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On the City Council Agenda, October 2, 2012

Just a few things happening on the Tustin City Council agenda this week. Aside from the usual suspects in Closed Session, there are two Public Hearings to contend with. Also, one or two of the items from the Consent Calendar may be pulled.

For our money, the city council may want to discuss the noise abatement level report from John Wayne Airport. The agenda says average levels at the monitoring station have remained constant for three of four quarters. They should move that monitoring station to my house. Seriously, there have been complaints in every quarter of the reporting period but the numbers say the noise is below acceptable levels. Not much there, unless you want to wade through a 56 page report, but enough the Three Amigos may want to pat themselves on the back about.

Both of the Public Hearings, may generate some discussion. The hearing on Redhill Lutheran Church is the second public hearing on the matter. On September 11, 2012, the Tustin Planning Commission held a lengthy hearing on the proposed General Plan Amendment, Zoning Change and Conditional Use Permit for several residences that are actually the property of the church. The commission recommended approval of the changes to the city council on a 4-0 vote.

The sole opposition at the meeting was a resident who lived across the street from the church and who was concerned the changes would impact traffic and parking in the area. The pastor of the church said the residences had, in essence, been operating the same way for several years and there would be no change to their use. The purpose of the GPA and CUP were simply to bring it in to compliance with city requirements.

This will be the second Public Hearing on the matter. There may be discussion as this will give others who may not have known about the requests to come forward with their concerns.

The second Public Hearing is one we wrote about yesterday. It is an appeal from an approval for a CUP for Goodwill Industries of Orange County to establish a high end retail outlet store and donation center in Larwin Square. The Planning Commission approved the CUP 4-0 on August 28, 2012. Surprisingly, Tustin Councilmember Deborah Gavello filed an appeal, stating simply “based on location”. When we attempted to contact Deborah about her concerns, she refused to speak with us. So, I guess we will all be waiting with bated breath until Deborah speaks.

Closed Session

Conference with Legal Counsel re: two cases of exposure to litigation and two case of initiation of litigation

Liability Claim – Marbella Perivan and hector Tapia Bravo Claim No. 12-24

Conference with Legal Counsel Existing Litigation – City of Tustin v. Keybank, N.A.

Open Session

Public Hearing – Redhill Lutheran Church, General Plan Amendment, Zone Change and Conditional Use Permit for several residence properties adjacent to the main church property.

Public Hearing – Appeal of Panning Commission Decision to Approve Use Determination for retail space to be use by Goodwill Industries in Larwin Square.

That’s it. We probably won’t make the meeting but we will report back on anything worth reporting. Of course, YouTube for really good repartee is always an option.

Where’s the Goodwill, Deborah?

Last month, the Planning Commission had an intersting public hearing on whether to allow an upscale version of a Goodwill thrift store to set up shop in Larwin Square. The store, known by the brand “Threads”, would be more like a posh shop featuring higher end merchandise that is not usually found in the run-of-the-mill thrift shop. Corrine Allen, representing Goodwill Industries, said she was excited to bring this concept to our community. Ninety percent of the goods sold at the store would be thrift shop items with another ten percent sold as new. As with other Goodwill stores, there would be a donation area in the rear.

When I first heard about this concept I thought, “What a great idea.” My family and I have occasionally shopped at Goodwill stores and have sometimes found some real treasures. With a store coming to Tustin, I felt we would be shopping there more often. Apparently, the Planning Commission felt the same way and unanimously approved the conditional use permit and location of the store.

There were a few objections, of course, mostly from other businesses. Two of the objections were pretty vague and did not state specific reasons other than the fact the First Street Specific Plan did not include thrift stores. However, it does include retail stores and the proposed use is really more like a boutique rather than what one usually thinks of as a thrift store. Larwin Square has been host to many dress shops, t-shirt shops and even a Joanne’s which sells fabric and arts & crafts items.

A third objection was made by Ian Carter, who owns the Wellington Plaza across from Larwin Square. He named the same issue that the store is not an approved type of business for the First Street Specific Plan and questioned why the need for another Goodwill store when there are four others within a 5 mile area. He went on to say the addition of a thrift store “downgrades the area which is primarily office buildings.”

Now, Carter must be a friend of Jerry and John because he  then says:

Wellington Plaza has had difficulty policing its office complex with undesirable individuals coming into the complex. Our building has been broken into on at least two separate occasions and computers and miscellaneous items stolen. The police are hard pressed to stop such incidents. The city can help by not allowing incompatible uses in this zoning area which will have the effect of bringing an element into the area surrounding our office spaces.

Let’s see, this is starting to sound like the argument used by the city council in the failed Heritage School lawsuit against TUSD where the city’s argument was that folks in Columbus Square were being forced to bus their kids to substandard, overcrowded schools that “primarily serve  minority students.”

Essentially, the objections are baseless. Goodwill has a stellar reputation over its 87 years in Orange County. They provide jobs to folks who would otherwise be written off and provide valuable services to the business community and local government where their clients are placed for work. None of it is make work and they are considered valued employees by the folks who are smart enough to hire them, including my own employer. We have used Goodwill employees for a lot longer than I have been around.

And, it is these stores that make it possible to do their work.

So, as I said, the Planning Commission read the objections, weighed the arguments and, with some minor modifications, approved the CUP. Goodwill was good to go with “Threads”. And then, the other shoe dropped.

Anyone can file an appeal to a Planning Commission recommendation. I was surprised to see Councilmember Deborah Gavello file this one. When I heard about it, I immediately emailed her. I first

Courtesy of the Liberal OC

received a return email saying that she could not talk about it. When I reminded her that the Brown Act did not apply and that I was only asking what she was objecting to, she gave me a rather cryptic answer and refused to discuss the issue further.

A few days later, the City Council agenda was published. Attached to the public hearing on the matter was a staff report that inlcuded Gavello’s appeal. Again, we were left with a cryptic answer as her appeal said only that it was based on “location”.  So, given all the benefits that opening “Threads” would bring to the community, we have to wonder what new argument she could bring to the table that would be so earth shattering it would cause the rest of the council to uphold the appeal.

For our part, we recommend the city council deny the appeal and uphold the Planning Commission’s findings. This store will be an asset to our community where we can use good businesses that will give folks another reason to stop and shop here. If the donation area in the rear of the store is the issue, Goodwill has readily agreed to all proposed modifications including a guarantee the area is kept free of donations during off hours and adding additional security cameras. In fact, they have gone above and beyond to accommodate nearly every request made without complaint. That tells me they have faith in this concept and look forward to being a bonafide member of the Tustin business community.

So, stop your griping, Deborah, and show a little goodwill.

On The Planning Commission Agenda, July August 28, 2012

After a short hyatus, the Tustin Planning Commission is ready to go with a relatively quick agenda for Tuesday.

The first order of business is to accept the resignation of Planning Commissioner Chuck Puckett, who is running for Tustin City Council. Chuck was also the Chairperson of the commission. The City Council will have to appoint a new person to the commission. The commission can appoint a new chairperson or they could wait until Puckett’s seat is filled. We’ll see how that works out.

The rest of the agenda consists of Consent Calendar items. I don’t see anything to ring any bells here. But, you never know what the neighbors are going to think.

Item 3, Commercial Design Guidelines and City Tour, asks the commission to hold tight while they put the finishing touches to the Commercial Design Guidelines. The agenda report also advises a tentative date of September 11, 2012 for a proposed City Tour. I have been told this tour is open to the public and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. This is tentative. Keep an eye out on the city website for the actual date. I’m sure they will want to publicize it.

Item 4, Conditional Use Permit for On-Site Alcoholic Beverage Sales at a New Restaurant, is for a new Japanese fusion restaurant that will be taking over part of the old Hollywood Video property in the Ralph’s Center on Irvine Boulevard. The surrounding restaurants, Lone Star and Cafe Rio, both serve alcohol so this should be an easy one for the commission. The main issue seems to be they want to stay open an extra hour past the other restaurants. Because of the area, staff are recommending the change.

Item 5, Use Determination and CUP, is an application from Goodwill Industries to establish a retail store and collection center in Larwin Square. Because thrift stores with donation areas are not identified as permitted or conditional permitted uses for the First Street Specific Plan (maybe the city should have looked at this when they were updating the Plan, doh!), it requires action by the Planning Commission. The staff have place several reasonable conditions on the permit to ensure collections are properly stored and not just dumped in the rear, which faces Centennial Way.

The City has received only one written public comment opposing the CUP from Vaughn Edewards, president of ACI Commercial Insurance Broker, Inc. He gives no specific reason other than it doesn’t fit with the First Street Specific Plan. But, isn’t that what CUPs are all about, Vaughn?

I have seen the types of stores Goodwill Industries is proposing for Larwin Square and it will make a great addition to a local shopping center that is in dire need of stable tenants. Goodwill Industries does not seem to open stores in locations unless they think they will make a go of it. And, there is that idea of providing local jobs for folks who might find it difficult to obtain a mainstream job. We have “Goodwill” workers in our facilities kitchen. I can’t think of harder working individuals who, because of the assistance and guidance of 87 year old Goodwill, are able to work and live independently. So, sorry, Vaughn, we support this as they support the community.

Oh, and Goodwill Industries is recognized as one of the seven Best Companies to Work for in Orange County by OC Metro Magazine, has been voted Orange County’s best thrift store too many times to count and is currently the #2 vintage store according to OC Register readers. Pretty awesome for a charity that puts 92 cents of every donated dollar to work for the people in our community that need it most.

So, there you have it. A pretty quick and concise agenda for the Planning Commission. Of course, the next question is, who will the City Council appoint to replace Chuck?