We are back from our Annual Area 51 Ride. Give us a few days and you can read what we have been up to over on our travel blog, The Road Less Traveled.
This week’s Tustin City Council meeting agenda is long only because of the number of items on the Consent Calendar. There are also several presentations including one for our neighbor on B Street for “Outstanding Old Town Property”, an award occasionally given by staff to owners of property in Old Town.
Presentations follow the Closed Session which will include discussion on property owned by the Tustin Unified School District.
A couple of things stand out on the Consent Calendar. The first is Item 6, Award Contract for Catch Basin Insert Cleaning. Readers of this blog will remember there was a minor fiasco several months ago when it was discovered by the city that the required catch basin cleaning was not being performed by West Coast Storm. The city quickly moved to terminate the contract and place the next highest bidder, United Storm Water, into service for the remainder of the contract year.
United Storm Water has now been selected as the best (and only) bidder for services. Apparently, no one really wants to service our storm drains as United was the only one of 5 companies to respond to the RFP. One has to wonder if the city wouldn’t be better off doing this in-house.
Item 8, Police Department Vehicle Purchases, has the city replacing 7 TPD vehicles. We previously questioned why the city continues to go outside our own businesses to make purchases. However, after looking at the offers from Tuttle-Click at $3,000 higher than McPeek’s, we can understand why. This could be a win-win situation if Tuttle-Click really wanted the city’s business.
Oh, wait. Did I misread this or did the city? On the staff report, they say the quote from Tuttle-Click is $29,942.78. But, in reading the quote, the price shows as $27,281. That could be before tax but, even then the numbers don’t add up. Perhaps the staff could clear things up for us.
Other items on the Consent Calendar include Advertising for bids for the Frontier Park water splash pad to replace the amphitheater and a rental agreement for the Del Amo Avenue building owned by the city.
Frontier Park construction would begin early next year. The amphitheater has been underutilized the past few year, according to staff, and has drawn “an undesirable element”. The city likes splash pads for the kids as we have a number of them around town.
The only Regular Business item on the agenda is Item 12, Business License Program. Several months ago, the city council authorized the use of an outside company to “assist” the business license staff in locating scofflaw businesses that had failed to obtain a city license. Municipal Auditing Services solicited the city for their business and, once procured, they set about harassing and intimidating businesses in Tustin that were suspected of not paying their fees.
The program has been an apparent success as the city seems to have no intention of getting rid of MAS. But, there seems to have been enough of a backlash that city staff are now recommending an amnesty program that would take the bite off small businesses, the ones who have suffered the most under this program.
Of course, the methods used by MAS, and that have either not been reported to the city or not been complained about, is the canvassing of business neighborhoods for errant business owners. it’s also doubtful staff are including all complaints in the staff report, only those whose response can be substantiated (in their minds, anyway). One has to wonder about the other complaints.
MAS has been the target of numerous complaints in other cities that have used their services. City Manager Daryl Parish of Covina stated, “If there has been some error in communication, then obviously we want to clear the air on that.” His answer? Require businesses that have been contacted by MAS to sign an affidavit saying they don’t do business in the city. Here is what one business told MAS they could do with their affidavit. Perhaps the city council should take a closer look at this rather than just look the other way.
That’s it for this week. I won’t even wager the length of the meeting. This City Council has become increasingly lazier as they choose to convey power to the Boss Tweed Parker. It would be no surprise to see eventual meetings held by teleconference.
I guess I shouldn’t give them any ideas.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Vanessa Osborn
Date: Monday, September 30, 2013
2013 OLD TOWN TUSTIN ART WALK
6th Annual Old Town Tustin Art Walk will feature local artists, Plein Air contest, wine and beer tasting, photography contest, and tours of Old Town Tustin
TUSTIN, Calif. – The City of Tustin Parks and Recreation Department is proud to present the sixth annual Old Town Art Walk on Saturday, October 19, 2013, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Historic Old Town Tustin along El Camino and Main Street. Hosted in collaboration with various community partners, the Art Walk is a one-day celebration of fine arts that is free to the public.
The Art Walk will feature over 60 local artists with their work on display and for sale along the sidewalks of Old Town. Various types of paintings, photography, sculpture, drawing, ceramics, jewelry, and mixed media will be represented. The event will also include a Plein Air contest which is open to all types of painters and will award prize money ranging from $100 to $1,000. “En plein air” is a French expression that means “in the open air” and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. As such, entries must have been painted outside in the three days before the event and depict scenes or subjects from within Historic Old Town Tustin. Contest judging and announcement of winners will take place during the Art Walk.
Other highlights of the event include live music, wine and beer tasting (from 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm), a photography contest exhibit, a Kids Art activity by the Tustin Library, an art gallery by the Tustin High School Visual Arts Program, and docent lead van tours of Old Town Tustin’s points of interest. All of the local favorite Old Town merchants and restaurants will also be open for business.
For more information regarding the Old Town Tustin Art Walk, call the Parks and Recreation Department at (714) 573-3326 or visit our website at http://www.tustinca.org/artwalk.
Although the agenda holds only 5 items, Tuiesday evening should be full for the Tustin Planning Commission.
The first item is a General Plan Conformity Determination for property offered by the Irvine Company in the Marketplace. According to the staff report, the parcel was originally offered to extend Myford Road south of El Camino Real behind the Tustin Auto Center. So far, it has been used as access and excess storage for the Center. Irvine Company proposes to deed the property to the city.
The first of two public hearings for Conditional Use Permits will be postponed at the applicant’s request. The property, located at 155 S. Myrtle Avenu in Old Town, was purchased earlier this year. It looks like the new owner may ask for some new construction. The staff report gives no indication of the type of construction requested. However, since it is in the vicinity of the Wilcox Manor where a 3 ring circus has recently been approved, it wouldn’t surprise us if the enterprising owner were to build a flop house for guests too inebriated to drive home. We won’t know for sure until December when the owner will ask to have the application heard.
The second CUP is for a change to the Master Sign Plan in the Tustin Marketplace. Say, didn’t they just recently change this to just, “The Marketplace”? The request will keep the flavor of the signage in place while enhancing patrons’ ability to more easily find the store of their choice. The modification would allow tenants to place their tower signs with fonts specific to their branding. Other changes include temporary event signage and string bulb lighting. The Irvine Company is also asking to place a larger-than-life directory sign near The Home Depot. According to the staff report, the new signage is designed to enhance, not change, the flavor of the shopping center.
Item 5, Summary of Projects, will probably take the lions share of time on Tuesday. That’s because there are 13 retail projects, along with a slew of infrastructure construction, to discuss. In reading the staff report on the projects, the city staff should be justifiably proud of the work they have accomplished. New businesses include two new hotels and a dozen restaurants and shops. Which Which, a new sandwich shop in the “Tustin” Marketplace was recently visited by the editor and his family. Everyone agreed that, while the sandwiches might be a bit pricey, they were delicious – especially when washed down with one of the best chocolate malts in town. The shop is not just a diner, it’s an adventure.
We have been excited to see the progress made on the Vintage Lady in Old Town. After burning down two years ago, the owner was able to save the facade of the building. A new building, designed by local architect, Nathan Menard, is being erected behind the facade. It will be interesting to see how a modern building interfaces with its historic past. Knowing Nathan, no one will know.
Of cousre, we did notice a few items missing from the summary. Most notably, nothing was said of the Wilcox Manor CUP. Perhaps staff thought the evening may drag on a bit long. At some point, you just have to say no.
Not much to report on for this coming week as the Planning Commission has cancelled another meeting, presumably for lack of business. That doesn’t mean there isn’t quite a bit happening around our town Tustin.
At the same meeting where the city council sold out the residents of Old Town to repay local campaign contributors (more on that later), Chief Scott Jordan was honored by a plethora of bigwigs. The list included Senator Mimi Walters, OC Supervisor Todd Spitzer, neither of whom could bother to show up personally, The OC Chiefs of Police, the Joint Powers Agency and the Orange County Fire Authority. All in all, the chief endured nearly a half hour of kudos and probably needed a small trailer to carry home the plaques and certificates. Good luck, Chief Jordan. And, thanks for sticking with this bunch of yokels as long as you did.
And, even though Lisa Woolery is no longer PIO, I guess we are still on the black list as we did not receive the press release from the city naming Captain Charles Celano as interim police chief. Based on his longevity with the city and his apparent credentials, I would say he would be an excellent candidate for our new chief. Perhaps our resident expert, Al Murray, can have coffee with him (as I’m sure he has) and discuss it. Congratulations, Chief Celano. You have big shoes to fill but I don’t think the council erred on this one.
Clown College Comes to Order
It didn’t take long for clowns on the city council to show their bias toward the Wilcox Manor CUP application. Practically before Mayor Murray announced the public hearing, Councilman John Nielsen was running for the door, recusing himself from the proceedings. A recommendation to the city council: not everyone who watches the meetings knows what is going on. You might want to take the time to explain a bit before rushing off the dais. Assuming everyone knows your dirty secrets just makes them curious. Of course, if they want the dirt, they can come here.
So, now the presentation could proceed… except that, Murray had given special dispensation to one speaker to speak first due to another engagement. It just so happened the speaker was a representative of a church from outside the city that wanted to recommend approval of the CUP. One has to wonder if Murray would have given the same consideration to say, Chad Ortlieb, had he needed to tend to outside business. One thing for sure, it was evidence of how the rest of the evening would go.
One thing Ms. Hahn mentioned was the fact the Wilcox Manor hosted a seminar for the Irvine church she belongs to. Would anyone else consider that running a business venture that neither Lindburgh or Michael have a business license for?
So, after Ms. Hahn from the outsider church speaks, Murray goes over the “rules” about speaking and decorum, making sure to threaten anyone who violates the rules with being escorted out. It was his comment about how “One of the things we all pride ourselves in is carrying ourselves in a professional manner”, that had me laughing out loud. Well, I will agree that, since Boss Tweed Amante’s departure, the council has been nicer to each other. But, if they are, it’s only because they don’t have Deborah to pick on and they are all scared of Beckie. As far as nice? Well, there is that little issue of the unethical antics of the city council at large to consider.
Now, you know just how important this issue is because Community Development Director, Elizabeth Binsack, did not (for once) delegate the presentation to one of her underlings. Instead, she proceeded to run a dog and pony show with her minion, Scott Reetskin, to give a glowing report, complete with justification, of just why the boys should grant the CUP.
Now, I’ll admit, I did not watch the entire presentation. I’ve seen enough of these to know, they will use any justification, no matter how distantly connected, to justify their position. However, one item did catch my eye on the fast forward. That was the section about the Pasadena Tournament House, a place I am intimately familiar with. Now, I am not sure how they thought this classic location could be tied to a justification to grant a CUP to the Wilcox Manor. After all, the Tournament House is owned by the city of Pasadena, as Scott pointed out; the Wilcox Manor is privately owned. Proceeds from the use of the Tournament House go to the city; proceeds from the Wilcox Manor events would go into the pockets of the owners. Did I mention that could be in the neighborhood of $20,000 per event?
The voice of reason on the city council, Councilperson Beckie Gomez, raised several concerns during the council discussion portion of the hearing. She hammered the issue regarding the parking as, true to form, the Wilcox boys were attempting to get out of the use of the shuttle in all cases. She also pointed out issues regarding the trash, noise and stated what we all knew – that, even though there are laws against these things, how would they be enforced?
Gomez took the time to thank the public for their interest in the matter and writing thoughtful letters. And, though she chided some of the writers for getting personal, she let everyone know she took the time to read them. Well, Beckie, it is a personal issue when your neighbors want to make money by invading your personal peace and quiet. So, how can you blame them?
I’m not going to bother recapping anything the Clown councilmembers said because they were all hovering over their “yes” button as they couldn’t wait to vote in favor of their favorite campaign contributors. It was clear they didn’t care about the neighborhood or the folks this travesty would affect. And, it was clear they didn’t care how this would affect the character of Old Town Tustin.
As for the applicants? In his closing remarks, Lindburgh McPherson began by discounting the detractors and stating, “I feel we have created a legacy here that will go on for a long time.” Great. Of course he didn’t state the obvious that would have sounded like, “I feel we are going to make a ton of money (upwards of $400,000 a year) at the expense of our neighbors’ peace and well-being. And, as Councilmember Gomez pointed out, there is nothing that requires them to put any of that back into further restoration of the property.
Lindburgh also stated, emphatically, that all but one of the neighbors on Pasadena Avenue, “within walking distance” of the Wilcox Manor, were in favor of the CUP. Again, he did not mention that the letters of support from nearly all of those folks were form letters that he and Michael handed out and asked folks to sign. So, the question remains, did they understand what they were signing?
Oh well, after more than two hours of public discussion on the matter, the city council voted in predictable fashion, 3-1 -with Councilmember Gomez dissenting- in favor of granting the CUP. So, the fat lady sings.
Or does she?
Remember, there were two letters of opposition from attorneys in the crowd. And, even though another lawyer who supported the CUP said they didn’t know what they were talking about (don’t lawyers always think they are the smartest guys in the room?), it has been my experience that whenever lawyers get involved, a lawsuit is soon to follow. So now, not only does the city council have to live with their biased decision, they may soon be spending your taxpayer money to defend it.
In the meantime, life in Old Town will go on. I am sure the paranoid Lindburgh is already seeing the “opposition” behind trees and underneath legally parked cars, just waiting for errant wedding guests to litter while flipping off a neighbor. Opponents, in the meantime, may be gearing up for a lawsuit. There are some other questions that have risen recently that may not make this a cut-and-dried situation. We’ll keep you posted.
Oh, and Lindburgh and Michael were so quick to address their proponents when seeking support on their Facebook page. I noticed that, as of Monday, they had not taken the time to thank anyone, least of all the pandering city council that voted in their favor. Oh well, I’m sure the next campaign fundraiser is on them.