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On The City Council Agenda – Tuesday, February 17, 2015

For once, there is not much on the Closed Session agenda for the upcoming Tustin City Council meeting on Tuesday. Don’t expect any report from the city attorney. At the meeting two weeks ago, everyone on the dais attempted to dodge the bullet when a speaker, during public comments, brought up noise and traffic at the Wilcox Manor. The Mayor Puckett couldn’t foist it off on the police chief fast enough. The good news is, Silent Mike and Lindburgh have been complying with the terms of their conditional use permit  and Tustin PD reports no glaring discrepancies. In fact, there have been only three complaints, all apparently resolved.

The sole Public Hearing on the Regular Agenda is Item 1, Community Development Block Grant 2015-20120. This year, the city is required to submit the 5 year Consolidated Plan that identifies community needs and proposals for funding.

The draft list prepared by city staff is pretty extensive and includes parks, parklets and expansion of Old Town parking. It also includes street and infrastructure improvements and rehab.

Some of the more interesting proposals include economic development of Tustin, particularly the Old Town area. A lot of time and effort by staff has recently been put into developing a plan of sorts for the development of Old Town. Unfortunately, until there is some movement by principal property owners, it’s doubtful there will be much more construction taking place. Still, its good to see the city finally paying attention to our legacy.

All currently funded projects previously selected for this three year period by the Tustin Community Foundation will continue to receive CDBG money.

There is not much on the Consent Calendar to be concerned about. Most items are administrative and recurring. Item 7, Renewal of Field Services 4/10 Work Schedule, is a renewal of a pilot project from the past few years for field service personnel to work 4/10 schedules during daylight savings time. This is a union negotiated item that should probably become permanent.

Item 8, Approval of Operator Services Agreement for Carnival Rides- The previous agreement with Shamrock Shows expired and the city is preparing to sign with Brass Ring Amusements for rides and concessions. The new agreement also pushes more money into city coffers with the city’s take beginning at 25% of gross receipts. It’s interesting to note the city now requires background checks on all carnival employees due to an issue a few years back.

Brass Ring Amusements, by the way, is pretty well established and is scheduled to run more than 15 California fairs this year. So, expect a quality ride.

Under Regular Business, the city is finally going to utilize the event center they established at the old Regal Theater in the Tustin Market Place. Item 9, Recommendation of the City Use of 12 Events at the Community Center, recommends 12 city sponsored events to be held at no charge to the city.
The ad hoc committee of Councilmembers Gomez and Nielsen came up with a list of spine-tingling events that will include (in no particular order) a talent contest, a youth film festival and a new (did I say free?) place to hold the State of the City Address.

The final item on the agenda is Item 10, Formation of Veterans Advisory Committee/Commission. Normally, I would be cheering the formation of anything for veterans. But, this is a topic brought up by none other than, Mayor pro tem, John Nielsen. There are a couple of reasons for concern.

First, is Nielsen’s apparent collaboration with his ally, former councilman Jerry Amante. Amante, if you recall, had a feud with The American Legion Post 227 that subjected them to some humiliation and all but eliminated the color guard ceremonies that were being held in council chambers each month.

That rift between the Legion Post Commander and the city council began as a small tiff when, way back in 2001, Legionnaires came to the rescue by reviving their post and touching off the first (in a long time) Veterans Day parade down El Camino Real. I witnessed the buildup and slow degradation of what was hailed by the OC Board of Supervisors at the time as “Orange County’s Veterans Day Parade”, into a less substantial day in the park due mostly to the hostility of the city council toward veterans. I’m not even sure there is a celebration in Tustin anymore.

Should we mention their one-time desire to do away with the blimp hangars?

A second reason for suspicion -and that ties in handily to vet loving by John- is the rumor recently making the rounds that John Nielsen may make a run for the California Assembly. Normally, I would dismiss a notion like this as someone’s idea of a nightmare on Elm Street. That is, until I heard it from two distinctly different sources, one of whom does not live in the city.

So, is Nielsen simply paying homage to veterans in order to regain some traction here on the home front? Certainly, he has lost interest in any business the council conducts, as it is apparent he has been treading water, at least since the election. We did email Nielsen on his intentions but he has, so far, refused to respond to us.

One other item of note, Old Town residents received a Notice of Publice Hearing on a code amendment. The hearing, to be held February 24, 2015 at 7 pm (Planning Commission Meeting), will be to hear public comment on a proposal to change second residence requirements. The proposed amendments would eliminate “accessory guest rooms” or what most of us would call, “granny flats”. in lieu of establishing new guidelines for 2nd residential units on lots. If you can only go to one meeting, this may be the one.

Veterans Need Not Apply (Or Die)

Veterans-CemeteryTuesday’s Planning Commission meeting has been cancelled for lack of interest agenda items. That doesn’t mean we can’t have a meeting, however. Don’t forget, the Parks and Recreation Commission is holding a design forum for a veterans memorial this afternoon beginning at 4:30 pm in the city council chambers. It should be interesting to see how many show up on a Monday afternoon a half hour before the normal close of a business day. Thanks for the planning, staff.

Wed to the idea of a Veterans Memorial at the appropriately renamed Veterans Memorial Park, is a veterans cemetery for Orange County. Initially proposed by veterans and opposed by NIMBYs, then assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva was instrumental in bringing legislation that would pave the way for a veterans cemetery “somewhere” in Orange County.

That “somewhere”, of course was a plot of land on the former MCAS base now being bulldozed for subdivisions and not-so-great parks. a 105 acre parcel of land has been identified on the property to be developed as a potential final resting place for the county’s many veterans who have settled here.

It didn’t take long, however, for the opposition to rear its collective ugly head. What was surprising is the tactic they took.

As far back as October of last year, a local blog urged the city of Irvine to relocate the proposed cemetery anywhere but…..Irvine. Well, OK, they just didn’t want it next to their house as they had paid lots of money for their property and they were afraid a veterans cemetery would lower their home value. But, except for cool places like Musick Honor Farm and alleged contamination near proposed high schools, Irvine is mostly neighborhoods. And parks. And technology centers.

On the Talk Irvine forum, one of the discussions which appeared last year, was on the location of the veterans cemetery. That discussion, begun in July of last year has recently been renewed with the appearance of an anti-veterans cemetery petition. The pro and anti cemetery discussion has mostly centered around Feng-Shui, Asian Culture and….property values. And, while many of the contributors have supported the building of a veterans cemetery, quite a few thank the veteran in one sentence and then, in the same sentence, denounce the idea of a final resting place for them.

Another Irvine blog, run by and for the Asian community, also makes a deal out of Asians, housing and cemeteries. This blog could be largely discounted as other blog entries clearly mark it as a special interest section.

Now, it seems, there is a petition circulating in Irvine that would set signatures to paper in an effort to stop the project. We were unable to obtain a copy of the petition but our friends at The Liberal OC did.

The petition relies on scare tactics and misinformation to lure people into signing it. Among other misleading statements the petition says:

2. ….Most of the residents lived (sic) next to the cemetery are Asians. In Asian culture it is taboo to place a cemetery next to homes or close to urban area (sic).

While the “taboo” issue is debatable, what is not debatable is the fact that the largest Vietnamese community in the United States lives in and around (and also utilizes) Westminster Memorial Park. In fact, one section of the park is dedicated to the Asian community and specifically respects their culture.

3. Many Irvine residents did not know about this cemetery until October, 2014.

Well, the proposed cemetery has been in the works for several years, thanks to The American Legion District Commander, Bill Cook, and others. It was in the news and there were meetings, including a meeting with the author of the Bill authorizing the cemetery Sharon Quirk-Silva. In fact, it was hard not to hear something about it.

4. In the next 100 years, the development of the west Coast (sic) of the United States will be largely supported by the Asian investment and immigrants.

Really? So, Latin America and Europe will have less influence than Asia? While we all drive Asian cars, this statement is a bit presumptuous. But, say it was true. Does anyone honestly think the Chinese won’t invest in California, indeed the entire west coast, because there is a veterans cemetery in Irvine?

5. The cemetery will drive down home values and increase blight.

So, according to the petition authors, the Cypress-Los Alamitos-Rossmoor area is blighted because of Forest Lawn Cypress. North Santa Ana is blighted because they have two cemeteries across the street from each other. Orange Park Acres is blighted with low house prices due to Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, a double whammy because its run by the dreaded Roman Catholic Diocese. Even Corona del Mar property values have been drug down by the Pacific View Memorial Park because it is smack in the middle of their high-end housing. Wow. Who knew?

The petition closes by stating the proposed cemetery is in the wrong location because it is too close to homes, a high school and the urban center [I kid you not],veterans cemetery and at a highly populated area.

They go on to offer their help in “finding a better location to create a win-win situation.”

Newsflash, Irvine petition writer and your allies – There is no better location than a former Marine Air Base with deep ties (much deeper and longer than the Asian community) to Orange County. The El Toro Marine Base saw hundreds of thousands of veterans of every branch of service pass through its gates over the years. There is a fierce pride among the residents, veteran or not, in that legacy.

The petition author(s) talk about disrespect to the Asian community. What about the disrespect shown to the veterans through the circulation of this petition? As Sharon Quirk-Silva said on her Facebook Page, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion….. To say that a veteran cemetery will cause blight is disrespectful.”

Veterans (including myself) have fought long and hard to establish a cemetery within the boundaries of Orange County. There are only two suitable locations for a cemetery, in my opinion. It’s unfortunate Tustin has chosen to haggle over a baseball stadium rather than a cemetery. They’d probably have a better chance of securing the latter.

I won’t pull the, “if you don’t like it, leave” card. I will say, let the majority prevail. In the current scenario, that looks like the pro-cemetery folks. Don’t worry, though. The cemetery is a long way from having the first hero buried there. You’ll have plenty of time to get used to it – or move.

Nyahh Naaah Nuh, Nah, Nah

Calvin-thumb-on-noseOK, they didn’t really thumb their noses at the Bishop Vann. But, North Tustin residents did get a bit of good news at the January 13th Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting. If you ever drive on Newport Avenue north of 17th Street, you have seen the large, empty lot, owned by the Diocese of Orange, that was earmarked for a Catholic-oriented senior living facility. In past years, my family bought live Christmas trees off this lot (now, do you remember?). We previously wrote of a victory by the Foothill Communities Association to overturn a spot-zoning attempt by the county board of supervisors. That court victory quickly turned to defeat when an appeals court reversed the decision.

Saying the face of the county had changed, it was necessary to address the concerns of senior citizens. Three justices on the 4th Appellate Court concurred and the hard work of the FCA legal team was undone. Interestingly, the county did not pursue the issue. It was the diocese’ management partner, Kisco, that sought the appeal. Of course, millions of dollars in expected income were at stake.

All of the expense and work were futile, it seems, as the OC BoS headed by soon-to-be Chairman Todd Spitzer derailed the proposed project by moving to rescind the Senior Residential Housing Zoning designation. Supported by Supervisor Shawn Nelson, the board voted 4-0 in favor of the change. The recommendation must still go before the planning commission but Supervisors made it clear they expect the recommendation to come back in favor of FCA.

I emailed Richard Nelson, spokesperson for the Foothill Communities Association, asking what the chances were the action would stand court scrutiny. He inidcated he felt it would. In any case, kudos to the North Tustin folks who saw this fight to this point. I remember seeing them protesting in front of the property as well as sending out information. Heck, before this, I didn’t even know there was an FCA.

For his part, Todd Spitzer came through for the community under his governance. We like to rag on Todd (mostly because he presents such a tempting target) but he has proven loyal, both this term and his previous years on the board, to the community and the county. Now, if he would just take a lesson from his cohort Shawn Nelson on how to be lo-pro, he’d stay off the radar of the OCW and OTT. Maybe just an occasional cigar fest at the house, Todd. Todd, by the way, was last mentioned in the OCW “Best of 2014″ as part of the Best Political Battle with his nemesis Susan “Dragon Lady” Kang-Schoreder over the ongoing fight for the district attorneys office when T-Rack leaves.

The foothills folks are also in the middle of a nasty water fight with their current provider. Unhappy with the high cost of water provided by Golden State Water,black-tap-water activist residents embarked on a campaign to change water companies.

Two years ago, FCA made a presentation to the community of a plan to change water providers from GSW, a private utility, to a public utility (looks like Irvine Ranch Water District is the favored candidate). Citing costs that have skyrocketed since 2003, it looks like GSW is proposing even higher rates in the not too distant future.

The biggest obstacle is, of course, money. Proponents are suggesting bonds to purchase GSW assets that serve the area. From the looks of things, residents aren’t too keen on something that could actually cost them in the end.

One thing that may help is the bad publicity GSW has garnered from one of their other customer communities. Folks in Gardena aren’t too happy with GSW as black, foul smelling water has been issuing from their taps and toilets. The results can be seen on this video. If that doesn’t compel them to find a solution, I don’t know what will.

So, what else are those nefarious rebels in the foothills up to? You can find out by checking out their website, maintained by Rick Nelson, at www.fcahome.org.

On The City Council Agenda – Tuesday February 3, 2015

Unless items are pulled from the Consent Calendar for discussion, Tuesday’s Tustin City Council meeting should be fairly short. Of course, short is a relative term when it comes to this council, who often discuss issues of little or no relevance just to hear themselves speak. If you doubt my words, watch the “councilmember comments” for thHidden Agenda Cliparte complete rundown of where they’ve been.

The Closed Session has the usual suspects but is also populated with a number of, what appear to be, associated claims. Stephanie Loy, Laura Hernandez, Jose Franco, Kaitlyn Kim and Jessica Ma filed claims late last year with the city.

Management Works has filed the first claim of the year. Management Works is the property manager for the Park Magnolia Apartment Homes on on Tustin Village Way off Williams Street. Gangs are prevalent in the area, so it should be interesting to see what the claims are and to see if they are actually related. I don’t usually take the time to visit the city clerk’s office but this may be worth the effort.

Most items on the Consent Calendar are routine. It is good to see the city recognizing their support of veterans by renaming the soon-to-be Tustin Legacy Park to Veterans Sports Park. This 33 acre park will encompass sports fields that include softball, football and soccer fields. There will also be a Veterans Memorial which the city is asking for help from the community on. Plans for the park can be seen here.

Item 5, Grant Application for Housing Related Parks Program, is a request to apply for another parks grant related to affordable housing. Frontier Park has already benefited from a previous grant and city staff believe there will be more money availbable this time around. Most grants like this require matching local funding. According to the staff report, this one does not.

You can expect quieter disruptions during underground street work should Item 9, Purchase of Hydro Excavator, be approved. The machine selected by the public works department would be quieter and less disruptive when having to dig underground. Of course, it all comes at a cost of nearly half a million dollars but, hey. It’s budgeted for.

The final item of the Consent Calendar and one that should certainly be discussed, would establish another “limited term” position, this time for a Principal Plan Check Engineer. Reading the brief agenda item would lead us to believe this is project specific. I wonder how many of Elizabeth Binsack’s other limited term positions she has asked for still work for the city? I’m actually surprised to see this since City Manager Jeff Parker has the apparent authority to hire anyone he wants, anytime he wants.

The sole item under Regular Business may take some time to discuss, as it should. The Mid-Year Budget Review should raise some eyebrows just for the (un)expected requests for reserve funds. Regardless of the fact we may be above reserves (Parker should be willing to tell us), it is ridiculous that reserve funds are being used mostly for items that should have been accounted for properly.

Except for comments on their reported whereabouts by the individual councilmembers, that would appear to be it for the week. We’ll let you know if they have anything interesting to say.

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