On The City Council Agenda – September 2, 2014

CSHSRA Barrel Racing Champion, Heather Eckman

CSHSRA Barrel Racing Champion, Heather Eckman

A fairly brief agenda greets our intrepid Tustin City Council this Tuesday after their brief hyatus. Hopefully, during their time off, they enjoyed the great production of Peter Pan put on by the Tustin Area Council on Fine Arts through their Broadway in the Park program. I had the pleasure of volunteering for TACFA (security, of course) which let me see firsthand just how much work and effort is put into presenting a professional play to the community.

Prior to the Regular Session, the councilmembers will convene at 5:30 to discuss the Ultra-Double Secret Closed Session items. Among them, notably, is the labor negotiations for so-called unrepresented managers and executives. I don’t know if we will see anything come of this tonight (we should – everyone has had weeks to prepare). Expect it to remain as low key as possible as the city council eventually awards juicy raises to their executive cronies. All this will be possible, of course, because the rank and file continue to get the short end of the stick, even while the city improves financially.

Other items on the Closed Session include the usual Legal Counsel issues and Real Property Negotiations for three sets of property. I assume these are all on the MCAS property even though the city insists on clouding addresses with lot and tract numbers when most of these now have street addresses attached to them.

In the Regular Session, the presentations are liable to take up as much time as the rest of the agenda. One of these, Heather Eckman, Barrel Racing, is to recognize the hard work of a young equestrian who took the top spot in Barrel Racing in the California High School Rodeo Association and went on to compete in the National High School Rodeo Finals In Rock Springs, Wyoming, this year. According to the records on the NHSRA website, the Beckman High School Sophomore came in a strong 12th place among nearly 100 competitors. Her time was only one and a half seconds behind the winner. Congratulations, Heather, for your outstanding work.

It should be interesting to see how the Tustin Housing Authority conducts a meeting and annual report all within the confines of the Consent Calendar. In fact, we’re not even sure it’s legal. Nonetheless, that’s how they plan to do it. So, if you have something to say about the THA, stay on your toes or it could slip past you.

Also on the Consent Calendar is the replacement of a variety of city vehicles that have reached the end of their natural lives. The vehicles include field trucks and autos used for parking control. According to the staff report, the vehicle purchases have been budgeted for.

Two items on the Regular Business Calendar will round out the evening. Both items will be to give final approval over construction projects. I’m glad to see the city council rejected city staffs’ proposal some time ago to forego council approval of construction projects. I think it is important the public be kept aware when projects like this are completed. Having it come formally before the city council keeps it in the public spotlight and keeps things above board.

As I said, short and sweet. It should be interesting to see how longwinded some of the councilmen get when reporting their activities.

Addendum

Hey, if you are looking for something to do tomorrow morning, come on down to Classic Burger on Tustin Village Way between 8 and 9 am for Chief Charlie Cellano’s second Coffee with a Cop. The first CWAC (hmmm…maybe not such a great acronym) was held a few weeks ago at Kean’s Coffee and was a huge success. The meet and greet is a great way to get to know your local police officers who patrol your area. You have questions? They have answers.

Also on the ticket for tomorrow is the dedication and grand opening of the Bocce Ball courts at Peppertree Park. The courts are part of an improvement grant and will add another facet to Tustin’s world-class recreation facilities. The ribbon cutting will be a 5 pm with remarks offered by Mayor Al Murray. The new courts are located adjacent to the Senior Center.

 

Yes, There’s a Meeting

Jeff Thompson Meeting for MeetingThe Planning Commission will have a pretty short meeting Tuesday, with only one item on the calendar. That, of course, is barring any lengthy comments from the public. There is also an ominous “presentation” by Elizabeth Binsack at the end of the evening regarding an unnamed subject.

The sole item of interest is on the Consent Calendar and, unless someone pulls it for discussion, it will pass along with the approval of the previous meeting’s minutes. The item, a request for a Use Determination and Conditional Use Permit, would allow Golubitsky Fencing Center to establish a training facility in a light industrial business park on Edniger Avenue near Redhill.

I’m not sure why it needed a sales pitch but, the description of the facility discusses Golubitsky’s involvement with fencing and his awards which includes a silver medal at the Olympics. In any case, it’s a great addition to the recreational venues available to Tustinites and the location is appropriate.

That’s probably a good thing because they have been operating out of this facility for awhile now and the city apparently just caught up with them. The location requires a CUP because “fencing” doesn’t appear in the city codes as an allowable activity (how short sighted). In any case, the city seems to like the idea hence the placement on the Consent Calendar.

Hot on the heels of the recent opening of the new El Camino Cafe in the Del Rio Building in Old Town Tustin, the city has finally released the draft Commercial Design Guidelines for the Cultural Resources District. If you are a glutton for punishment, the 194 page document can be found here. Remember, I warned you.

According to the introductory letter, the guidelines will be used for property preservation and development within the overlay district. It will also:

…provide enhancement or appendix for other city codes for features such as:

  • Business identification signs to help preserve and enhance the character of Old Town Tustin.
  • Tips for energy efficiency to promote sustainability in your project or property.
  • Ideas for landscaping on private property and the public right of way, and suggestions for improving the overall street environments.
  • Photos and graphics that help explain improvements that can be made to properties.
  • Resources and websitelinks to make it easier to find additional information.

Overall, having a comprehensive set of guidelines is important, particuarly to Old Town residents and businesses. Historically, however, city staff has taken a heavy hand toward anything that doesn’t meet their own personal standard of how the area should look. In addition, the city has a history of showing favoritism to certain residents and businesses. These folks have either been influential because of their standing in the community (not necessarily a bad thing) or their political contributions (a bad, bad thing).

Evidence the fact of the city’s real intent is in the draft guidelines. At one point in the introduction, the dissertation reads:

The Guidelines are intended to serve as a “yardstick” against which proposed projects may be measured. The Guidelines are not intended to be strict development standards as are found in the Zoning Ordinance. It is recognized that not all design principles or criteria may be workable or appropriate for each project, but all applicable projects are encouraged to follow the Guidelines to the greatest extent possible. Therefore, they may be interpreted by the City with some flexibility when applied to specific projects.

This, of course, gives the city an out in regard to how forcefully they will enforce the guidelines against individual businesses. In other words, if you are in, you are in – if you are out, you can kiss your project goodbye.

And, the issue comes to the forefront in regard to “new infill development”. Albeit, there are few lots in the business district in Old Town that are vacant, we do have some. A recent example is the Del Rio building that was built on the old Riteway Dry Cleaners. That lot had a business and an apartment on the rear of the lot. When the new owners wanted to develop the lot, they asked for a business on the first floor with a residence on the second floor (presumably owner-occupied). The city nixed the plan, saing that further contaminant testing would be required than was already accomplished. It should be interesting to see if they require the same depth of testing for the proposed restaurant and living quarters being built on the old auto parts store lot next to Mrs. B’s.

So, will the public or local business owners chime in on the draft plans? They should as this document will (or shold) be used to regulate future business and building in Old Town Tustin. This is probably the most important step toward reahbilitation of the area that should be as viable as the historic downtowns of Fullerton and Orange. And, it’s all in the hands of a (so-called) trusted few.

DUI Checkpoint Set For Tustin

Tustin PD Press Release LogoPRESS RELEASE

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:

July 29, 2014 Lt. Robert Wright

(714) 573-3282

rwright@tustinca.org  

 

DUI/Drivers License Checkpoint Planned

 

Tustin, CA – The Tustin Police Department Traffic Unit will be conducting a DUI/Drivers License Checkpoint on August 15, 2014 at an undisclosed location within the city limits between the hours of 8:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

The deterrent effect of DUI checkpoints is a proven resource in reducing the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol or drug involved crashes.  Research shows that crashes involving an impaired driver can be reduced by up to 20 percent when well-publicized DUI checkpoints and proactive DUI patrols are conducted routinely.

In California, this deadly crime led to 774 deaths because someone failed to designate a sober driver.  Nationally, the latest data shows nearly 10,000 were killed by an impaired driver. “Over the course of the past three years, DUI collisions have claimed 4 lives and resulted in 62 injury crashes impacting members of our community,” said Sgt. Brian Greene.

Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment with officers checking drivers for proper licensing delaying motorists only momentarily.  When possible, specially trained officers will be available to evaluate those suspected of drug-impaired driving.

Recent statistics reveal that 30 percent of drivers in fatal crashes had one or more drugs in their systems.  A study of active drivers showed more tested positive for drugs that may impair driving (14 percent) than did for alcohol (7.3 percent).  Of the drugs, marijuana was most prevalent, at 7.4 percent, slightly more than alcohol.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), checkpoints have provided the most effective documented results of any of the DUI enforcement strategies, while also yielding considerable cost savings of $6 for every $1 spent.  Nearly 90 percent of California drivers approve of DUI checkpoints.

DUI Checkpoints are placed in locations based on collision statistics and frequency of DUI arrests affording the greatest opportunity for achieving drunk and drugged driving deterrence. Locations are chosen with safety considerations for the officers and the public.

Drivers caught driving impaired can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to include jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes, other expenses that can exceed $10,000 not to mention the embarrassment when friends and family find out.

Funding for this checkpoint is provided to the Tustin Police Department by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reminding everyone to ‘Report Drunk Drivers – Call 9-1-1’.

 

Keeping the Status Quo

Dullsville-Snooze Alert-

It is going to be  a pretty boring election season in the city of Tustin this year. Either everyone in Tustin is too busy to worry about the political bent of the city council (they are all Republicans) or they are happy with the way things are going. Face it, it has been a slow two years around Our Town Tustin, ever since Boss Tweed Amante left. John Nielsen has settled down and become less interested in city politics. Our old friend Chuck Puckett has returned to the dais along with newbie Alan Bernstein whom we hope will learn eventually to look up from his notes once in awhile (wing it, Alan).

It is hard to believe that four years have gone by since Mayor Al Murray and Councilwoman Beckie Gomez were first elected. Both came to the dais under the ominous shadow of Jerry “Boss Tweed” Amante, who held a firm grip on the city, issuing edicts and offering regular rants against his detractors. The Liberal OC often referred to him as “Il Duce” both on and off the record. And, Amante never got it. He hated the residents of Tustin (where he resides), hated the women he was forced to share the dais with and loved his dogs. When Jerry was around, there was always something to write about. When he left…. well, things got a bit more boring.

That, of course, has been good for Tustin. After Amante’s departure, the city council was able to clear their collective head and get down to the mundane business of running the city. And, except for the occasional powerplay by City Manager Jeff Parker or Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack, the city has run pretty smoothly on their watch. About the only real issue over the past four years is the epitomal collapse of the old town area when a CUP was granted to the boys at Wilcox Manor to run a convention center wedding venue. That controversy (assisted by yours truly) outlined what is wrong when politicians who have a direct benefit from a business, help that same business to make money at the expense of others’ privacy and well-being.

All this leads us to the latest news from the city. As I said in the beginning, either no one cares or no one knows. Al Murray and Beckie are the only ones to file nomination papers for Tustin City Council. As such, they will run unopposed, meaning you can save yourself a trip to the polls unless the other issues we’ll bring up over the next few months matter to you.

Regardless of my criticism, I have always liked Al and Beckie. Al is a retired police captain from Irvine and his most pressing decision since he has been in office is where to have coffee (usually Keane’s, usualy with cops). That’s not to say he can’t make a decision. He just hasn’t had to since he has been in office. Originally an Amante yes man, Murray has a great quality of getting along with just about everyone, admirer and detractor alike. And, he is pretty darn good at calming a collective angry crowd. And when the stuff hit the fan, during one of the most infamous crime sprees to hit Orange County, he was the man every mayor wished they could be in time of crisis.

It has been my pleasure to know Beckie Gomez over the past few years. A closet Republican, she has shown a willingness to work with everyone on the council (including Jerry) even though the council has consistently refused to give her any of the cherished paid board or committee positions. Little did they know Gomez is quite happy with her Library Board appointment. Gomez has demonstrated that she is interested in the welfare of Tustin chiefly as a place to live and secondly as a place to do business. During Amante’s frequent rants, she proved to be a calming influence even when Nielsen and Palmer were also ganging up on their nemesis, Deborah Gavello. If she did not always back Gavello’s play, it was because she had a direction of her own to follow.

So, what will the future bring to Tustin? Perhaps, over the next two years, more mediocrity. Barring an infield play by Arte Moreno or the collapse of the pending cemetery deal at the Great Park, the MCAS property is all but disposed of. I am sure there will be controversy over the fate of the blimp hangars to jazz things up a bit. As the city is showing its age, perhaps it’s about time the city council took the Old Town Tustin bit out of Elizabeth Binsack’s mouth (before she finds a way to bulldoze it completely) and take a good hard look at revitalizing the downtown area. Both Fullerton and Old Town Orange have experienced a renaissance with myriad antique shops and second hand resellers replaced with chic restaurants and venues that draw a diverse crowd. Downtown Tustin’s time has come and, without the past controversy to impede them, this city council could make a lasting mark on the place we all love.

One rumor in the wind: Will John Nielsen, who has had his share of personal and public controversy while in office, choose to resign during his term as we have heard he may? That would open some interesting avenues, and some of those have the Amante smell.

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