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Shell Games?

Legacy-shell-gameNews flash for Austin Lumbard: Austin, you’re no Jeff Thompson.

Lumbard was under the vague impression he could possibly be mistaken for Chairman Jeff Thompson, who was absent, and wanted to clear that up before the meeting adjourned. Let’s see how well that works for him when he runs for city council.

Last week’s meeting of the Tustin Planning Commission was not long but it answered a couple of key questions regarding plans for schools on the old MCAS base property – sort of. I suspected Item 2, regarding a General Plan Conformity Determination for school property, was merely a shell game for the moving around of acquired school property. And, I was right.

Item 2, General Plan ConformityDetermination for the Disposition and Acquisition of School Site at Tustin Legacy, et al, asked the planning commission to validate the intentions of TUSD in dumping a 10 acre site previously marked as another elementary school in favor of building a 40 acre 6-12 super magnet school that would miraculously meet the needs of Legacy kids.

The presentation cleared up a few things in the staff report when questions were asked about whether the district offices that were previously moved down to the former Heritage Elementary School site would be moved to the 40 acre site. Sad to say, the TUSD representative said the offices that would be moved were the district offices in Old Town Tustin and the offices at Heritage would remain.

In addition, the timeline is pretty vague with the 6-8 magnet school being built by 2019 and the 9-12 school being built in 2020. No other timelines were offered and the school district will only say that the administration, warehouse and alternative education projects included in the concept will be built if funds are “available” (read, “if we can con the public into floating another useless school bond”).

A couple of residents in the area voiced concern and questions that were artfully dodged by the TUSD representative who basically said the schools that kids use now are the ones designated for use in the future until new agreements are made. So, really, nothing changes until it changes.

Overall, the procedure was succinct and to the point, even if it left everyone feeling a bit vague about what happened. The only one who was really lost was Commissioner Sam Altowaiji, who can’t seem to stay on point with anything.

My irritation with Altowaiji is his obvious disconnect with the proceedings. While the rest of the commissioners and the staff are talking about zoning issues and land swaps, Altowaiji wants the school district representative to be sure to make the driveways for moms dropping off kids so they don’t interfere with traffic. He’s a bureaucrat, Sam, not an architect.

You don’t make this stuff up. You don’t have to in Our Town Tustin.

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).

On The City Council Agenda – May 5, 2015

conspiracy-theoryAfter a two week hiatus, the Tustin City Council should be ready to tackle the second unit ordinance for Old Town Tustin this Tuesday. After extensive discussion by the councilmembers at the April 21st meeting, they voted to continue the item so that city staff could come up with answers to the chief complaint: parking.

Staff return this week with a second unit ordinance fortified by a recommendation for parking. Well, it’s not really a recommendation, just a copy of an existing policy on the adminstration of parking permit systems in Tustin. Mind you, there is no draft ordinance prepared for a potential permit system in Old Town and the city council may still have to consider the parking issue separately. I’m not sure that is what they wanted. One has to wonder why the delay in the second unit ordinance at all if they were just going to address the parking issue separately anyway.

The second unit ordinance proposal and the parking issue, as it turns out, are only vaguely related. Over the past year or so, parking has become a real problem in Old Town, particularly on the west side around Pacific and Main Street. Part of this is surely due to permit parking the city created a few years ago for the area around the condos on Main Street West of Pacific.

Driving along Pacific Avenue on any evening reveals a gauntlet of cars and trucks streching nearly to Main Street. While many of these may be attributed to the residents in the area, many of them, it turns out, are from either the previously mentioned condos or -as I’ve personally witnessed- from beyond the freeway overpass. There also appears to be a pattern with the number of out-of-area cars on our streets increasing toward the end of the week.

While I am not a proponent of permit parking on city streets (its that libertarian streak in me), it may be the only answer to the problem. In any case, parking should be addressed regardless of the second unit ordinance. The question then will become one of enforcement. Will the 2am to 6am cops want to travel the streets in search of errant parkers?

Lately, I have been questioning the validity of the second ordinance unit itself. As it turns out, there is no pressing need to make any changes. Although the city said in their presentation that affordable housing mandates are a factor, they really aren’t. Affordable housing requirements are for the city, not a specific area.

And, though the city also says that a 2002 Assembly Bill signed by Gray Davis requires the city to ministerially (say that three times real fast) consider second residential units, it does not require any changes be made to current ordinances. California Government Code 65852.8 states:

When a local agency receives its first application on or after July 1, 2003, for a permit pursuant to this subdivision, the application shall be considered ministerially without discretionary review or a hearing, notwithstanding Section 65901 or 65906 or any local ordinance regulating the issuance of variances or special use permits. Nothing in this paragraph may be construed to require a local government to adopt or amend an ordinance for the creation of second units.

So, from a legal standpoint, there is no mandate to change current law.

The biggest argument for change to an all second unit ordinance is the elimination of deed restrictions on proposed guest units. A few years ago, Elizabeth Binsack and Jerry Amante arbitrarily decided to place the requirement for deed restrictions on guest accessory units. This was in obvious retaliation for their defeat in the Fairbanks issue, a city-created debacle.

Since the proposal for the second unit ordinance was raised a few months ago, city staff have received more grief than praise. Parking has been just one of the issues raised by residents. Concern for density and a general degrading of the Old Town area have also been cited by home owners. Yet, Binsack amd her chief hatchet man Scott Reeskin, have used a variety of unsubsantiated arguments for enactment of the ordinance they appear to want so badly.

So, why the push for unneeded change? Surely, if deed restrictions are an issue, they can be done away with. And, since they are policy and not law, they only require a change in the mindset of city staffers.

In any case, residents have another opportunity to state their case for or against the ordinance. Judging from the city’s indifferent attitude toward opponents of the ordinance, I would suggest they turn out in force to state their case. Calls to councilmembers John Nielsen and Beckie Gomez may be the best bet toward swaying votes or, at least, extending further argument.

Other issues before the city council are pretty much routine. Aside from the usual business, the Consent Calendar is littered with requests to award contracts for various construction projects at city hall and parks.

The sole item for consideration under Reglar Business is an Amendment of Waste Disposal Agreement between the city and the county. Amon other things, the amendment will allow the county to continue to import wast from outside the county and to share the revenue generated with the city. It could be worth a cool $76,000 to the city.

In an unusual departure from the norm, due to a Water Management Workshop at 5:30 pm, the Closed Session has been moved to the end of Regular Business. With only a few items on the agenda, discussion of labor negotiations will likely take up the majority of the session.

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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