Category Archives: In the News

On The Agenda Of The Not-So-Special Tustin City Council Meeting, May 20, 2015

Hidden Agenda ClipartYou might have wondered why Our Town Tustin didn’t write up the city council agenda for yesterday. That’s because the councilmembers had an odd moment when the most important guys wouldn’t be there. You are so lucky, though. They were nice enough to move it to the “Special” city council meeting tonight. The meeting has also been moved up to 6 pm with the closed session following immediately after.

The Consent Calendar has the usual items for approval as well as a request to approve plans and specifications and authorization for bid advertisement for Phase II of the Edinger Avenue Well. The well is located near MIcrocenter and Tustin’s “hotel row”. The project is already funded and, hopefully, the drought won’t last forever (except for Allan Bernstein who seems to think it is here to stay). Of course, anytime a well is drilled in Tustin, you have to wonder what kind of water you’ll get.

Item 4 is the first reading for a proposed Permit Parking Ordinance for Carfax, Utt, Woodlawn, Charloma, Mitchell and Veeh Drive between Mitchell and Nisson. I am not a fan of permit parking but understand that, sometimes, it is the only way to bring non-resident parking and the resulting problems under control in a neighborhood. Tustin has a reasonable process for permit parking that costs the residents nothing and makes minimal impact for visitors. Still, this may get pulled for discussion to make sure everyone understands the ramifications.

The police department conducted a survey in the area and found that, on most of the streets, the vehicles belonging to residents were outnumbered by non-resident vehicles. It would be interesting to see a survey conducted six months after permits are issued to see the change.

Under Regular Business, it looks like one of our developers is reneging on promised construction. Item 6, Tustin Gateway Hotel and Retail Development Amendment 3 will allow that to happen, for a price.

The retail area near our spiffy new hotels is behind on construction efforts and, if I am reading the staff report correctly, the developer is willing to pay a fine rather than complete construction as requested. So, the city makes a cool $75,000 and we get to stare at empty space.

Likewise, the city is in a bit of hot water (pun intended). Item 7, Adoption of Urgency Ordinance No. 1457 Revising the Water Management Plan, is a result of Governor Jerry Brown’s edict that Californians adopt measures that would result in a 25% water saving effort over 2013 levels. Cool.

Only problem is, Tustin has been using quite a bit more, thumbing our collective noses at the drought. So now we have to come up with a plan that saves 28% over 2013. Yes, while everyone should have been staying the drought course, we’ve been squandering our water. Bad Tustin….bad, bad, Tustin.

The staff report is the result of the Water Workshop held on May 5, 2015. And, although the presentation put together by public works director Doug Stack gave an excellent overview of the situation in Tustin, the rest of the workshop was merely a dog and pony show for the city councilmembers to show their ignorance when it comes to conservation.

The city is currently in Stage 2 water conservation efforts but staff emphasized the strong possibility of going to Stage 3 if the 28% reduction isn’t achieved. The emergency ordinance was also necessary since the courts have ruled out the use of punitive water rates for scofflaws.

The final discussion item on the agenda is Item 8, Proposed Biannual Program and Financing Plan for fiscal years 2015-2017. This is doublespeak for going to a two year budget. I’m not sure what the impetus is for doing this other than it will make it easier to hide unexpected expenditures from the residents.

The budget is already difficult enough for most laymen to follow. Going to a two year budget under the guise of prudent fiscal management is a smokescreen. Each year there are multiple requests for expenditures from reserve funds. As our economy recovers, it seems our city fathers now want to inhibit the so-called transparency the city website touts.

Don’t worry, it’s a done deal regardless of how you feel about it. It just goes to show, they really don’t want you to know how they spend your money.

On The Planning Commission Agenda – May 12, 2015

Credit: Splatworld.tv

Credit: Splatworld.tv

Only one item on the Planning Commissin Agenda this week.

The Tustin Unified School District and the city have apparently come to terms in negotiations for land to be used for a intermediate-high school (whatever they call them these days). The school will be located on the southwest corner of Valencia Avenue and Tustin Ranch Road. At this time (one never knows with the school district), The Tustin Academy will be a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) school for grades 6-12.

The Tustin City Planning Commission is being asked to approve a resolution to determine the site (a) is in conformance with the Tustin General Plan; (b) the 40 acre site identified is suitable for a school and (c) that the city acknowledges TUSD’s plan to overrule the zoning applicability to a 40 acre site.

We Appreciate the Approval but We’re Gonna Sue You Anyway

It is the last part that has me a bit confused. I’m sure it will confuse a few of the commissioners as well. Look for stupefied faces on the dais Tuesday night.

In reading the staff report, it looks like the snag may be with all the “extras” the school district wants to include. Of particular note is the inclusion of new TUSD District offices and an “alternative education” facility. That usually means continuation school.

So, Hillview is already taking up space at Heritage Elementary School. Does this mean they will move that facility to the new (and dare I say more appropriate) site? That would resolve a lot of heartache the city has had with the school district over the use of Heritage. The school district has previously said they plan to open Heritage for its intended purpose in 2016. They were, however, planning to leave Hillview there as well. So now, perhaps this will resolve the complaints.

Or not.

The issue could simply be one of location and the number of schools. The school district had intended originally to open a high school on an identified 10 acre site. Other schools were planned as well. The inclusion of proposed population numbers, housing build-outs, etc., is an indicator that will change. Oh yeah, and they basically said the new magnet school will handle the entire Tustin Legacy population.

All in all, it should make for an interesting, if not lengthy, meeting for the planning commission. Even with Binsack patiently explaining things to Ryder Smith and Austin Lumbard, I think they may need a whiteboard (or the creative use of a choo-choo) to chart it all out for them. Oh, and expect an amiable lawsuit out of this as well. I know, I read the staff report (and I’m still confused).

Oooops!

sorryEvery once in awhile, we make a boo boo which our readers are more than happy to point out.

In this case, we erred slightly when we told you that Melissa Figge of the Tustin Preservation Conservancy was going through the neighborhood, passing around flyers on the Conservancy’s opposition to the code amendment for second units appearing on Tuesday’s city council agenda.

Linda Jennings of the Conservancy Board emailed me to state, emphatically, the flyer did not say the Conservancy opposed the ordinance. “The flyer only says that we want everyone to hear the proposal and express their opinion”, she wrote.

Going back over the flyer, it does say just that at the bottom of the flyer. And, nowhere does it flatly state the Conservancy is opposed to the ordinance. However, it does outline a variety of issues that the ordinance would affect such as parking density and rental income for owners of second units.

If I were to read this without having a conversation with Melissa or anyone else from the Conservancy, I would infer (as I did) the Conservancy is opposed to the ordinance. To be fair, however, I’ll take Linda’s word for it that the Tustin Preservation Conservancy merely wants those living in Old Town to be informed and to speak their mind at the city council meeting.

So, did they?

Who knows? The city, which has had their share of problems with their video system managed to recess before the presentation by city planner Scot Reeskin and did not restart until Councilman John Nielsen started blathering about mother-in-law houses. I’m sure John was trying to get a point across. He just wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

Once again, Linda Jennings came to the rescue saying there were about 50 folks from OTT. Only a few spoke, with most of them against the ordinance. Linda said, “One mother was very moving, talking about why she moved here and how she doesn’t want to see it change.”

I also heard Lindburgh McPherson of the Wilcox Business Plaza in the West OTT spoke….in favor of it, of course. McPherson, and his buddy Silent Mike, are all for anything that will ruin the flavor of Old Town if it will make a buck for someone.

Councilman Nielsen did manage to blurt out his feelings on the parking issue, one that most of us have a concern about. But, it was Councilwoman Beckie Gomez who took it a step further by saying the parking in Old Town is already something the city should be looking at even without this ordinance. Calling it a dangerous situation, Gomez called for more parking enforcement and further resolution to the parking problems Old Town is experiencing.

Gomez also clarified what she thought was a misconception that the affordable housing mandate was being laid on the backs of Old Town residents. Saying the city is addressing the issue in different parts of the city, she inferred that was not the case. I’m not sure if whe misunderstood the issue or wanted to make sure they were being fair.

It was the city that raised the affordable housing mandate in the ordinance. The inference was clear that this was part of the ordinance. But the mandate is citywide, not just for Old Town. And if, as Gomez says, the city already has affordable housing in other parts of the city, why would it even be necessary to address it at all in Old Town, one of the most unaffordable areas? Old Town owners will charge a premium for the privilege of living in their historical district. I seriously doubt anyone would accept an affordable housing mandate on their second unit.

Gomez also pointed out that, if more than a few owners decide to build second units, it would definitely affect the character of the historical district, a concern shared by most of us.

After extended discussion with the city staff, the council voted to continue the item until a time when the staff could figure out parking and other issues associated with it. I’m not sure where that puts the status of the ordinance as normally there would be two readings and a vote to enact. But these folks, in an effort to not create liability on themselves, have to make even the easiest ordinance difficult. What this really told me is that no palms have been greased, ala the OC Business Council and John Nielsen. Perhaps they are waiting for someone to show up with money in hand.

In other business, the city council voted to approve the Veterans Memorial Preferred Concept Plan. This presentation by city staff went off without a hitch and councilmembers got a nice view of the concept.

Allan Bernstein commented that the inclusion of a Purple Heart Memorial at the park was absolutely imperative. We agree. We were also surprised that Allan could say the entire thing without glancing at his notes (or was that the Dodger score on his iPad?).

City Manager Jeff Parker Let us know exactly what and who is behind the drive for Assembly Bill 1217. This bill would reduce the number of members on the OCFA Board and give the County a larger say while reducing the same in cities like ours. Assemblyman Tom Daly, a well known lacky for the public unions, is carrying water for the Orange County firefighters union who hope to have more access to the Board (read influence during negotiations), according to Parker.

Parker said that every city who is a member of the board has opposed this measure. That is, except for Santa Ana, which would get an automatic vote at the table. Some omen, Jeff. Saying the city managers and city councils were trying to send a message, Parker essentially said the state has no business getting into the workings of a local district. Well, looking at Daly’s history with unions, it is no wonder why he is sponsoring this bad bill. The city council voted to send their own message by opposing the measure.

On The City Council Agenda – April 21, 2015

Where-s-the-Fire-The Tustin City Council will have a full plate at the Tuesday meeting beginning with the Closed Session. There are actually two Closed Sessions on the agenda with the last one taking place after the Regular session. The sole purpose will be discussion of labor negotiations for all represented and unrepresented employees. Let’s hope the city employees listen to their union reps this time and don’t screw themselves out of a raise (note: the recession is over).

Aside from the usual suspects on the Closed Session agenda, Item 4.1 Conference with Real Property Negotiators should be of particular interest to Old Town residents. The description indicates Habitat for Humanity is looking to improve the property at 140 South “A” Street. Most of us who live here know this is an eyesore on an eyesore. It is one of the few (are there any others?) empty lots in Old Town Tustin. The house was torn down years ago and the owners back then attempted to put up a shack which the city quickly took care of. Since then, it has sat empty, begging for a relocated house. I don’t know what Habitat has in store but I’m sure Elizabeth Binsack will keep them in line.In any case, it is good to see some action being taken on this lot.

After the usual presentations and fanfare, the city council has scheduled the first of two public hearings on the Code Amendment allowing Second Residential Units in the Cultural Resources District. This ordinance garnered a lot of attention during hearings by the Planning Commission. Sam Altowaiji just about blew a gasket over Elizabeth Binsack’s response to his demand to change the ordinance. Several residents spoke both for and against the ordinance.

Interestingly, Melissa Figge, who lives in Old Town and commented on a recent post about the ordinance, happened to come by my house as I was mowing my lawn (hey, it’s the only exercise I get) today. We had a nice conversation concerning the proposed ordinance as she was walking the neighborhood and distributing a flyer. The flyer was to inform residents of the Tustin Preservation Conservancy’s opposition to the ordinance and outlined their reasons. As someone who is on the other side of the street, I was interested in the arguments against.

What I really appreciated was the fact her flyer was well thought out and the Preservation Conservancy’s reasoning was clear. Just because we don’t happen to agree, doesn’t mean we can’t converse. We found ourselves in agreement on a couple of key issues, one being the parking. As a (little l) libertarian at heart, I find the city’s answer of “We’ll just issue permits” , abhorring. I already pay plenty of taxes that go to the maintenance of public streets. I should have the right to drive or park on them as I please. Melissa didn’t sound enthused about permits either. There has to be a better way.

In any case, both Melissa and I have the same message: If this issue is important to you, show up at the city council meeting and make your feelings known. They may have already made up their minds (well, everyone except Allan Bernstein) but, it wouldn’t be the first time an angry mob changed the minds of the city council.

The last item of note on the Regular Session is Item 15, Approve the Veterans Memorial Preferred Concept Plan. Now, to be clear, John Nielsen had nothing to do with this, no matter how much he tries to take credit for it. The memorial, long overdue, is a project the city sought input on from their natural stakeholders, the veterans themselves. And, there are plenty of them in Tustin. The city held two workshops and the project managers were very receptive to ideas they received. I think the finished memorial, to be placed at the recently renamed Tustin Veterans Sports Park, will be a jewel in Tustin’s crown.

Another important issue, although nothing the city can really do anything about, is Item 16, Resolution Opposing Assembly Bill 1217. This Assembly Bill seeks to reduce the number of the Board of Directors for the Orange County Fire Authority from 25 to 13. This, of course, means Al Murray would lose his lucrative position on the OCFA Board (What? You didn’t know he gets paid for that?). More importantly, it means Tustin would likely lose its voice on the board. While 25 members (one for each member city plus two from the OC Board of Supervisors) seems like a lot, it gives fair representation to a government district that would probably run amok on its own. The oversight is necessary and each member city should have its say on the board.

Moreover, as the staff report states, there is no history of problems or issues stemming from the size of the board. The new system, under this bill, would allow the Board of Supervisors an unfair balance of power, outweighing the population served. In addition, there could be undue influence in the selection process that could give the county an even larger edge. Why Tom Daly, a Democrat, is proposing such an idiotic scheme is beyond comprehension. Oh, wait, there is the politics of the matter. In any case, I hope the city council hasn’t fallen asleep by the time this issue comes up. They should be doing all they can to oppose this. Face it, the OC Board of Supervisors can’t even choose a reputable ambulance company to take care of us. Why would we trust them with oversight of OCFA?

As always, you are welcome to chime in on any of this. Just keep it civil. We’ll keep you posted on anything interesting.

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