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On The City Council Agenda – July 7, 2015

Hidden Agenda ClipartI hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th of July. We are fortunate to have a great fireworks show each year at Tustin High School. It has been awhile since we have had anything to write about. Although June is the month for community events, things around our town Tustin have been kind of slow and we have had to deal with the realities of a death in our family. So, my apologies for not being where the action is…was.

We turned to the Tustin city website to write our weekly blog entry on the agenda and, lo and behold, they have given us a virtual cornucopia of color to deal with on the newly designed site. It may take us awhile to learn to navigate this wonder. Fortunately, not everything is new and it was fairly easy to find the city meeting agendas.

As I write this, I am listening to a joint city council – planning commission workshop that shows why the Tustin Planning Commission has been silent these last few weeks. It seems the Community Development Department has been working behind the scenes to develop a presentation on urban living. We’ll reserve judgment until we have had a chance to listen to the entire presentation.

For those of you who are interested in why the sudden push, however, Item 2 on the workshop agenda is a presentation by Irvine Asset Group for a Redhill Avenue project they are proposing to establish a mixed use of apartments, lofts (euphemistically called “live/work” lofts) and retail space. It looks to be an interesting project in any case.

Well, we know how the live/work lofts worked out for the Utt Juice Building project a few years ago. It doesn’t appear that anyone living there actually works there. That is, unless you want to count the “spa” on the corner of Third and Prospect. Don’t fret if you didn’t know it was there. Neither did Google Maps.

On the Tuesday agenda of the Tustin City Council, the Closed Session has no surprises. The usual litigation issues head up the list followed by the ongoing discussion with Tustin Unified School District reagarding Legacy property issues.

Labor negotiations have been ongoing for the past few weeks. It looks like this is the final discussion as the city council will vote, under regular business, on MOUs for both the rank and file and police non-worn contracts. Labor negotiations in our town have not been known for much dissension, however. Most of the time the employees have rolled over and accepted whatever the city demands as they screw the rank and file while rewarding the executives. In other words, business as usual for Orange County.

The Consent Calendar also hosts few surprises. Item 5, Resolution of Intent to Grant a Franchise to Wickland Pipelines, will allow folks serving John Wayne Airport to run Jet Fuel under the south side of our town. This project is a few years old so there are no real surprises here.

I am surprised that our resident water guru, Councilman Allan Bernstein, isn’t chomping at the bit to discuss Item 6, Water Conservation Update – May 2015. In perusing the staff report, it looks like we Tustinites have stepped up to the plate and accomplished our water conservation goal and then some. Required to conserve 28%, we actually saved 29% over our 2013 water use. Bernstein should be giddy.

Looking a little deeper into the report, it looks like staff are attributing the savings to a relatively cool month. Come on, though. Those sign out and about town dictating watering days for everyone probably had some impact, along with the huge PR campaign the city has had. It doesn’t hurt the city contracted an experienced conservation code enforcement officer to target scofflaws, either. 36 violations have been reported but it’s not clear in the report whether they were all remedied.

It’s doubtful the sole Public Hearing will generate much dissent. Item 9, Streamlining City Building Department of Solar Panel Permits, will make it easier for residents to obtain permitting for solar panels. It will also help the city to achieve a state mandate on alternative energy.

Under Regular Business, Item 10 – Memoranda of Understanting with TMEA and TPSSA, the city council will accept the contracts for the bulk of city employees. As a reward for all the “concessions” the employees gave to an arm-twisting negotiator over the past 6 yeasrs, employees will receive a 3% raise for each of the next two years as well as a lump sum payment. The agreement also specifies other increased benefits, including the recognition of Martin Luther King Day as an official paid holiday.

Although our city employees are among the best paid in the county, this raise and benefit package is long overdue. You get what you pay for and, frankly, Tustin residents have gotten a whole lot more the past few years. Hopefully, there is no dissent among the city council over this contract. Let’s hope our sworn officers in TPD do as well.

The only other interesting entry on the agenda is Item 14, Appointment of Replacement Successor Agency Board Member. Councilwoman Beckie Gomez is resigning her position on the board for personal reasons (We have an email in to her but haven’t received a reply). Although the staff report says the city council can appoint anyone, my bet is it will be another member of the council, likely Dr. Bernstein. Any bets?

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On The City Council Agenda – Tuseday June 2, 2015

parking permitsAmong other hot topics, opponents of the permit parking ordinance for the Veeh Drive/Nisson Road area will get a last chance to thwart the NIMBYS at tonight’s meeting of the Tustin City Council.

Care Ambulance will start off the evening with a presentation on why they are the best suited to haul our sick and injured folks around. Care was recently awarded the county ambulance contract after protracted discussions, arguments and threats over the past year. It seems that no one could decide who was best suited to award the contract.

The presentation will be followed by two Public Hearings. Item 1, Public Hearing to Consider leveying of Annual Assessment of Tustin Landscape and Lighting District, comes up every year. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone speak on this mostly pro forma issue.

Item 2, Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance 1457, will give water guru and city councilman Allan Bernstein another chance to wow us with his expertise on water conservation again. He still hasn’t told us how our cutting edge efforts have netted us another 3% over the state mandate that our city must now conserve.

Most of the Consent Calendar is the usual approvals for expending funds and destroying records. However, I am wondering about Item 3, Waive Reading in Full of All Ordinances and Resolutions on the Agenda. Why? I am sure it is something discussed in Closed Session that we will never know why. I assume it is for this agenda only.

Then, we come to the big ticket item.

I can imagine that, regardless of the leanings of the city coucil, people may still want to discuss the pros and cons of Item 12, Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance 1455. Anytime you are taking a basic right away from a group of people (yes, I think parking on city streets is a basic right), there had better be a good reason. While complaints from the area and a resulting investigation showed some pretty surprising parking issues for the homeowners, many of them expressed concern over the proposed permitting because it would not really solve the overall probelm. Unless there is an all out demonstration in council chambers, this item will pass, probably unanimously. And, in a few months time the city will be dealing with a new area.

Item 14, Resolution Supporting the Senate Constitutional Amendment SCA 2, is a feel good vote for the city council so they can stand with the rest of the righties in showing their patriotism. Mind you, I am also in favor of the heart of this amendment that should not have to be. I mean, this is America after all. And, while I will defend your right to burn, stomp or otherwise desecrate our flag because that’s your personal right (remember the First Amendment?), a public school or any public institution should not be allowed to ban the symbol of our country from being flown. Period. This state amendment should not even be necessary. But, if it’s the only way to get bureaucrats to understand basic flag law, then so be it. I wonder if John will have a tear in his eye when they read item? Oh, wait, they won’t. They aren’t going to read any of the ordinances or resolutions, remember?

If you are one of those to believe the drought may be here to stay, you may be interested in the final item on the agenda before Dr. Bernstein gives us his water lecture.

Item 15, Amendment of the Municipal Water District of Orange County’s Turf Removal Program. The turf removal program of the Metropolitan Water District of Orange County gives a rebate of $2.00 per square foot of turf to aid homeowners in removing grass lawns and replacing it with drought resistant landscaping. The city proposes to provide supplemental funding of an additional $1.00 per square foot.

Now, there are companies out there who are advertising they will come in, remove your turf and replace it with drought resistant landscaping for the price of the rebate. At least one company says they will do it all without any out of pocket expense to the homeowner, taking assignment of the rebate itself as full payment. That’s a pretty good deal if you are considering (as we are) going to a drought resistant front yard. Truth is, I can’t get my grass to grow anyway.

As usual, we’ll let you know if there is anything to report back after our city fathers meet.

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.

Oooops!

sorryEvery once in awhile, we make a boo boo which our readers are more than happy to point out.

In this case, we erred slightly when we told you that Melissa Figge of the Tustin Preservation Conservancy was going through the neighborhood, passing around flyers on the Conservancy’s opposition to the code amendment for second units appearing on Tuesday’s city council agenda.

Linda Jennings of the Conservancy Board emailed me to state, emphatically, the flyer did not say the Conservancy opposed the ordinance. “The flyer only says that we want everyone to hear the proposal and express their opinion”, she wrote.

Going back over the flyer, it does say just that at the bottom of the flyer. And, nowhere does it flatly state the Conservancy is opposed to the ordinance. However, it does outline a variety of issues that the ordinance would affect such as parking density and rental income for owners of second units.

If I were to read this without having a conversation with Melissa or anyone else from the Conservancy, I would infer (as I did) the Conservancy is opposed to the ordinance. To be fair, however, I’ll take Linda’s word for it that the Tustin Preservation Conservancy merely wants those living in Old Town to be informed and to speak their mind at the city council meeting.

So, did they?

Who knows? The city, which has had their share of problems with their video system managed to recess before the presentation by city planner Scot Reeskin and did not restart until Councilman John Nielsen started blathering about mother-in-law houses. I’m sure John was trying to get a point across. He just wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

Once again, Linda Jennings came to the rescue saying there were about 50 folks from OTT. Only a few spoke, with most of them against the ordinance. Linda said, “One mother was very moving, talking about why she moved here and how she doesn’t want to see it change.”

I also heard Lindburgh McPherson of the Wilcox Business Plaza in the West OTT spoke….in favor of it, of course. McPherson, and his buddy Silent Mike, are all for anything that will ruin the flavor of Old Town if it will make a buck for someone.

Councilman Nielsen did manage to blurt out his feelings on the parking issue, one that most of us have a concern about. But, it was Councilwoman Beckie Gomez who took it a step further by saying the parking in Old Town is already something the city should be looking at even without this ordinance. Calling it a dangerous situation, Gomez called for more parking enforcement and further resolution to the parking problems Old Town is experiencing.

Gomez also clarified what she thought was a misconception that the affordable housing mandate was being laid on the backs of Old Town residents. Saying the city is addressing the issue in different parts of the city, she inferred that was not the case. I’m not sure if whe misunderstood the issue or wanted to make sure they were being fair.

It was the city that raised the affordable housing mandate in the ordinance. The inference was clear that this was part of the ordinance. But the mandate is citywide, not just for Old Town. And if, as Gomez says, the city already has affordable housing in other parts of the city, why would it even be necessary to address it at all in Old Town, one of the most unaffordable areas? Old Town owners will charge a premium for the privilege of living in their historical district. I seriously doubt anyone would accept an affordable housing mandate on their second unit.

Gomez also pointed out that, if more than a few owners decide to build second units, it would definitely affect the character of the historical district, a concern shared by most of us.

After extended discussion with the city staff, the council voted to continue the item until a time when the staff could figure out parking and other issues associated with it. I’m not sure where that puts the status of the ordinance as normally there would be two readings and a vote to enact. But these folks, in an effort to not create liability on themselves, have to make even the easiest ordinance difficult. What this really told me is that no palms have been greased, ala the OC Business Council and John Nielsen. Perhaps they are waiting for someone to show up with money in hand.

In other business, the city council voted to approve the Veterans Memorial Preferred Concept Plan. This presentation by city staff went off without a hitch and councilmembers got a nice view of the concept.

Allan Bernstein commented that the inclusion of a Purple Heart Memorial at the park was absolutely imperative. We agree. We were also surprised that Allan could say the entire thing without glancing at his notes (or was that the Dodger score on his iPad?).

City Manager Jeff Parker Let us know exactly what and who is behind the drive for Assembly Bill 1217. This bill would reduce the number of members on the OCFA Board and give the County a larger say while reducing the same in cities like ours. Assemblyman Tom Daly, a well known lacky for the public unions, is carrying water for the Orange County firefighters union who hope to have more access to the Board (read influence during negotiations), according to Parker.

Parker said that every city who is a member of the board has opposed this measure. That is, except for Santa Ana, which would get an automatic vote at the table. Some omen, Jeff. Saying the city managers and city councils were trying to send a message, Parker essentially said the state has no business getting into the workings of a local district. Well, looking at Daly’s history with unions, it is no wonder why he is sponsoring this bad bill. The city council voted to send their own message by opposing the measure.