Only one item on the Planning Commissin Agenda this week.
The Tustin Unified School District and the city have apparently come to terms in negotiations for land to be used for a intermediate-high school (whatever they call them these days). The school will be located on the southwest corner of Valencia Avenue and Tustin Ranch Road. At this time (one never knows with the school district), The Tustin Academy will be a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) school for grades 6-12.
The Tustin City Planning Commission is being asked to approve a resolution to determine the site (a) is in conformance with the Tustin General Plan; (b) the 40 acre site identified is suitable for a school and (c) that the city acknowledges TUSD’s plan to overrule the zoning applicability to a 40 acre site.
We Appreciate the Approval but We’re Gonna Sue You Anyway
It is the last part that has me a bit confused. I’m sure it will confuse a few of the commissioners as well. Look for stupefied faces on the dais Tuesday night.
In reading the staff report, it looks like the snag may be with all the “extras” the school district wants to include. Of particular note is the inclusion of new TUSD District offices and an “alternative education” facility. That usually means continuation school.
So, Hillview is already taking up space at Heritage Elementary School. Does this mean they will move that facility to the new (and dare I say more appropriate) site? That would resolve a lot of heartache the city has had with the school district over the use of Heritage. The school district has previously said they plan to open Heritage for its intended purpose in 2016. They were, however, planning to leave Hillview there as well. So now, perhaps this will resolve the complaints.
The issue could simply be one of location and the number of schools. The school district had intended originally to open a high school on an identified 10 acre site. Other schools were planned as well. The inclusion of proposed population numbers, housing build-outs, etc., is an indicator that will change. Oh yeah, and they basically said the new magnet school will handle the entire Tustin Legacy population.
All in all, it should make for an interesting, if not lengthy, meeting for the planning commission. Even with Binsack patiently explaining things to Ryder Smith and Austin Lumbard, I think they may need a whiteboard (or the creative use of a choo-choo) to chart it all out for them. Oh, and expect an amiable lawsuit out of this as well. I know, I read the staff report (and I’m still confused).
Apologies for not doing my usual writeups on the latest Planning Commission meeting but tax day is rearing its ugly head and I want to stay ahead of the curb for once. My tax forms sent off, electronically of course, I can focus on our local issues. Here’s a recap of what has happened in the past few weeks.
Although there wasn’t much on the agenda, the March 17th Tustin City Council meeting went on longer than expected. A good chunk of it was taken up by a presentation by Police Chief Charles Celano. Celano who gave a “year in review” PowerPoint on the most recent activities and plans of his department.
Notably, crime is down thanks in large part to the CTAPS crime analysis program implemented under former chief Scott Jordan. In his typical low key style that I’ve come to like, Celano lauded both sworn and professional staff of his department and laid the blame for the general reduction in crime squarely on their backs. He delivered well-deserved praise for his people for their work.
Celano has had to weather his share of criticism in the past. It wasn’t too long ago outside rabblerousers invaded the city council chambers in an attempt to discredit the department. There were also attempts to turn low key events into high profile lawsuits (wonder if the plaintiff is the same Reznek from Huntington Beach fame).Those efforts have, so far, fallen far short due in large part to the professional efforts of the department.
Prior to the police presentation, citizens spoke during the public comment section of the meeting to garner support from the city council for a proposed Community Facilities District for the Columbus Square area of the Tustin Legacy properties. A sizable group of residents were in the chamber as one of them, Paul Callahan, spoke about the Heritage School situation.
As you recall, new residents are paying for a school they can’t use. Heritage Elementary School was supposed to open in 2011. When the school district finally announced the opening of the campus, it was to say they would be moving Hillview Continuation High School and Sycamore Adult School to the new digs.
That, of course, didn’t set well with the residents, who had moved there expecting to send their kids to local schools, or the Tustin City Council. The city council, which had a longstanding feud with the school district due largely to former councilman Jerry Amante and his puppet John Nielsen, wielded more taxpayer money by suing the school district again. Claiming the Columbus Square kids would have to go to other schools with predominantly minority populations, the city whined the residents were being cheated.
Someone should have mentioned the demographics to Nielsen and Amante before they shot their mouths off, not that it would have done much good. Nielsen, for his part, got up in a subsequent city council meeting and groused about being called a racist. Hey, if the shoe fits….
Since those dark old days, the city and the school district have kissed and made up. That was due in large part to Amante’s departure and Nielsen’s apparent inability to garner enough support to keep the fight going. The winners and losers were Tustin taxpayers.
All the while, though, the good folks at Tustin Unified School District were enjoying the public flogging of the city council, even as they plotted their own evil scheme against the residents by moving Hillview and Sycamore.
So, here we are in 2015 and the school district, no doubt feeling the pressure, has announced their intention to open the Heritage campus for its original purpose as an elementary school… in 2016. Yes, the district wants another year to get things as they should have been all along. I know it’s shocking but school district officials actually lied to the residents and taxpayers in the area when they said the Hillview move to Heritage was temporary. I mean, how long does it take to build a tennis court or two?
Apparently, it takes 5 years. Oh, and don’t expect Hillview to move out right away. We heard it through the grapevine that the school district has no intention of moving Hillview out before they open the site to elementary school age children. It will be a co-campus with both continuation high school students and elementary students sharing the grounds. We can’t find out for sure because the school PIO, Mark Eliot, has refused to answer our past emails (and, we gave up trying).
City Manager Jeff Parker shed some light on the issue at the end of the city council meeting.
“In part of that process was that we’ve already sent a letter to the school district saying we’re in line of thought that they move forward with the CFD [Community Facilities District]. A Community Facilities District is something that the school district actually forms, not the city. So, I wanted to make sure the public understands the process there.”
Parker wanted to make sure folks know who to blame in case something screws up. In following comments, he also made sure everyone knew the city remains a majority property owner in the area and, of course, it is the property owners who cast votes to form a CFD. That shouldn’t be too difficult to sell, even to the residents. They are, after all, desperate for a school they can actually use. Maybe the city should make the re-opening of Heritage as an elementary school exclusively, as a condition for their vote. In fact, that may be what the city is laying the groundwork for as Parker disclosed the working group that will “set the guidelines” for the CFD. In any case, don’t expect things to go that smoothly.
What they should be doing is working above board to insure the residents who desperately need these schools are informed. In reality, what will probably happen is the city attempting to influence the school district AGAIN in how they run their schools. Surely, transparency can’t be on their mind as the “committee” consists of TUSD and city officials with no representation from the affected residents. And, while I think it was underhanded of the district to actually pull the bait and switch the city earlier accused them of, it is just as reprehensible to believe the city should have any say in how schools are run. Leave that to the experts.
The last item, as a reminder, Linda Jennings of the Tustin Preservation Conservancy, appeared at the city council meeting to announce the formation of a GoFundme account for the restoration of the Jabberwocky. This Tustin landmark was restored from the ground up by the owner using local historic architect, Nathan Menard and other folks. There’s about $10,000 that was not covered by the insurance. Linda reminded folks they could help by donating whatever they could afford to the restoration effort by going to the Jabberwocky site (or see the link in our sidebar) . So far the effort has raised over $3,000 toward their goal.
It’s been a nice but short vacation since the Tustin City Council had an extra week off this past month. And, while the last meeting in April was extremely short, don’t expect that to happen again, at least for awhile.
Highlighting the agenda this week is a second go at implementing a land exchange between the city and the Army Reserve that would, in effect, move the Army Reserve to another parcel of MCAS property off Warner Avenue and Redhill. The deal had already been agreed upon a few months ago but, the bureaucracy is never satisfied. The Feds wanted a few changes to documentation and to the deal itself. City staff assure us the essentials are the same and the most important issue for the taxpayer, a no cost swap, is intact.
Although construction of new Reserve facilities will take some time to complete (I’d say at least two years), the city has agreed to a lease back of the existing facilities to the Army at no cost to them. Relocation of the Reserve Center is a win-win for the city and the Feds. Let’s hope it sticks this time.
If you plan on buying one of the recently approved homes being built by Standard Pacific, expect to pay for the privilege through a Mello-Roos tax being pondered at tonight’s meeting. The City Council will no doubt go along with staff recommendations to saddle new homeowners in the area with a $29 million dollar bond issue to finance what should be financed by the developers and the city.
The tax includes infrastructure for the TUSD as well. However, an opt-out clause would lower the tax should the school district decide to finance their own CFD in the same area. Either way, the new homeowner should be wary as the CFD(s) could cost a significant amount with a questionable return. Our opinion is that Mello-Roos should have been eliminated along with Redevelopment Agencies.
In other business, city staff are recommending a change to city ordinances in regard to Waste Reduction and Recycling Plans. As new state laws have been effected, city ordinances require modification. As staff anticipate future changes to state CALGreen laws, they are suggesting incorporating future changes by reference. A great idea as long as staff stay on top of future changes.
Conference With Legal Counsel – Initiation and Exposure to Litigation, 2 items each.
Conference With Legal Counsel – Existing Litigation
Conference With Real Property Negotiators
MCAS Property – Tustin Unified School District
Boys & Girls Club – 580 W. 6th St.
MCAS Property – South Orange County Community College District
MCAS Property – Pacific Coast Investors
U.S. Army Reserve – Land swap, current facilities for equal parcel located at Warner & Redhill
Public Hearing Item 1
Community Develpment Block Grant Funding Allocation, Fiscal Year 2014-15 Action Plan. $688,674. Proposed recipients include:
Boys & Girls Club
Laurel & Mercy House
Parks and Recreation Department
Public Facilities Improvements
CDBG money will also be used to finance the Old Town Study.
Resolution 14-30 – Accept Armstrong Avenue and Warner Avenue Improvements.
CIP NO. 10048 – Accept Improvements for the Tustin Legacy Fire Station Relocation Station No. 37.
Request Travel Approval – Mayor Murray to travel to Washington DC with OCTA, ACC-OC and the Orange County Business Council for unspecified purposes. Cost of conference is $2,800 including travel expenses. The only thing we have to wonder is, whose interests will Murray be advocating for since he is a member of all three entities. For that matter, why isn’t ACC-OC, a quasi-governmental PR agency funded solely by represented cities, or OCTA paying Murray’s way?
On the Closed Session, the usual suspects appear with two each conferences with legal counsel on the initiation and exposure to litigation. There may be more soon, considering the city denied the claims of several folks last meeting. To boot, I am sure the lawyer from Anaheim representing the family of Robert Villa is wasting no time in preparing his case.
There are also three other claims up for consideration by the council. Don’t expect to see resolution on any of these as the city’s usual modus operandi, no matter how legit the claims, is to force the claimant to court in the hopes they won’t bother.
There are also several conferences with real property negotiators on the agenda. One of these is with the Tustin Unified School District. Among other things, the two entities are discussing the continued use of Heritage School as a continuation high school and administrative offices for the district. I was told the school district may open the school (with or without the continuation school) for it’s original intended use even though they may not have the number of students they like. A combo use could help alleviate the perceived situation by the Columbus Square folks but I wonder how they would feel about their kids going to school alongside “those” kids.
A Public Hearing heads up the Open Session Agenda with the Appeal of Denial of Massage Establishment Application for Tustin Day Spa. Regular readers will recall the Planning Commission tackled this issue a few weeks ago along with a permit for another spa. Both of these were requests from folks that had connections with spas that were shut down by the Tustin Police Department last year for criminal activity. The Planning Commission denied the applications and, hopefully, the City Council will do the same.
Surprsingly, the Consent Calendar has nothing noteworthy on it. Oh, wait, there is that vehicle purchase of three utility trucks and a rotary lawn mower. The city will be using the State contract to purchase the trucks so I guess I can’t gripe (like I normally do) about their purchasing out of the area. In fact, I volunteer to drive one of the trucks down from Elk Grove for them. At least the lawn mower purchase is local. At over 12 years minimum age each, at least they got their money’s worth for the old trucks (unlike the PD)
Oops. There is also the lease for the new fire station on the Legacy property that will replace the old station on Service Road. OCFA gets the place rent free for services rendered. It should be interesting to see what, if anything is done with the old station.
That’s it for the week. I hope the owner of the day spa requesting reconsideration isn’t holding her breath for support of her appeal. Most folks in Tustin would be just as happy not having these types of business around. If anything interesting happens at the meeting, we’ll be sure to write about it.