Tattoos for Everyone

"Mom"Last week’s Planning Commission Meeting started, as usual, without much fanfare. For the first time in awhile, no one from the Stop Smart Meters group showed up to protest. I am currently researching an article on Edison’s Smart Meter and Smart Grid program and will publish it here. Hopefully, the SSM folks will chime in and comment. Otherwise, the meeting was relatively well attended by the community, particularly those from Old Town Tustin.

The Commission did approve the Body Art Ordinance so that can finally move to the City Council for final action. Now, Jerry can get that Trojan tattoo that he has always wanted. Or, was it a dolphin?

Public Hearing Item 3, the resolution pertaining to the ordinance on non-conforming structures and uses was the highlight of the evening, taking up more than an hour and a half of the three hour meeting. I fully expected to write a hit piece on the Community Development Department because of their poor handling of this issue and the fact that Elizabeth Binsack has, once again, shown that she is in the pocket of Boss Tweed Amante. however, I will give her credit that she and her staff actually came back this time with some thoughtful amendments to the ordinance. And, she was able to think fast on her feet when both Commissioners and the public had questions regarding specifics.

Much of the discussion centered around how this ordinance would affect the Old Town area. By the way, Jeff Thompson lives in Old Town, so he has a vested interest in this ordinance. As originally written, we believe the ordinance would have unduly burdened Old Town residents should they choose to do, well, virtually anything to their homes. The ordinance would set limits on the value of repairs to homes that were partially destroyed. Valuation, according to Binsack, would have been set at original assessed value plus the value of improvements as determined by permits pulled by the homeowner. OK, so I buy a house, have a new roof put on it and remodel the kitchen. All of that requires permits. But, what about the little things that don’t require permits? A pergola here, a paver patio there, add up and add value. According to Binsack’s determination, however, that would be for nought.

Elizabeth also addressed the “impact of existing resources” (that’s what the PowerPoint slide says). She immediately went into attack mode, stating that the character of the Old Town area has been impacted by high density housing and commercialization. Of course, all of this has been done, according to her, without proper permits or proper input from the residents of the area. Well, how would we know, Elizabeth, when all of the permits pre-1959 have been destroyed by the city? And, how would we know about resident input since the Old Town area has no representation other than those few voices willing to stand up at a council meeting and be insulted and bullied by Boss Tweed Amante? Well, we get it, Elizabeth. You hate Old Town Tustin.

Several members of the Old Town community spoke during the public comment portion of the hearing. Nathan Menard eloquently pointed out how the zoning maps of the Old Town area do not conform to the actual zoning of the area. Up to 30 percent of the lots, according to him, are not properly zoned. This makes for a very confusing situation.

Marcus Brown thanked the commission for reading the letter sent by the Tustin Conservancy. He said the ordinance confuses building and zoning. There was no clear staff response or understanding of the issue. Marcus further stated that since there was no zoning code before 1947, there was a possibility that lumping zoning in with building codes would make the issue more complicated. When he asked if one of the case studies presented had a higher repair value, Binsack replied that it would have been allowed due to a “multitude of things.” She went on to say, however, that a lot depends on how it affects the non-conforming aspects of the property. Another clear cut answer.

Bret Fairbanks said it best when he said that he agreed with Marcus and the City Attorney that the issue should be zoning only. “I gave all the information asked for and it still wasn’t good enough. Is that the way it will be for all of us? Will it have to be appealed like mine was through you?”

One of Elizabeth’s staff then came on to reassure us all that, just because a building doesn’t have permits, doesn’t mean it would have to be torn down or brought into conforming status. What she failed to state is that the onus will still be on the homeowner to come up with the evidence that the building was not illegal. Some due process.

And, this is where Jeff Thompson let me down. For all of the questions he asked, he got no real answers from Binsack and Company. Instead, he defended his position by saying that the Planning Commission has no real authority, that they only recommend to the City Council. Really? Gee, Jeff, if you think that much of your commission, why bother? How about the fact that, in recent months, the City Council has followed the Planning Commission’s recommendations on several contentious issues, even going against Boss Tweed Amante? At various times, at least three of the council have refused to sway from Commission findings even when they had the opportunity to do so?

So, without further fanfare, the Planning Commission, feeling tired and worn out after three whole hearings on the issue, voted to pass it to the City Council 5-0. The only thing I can say is, at least the hearings are videotaped. So, in years to come when Old Town residents are fighting the city over this issue, they can request the tapes and minutes be pulled so they can determine the stated intent of the Planning Commission when they passed this resolution and the City Council rubber stamped the ordinance.

Welcome to the nanny state, Tustin style.

Much of the rest of the time was taken up doing what Planning Commissions do best. Hey, I found out Super Antojitos has Karaoke. Now I’ll have to warm up my voice. I wonder if they will still have that now that they will be able to have live entertainment?

And, get this, we have another 7-11 coming. That makes six in all. Even Radio Shack only has three stores. You have to love their marketing. Even though a few residents in the area objected, the Commissioners, who don’t live in the area, were all for it. Hopefully, they will be good neighbors as they seem to have been in their other locations.

The only other real issue of contention is the Tour of the MCAS that was noticed at the top of the Agenda. According to Thompson, the entire commission went on the tour. I still don’t know if anyone else was invited but I can tell you that we are looking into Brown Act violations as there was no mention of any minutes or record of the tour made. And, just because you say you didn’t discuss business, Jeff, doesn’t mean you didn’t violate the Act.

About Jeff Gallagher

I am a retired peace officer from the 2nd largest law enforcement agency in Orange County. I live in and love Tustin where my family and I have resided for the past 25 years. I am a highly moderate libertarian that despises hardcore Republicans, Democrats and anyone else who is not willing to compromise for the good of the people.

Posted on October 17, 2011, in Local Government, orange county, Tustin City Commissions and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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