Metropolitan Water District of Orange County gives a rebate of $2.00 per square foot of turf to aid homeowners in removing grass lawns and replacing it with drought resistant landscaping. The city proposes to provide supplemental funding of an additional $1.00 per square foot.

Now, there are companies out there who are advertising they will come in, remove your turf and replace it with drought resistant landscaping for the price of the rebate. At least one company says they will do it all without any out of pocket expense to the homeowner, taking assignment of the rebate itself as full payment. That’s a pretty good deal if you are considering (as we are) going to a drought resistant front yard. Truth is, I can’t get my grass to grow anyway.

As usual, we’ll let you know if there is anything to report back after our city fathers meet.

Parking And Water – What The City Says

NOPARKINGNo Planning Commission meeting tonight. There is a hearing tonight at the Tustin Unified School District Headquarters at 6 pm regarding the establishment of a Community Facilities District 15-1, presumably on Legacy subdivisions. Taxes, I hear, will be ridiculously high for questionable results although the district will throw around current buzzwords like “magnet school” and “STEM”, to get everyone excited. How about we just worry about the three R’s for the time being? In any case, it beats another bond issue being foisted on a gullible public.

I had occasion to attend last week’s meeting of the Tustin City Council. Two agenda items resulted in a full house in the council chambers. Most of the attendees were there to voice their opinion on the proposed parking permit ordinance. The city is proposing to establish another permitted parking zone in a residential area near Redhill Avenue and Nisson Road.

Surprisingly, the public speakers were split about evenly for and against the ordinance. And, while most of those speaking against the ordinance were among those that would be adversely affected, some of them were the residents whose parking is currently impacted.

A presentation by Public Works Manager, Chris Aldovar, revealed the city has caused its own problem by establishing a previous permit parking ordinance in an adjacent neighborhood. Predictably, that ordinance drove the excess parking further down the road to its present location.

The usual arguments in favor of permit parking were cited. A residents survey complained of noise, trash certain unsavory characters hanging around at all hours of the night, etc., all of which has contributed to a diminished quality of life for residents. A check by the city showed that an average 65 percent of the cars parked in the proposed six block area were non-resident.

About half of the speakers came out in favor of the ordinance. Most complained of the same thing: trash, noise and people doing nasty (do I need to spell this out for you?) things in public. Used condoms were mentioned alongside the McDonalds wrappers.

Predictably, most of those that spoke against the ordinance lived in the nearby apartments. One college student complained she lived with two roommates in an apartment with one assigned parking space. She said she used to park close by until permit parking forced her to move down the street. She asked residents to look at her story as typical. She doesn’t like parking on another street that requires her to walk, sometimes late at night, to get to and from her car. But, she says, she has no choice. Permit parking will just move her and the problem to another neighborhood.

The city presentation itself revealed the shell game of permitted parking where the establishment of parking permits in one neighborhood simply moves the problem a few streets over. When those residents get fed up, they petition for permit parking and on and on..

Old Town Tustin residents are familiar with this. Permitted parking was established on Main Street west of Pacific Avenue several years ago. That contributed to the already burdened street parking on Main and streets north of Main. In the same way, the city admits that extending the permit parking area to the six block residential area will undoubtedly push the excess cars to new unpermitted areas.

That is, unless a permanent resolution is found.

One idea brought up by a resident was to have the city purchase several vacant storefronts in the area and turn them into paid parking. As he put it, for a nominal fee each month, these folks could have parking and the city would be able to recover costs.

Of course, no answer as to how the city would pay for the lots and improvements. Would property owners want to give up valuable commercial real estate? And, would people pay for something they receive for free by parking on the street. It also would not fix the problem citywide. And, judging from the number of increasing requests for permitted parking zones, it is only a matter of time. Taxpayers may rightfully complain the problem was caused by apartment developers years ago who legally were able to limit the number of parking spaces according to the number of bedrooms per apartment. Nowadays, that is not a good indicator of how many cars apartment dwellers will bring with them.

One solution a public speaker came up with is one the city deliberated years ago. That would be to require a permit to park for any residential area. Quite a few cities in California have gone the route of permit parking for most, if not all, residential parking areas (Stanton and Orange are two in Orange County). Some are more restrictive than others, requiring permits for anyone parking more than two hours at any time of the day or night.

The city of Orange has a system that charges residential streets to establish permit parking. The current fees to establish permitted parking are under consideration to be raised to $2500. The cost supposedly covers city costs to establish the zone. Permit parking in Orange is 24 hours a day.

Tustin has taken a less restrictive approach so far, prohibiting parking during the hours of 2-6 am without a permit in those affected areas. Currently, there is no charge to homeowners either to establish the zone or to disseminate permits. The establishment of fees might cut down on residents establishing restricted parking simply for elitist purposes.

If you want to weigh in on this, the city must hold another reading of the ordinance before implementation. You can get in your two cents worth at the next meeting of the city council scheduled for June 2nd.

The second major issue before the city council was water. The city council considered an emergency ordinance to establish changes to the Tustin City Code Drinking_Water_Security_Poster_EPArevising the city’s water management plan.

Several speakers expressed misgivings over the proposed ordinance and the city’s management of water resources in general. The first speaker complained that, even if all residents conserved another 25 percent of water, it would only result in a 2 percent reduction overall due to 90 percent of the water being used by the city and commercial entities.

It was pretty funny watching Chuck Puckett stumble over the reading of the ordinance, saying the governor was mandating a 25 percent decrease and that, through waterwise applications, the city of Tustin only had to cut back 28 percent. Huh?

It gets better.

Councilman Al Murray actually had the nerve to call Councilman Allan Bernstein a “water guru”. Seriously? OK, he actually said the city was “lucky” to have two water gurus on the council, Doctor Allan Bernstein and John Nielsen.

John Nielsen, who sits on the Orange County Sanitation District, spoke about the mandate from the governor’s office (not the extra 3 percent though). Asking, “Is it fair? No.” He emphasized that, like it or not, the city needs to do it as it is a state mandate.

Nielsen also advised what the sanitation district is doing with reclamation. He said the district is currently putting 70 million gallons a day back into groundwater replenishment. They are looking to increase that to 130 million gallons a day (You decide if that’s a good thing. Remember, we’re talkng poop here). OK, John attained guru status. I was impressed with that as much as the fact he obviously stays awake at the OCSD meetings.

Bernstein, on the other hand, shoots his mouth off without thinking. At times seeming to babble, he says Tustin is at the forefront of conservation and preparing for drastic measures through capital projects and by moving the city into more elaborate conservation measures. I presume he means by moving us from Stage 1 to Stage 2 (there are 4 stages….you don’t want to know what stage 4 is). As the water guru, though, he says nothing about the extra 3 percent over the mandate Tustin is required to conserve or how we got ourselves to this point. Embarrassing, to say the least.

Bernstein truthfully stated that he mentions the drought (more precisely, water) at each meeting. He should, he is not only our representative on the Water Advisory Committee of Orange County, he is Tustin’s own water guru. Oh, the Water Advisory Committee of Orange County (WACO for short) is just that – advisory. Their topics for discussion have included such exciting issues as, “An Introduction to the Colorado River Board of California” (April 10th), “Remote Sensing Tools for the 21st Century” (March 6th) and the nail-biting “Two Elephants in the Room – Salton Sea and Owens Valley” (January 9th). Bernstein ended his discussion with exactly how we got where we are (3 percent behind everyone else, to be exact). The city actually determines, through cutting edge technology, the exact amount each blade of grass on city-owned land needs and then delivers it, no more, no less. Guru stuff, to say the least.

The real water guru, of course, is Public Works Director, Doug Stack. Sporting a spiffy new goatee, Stack gave his usual intelligent, if pithy, discussion on water use and how much we actually steal receive from our friends from the north. Stack proved to be the most informed on how and where conservation is needed and what the city is actually doing to conserve water.

The emergency ordinance making revisions to the water conservation codes was adopted unanimously. There was not doubt it would be but, then, we all know we need to conserve. If you don’t just drive down Redhill Avenue north of the 5 and you will see what days you are allowed to water your lawn. No word on when the water police will come to inspect your drip irrigation.

The next meeting of the city council will be Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Until then, take a word from the waterwise gurus and conserve.

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