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Parking And Water – What The City Says

NOPARKINGNo Planning Commission meeting tonight. There is a hearing tonight at the Tustin Unified School District Headquarters at 6 pm regarding the establishment of a Community Facilities District 15-1, presumably on Legacy subdivisions. Taxes, I hear, will be ridiculously high for questionable results although the district will throw around current buzzwords like “magnet school” and “STEM”, to get everyone excited. How about we just worry about the three R’s for the time being? In any case, it beats another bond issue being foisted on a gullible public.

I had occasion to attend last week’s meeting of the Tustin City Council. Two agenda items resulted in a full house in the council chambers. Most of the attendees were there to voice their opinion on the proposed parking permit ordinance. The city is proposing to establish another permitted parking zone in a residential area near Redhill Avenue and Nisson Road.

Surprisingly, the public speakers were split about evenly for and against the ordinance. And, while most of those speaking against the ordinance were among those that would be adversely affected, some of them were the residents whose parking is currently impacted.

A presentation by Public Works Manager, Chris Aldovar, revealed the city has caused its own problem by establishing a previous permit parking ordinance in an adjacent neighborhood. Predictably, that ordinance drove the excess parking further down the road to its present location.

The usual arguments in favor of permit parking were cited. A residents survey complained of noise, trash certain unsavory characters hanging around at all hours of the night, etc., all of which has contributed to a diminished quality of life for residents. A check by the city showed that an average 65 percent of the cars parked in the proposed six block area were non-resident.

About half of the speakers came out in favor of the ordinance. Most complained of the same thing: trash, noise and people doing nasty (do I need to spell this out for you?) things in public. Used condoms were mentioned alongside the McDonalds wrappers.

Predictably, most of those that spoke against the ordinance lived in the nearby apartments. One college student complained she lived with two roommates in an apartment with one assigned parking space. She said she used to park close by until permit parking forced her to move down the street. She asked residents to look at her story as typical. She doesn’t like parking on another street that requires her to walk, sometimes late at night, to get to and from her car. But, she says, she has no choice. Permit parking will just move her and the problem to another neighborhood.

The city presentation itself revealed the shell game of permitted parking where the establishment of parking permits in one neighborhood simply moves the problem a few streets over. When those residents get fed up, they petition for permit parking and on and on..

Old Town Tustin residents are familiar with this. Permitted parking was established on Main Street west of Pacific Avenue several years ago. That contributed to the already burdened street parking on Main and streets north of Main. In the same way, the city admits that extending the permit parking area to the six block residential area will undoubtedly push the excess cars to new unpermitted areas.

That is, unless a permanent resolution is found.

One idea brought up by a resident was to have the city purchase several vacant storefronts in the area and turn them into paid parking. As he put it, for a nominal fee each month, these folks could have parking and the city would be able to recover costs.

Of course, no answer as to how the city would pay for the lots and improvements. Would property owners want to give up valuable commercial real estate? And, would people pay for something they receive for free by parking on the street. It also would not fix the problem citywide. And, judging from the number of increasing requests for permitted parking zones, it is only a matter of time. Taxpayers may rightfully complain the problem was caused by apartment developers years ago who legally were able to limit the number of parking spaces according to the number of bedrooms per apartment. Nowadays, that is not a good indicator of how many cars apartment dwellers will bring with them.

One solution a public speaker came up with is one the city deliberated years ago. That would be to require a permit to park for any residential area. Quite a few cities in California have gone the route of permit parking for most, if not all, residential parking areas (Stanton and Orange are two in Orange County). Some are more restrictive than others, requiring permits for anyone parking more than two hours at any time of the day or night.

The city of Orange has a system that charges residential streets to establish permit parking. The current fees to establish permitted parking are under consideration to be raised to $2500. The cost supposedly covers city costs to establish the zone. Permit parking in Orange is 24 hours a day.

Tustin has taken a less restrictive approach so far, prohibiting parking during the hours of 2-6 am without a permit in those affected areas. Currently, there is no charge to homeowners either to establish the zone or to disseminate permits. The establishment of fees might cut down on residents establishing restricted parking simply for elitist purposes.

If you want to weigh in on this, the city must hold another reading of the ordinance before implementation. You can get in your two cents worth at the next meeting of the city council scheduled for June 2nd.

The second major issue before the city council was water. The city council considered an emergency ordinance to establish changes to the Tustin City Code Drinking_Water_Security_Poster_EPArevising the city’s water management plan.

Several speakers expressed misgivings over the proposed ordinance and the city’s management of water resources in general. The first speaker complained that, even if all residents conserved another 25 percent of water, it would only result in a 2 percent reduction overall due to 90 percent of the water being used by the city and commercial entities.

It was pretty funny watching Chuck Puckett stumble over the reading of the ordinance, saying the governor was mandating a 25 percent decrease and that, through waterwise applications, the city of Tustin only had to cut back 28 percent. Huh?

It gets better.

Councilman Al Murray actually had the nerve to call Councilman Allan Bernstein a “water guru”. Seriously? OK, he actually said the city was “lucky” to have two water gurus on the council, Doctor Allan Bernstein and John Nielsen.

John Nielsen, who sits on the Orange County Sanitation District, spoke about the mandate from the governor’s office (not the extra 3 percent though). Asking, “Is it fair? No.” He emphasized that, like it or not, the city needs to do it as it is a state mandate.

Nielsen also advised what the sanitation district is doing with reclamation. He said the district is currently putting 70 million gallons a day back into groundwater replenishment. They are looking to increase that to 130 million gallons a day (You decide if that’s a good thing. Remember, we’re talkng poop here). OK, John attained guru status. I was impressed with that as much as the fact he obviously stays awake at the OCSD meetings.

Bernstein, on the other hand, shoots his mouth off without thinking. At times seeming to babble, he says Tustin is at the forefront of conservation and preparing for drastic measures through capital projects and by moving the city into more elaborate conservation measures. I presume he means by moving us from Stage 1 to Stage 2 (there are 4 stages….you don’t want to know what stage 4 is). As the water guru, though, he says nothing about the extra 3 percent over the mandate Tustin is required to conserve or how we got ourselves to this point. Embarrassing, to say the least.

Bernstein truthfully stated that he mentions the drought (more precisely, water) at each meeting. He should, he is not only our representative on the Water Advisory Committee of Orange County, he is Tustin’s own water guru. Oh, the Water Advisory Committee of Orange County (WACO for short) is just that – advisory. Their topics for discussion have included such exciting issues as, “An Introduction to the Colorado River Board of California” (April 10th), “Remote Sensing Tools for the 21st Century” (March 6th) and the nail-biting “Two Elephants in the Room – Salton Sea and Owens Valley” (January 9th). Bernstein ended his discussion with exactly how we got where we are (3 percent behind everyone else, to be exact). The city actually determines, through cutting edge technology, the exact amount each blade of grass on city-owned land needs and then delivers it, no more, no less. Guru stuff, to say the least.

The real water guru, of course, is Public Works Director, Doug Stack. Sporting a spiffy new goatee, Stack gave his usual intelligent, if pithy, discussion on water use and how much we actually steal receive from our friends from the north. Stack proved to be the most informed on how and where conservation is needed and what the city is actually doing to conserve water.

The emergency ordinance making revisions to the water conservation codes was adopted unanimously. There was not doubt it would be but, then, we all know we need to conserve. If you don’t just drive down Redhill Avenue north of the 5 and you will see what days you are allowed to water your lawn. No word on when the water police will come to inspect your drip irrigation.

The next meeting of the city council will be Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Until then, take a word from the waterwise gurus and conserve.

Just Answer the Question

credit: woodchips.com

credit: woodchips.com

I hate it when Tustin Councilmember John Nielsen and I agree on something. But, I have to give credit where credit is due.

John Nielsen asked a very good question at Tuesday’s city council meeting: Why would the city council delegate authority to a staff member to sign off on completed capital projects? The question, in relation to Item 5 on the agenda, was straightforward enough. The answer, on the other hand, was nearly impossible to discern from the smoke and mirrors the city attorney and the public works director threw in front of him as a response.

The city attorney, David Kendig, responded to Nielsen’s question with an answer already in the staff report about the length of time the city has after completion of a project to file necessary paperwork, justifying the delegation by saying the city council doesn’t always meet in a timely manner to approve the authorization. “it’s not that staff won’t report to you that the project has been completed,” said Kendig. No subterfuge, just getting the paperwork done.

OK……

But, John then asked if there were examples of that happening. Kendig deferred to public works guy,Doug Stack, who said,” Yes, we have,” but gave no real examples, only reiterated the reasons just why his department wanted this authority. To justify his position, he stated that two other cities and the OCTA all delegate this authority. So, let’s see, that’s two cities out of thirty-four. Nielsen kind of looked at him and asked again, in so many words, about the necessity of this. Kendig added that he wasn’t aware of any issues with this type of ordinance but, again did not offer an answer to the overall question.

Councilmember Nielsen (and later, Gomez, we found out) simply wanted to make sure the city council wasn’t delegating too much authority in the issue. After all, it is the city council that authorized expenditures for the work. Shouldn’t they insure the project has been completed to satisfaction? He asked if a dollar threshold on the project cost could be included and was again slapped down by the city attorney.

In the end, with Councilmember Gomez’ input, the city made a minor modification to the resolution that would allow the Director of Public Works to submit the paperwork on his own only when it was not feasible to bring it before the city council first.

We would like to have seen stronger language that makes sure staff do not overstep their bounds. Quite frankly, having only 2 other cities, both of whom are much larger than Tustin, handing over this authority, is not enough justification in our mind. We task the city council with total fiscal responsibility and any related approvals should remain with them.

Hopefully, Nielsen and Gomez will remember this episode later this year (we’ll try to remind them) and bring it up for review at a later time to insure the integrity of the policy.

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