You may have noticed that I have been writing a few stories from around the county rather than about our town Tustin. That’s because, like many of you, I have been patiently waiting the production of the video for the May 7, 2013 meeting. Unfortunately, it looks as if we may be waiting quite awhile. As happened several months ago, the city has either delayed placing the video on their website, for some reason or, there were technical problems. My sources say that it is the latter. If the video does show up, we will report on it. In the meantime, here is the rundown of the upcoming Tustin City Council Special Council Meeting on May 13th as well as the regular Tustin Planning Commission on May 14th.
City Council Special Meeting
I’m not sure why the single item on the City Council Agenda was so urgent that our good councilpersons needed to fill an extra meeting to approve it. This is the same Item that appeared as Item 5 on the April 23, 2013 Planning Commission agenda last month. The Planning Commission did, with some amendments, approve the General Plan Amendment and Land Exchange Agreement between the city and South Coast Community College District. This is pretty much a straight land swap but it also calls for a new street that would add traffic to the area. The city of Irvine related their concern over the change in traffic patterns but were assured the Average Daily Trips would remain under the total that would trigger a new EIR. Of course, the residents in the Legacy may differ with that when the new street is built.
In any case, this appears to be pro forma and we are not really sure what the hurry was that a special meeting had to be called. Hopefully, the city will have repaired its video equipment before the meeting so we can all find out what the urgency was.
Planning Commission Meeting
It would appear the tour Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack spoke of last meeting did not come to fruition. There have been no notices published on the city’s website as she said there would. Maybe before the next meeting.
Only one item of realy interest on the agenda tonight. That is a Public Hearing for a variance to construct an additional bedroom on an existing house without having to add additional garage facilities. The house is located in the neighborhood North of Irvine Blvd. and East of the 55 Freeway. Several remodeling and additions have been completed over the years and the staff are recommending, due to space considerations, approval of the variance. Unless there is some outrage by the neighbors, I doubt there will be much to discuss here.
The only other item on the agenda is the staff Summary of Projects
Mixed-use Hotel Project – It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that construction is well along on the new hotels near the Microcenter. This, to me, is the single biggest and most important project of the year, business-wise. Kudos to Elizabeth and her staff as well as the planning commissioners and the former city council for have a sense of vision when it came to this project. Several changes have been made to the original plans, all of which have been thoughtfully considered before approval. This project is not just a direct moneymaker but will generate income for the city and our businesses, indirectly, as well.
Goodwill Industries of Orange County – This project, a high-end secondhand store, met with opposition from former Councilwoman Deborah Gavello, who said she had issues with the type of store. In discussions with her, we found she had issues with Goodwill Industries (she’s not the only one). Staff are reporting the makeover of the store in Larwin Square is nearly finished and we look forward to seeing it open.
A new florist has opened its doors in an old florist’s habitat on the corner of El Camino Real. For years, we saw the dated florist shop as rather anachronistic, even for Old Town. We only shopped their once before taking our business elsewhere. The new shop, Elegant Hive Distinctive Flowers and Gifts opened last month with little fanfare. We look forward to a long future for the owners of this boutique flower shop.
Vintage Lady – The building nearly burned down last year. It has been a long process to restore this historic building. Old Town Tustin’s Nathan Menard contributed heavily in time and effort to getting this project going again.
Newport Avenue Bicycle Trail Reconstruction Project – OK, we have ridden this trail hundreds of times over the years and did not see a problem with it. But, if you want to make it look pretty, go ahead. It’s grant funded through OCTA funds.
Rawlins Reservoir – Construction of the replacement reservoir has begun and will be completed by the summer of 2013.
Tustin Legacy – Over 1000 apartments in three separate complexes are scheduled to be built in the next few years at the Legacy. As well, staff are reporting the Columbus Square neighborhood to be complete with the addition of 124 homes and townhomes that have been built and occupied (is it time for TUSD to reconsider reopening Heritage?). Additionally, the Fire Station 37 Relocation construction has been awarded to Erickson-Hall Construction Company. Groundbreaking took place in February. It will take about a year to complete.
The Bad – Graffiti. The city doesn’t say whether there is an upward or downward trend but reported 1634 incidents for the first four months of this year. From experience, I can tell you there is a surge in gang and tagging activity in Orange County. Tustin’s gang population is comparatively low but, remember, we live next door to the city with the highest number of gangs, per square mile, in Orange County.
This should make for a fairly quick night for our intrepid commissioners. Unless they have absolutely nothing to do with their private lives, I make the meeting at way under an hour.
My apologies for the lapse in reporting this past few days. It seems that I was the victim of the classic left-turn-in-front-of-the-motorcycle type accident as I was traveling Main Street in Old Town last Wednesday. A few cuts and scrapes later, I am not much worse for the wear but the doctor demanded I not do much for a few days. I made it as far as Sunday evening and then couldn’t stand it anymore. So, here I am.
Not a whole lot to discuss at this coming Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting. Assuming no member of the public will be speaking, one has to wonder why they are meeting at all, other than to collect their $250 and give some of the staff a bit of overtime.
The first item is the General Plan Annual Report. According to the staff report, staff are proposing text amendments to the Zoning and City Code that will maintain consistency with the General Plan and State Law. The plan has been updated several times since its inception in 1966. I’m not willing to bore myself with reading the 87 pages of documentation but you can if you like. Let me know if you see anything interesting.
The only other item on the agenda is the Transmittal of Code Amendment 13-001, Zoning Code Update. The staff report summary assures these are mostly minor text changes and changes that will “modernize” the code. It also consolidates some sections for easier navigation. One thing that puzzles me, however, is the section that “incorporate policy practice into the Zoning Code”. The example cited is that guest quarters will be subject to a recorded deed restriction. What happened to our town hall meetings on the subject, Elizabeth? Or is this just another example of smoke and mirrors by the Community Development Department in holding meetings to distract the homeowners while Binsack and her wrecking crew stamp their own brand on Old Town? Other “minor text changes include establishing open space requirements for residential districts establishing what amounts to new uses that were not defined before. It would seem these are not just minor text changes but, I guess that depends on your interpretation.
This is a draft of the amendments that staff are providing, as they say, in a timely manner. The public hearing will be held at a March meeting of the Planning Commission. We may be asking the city to provide more information on the “minor text amendments”.
That’s it for this week’s meeting. I am doing my best between pain pills to get back in the saddle. I’ll have to ask you to bear with me.
First things first. Congratulations to Jeff Thompson and Chuck Puckett for their re-appointment to the Planning Commission. We like them both and feel that, overall, they have done a pretty good job for our town Tustin. Apparently Jeff’s minor faux pas last year was forgotten by Boss Tweed Amante.
Heading up the Planning Commission Agenda for this Tuesday is a Public Hearing on one of our favorite subjects, cellular towers. This time it is pretty inconsequential as it is a modification to an existing cell tower and an increase in the number of transmitters at the site. It will also increase the height of the tower by 4 feet. No one driving by the site, a couple of business buildings on the North side of Edinger Avenue West of Redhill, is likely to notice the change as it blends in nicely with the buildings. All of the equipment and the tower are on private property as well. This should be a no-brainer unless one of our anti-RF folks laments about the increased energy being radiated across Currie Middle School.
The only other item on the agenda is an update on the projects and plans coming in front of the Community Development Department since January. Some items of interest
- Changes to the Tustin Auto Center, including Tustin Toyota taking over the old Joe’s Garage and Hyundai taking over the old Tustin Chevrolet dealership.
- The office building on the corner of Yorba and Irvine Blvd. This building that burned down last year has had the demolition completed and permits have been issued for new construction. Hopefully, the new will complement the old that was left untouched by the fire.
- A new 7-11 Market on Newport Avenue. Plans are under review.
- New Car Wash on Edinger Avenue. This was an issue of contention, mostly by a neighboring car wash that seemed to view it as a threat to his business.
- The Meyers Building on El Camino Real, a beautiful addition to the Old Town business district. The building is partially occupied.
- The proposed Del Rio Building, across the street on the old Riteway Cleaners property in Old Town. Design issues have held up progress on this building. Again, this will be a nice addition to Old Town if the CDD will get it together and approve submitted plans.
- Mixed-use Hotel Project – We recently wrote about this project. It is located near the Micro Center on Edinger and is a needed addition to Tustin. We currently do not have any mid or upscale hotels with adequate facilities for business and pleasure.
- Parking Requirement Exception for Old Town Business District. This change to the in-lieu parking fees will make it easier for Old Town businesses to build or remodel.
Among other items reported are changes to the MCAS Specific Plan that will, hopefully, jumpstart development for the old base property. Both the City Council and the Planning Commission have spent a huge amount of time on the MCAS property, including the development of the District Shopping Center, which has had its’ share of problems in attracting and holding on to retail stores. This aggressive stance is what is needed to market the area and entice developers into building.
Of course, one of the best things the city did this year was to waive construction and business license fees through July, 2012 on most new construction. So far, over $248,000 in license fees have been waived. This includes 4,670 existing business license renewals and 469 new business licenses. I would say the economy in Tustin is recovering nicely.
That’s it for the meeting. Hopefully, it will be short and sweet so we can let those hard working Commissioners get back to their families.