You may have noticed that I have been writing a few stories from around the county rather than about our town Tustin. That’s because, like many of you, I have been patiently waiting the production of the video for the May 7, 2013 meeting. Unfortunately, it looks as if we may be waiting quite awhile. As happened several months ago, the city has either delayed placing the video on their website, for some reason or, there were technical problems. My sources say that it is the latter. If the video does show up, we will report on it. In the meantime, here is the rundown of the upcoming Tustin City Council Special Council Meeting on May 13th as well as the regular Tustin Planning Commission on May 14th.
City Council Special Meeting
I’m not sure why the single item on the City Council Agenda was so urgent that our good councilpersons needed to fill an extra meeting to approve it. This is the same Item that appeared as Item 5 on the April 23, 2013 Planning Commission agenda last month. The Planning Commission did, with some amendments, approve the General Plan Amendment and Land Exchange Agreement between the city and South Coast Community College District. This is pretty much a straight land swap but it also calls for a new street that would add traffic to the area. The city of Irvine related their concern over the change in traffic patterns but were assured the Average Daily Trips would remain under the total that would trigger a new EIR. Of course, the residents in the Legacy may differ with that when the new street is built.
In any case, this appears to be pro forma and we are not really sure what the hurry was that a special meeting had to be called. Hopefully, the city will have repaired its video equipment before the meeting so we can all find out what the urgency was.
Planning Commission Meeting
It would appear the tour Community Development Director Elizabeth Binsack spoke of last meeting did not come to fruition. There have been no notices published on the city’s website as she said there would. Maybe before the next meeting.
Only one item of realy interest on the agenda tonight. That is a Public Hearing for a variance to construct an additional bedroom on an existing house without having to add additional garage facilities. The house is located in the neighborhood North of Irvine Blvd. and East of the 55 Freeway. Several remodeling and additions have been completed over the years and the staff are recommending, due to space considerations, approval of the variance. Unless there is some outrage by the neighbors, I doubt there will be much to discuss here.
The only other item on the agenda is the staff Summary of Projects
Mixed-use Hotel Project – It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that construction is well along on the new hotels near the Microcenter. This, to me, is the single biggest and most important project of the year, business-wise. Kudos to Elizabeth and her staff as well as the planning commissioners and the former city council for have a sense of vision when it came to this project. Several changes have been made to the original plans, all of which have been thoughtfully considered before approval. This project is not just a direct moneymaker but will generate income for the city and our businesses, indirectly, as well.
Goodwill Industries of Orange County – This project, a high-end secondhand store, met with opposition from former Councilwoman Deborah Gavello, who said she had issues with the type of store. In discussions with her, we found she had issues with Goodwill Industries (she’s not the only one). Staff are reporting the makeover of the store in Larwin Square is nearly finished and we look forward to seeing it open.
A new florist has opened its doors in an old florist’s habitat on the corner of El Camino Real. For years, we saw the dated florist shop as rather anachronistic, even for Old Town. We only shopped their once before taking our business elsewhere. The new shop, Elegant Hive Distinctive Flowers and Gifts opened last month with little fanfare. We look forward to a long future for the owners of this boutique flower shop.
Vintage Lady – The building nearly burned down last year. It has been a long process to restore this historic building. Old Town Tustin’s Nathan Menard contributed heavily in time and effort to getting this project going again.
Newport Avenue Bicycle Trail Reconstruction Project – OK, we have ridden this trail hundreds of times over the years and did not see a problem with it. But, if you want to make it look pretty, go ahead. It’s grant funded through OCTA funds.
Rawlins Reservoir – Construction of the replacement reservoir has begun and will be completed by the summer of 2013.
Tustin Legacy – Over 1000 apartments in three separate complexes are scheduled to be built in the next few years at the Legacy. As well, staff are reporting the Columbus Square neighborhood to be complete with the addition of 124 homes and townhomes that have been built and occupied (is it time for TUSD to reconsider reopening Heritage?). Additionally, the Fire Station 37 Relocation construction has been awarded to Erickson-Hall Construction Company. Groundbreaking took place in February. It will take about a year to complete.
The Bad – Graffiti. The city doesn’t say whether there is an upward or downward trend but reported 1634 incidents for the first four months of this year. From experience, I can tell you there is a surge in gang and tagging activity in Orange County. Tustin’s gang population is comparatively low but, remember, we live next door to the city with the highest number of gangs, per square mile, in Orange County.
This should make for a fairly quick night for our intrepid commissioners. Unless they have absolutely nothing to do with their private lives, I make the meeting at way under an hour.
As expected, much of the evening at city hall last night was spent fawning over a couple of former planning commissioners who, we presume, are moving on to greener pastures. Both Ken Eckman and Fred Moore a couple of the only paid gigs in city service as they either termed out or decided on their own to move on.
The rest of the evening was spent with the commissioners hearing themselves talk, congratulate staff for the great job they always do and repeat nearly everything said in the various presentations.Unfortunately for them there were not many folks in the audience this time around as no one really cares if the staff want a berm to protect the street view aesthetics in front of a new Starbucks.
Speaking of, however, one of our newest commissioners, Ryder Smith (oh, I’m going to have fun with that name over the next two years), brought up a very good concern about the proposed drive-thru Starbucks at the new hotels.
His concern was over the traffic coming South on Newport in front of the complex heading to the freeway on-ramp. “If anything, it’s potentially a near term risk for this development during the 3 to 6 o’clock traffic because it backs up along that street..” He went on to say that he did not know how the installation of a traffic signal will affect the situation.
We, of course, brought up the same concern in our last post. There really did not seem to be much discussion on the issue as the staff, seeing sale tax revenue before their eyes, quickly blew it off and there was no more discussion before the vote. Smith seemed to think it was outside the purview of the Planning Commission. Really? If the Planning Commission can’t discuss this or bring their concerns to staff, why are they meeting, Ryder? We’ll chalk it off to his being a newbie but hope he mans up in the future.
Most of the rest of the evening was spent discussing the General Plan Amendment for the MCAS that would include an agreement for a new street to accommodate the college district. The new street generated some discussion by Jeff Thompson on the increase in traffic caused by the addition of a new backbone street. Staff scrambled to allay the fear of the commissioners over the 10,000 trips that would be generated in the area. After listening to the discussion, I am not sure why there was no opposition from the folks who live in the Legacy over the number of trips. In any case, staff appeared to satisfy the Thompson’s concerns over this and the land use as a whole as he, along with the other kids voted to approve.
At the close of the meeting, Elizabeth Binsack announced there may be a tour before the next regular meeting and that it would be properly noticed. At one time, I was invited by the city’s former public information officer, Lisa Woolery, to sit on the bus with them. That was, of course, before we had our falling out and before Lisa, who has since taken a job with Wells Fargo, had her falling out with the city. Perhaps Elizabeth will extend the same courtesy. I promise to be nice.