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On The City Council Agenda – August 20, 2013

Hidden Agenda ClipartAlthough the the city council appears to have a lengthy agenda, with 14 items on Regular Business, it is the one Public Hearing that will garner the most attention and most likely cause the meeting to run late – that is, if the city council will let the public speak.

The Wilcox application for a CUP had been postponed from earlier this year, mostly due to allegations of ethics issues. Originally scheduled for a September hearing, it has been moved up and we are not sure why.

Of the remaining items, thirteen are on the consent calendar. However, some of these should be pulled in the interest of the city for discussion.

Item 4, the Quarterly Investment Report, is one item that bears discussion. Since the passing of George Jeffries, the longtime City Treasurer, Finance Director Pamela Arends-King has been the “interim” Treasurer. She has yet to explain any change or lack of change in the city’s investment strategy. I’ll give her one thing, the finance report is easy to read these days.

Item 5, Determining the Industrial Disability Retirement of Mark Hocevar, should also be examined under the public light. This case will be discussed in closed session.  It’s unfortunate that police officers get hurt on the job. This particular injury, however, is a typical back injury, which is “assumed” under the Labor Code to be work related. That said, an open discussion should be in order to satisfy the questions of an uninformed public.

Closed Session

Conference with Legal Counsel – Initiation and Exposure to Litigation, 2 items each.

Conference with Legal Counsel – Existing Litigation, Workers Comp – Mark Hocevar.

Conference with Real Property Negotiators – MCAS properties.

Consent Calendar

Item 4 – Quarterly Investment Report

Item 5 – Determining the Industrial Disability Retirement of Mark Hocevar. Workers Comp Appeals Board case.

Item 6 – Vehicle Purchases Honda Police Motorcycles. Replace 5 motorcycles in the traffic enforcement division. Vendor is Huntington Beach Honda who handles all OC Honda Police motorcycle sales and service.

Item 7 – Authorization to Advertise for Bids for Graffiti Removal Program. Graffiti Control Systems has provided service to Tustin since 2003. Expect them to continue. The city, however, should look into seeing if Orange County Probation still provides these services through their Juvenile Court Work Program.

Item 8 – Adopt Resolution 13-03 Approving Lot Line Adjustment. To facilitate the construction of the restaurant and multi-use facility at 125 W. Main St.

Item 13 – Award Contract for Enderle Center Drive and Vandenburg Lane Intersection Enhancement Project. Award contract to lowest responsive bidder, Sequel Contractors, Inc.

Regular Business

Item 14 – First Reading Ordinance 1430 to Amend Tustin Subdivision Code. Update and streamline subdivision codes and processes. Proposes to decrease costs and improve process.

That’s it for this week’s city council meeting. Stay tuned to hear more about the Wilcox Manor.

On The City Council Agenda, March 5, 2013

political junkets

My apologies for not staying up to date for the past week. I am still recovering from inuries sustained in a traffic accident. The plastic surgeon did a great job (I look just like Sean Connery) and I have the firefighters at Station 21 as well as the accident investigators and motor officers of Tustin PD to thank for their timely response. As I am on the mend, I’ll get back into the swing of things.

The Tustin City Council faces their longest and probably busiest agenda of the year so far. Let’s just hope the Podiatrist Councilman can keep up without an iPad.

Rather than the usual closed session preceding the regular meeting, the council will hold a special meeting at 4:30 pm to interview candidates for three open seats on the Planning Commission. Election and appointments will also be conducted.

I just spoke with the city clerks office who informed me that 18 candidates have filed for the three open seats. All the commissioners whose seats are up have filed for reappointment. In order to allow enough time for interviews, the city pushed back the interviews for the other commissions to late in March. Let’s hope 2 hours is enough time.

Although the incumbents are heavily favored in this match, the city council could decide to bring in fresh faces that are not aligned with the old guard. It is the current commission sans Chuck Puckett which, amidst local opposition, approved a heavily modified CUP for the Wilcox Manor. That modified CUP was appealed directly to the city council where a number of councilmen have admitted conflict of interest. This lack of the planning commission to handle their own issues is, to our mind, an excellent reason to choose new blood.

The Regular Meeting of the Tustin City Council will commence at 7:00 pm beginning with presentations and pubic hearings.

The Public Hearing concerns the annual evaluation and acceptance of the Action Plan for the Community Development Block Grant prepared by staff. At stake is $590,000 in funding. No action is expected on the item other than to hear testimony from interested parties.

A major issue sure to come up is the us of the Tustin Community Foundation as the manager of the CDBG funds. Erin Nielsen, director of the Tustin Community Foundation, is the wife of Councilmember John Nielsen. Nielsen earlier this year recused himself from discussion on the Wilcox Manor CUP referencing his relationship to TCF and their fundraising activities at the Wilcox. Erin Nielsen, for her part, receives about $32,000 a year according to court documents. When we reported on this conflict last year, there were conflicting statements made by the city and the TCF concerning their exact role in the management of these funds. When we accused the parties of collusion, TCF issued a curt statement in their newsletter saying they do not “manage” the funds. That was sort of backed up by Community Development Director, Elizabeth Binsack, who said the purpose of having two hearings was to give those who did not qualify the first time around, another chance for a slice of the pie. As we stated then, however, we found it hard to believe the TCF wasn’t in fact, the manager of the funds.

Add to this a whole slew of conflicts of interest. While the relationship of the Nielsen’s is enough, Mayor pro tem, Chuck Puckett, is a past president of the TCF Board. And, Planning Commissioner Steve Kozak, who has applied for re-appointment to the commission, is a current member of the board. Who else? How about Linburgh McPherson, co-owner of the Wilcox who is currently listed as their Vice-president, Resource Development, a catchy title for the chief fundraiser.

In any case, if the city council really wants to show they no longer favor the TCF arrangement (and, why should they since our two protagonists are reportedly divorcing) they could return to the previous process of having a Citizens Participation Committee to handle administration of the funds. The council may well take a different direction considering the staff report makes no mention of TCF.

Although councilmembers may wish to pull items from the Consent Calendar, most items appear to be routine or, at the least, have funding attached. The synchronization of signals on First Street/Bolsa Avenue is a multi-jurisdictional project requiring funding from all participants. Tustin’s part is $42,000 and, if it helps traffic flow, is well worth it.

Perhaps Mayor Al Murray will pull Item 9, an agreement to transfer ownership of Ari, one of Tustin’s police canines if only to give him proper recognition for his retirement. He has served the TPD for over 6 years and I am sure his service will be missed. His current handler, Officer Eric Kent, will take possession and provide him a great home with, what we hear, a couple of other family dogs. Good luck in retirement, Ari. TPD’s newest canine, Elko, will have big shoes….uh, paws to fill.

We are not sure if the Community Development Department is trying to pull (another) fast one with Item 10. They bring up some “minor” changes to the guidelines for hearing officers for administrative citations. We approach this with natural suspicion since things have gone mostly south for Binsack and her crew after the Fairbanks prevailed in their property rights case. And, it is always suspicious when staff are unwilling to show you the draft. So, why even bring the issue up? There is little doubt the city wishes to stack the deck in their favor for future administrative hearings. Keep your eyes peeled for this one.

Item 11, on the Regular Business Agenda, a request for travel by the Podiatrist Councilman, bears discussion. The Association of California Cities-Orange County, a renegade association created by local entities for what they saw as a lack of interest in Orange County’s problems by a larger state organization, is sending a joint delegation with the Orange County Business Council (who donated to Bernstein and his two councilmen buddies) on a political junket to Sacramento. We would have an issue with this type of travel anytime the city is facing budget shortfalls as it currently is. But, as luck would have it, Mayor Al Murray is also attending on OCTA’s dime, making this an absolutely unnecessary for crony Bernstein on the Tustin taxpayer dollar. Why do we need two delegates attending this junket? Or, as it is a joint endeavor by ACCOC and OCBC, why isn’t OCBC, who will surely benefit the most from the meeting, footing the bill? All of this when the city council delves into reserves to balance the budget. We got rid of city council pay but other perks still remain. I bet you they won’t be staying at the Best Western or eating at McDonalds.

Item 12 should be of particular interest to folks living or thinking of living in the Legacy. This item, without apparent need of approval from residents, creates another Community Facilities District to levy more taxes on homeowners who choose to buy in the area. Mello-Roos has been the favored method of obtaining funding for infrastructure for the MCAS property and has been the subject of much argument as to whether folks are getting their money’s worth for taxes paid.

As we said before the Closed session, with the usual suspects, will come after the Regular Session to facilitate the Planning Commission interviews. The main item of interest is the commencement of labor negotiations for all line staff and public safety employee unions.

Public Hearing Items

Community Development Block Grant Subrecipients Performance Evaluation and Potential Reallocation of Funds

Consent Calendar

Approve Plans and Specifications re: Roadway and Sidewalk Repair – The annual plan for the repair of roads and sidewalks within city limits. Authorizes City Clerk to advertise for bids.

Approve First Street/Bolsa Avenue Sginal Synchronization – Authorizes agreement with OCTA and several cities plus expenditure of $42,000 for Tustin’s share of project.

Agreement to Transfer Ownership of Police Canine Ari – Caretaker Officer to pay the city $1 for transfer.

Request for Travel Approval – To allow Councilmember Bernstein funding for travel to Sacramento for ACCOC/OCBC joint junket.

Approve Creation of Community Facilities District 13-01 – Authorizes city manager to petition for creation of CFD on parts of Tustin Legacy property.

Second Reading and Adoption of Ordinance No. 1426 – Approves Specific Plan Amendment 2012-002 re minor text amendments of the MCAS Tustin Specific Plan.

Closed Session

Conference with Legal Counsel – two each, initiation and exposure to litigation.

Labor Negotiations – TMEA, TPMA, TPOA, TPSSA and unrepresented employees.

On The Planning Commission Agenda, February 24, 2013

Hidden Agenda ClipartMy apologies for the lapse in reporting this past few days. It seems that I was the victim of the classic left-turn-in-front-of-the-motorcycle type accident as I was traveling Main Street in Old Town last Wednesday. A few cuts and scrapes later, I am not much worse for the wear but the doctor demanded I not do much for a few days. I made it as far as Sunday evening and then couldn’t stand it anymore. So, here I am.

Not a whole lot to discuss at this coming Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting. Assuming no member of the public will be speaking, one has to wonder why they are meeting at all, other than to collect their $250 and give some of the staff a bit of overtime.

The first item is the General Plan Annual Report. According to the staff report, staff are proposing text amendments to the Zoning and City Code that will maintain consistency with the General Plan and State Law. The plan has been updated several times since its inception in 1966. I’m not willing to bore myself with reading the 87 pages of documentation but you can if you like. Let me know if you see anything interesting.

The only other item on the agenda is the Transmittal of Code Amendment 13-001, Zoning Code Update. The staff report summary assures these are mostly minor text changes and changes that will “modernize” the code. It also consolidates some sections for easier navigation. One thing that puzzles me, however, is the section that “incorporate policy practice into the Zoning Code”. The example cited is that guest quarters will be subject to a recorded deed restriction. What happened to our town hall meetings on the subject, Elizabeth? Or is this just another example of smoke and mirrors by the Community Development Department in holding meetings to distract the homeowners while Binsack and her wrecking crew stamp their own brand on Old Town? Other “minor text changes include establishing open space requirements for residential districts establishing what amounts to new uses that were not defined before. It would seem these are not just minor text changes but, I guess that depends on your interpretation.

This is a draft of the amendments that staff are providing, as they say, in a timely manner. The public hearing will be held at a March meeting of the Planning Commission. We may be asking the city to provide more information on the “minor text amendments”.

That’s it for this week’s meeting. I am doing my best between pain pills to get back in the saddle. I’ll have to ask you to bear with me.

On The Planning Commission Agenda, December 11, 2012

agenda-clipartThe year is quickly coming to a close and the last meeting of the year for the Tustin Planning Commission is at hand. Not a lot on the agenda this time around save for two public hearings.

Item 2 – Code Amendment and Conditional Use Permit – The Kiddie Academy Child Care Learning Centers would like to establish their presence in a new commercial construction on the corner of Walnut and Newport Avenue. The company proposes to demolish the existing structure and replace it with a 6,300 square foot day care center. The request also includes  establishment of new and reduced parking requirements for day care facilities with drop-off and pickup areas. The day care center will be able to accommodate 108 children with a one story structure and play area in the rear.

Item 3 – Code Amendment Update to the City of Tustin Parking Code – This is an update to the parking code that includes new business definitions and re-aligns some types of commercial parking to better serve the community. There were a couple of items we saw in a draft copy of the amendment that we had issues with. But, they did not appear to make the final cut coming before the commission.

There may be some discussion concerning the parking as it relates to business, although we don’t really see anything to get excited about. One of the changes will allow for greater flexibility in parking related to restaurants that are part of a larger shopping center. And, for some reason, the planners saw fit to change the code to make definitions for different types of parking equal between residential areas and business enterprises. That may be workable for apartments and condominiums, where parking can sometimes be at a premium but, it’s probably not neccessary for single-family homes.

Hopefully, for the commissioners at least, this will be a short meeting so they can get back to their eggnog. Of course, the last time I said that they wound up in a two and a half hour meeting.