Category Archives: Local Government

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.

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.

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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