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On The Planning Commission Agenda – January 27, 2015

planning commission puzzleUnless the public comes out in force demanding to be heard, it’s doubtful the Tustin City Planning Commission will spend much time on the dais Tuesday. The only item of interest is Item 2, presumably a public hearing item as it occurs before the “Regular Business” header.

Item 2 is a Conditional Use Permit application to establish a pawn shop within the confines of an existing jewelry and watch store. The applicant, PJ Javansir, it the reported owner of the establishment, located in the Gateway Village strip mall on the northeast corner of Edinger and Redhill.

The shop will be limited to the pawn of jewelry items (we’ll see how long that lasts) that the store would normally handle in sales. There is no change in the form or design of the shop itself and it looks as though it would just be an extension of their regular business. In its usual verbose style, the city describes the project here. Let’s hope the presentation isn’t as long.

The only other item on the agenda is the Community Development 2014 Year in Review. The review, which can be seen here, is the annual summary of activities by the Community Development Department. They have had quite a year of activity mostly having to do with future planning.

A highlight of the report is the Downtown Commercial Core Plan, where new and remodel construction took place as well as the initiation of discussions with the community on revitalization of Old Town Tustin. The plan envisions a pedestrian plan to encourage people to visit the area.

Unfortunately, the city has apparently put the residential portion of this plan on the back burner as no further effort has been made to address resident issues. More than a year ago, the city was courting old town residents in an effort to update housing and building rules pertaining to outbuildings. That project was quickly placed ont he back burner as it would result in no change in the income stream.

On the other hand, even if only half the plans of the “visionaries” come through on the commercial core effort, the city could see substantial increases to its tax base. Of course, that effort requires the cooperation (and money) of the businesses that make up the old town (and surrounding) area. Thus, the push to “sell” the concept to the business community.

That’s it for the week. Don’t forget the upcoming election to replace Mimi Walters. We’ll have something to say and a recommendation for the vote coming soon.

On The Planning Commission Agenda – September 9, 2014

old town tustin signIt’s party time in Tustin. At least, the Tustin Planning Commission will be making a determination for another community facility in the Tustin Marketplace tonight during a public hearing.

Edwards Theaters recently vacated the building on the Tustin side of the Marketplace. The area, according to the staff report, is 23,000 square feet. The city decided we need a building in the area and has negotiated an agreement with the Irvine Company that will allow the building to be used for anything from staff meetings to quinceneras.

The agreement would also allow further development of the remaining area as well as eliminate fees the Irvine Company has chaged in the past for two other retail centers in the area.

We’re not sure whether the city actually needs another community center (to be called the “City of Tustin Community Center at the Marketplace”. We haven’t heard anyone from the east side of town complaining about a lack of facilities and, quite frankly, the city shouldn’t be in the business of creating and maintaining rental space.

That said, the amendment to the agreement does appear to make it easier for other retail areas to be developed. Fees charged are consistent with other facililties the city operates and the city will be given use of the the facility for community events without cost.

The only other item on the agenda is a second Public Hearing for a zone change and Conditional Use Permit. The parcel in question is the small respite park located on El Caminor Real south of Main Street. The parcel is owned by the citty and the front third of it has been used as a small park since 2007.

This park is a gem of Old Town and the only ones who should have any complaint, if any, would be the property owners on either side. One question that should be asked is, what will the city use the remaining 100 feet of land behind the park for? It seems odd the city wouldn’t find a use for it. We can think of at least one – a community garden that locals could grow vegetables in. Such use would be consistent with the respite park.

So, another exciting week in the City of Tustin. With the approval of the first public hearing, the city should have its hands full planning events for the new community center. It should be interesting to see what kind of events will find their way there.

Yes, There’s a Meeting

Jeff Thompson Meeting for MeetingThe Planning Commission will have a pretty short meeting Tuesday, with only one item on the calendar. That, of course, is barring any lengthy comments from the public. There is also an ominous “presentation” by Elizabeth Binsack at the end of the evening regarding an unnamed subject.

The sole item of interest is on the Consent Calendar and, unless someone pulls it for discussion, it will pass along with the approval of the previous meeting’s minutes. The item, a request for a Use Determination and Conditional Use Permit, would allow Golubitsky Fencing Center to establish a training facility in a light industrial business park on Edniger Avenue near Redhill.

I’m not sure why it needed a sales pitch but, the description of the facility discusses Golubitsky’s involvement with fencing and his awards which includes a silver medal at the Olympics. In any case, it’s a great addition to the recreational venues available to Tustinites and the location is appropriate.

That’s probably a good thing because they have been operating out of this facility for awhile now and the city apparently just caught up with them. The location requires a CUP because “fencing” doesn’t appear in the city codes as an allowable activity (how short sighted). In any case, the city seems to like the idea hence the placement on the Consent Calendar.

Hot on the heels of the recent opening of the new El Camino Cafe in the Del Rio Building in Old Town Tustin, the city has finally released the draft Commercial Design Guidelines for the Cultural Resources District. If you are a glutton for punishment, the 194 page document can be found here. Remember, I warned you.

According to the introductory letter, the guidelines will be used for property preservation and development within the overlay district. It will also:

…provide enhancement or appendix for other city codes for features such as:

  • Business identification signs to help preserve and enhance the character of Old Town Tustin.
  • Tips for energy efficiency to promote sustainability in your project or property.
  • Ideas for landscaping on private property and the public right of way, and suggestions for improving the overall street environments.
  • Photos and graphics that help explain improvements that can be made to properties.
  • Resources and websitelinks to make it easier to find additional information.

Overall, having a comprehensive set of guidelines is important, particuarly to Old Town residents and businesses. Historically, however, city staff has taken a heavy hand toward anything that doesn’t meet their own personal standard of how the area should look. In addition, the city has a history of showing favoritism to certain residents and businesses. These folks have either been influential because of their standing in the community (not necessarily a bad thing) or their political contributions (a bad, bad thing).

Evidence the fact of the city’s real intent is in the draft guidelines. At one point in the introduction, the dissertation reads:

The Guidelines are intended to serve as a “yardstick” against which proposed projects may be measured. The Guidelines are not intended to be strict development standards as are found in the Zoning Ordinance. It is recognized that not all design principles or criteria may be workable or appropriate for each project, but all applicable projects are encouraged to follow the Guidelines to the greatest extent possible. Therefore, they may be interpreted by the City with some flexibility when applied to specific projects.

This, of course, gives the city an out in regard to how forcefully they will enforce the guidelines against individual businesses. In other words, if you are in, you are in – if you are out, you can kiss your project goodbye.

And, the issue comes to the forefront in regard to “new infill development”. Albeit, there are few lots in the business district in Old Town that are vacant, we do have some. A recent example is the Del Rio building that was built on the old Riteway Dry Cleaners. That lot had a business and an apartment on the rear of the lot. When the new owners wanted to develop the lot, they asked for a business on the first floor with a residence on the second floor (presumably owner-occupied). The city nixed the plan, saing that further contaminant testing would be required than was already accomplished. It should be interesting to see if they require the same depth of testing for the proposed restaurant and living quarters being built on the old auto parts store lot next to Mrs. B’s.

So, will the public or local business owners chime in on the draft plans? They should as this document will (or shold) be used to regulate future business and building in Old Town Tustin. This is probably the most important step toward reahbilitation of the area that should be as viable as the historic downtowns of Fullerton and Orange. And, it’s all in the hands of a (so-called) trusted few.

Keeping the Status Quo

Dullsville-Snooze Alert-

It is going to be  a pretty boring election season in the city of Tustin this year. Either everyone in Tustin is too busy to worry about the political bent of the city council (they are all Republicans) or they are happy with the way things are going. Face it, it has been a slow two years around Our Town Tustin, ever since Boss Tweed Amante left. John Nielsen has settled down and become less interested in city politics. Our old friend Chuck Puckett has returned to the dais along with newbie Alan Bernstein whom we hope will learn eventually to look up from his notes once in awhile (wing it, Alan).

It is hard to believe that four years have gone by since Mayor Al Murray and Councilwoman Beckie Gomez were first elected. Both came to the dais under the ominous shadow of Jerry “Boss Tweed” Amante, who held a firm grip on the city, issuing edicts and offering regular rants against his detractors. The Liberal OC often referred to him as “Il Duce” both on and off the record. And, Amante never got it. He hated the residents of Tustin (where he resides), hated the women he was forced to share the dais with and loved his dogs. When Jerry was around, there was always something to write about. When he left…. well, things got a bit more boring.

That, of course, has been good for Tustin. After Amante’s departure, the city council was able to clear their collective head and get down to the mundane business of running the city. And, except for the occasional powerplay by City Manager Jeff Parker or Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack, the city has run pretty smoothly on their watch. About the only real issue over the past four years is the epitomal collapse of the old town area when a CUP was granted to the boys at Wilcox Manor to run a convention center wedding venue. That controversy (assisted by yours truly) outlined what is wrong when politicians who have a direct benefit from a business, help that same business to make money at the expense of others’ privacy and well-being.

All this leads us to the latest news from the city. As I said in the beginning, either no one cares or no one knows. Al Murray and Beckie are the only ones to file nomination papers for Tustin City Council. As such, they will run unopposed, meaning you can save yourself a trip to the polls unless the other issues we’ll bring up over the next few months matter to you.

Regardless of my criticism, I have always liked Al and Beckie. Al is a retired police captain from Irvine and his most pressing decision since he has been in office is where to have coffee (usually Keane’s, usualy with cops). That’s not to say he can’t make a decision. He just hasn’t had to since he has been in office. Originally an Amante yes man, Murray has a great quality of getting along with just about everyone, admirer and detractor alike. And, he is pretty darn good at calming a collective angry crowd. And when the stuff hit the fan, during one of the most infamous crime sprees to hit Orange County, he was the man every mayor wished they could be in time of crisis.

It has been my pleasure to know Beckie Gomez over the past few years. A closet Republican, she has shown a willingness to work with everyone on the council (including Jerry) even though the council has consistently refused to give her any of the cherished paid board or committee positions. Little did they know Gomez is quite happy with her Library Board appointment. Gomez has demonstrated that she is interested in the welfare of Tustin chiefly as a place to live and secondly as a place to do business. During Amante’s frequent rants, she proved to be a calming influence even when Nielsen and Palmer were also ganging up on their nemesis, Deborah Gavello. If she did not always back Gavello’s play, it was because she had a direction of her own to follow.

So, what will the future bring to Tustin? Perhaps, over the next two years, more mediocrity. Barring an infield play by Arte Moreno or the collapse of the pending cemetery deal at the Great Park, the MCAS property is all but disposed of. I am sure there will be controversy over the fate of the blimp hangars to jazz things up a bit. As the city is showing its age, perhaps it’s about time the city council took the Old Town Tustin bit out of Elizabeth Binsack’s mouth (before she finds a way to bulldoze it completely) and take a good hard look at revitalizing the downtown area. Both Fullerton and Old Town Orange have experienced a renaissance with myriad antique shops and second hand resellers replaced with chic restaurants and venues that draw a diverse crowd. Downtown Tustin’s time has come and, without the past controversy to impede them, this city council could make a lasting mark on the place we all love.

One rumor in the wind: Will John Nielsen, who has had his share of personal and public controversy while in office, choose to resign during his term as we have heard he may? That would open some interesting avenues, and some of those have the Amante smell.

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