State College Plans Rejected, City Responds.

It would seem that the email Jim Grosse sent to Council about the state college slopes meeting, no doubt aided by Ric Clough’s original meeting summary, both published here, has ruffled the right feathers to generate a response. I doubted it would come, but it has.

eric_rambles about state collegeThis morning Eric Nicoll, Community Development Director, sent the following communication in response to the email sent by Jim Grosse.

(Note: I’ve added a couple of paragraph breaks and reformatted Eric’s conclusions for easier reading.)

Tim, Council Members and Jim Grosse,

Good morning!  As Jim points out in his correspondence below, we presented the State College Slopes options to the affected residents last week and there was not any support for self funding the project even with some participation by the City through a LLMD or CFD.

We had a good turn out with 33 residents attending but the consensus was clear, if the City wants to improve this area we need to pay for it. We received some helpful input that will assist us in the future:

  1. They appreciate the traffic control and free bins the City provided and want to continue that program.
  2. They would like to see the concept landscape design (landscaping, V ditch and irrigation) as a “design guideline” for their use in planning their own improvements and requested consideration of permit fee waivers if they submit plans.
  3. The consultant work (both landscape architect and financial plan) provided concepts and real numbers for the first time and the residents can see what an improved slope looks like.

The City Council can now use this information as Envision Brea 2035 begins and the entire Brea community will participate in evaluating priorities.

Although the meeting did not result in any resident interest in moving forward on a self financed plan, it did give us their perspective and the Council can continue to explore options should the broader community see this as a priority enhancement project.

At the end of the meeting, we agreed to send a memo to the Council and the residents identifying the key points discussed in the meeting, which is forthcoming.

Regarding Jim’s specific questions below, I would like to have Bill Bowlus respond to him since he has been working with the consultants on this project and can best address those questions.

Eric

Translating government double speak.

“Not any support for self funding… even with some participation by the City” – Homeowners weren’t tricked into believing the recommendations benefitted them or that the City would seriously wade in with financial support (creating a bond) without a huge profit margin.

“We had a good turn out… 33 residents” – We thought we could duck dealing with homeowners on the south side of State College, equally problematic, or seeing the issues extrapolated citywide. Public review and reporting force us to rethink our position.

Citizen input reduced to vague remarks.

  1. First let me paint a picture of how much they love us.
  2. Design guidelines might be a place to begin once the State College corridor is identified as benefitting the entire community and alternative funding is developed that doesn’t create hardship for a majority of the homeowners whose property backs up to the thoroughfare.
  3. Residents were shocked at the astronomical costs in the consultant’s plan, particularly after ill-defined financing charges and exorbitant interest were added to the mediation costs.

Kick the State College can way down the road..

Pushing the discussion off onto the Envision Brea 2035 agenda is simply ridiculous. Envision Brea 2035 is simply ridiculous. Long range corporate planning has been a key part of my professional skills for nearly forty years. Never has a client asked to project so far into the future because they understood the unintelligent, half-baked and imprudent nature of such a wasted effort.

Envision Brea 2035, more than likely, will be attended by the same Boomers that have attended all other public forums, “discussions,” charrettes and charades conducted by the City. Don’t expect to see Gen X, Gen Y or the Millennials effectively invited or participating. They’ll quickly grasp the futility of the project.

What a shame that the very people with the greatest probability of being alive in 2035 Brea will end up having little or no influence on how Brea evolves over the next twenty years.

And please, forget that Summary Memorandum.

Eric, put your mastery of government double speak and powerpoint to good use and generate a full staff report. This time include all the details and describe them in a way that we all can understand them. If you need help from Bill Bowlus to accurately remember the specifics, you’ll get no objection.

Murdock prays about State CollegeAnd Mr. Murdock, since all of this was precipitated by your absurd original request, please do us the courtesy of bringing the final report and discussion to the Council meeting soon. As was clearly stated in the conclusion of “State College Controversy Grows” – Reviewing this in study session is a blatant rejection of reasonable transparency in government. The public should not be limited to commenting during matters from the audience, but should be afforded the opportunity of a formal public hearing. The precedents that could possibly be set here are wide ranging and likely to impact the entire community, not just the 44 homeowners selected as the target du jour.

 

State College Controversy Grows.

Last week’s public meeting regarding the State College controversy has stimulated a significant amount of chatter, comment and email. Jim Grosse, former Brea Planning Commissioner, whose home is contiguous to the State College properties, attended the meeting and was motivated to correspond with Council. With permission, I reprint it here.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Honorable Mayor and City Council,

JimG_400This memo concerns the proposed “State College Slope Enhancements” and the use of CFDs. I attended the meeting on June 23, but am an unaffected homeowner. I appreciate the attendance at the meeting by staff, Eric Nicoll and Bill Bowlus. At least one council member should have attended.

There was a lot at stake for the 44 homeowners. It was explained that Option 3 was out of the question. However it was the only one that really solved the problem in a permanent fashion. Options #1 & #2 are merely band-aids. Option #2 suggested a patchwork of replacement fences. This fact was not going to be disclosed until I brought it up. Thus rewarding those with poor conditions while those with fences in good repair paying the same increased assessment. What happens the next time those folks replace their fences?

With an overlay in place will they have to bear that cost? The overlay voted for in 2005 on the 28 homes south of State College has only resulted in four conforming fences in over nine years. Problem not solved.

These suggested options will never get a 2/3’s vote. Two things were achieved; we wasted $24K on the consultant and insulted these neighbors with the suggested tax increase, in all 3 options. Option #1 – $52K, Option 2 – $170K, Option #3 – $466K. Option #3 includes another 28 homeowners which I understand will pay an equal share for a six foot fence as a neighbor with 25 foot wall. Correct?

At least four of our council members are homeowners and three own multiple properties. Would you think this something acceptable to you? These homes are valued at $500K to $700K. In the end the benefit to the home’s value is about $10K, until you consider disclosing a CFD in the above stated numbers. It might even lower value and salability.

These options should have never been placed on the table. State College needs fixing. It would be a community benefit. But it should be paid by the community as a whole or find a funding source. Any council member claiming to be a “fiscal conservative” or ran on a platform of “not raising taxes” should rethink the position. For a couple of you this is an election year.

Question? On the presentation handout there is a stated General Fund Responsibility of $14,500. The Resident Cost for Maintenance is $324, or for 44 properties is $14,256 per year. Is this the same money or co-payment so to speak?

Question? Can we define “Financing Cost?” An additional cost to the homeowner?

Question? Is there a accounting function that assures the resident this is not an income stream?  Apples to apples?

The bigger issue is CFDs as a policy. What’s next? It could be in your backyard. The recent Madrona decision there was a comment “Let the buyer beware”. That is okay as long as it is disclosed in bold print and explained. But what we are asking of the folks on Buttonwood and Candlewood is just not fair. Think about two categories, the first time buyer, struggling to make that monthly payment or the senior folks who are on a fixed income.

As a planning commissioner who voted on “Central Park Village” we certified the project and the EIR just to let the developer get started with the project. Commissioner John Koos and I insisted the council look at the suggested CFD. Although the EIR stated there was no need for additional public safety funds, it was the ramification for the CFD.

I appreciate your service and understand the fine line in decision making. Double taxation and taxes not placed in equity is not right. I welcome your response.

Best Regards,

Jim Grosse

We want answers and we want them delivered publicly.

Jim Grosse has raised at least a dozen or more key questions that demand an answer prior to Council coming to any conclusion regarding the State College corridor. It should start with having the “summary memorandum” prepared as a formal staff report, presented during the main Council meeting held in chambers.

Reviewing this in study session is a blatant rejection of reasonable transparency in government.

The public should not be limited to commenting during matters from the audience, but should be afforded the opportunity of a formal public hearing. The precedents that could possibly be set here are wide ranging and likely to impact the entire community, not just the 44 homeowners selected as the target du jour.

Grass roots mail/email campaign?

Ray Ribal wondered, in his comment on “State College Slopes Need A Facelift” would a mail/email campaign have any effect? I’m not inclined to believe so, but would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.

Lets all keep a sharp eye on this and, as necessary, be prepared to hold Council accountable for maintaining open communications with us and for promoting greater transparency in government.

State College Slopes Need Facelift.

murdock on state collegeAbout the time that Hizonner The Pool Boy was handed the gavel he suggested the City purchase the slopes on State College and give the strip a facelift. The idea was instantly rejected by his peers and staff.

What came next is no surprise to anyone keeping an eye on city hall, our highly paid extremely qualified city staff hired a consultant. Here’s the rest of the story from someone who was there… a witness to the whole affair.

State College Slope Enhancement Meeting Summary.

By Ric Clough, Brea Planning Commissioner 2006-2010

clough on state collegeFor years, State College from Lambert to Brea Boulevard has been in major disrepair. For over 30 plus years, residents in this area have dealt with increased traffic, vehicles racing through the area and major accidents.

This stretch of State College has been ignored by the City.

Approximately 10 years ago, the City spent millions to build the wall and place landscaping along the north side of Lambert, but chose to ignore this bordering stretch of roadway.

Another consultant, another set of plans.

Last year Council directed staff to hire a consultant to review issues in this area. According to City staff, the consultant took $24,000.00 out of the General Fund. The consultant’s review proposed 3 different “design options”. The Council rejected the third option and directed staff to meet with residents to present the two options they approved.

(Editor’s Note: Plan 3, the only plan to actually address all of the issues, was dismissed due to cost, though no creative financing options were explored, and because like Lambert, maintenance became the responsibility of the City. Here are the details of Plan 3:

  • Install new wall like Lambert / 100% uniform streetscape.
  • Tall enough to hide slope issues.
  • Landscaping in front like Lambert.
  • Backfilled behind increasing resident’s usable space.
  • Matches existing streetscape on Lambert.
  • Duplicate 6 foot sitewall on south side for existing fences.
  • Keeps infrastructure off of private property.)

During Monday’s meeting (6/23/14), residents of the area north of State College were presented the remaining two options. Residents south of State College, though easily within the impact area, were not notified of the meeting.

Though the original direction to hold the meeting came from City Council, no Council members were present to hear feedback from the residents.

City tries pushing cost onto homeowners.

Both options presented create either a Landscape Lighting Maintenance District (LLMD) or a Community Facilities District (CFD). Similar to the recent failed effort by the City to convert the already existing Landscape Lighting Maintenance Districts, the choice between options, or to participate at all, would be up to a resident vote.

The LLMD option.

The LLMD option would create a permanent addition to homeowner’s property tax bills to fund the costs of the project and the continued maintenance, freeing the City from any future responsibility. The initial project includes building lower retaining walls and landscaping the hillsides in a uniform way.

Option One (LLMD) would cost approximately $1 million to complete. The forty-four homeowners effected would bear the expense and financing costs by having $1,744.00 added to their current property tax for 30 years. That’s $52,320 per homeowner, a total final payback of $2.3 million on the original $1 million investment. Who benefits from the $1.3 million profit?

The CFD option.

Option Two (CFD) would cost approximately $1.53 million to complete. The payback of these funds would subject the residents to an additional $5,662.00 in their property tax for 30 years. That’s a whopping $169,860.00 per homeowner! For the 44 homes involved, the payback on $1.53 million, over 30 years, would be $7.5 million. Almost $6 million in interest expense and profit generated here.

Additionally, residents would still be perpetually charged maintenance fees of $324.00 per year under the LLMD plan and $480.00 per year under the CFD plan. This perpetual fee could increase over the years as costs to maintain the area increases.

Always read the small print.

During the presentation, City staff stated the funding proposed for the initial projects did not include financing costs. No financing percentage number was provided to justify the reason for the payback amounts. Residents rejected the entire idea of paying such extreme amounts to the City for the projects.

Staff had no response to resident inquiries on other possible of funding mechanisms for the project. Residents discussed Measure M transportation funds, since State College is an arterial roadway and alternate to the 57 freeway commuters using Brea Canyon.

There was also no staff response to questions raised regarding the use of landfill funds (560 fund) that are always so available at City Hall for other projects, like making payments on a solar energy project that was supposed to pay for itself.

Staff did say traffic impact mitigation fees that are paid by developers on projects are not available. $8 million of those funds have already been dedicated to the improvement of the 57/Lambert off ramp project with Cal-Trans and OCTA.

Residents were informed that City staff will be providing the meeting’s results to Council in a summary memorandum, not during a study session or council meeting.

Time for me to wade back in. What are the extended liabilities?

This report from Ric Clough is clear and easily understood. But stop for a moment and consider the larger, unspoken issues lurking just under the surface.

tim_2aI’ll remind you again of Tim O’Donnell’s favorite definition of leadership…

“Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.”

What does this mean in simple language?

If we can successfully screw forty-four Brea homeowners out of millions of bucks while avoiding any responsibility to spend City money in the future, we can eventually screw the other 39,956 residents as well.

Once the camel’s head is in the tent, his ass is soon to follow. If you’re not interested in having your property tax doubled, or tripled, it’s time to stop the camel in his tracks.

A summary memorandum is grossly insufficient!

This is staff thumbing it’s collective nose at the idea of transparency in government and no one on Council should stand for it. This topic needs to be agendized, not for a study session, but for a regular meeting in Council Chambers.

The other side of the street.

As this stretch of State College is a true corridor and entrance to Brea from the west and the north… Brea Mall, 57 freeway alternative, CSUF, Target center, City Hall, etc., both sides of State College should be simultaneously addressed. A simple, clean design relying on drought tolerant native plants and replacing the melange of mismatched fences is what we need.

Refund the solar project payment(s) and turn to the 560 Fund and Measure M monies to pay for the project. Then, like the Lambert Project, the City can take on the maintenance obligations.