There are only a couple of items on this week’sagenda. In reverse order:
Item number 3, Residential Design Guidelines for the Cultural Resources District is up for review and approval. This is an update that outlines the inner-workings of the Cultural Resources District, AKA Old Town Tustin, and ensures the history and flavor or the area will be kept as intact as possible. A quick once over did not reveal any sinister plots against the old town folks and the document will probably be approved and forwarded to the Tustin City Council at their next meeting. If you live in the Cultural Resources District, I suggest you take a look at this document. it makes for an interesting read. And, if I missed anything, please be sure to let me know.
Item 2 is a public hearing on an appeal from a Conditional Use Permit. If you live in the Old Town area, you probably received a copy of the Notice of Public Hearing for the residence at 445 W. Main St. This building suffered a fire a few months ago and forced the family out of their home. Cleanup and construction has finally begun. Omar Karim is the owner who I spoke with a few days ago. When asked about the Hearing, he said he had submitted plans that would bring the house into compliance by removing an illegal apartment from the rear of the home. At the same time, he submitted plans to add a smaller addition to the main house and to build a new guest house on the rear of the lot. The guest house was approved by city staff under a conditional use permit with the stipulation that a deed restriction be recorded that would stipulate the guest house could not be rented out. This specific issue is what Karim has appealed.
The city makes no legal argument for the deed restriction. Instead, it relies on a so-called past practice of requiring all homeowners in the past 30 years to record deed restrictions. There is no local, state or federal law requiring the action. Yet, Community Development Director, Elizabeth Binsack has decided that she will be judge and jury. Her reasoning for the requirement is:
The deed restriction is the most effective means of ensuring that the accessory guest house is not used or leased as a second unit.
She cites other reasons in the report but they all point back to this issue. And, this issue is virtually the same as the Fairbanks issue which we have written about numerous times. In that debacle, Binsack and the Community Development Department, along with her ally, Councilman Jerry Amante, attempted to single-handedly destroy a family by continuously appealing and harassing the Fairbanks in an effort to get them to acquiesce to the will of the City. Binsack’s department consistently flouts the law and has no problem spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on her crusade to rid the city of what she thinks are undesirables living in Old Town Tustin. The current issue is just another battle for control of the city resources.
The deed restriction does not prevent a guest house from being rented out. But, the city has placed other logical restrictions that make renting a guest house unattractive to potential tenants and eliminates the need for a requirement not grounded in law. These include restrictions on kitchen facilities and parking. What the deed restriction does, however, is create a stigma on the residence particularly in regard to future sale of the house to potential buyers. Deed restrictions generally have the unintended consequence of reducing the perceived value of the home. There are already adequate laws, which the city could and should enforce to prevent unlawful dwellings. Isn’t that, after all, what code enforcement should be about? The current proposal forgoes due process and tramples basic property rights in the name of public good.
I understand there will be several speakers at the Planning Commission meeting to speak on this issue. I suggest the members eat an early dinner as they may be there for awhile. Hopefully, the Planning Commission will do the will of the people in this matter and not allow this travesty to continue. If the Commission does refuse to approve the deed restriction, count on Amante appealing this to the City Council and having Fairbanks-like issues begin anew.