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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 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 – March 17, 2015

Bernstein LeprechaunHappy St. Patrick’s Day! I expect everyone to look a little Irish at the polls Tuesday. And, if you plan to drink beer, do me a favor and don’t let them put the food coloring in it to make it green. Real Irishmen don’t drink green beer.

It looks like another short session for the Tustin City Council Tuesday evening. I hope everyone takes the time to vote in the election to replace Mimi Walters for the California Senate. With any luck, we wil have a clear winner and forego another runoff election in May. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t have another election this year. If Don Wagner is elected, there will be yet another state office to deal with in his vacant Assembly seat.

Closed Session

The Closed Session Agenda is fairly short with the usual litigation issues up for discussion and only one real property negotiation for what looks like MCAS property.

Consent Calendar

Likewise, the Consent Calendar is short with only six items. Aside from the usual items, the city will ask for approval on:

Item 4 – Approval of Consultant Agreement with Risk Management Professionals Inc. to update the city’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. This is a pro forma requirement for federal funding. The plan is required to be updated every five years. The $29,000 cost has been budgeted according to the staff report.

Item 5 – Approval of Amendment to Joint Agreement for 800 Megahertz Countywide Coordinate Communications System. As far back as I can remember, even in the old days of the low band police radio system, the Orange County Sheriffs Department has provided communications services for virtually all police and county services. About 12 years ago or so, the county converted to an 800 Mhz system that was designed to provide cellular service similar to cellphones. It took a few years for the bugs to be worked out (there are still some, in my opinion) but, overall, the system seems to be working well. It is expensive though and Tustin is required to pay its fair share for services rendered.

That cost is $2.7 million dollars over a five year period, placing us 16th in highest cost out of 54 agencies that use the system. For our money we get new police consoles and new software for all our radios. The Chief uses cool terms like “P25 compliance” and “System Extension” to sell the city council on a system we have no choice but to support. And, the truth is, we do get our money’s worth. Today’s communications system is light years ahead of the old system used when I was chasing down police calls with my CHP surplus radio in my ’68 Charger. Ah, the good old days.

Regular Business

If there was a reason for attending the city council meeting this Tuesday, it would be to hear the sole item on the Regular Business Agenda.

Item 7 – Tustin Police Department Year in Review is the annual presentation to the community on how our police department is doing. Looking at the Power Point presentation Chief Celano has prepared, I would say they are doing a bangup job for us.

Some highlights inlcude:

  • Continuation of Accredited Status with CALEA. Tustin is one of only three county departments and twenty statewide departments to gain accreditation.
  • Exceeded crime reduction goals due to CTAP (crime analysis) implementation
  • 176 DUI arrests
  • 57 Felony gang arrests

Add to that the community efforts made by Chief Celano since taking office. His “Coffee with a Cop” program has been well received and he previously told me plans to continue the program. According to the presentation, Tustin is also looking at body-worn camera for its officers and upgrading the Emergency Operations Center.

We are fortunate to have a great police department that we can be proud of. Yes, there are outside detractors that have attempted to disrupt and discredit. Overall, the record speaks for itself. Celano has a great community philosphy that works well for a man who likes to maintain a low-key status.

As we said, it is a short evening, hardly worth going to city hall for. Of course, if you have cable TV, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home. Now, if we could just get Councilman Bernstein to learn how to Tweet from the dais.

Don’t forget to vote. If you haven’t sent in your ballot, drop it in the mail today or drop it off at the local polling place to have it registered. I’ll be at the poll bright and early so I can vote on the way to work. That way, I get my cool “I voted” sticker.

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