Corruption’s Partner Is Our Own Indifference.

I don’t do indifference. I don’t do close enough. I don’t accept half truths. When I want answers I’ll go to almost any length to get them. I’ve got them… in spades!

After several months of investigation, submitting numerous CPRA requests to the City Clerk with the hope of finding some truth about the Hines Brea Place project, I finally discovered the truth.

We, and I mean the City Council, the Planning Commission and concerned citizens, have been the victims of a deception of unprecedented proportions.

The deception begins to unravel.

I requested copies of an RFP to write/produce an Addendum to the Brea General Plan Final EIR, a list of firms invited to submit a proposal, all proposals received, other written communications between City of Brea staff and firms invited to submit a proposal. All I got was the now widely distributed proposal from Kimley-Horn plus the general response which had become painfully familiar…

“There are no documents responsive to your request.”

So I emailed the City Clerk with this inquiry, “Just to confirm, the non responsive results verify that multiple firms were not invited to submit proposals. The city policy to seek competitive bids was waived and the PSA ($59,981.00) with Kimley-Horn was approved on a sole supplier basis.”

The email was bounced to David Crabtree, Director of Development, who, on Monday morning, April 3, responded, “We solicited two proposals for this CEQA review, Kimley-Horn and ICF International. We selected Kimley-Horn for the job and executed a PSA with them. We do not have any responsive records to provide regarding the requests, other than what we have given you. We have not retained a copy of the rejected proposal from ICF — it was over a year ago and we don’t have any reason to retain. Hope this information is of benefit. Dave”

Red flags started going up like a May Day parade in the Kremlin!

I responded to David, “How were the solicitations made if there are no responsive documents? What, as you remember, differentiated the proposals such that you selected Kimley-Horn? Was the decision based upon low bid? Is the discarding of the ICF proposal in keeping with the city’s records retention policy?”

Thankfully I wasn’t limited to hammering the city with CPRA requests. Other resources became available so I shortly received a copy of the letter soliciting ICF’s participation in the project and the proposal they submitted. You know, the one staff decided to shred.

Busted!

The proposal was crystal clear, writing an addendum was absolutely the wrong thing to do… so wrong that ICF refused to do so and instead submitted a proposal to do a new EIR in accordance with CEQA. Forget all that legal mumbo jumbo tossed about by the City Attorney. Here’s what the ICF proposal said:

“We understand that the City’s goal is to tier (i.e. extrapolate) from the 2003 General Plan Final EIR and the 2005 Negative Declaration for the establishment of the Mixed-Use Zoning Districts to the extent feasible. However, the baseline conditions for the project-level analysis for the current environmental document will need to be existing conditions that exist on the ground, rather than the previously approved land use entitlements. Thus, we do not necessarily believe that tiering from these documents is the best option for CEQA compliance, and have attempted to explain our rationale below.”

Translation: You’re asking us to write an addendum “if feasible.” It’s not feasible. Let us explain why you should not do this.

“The General Plan Final EIR acknowledges that it is in fact a Program EIR…” Program, get it, not project! You can’t use a program level document to assess impacts at the project level — especially 14 years later!

“If a later activity would have effects that were not examined in the program EIR, a new Initial Study would need to be prepared leading to either an EIR or a Negative Declaration.”

Precisely what I and several others have been referring to as “cumulative” impacts. Like the traffic impacts created by Central Park Brea and La Floresta.

It gets better!

“While the previous environmental documents set the expectation for future development of the site in accordance with the General Plan and Zoning, it is our opinion that the previous environmental documents are not sufficient to cover the development project and that a standalone EIR be conducted, incorporating the previous environmental documents by reference. We believe this to be the best course of action for the following reasons:

  • The General Plan EIR is a first-tier program EIR. Tiering (i.e. extrapolating) from this EIR might be appropriate for new General Plan policies or actions, but not specific development projects.
  • Use of a Subsequent or Supplemental EIR, or even an Addendum, would be appropriate if there were minor changes to the General Plan (which was the previous action evaluated). Specific development proposals were not identified in the General Plan, and therefore the project does not represent a minor change to the previous project.
  • The impact analysis under the General Plan is at a program level, and does not address the impacts associated with development of the site and impacts on surrounding areas. Thus, the impacts associated with development of the site have not been adequately defined or disclosed.
  • Over 10 years have passed since certification of the General Plan EIR and the Zoning District Negative Declaration. Thus, existing conditions and circumstances have changed substantially since that time, and new issues must be examined under CEQA.

Thus, for the reasons above, we have proposed to prepare a stand-alone EIR for the proposed project.”

There it is, the smoking gun Zim Walker has been talking about!

Let’s get back to the sticky parts of the process.

Monday, late afternoon, I shared all of this with City Manager, Bill Gallardo. Somewhat stunned, he agreed to bring all of this to the attention of David Crabtree, first thing Tuesday morning. Early Tuesday I received this from Bill:

“Hi Rick: Not ready to discuss… still gathering the facts… if not today for sure tomorrow. Thanks. Bill”

Here is my response:

“Bill… After being deflected, misinformed and flat out lied to for almost two months I finally uncovered irrefutable evidence. I shared all of this with you Monday afternoon, saving you the months of time wasted I was subjected to.

As you are abundantly aware, I have documents that prove staff knowingly ignored information from a highly reputable source, one solicited by staff specifically for their guidance and assistance in the Hines Brea Place matter. Staff was clearly told, in no uncertain terms, why relying upon an addendum to our 14 year old General Plan and FEIR violated CEQA guidelines on multiple grounds.

Members of the Planning staff violated current city records retention policy by destroying the incriminating communications mentioned above. They also knowingly violated the CPRA by reporting to Lillian Harris-Neal, City Clerk, that they possessed no records responsive to my requests when the truth was, as clearly admitted to in the email I received Monday morning from David Crabtree, Director of Development, that the documents had been destroyed.

Any reasonable person discovering what I’ve discovered would likely reach the same conclusions I have, that there has been collusion amongst some members of the Planning Department and City Attorney’s office, to violate environmental law (CEQA) and the public’s right to know (CPRA), with the ultimate objective to hide everything from the Council, the Planning Commission, the City Manager and the public they’ve been hired to serve.

Please, regardless of who may be counseling you to circle the wagons, finding a way to minimize damages and public exposure, I ask you to do the right thing. Choose instead to serve the people’s best interest. And please, provide full accountability and transparency while you strive to resolve these egregious acts.

Restart the Planning Commission on a proper course of action in the matter of the Hines Brea Place development so it might reach a positive conclusion that benefits all concerned.

Purge city staff of those who hold themselves above the law and follow personal agendas that ignore the people they’re hired to serve. Re-educate members of city staff who have inadvertently been duped into facilitating the misconduct of their peers.

You’re asking for an extra day beyond what we discussed on Monday. If it means the people of Brea will receive the service and justice they deserve… of course.

Respectfully, Rick Clark”

Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon.

smoking gunAgain, Bill and I had a lengthy conversation about what I had uncovered and what he intended to do next. He shared the response he received from David Crabtree, “Early last year we conducted meetings with the City Planner, City Attorney, Hines staff and their attorney and John Koos, the Hines consultant. We evaluated both proposals and elected to go with the one from Kimley-Horn.”

Hang on, wasn’t I told by Hines’ Project Manager Bhavesh Parikh, “they were only invited to participate in initial discussions about the addendum but were given no role in the final decision. The City Planner unilaterally made the decision.”

So “they” included the Hines attorney and consultant. No mention of reviewing two contradicting proposals. No suggestion “they” played a role in the decision.

I’m having a pretty damned hard time buying off on all of the smoke and mirrors surrounding the Hines project and everyone concerned.

I told Bill that as there seemed to be no attempt on the part of staff to rectify anything, they left me with no alternative but to publish my findings and opinions on Brea Matters.

The Russians are coming! The Russians are Coming!

One might think so since Brea Matters, less than 5 hours later, was hacked! Yup, obliterated from the interwebs! Scrubbed, deleted, summarily violated! Six years of hard work and dedication erased.

Thanks to a brilliant webmaster, most of the site through 2016 was recovered by morning and I’ve republished the balance today. In sharing what happened with a couple of close friends, this was best characterized as a malicious targeted criminal enterprise.

Okay folks, it’s up to you now.

I know this has been a lot to absorb. My first reaction to finding out the truth was, “Oh no, not in good ol’ Brea!” Get over it. It happened here and we need to step up and do something about it.

Both City Council and the Planning Commission have been alerted to this post. Most of it, especially the ethics and legal ramifications, are brand new to them. As this starts to sink in, I suggest you send them an email letting them know how you react to it.

Haul your feelings into the Planning Commission meeting on April 25th and speak up. Get there early or Hines will have already filled the good seats with their Hollywood extras and you’ll be left standing in the back again.

Is this how you want your city run? Is this how you believe your community can create a sustainable future for itself? For you? For your kids and grandkids?

Some serious housekeeping is in order!

Markman & Flower

 

An Open Letter From Dwight Manley To Brea Leaders On The Hines Project.

Righteously rankled with how the March 28 Planning Commission meeting played out, flooded with Hines’ hired guns, whining millennials and out-of-towners singing Hines praises, lifelong Brea resident Dwight Manley took up the people’s cause.

In addition to delivering a stern admonition to the Commission, Dwight followed up, sending all of Brea’s key leadership this correspondence:

Dear City of Brea Leadership,

I am writing you regarding something that I feel is of vital importance. After participating and attending the Planning Commission meeting two days ago, I witnessed an unmitigated hijacking of the democratic process.

Due to the Hines Corporation’s efforts to have all of their out of town paid consultants, as well as the now corrupted Chamber of Commerce’s leadership’s efforts to have letters read into the record, the Planning Commission summarily reduced the public comment time limit from five minutes to three.

Compounding this, the Commission chose to forego open discussion prior to the public’s comments, depriving the public of the Commissions thoughts.

If the Commission wisely chooses to take up to a week to formulate their thoughts and questions, why are the people they are supposed to represent forced to do any differently?

Are we now in a world in Brea that if one wants to silence the actual resident, you just have to pay outsiders to show up and babble about millennials?

As an example of what I did not have time to ask; Hines stated six months ago they spent $10,000,000 improving the property, and now they say $30,000,000 — receipts please?

They claimed six months ago that the rents would be $2,500-3,000, and we heard $1,300-1,400 at rebuttal — show us the actual pro forma rental charts they are using.

Where are the sight and sound studies on the roof top pools? Show us pictures of the west side that we now hear supposedly has a window that can’t be used to escape an emergency, and are too high to see down into the homes yards next door.

Six months ago the proposed hotel had a kitchen for room service only. Now there is a full restaurant and bar. How many seats, what hours of service, menu example, hours of operation?

Should that not have the same scrutiny as all of the existing Brea eateries have? Is a hotel lounge bar appropriate there?

Hines claims $1,600,000 annual (property) tax revenue to Brea from this. Show me the math! The properties would have to be assessed at over $1,000,000,000 (one billion) to net that much for us.

Hines’ lawyer claims the parking agreement with Regency is void. I detected some deception in the ladies voice, and read this as they want it to be void.

Was the theater lease assumed by 24 Hour gym? The parking for the gym at the rear of Regency, in which the school district has a financial interest, should be of top priority in whatever happens with Hines! In the Hines plans, it is an afterthought.

In closing, I urge you to not let Brea democracy be corrupted by billion dollar hedge funds or paid lackeys. Put the Brea resident first, and let actual Brea citizens have their full opportunity to be heard after the Commission has publicly discussed this — as has been done in Brea for 100 years.

Sincerely

Dwight Manley, a Brean since 1966

Taking people out of the process.

Dwight is right, the people have been deprived of meaningful participation from day one. The moment the City Planner decided to abandon standard practice, choosing instead to create an addendum to the 2003 EIR, she took the public out of play.

I believe this was a purposeful attempt to fast track Brea Place approval by the Planning Commission. In a single decision, public commentary was reduced to little more than white noise.

Challenges to this decision have been met with repeated reminders that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) permits such a choice under specific conditions. It remains to be seen of these conditions actually exist.

The gorilla in the room, the question that the Commission either fails to recognize or choses to ignore, is how did this decision get on the table to begin with?

According to Hines’ Project Manager Bhavesh Parikh, the developer was “… only invited to participate in initial discussions about the addendum but was given no role in the final decision. The City Planner unilaterally made the decision.” – that muffled public comment to a dull hum.

Consultant John Koos, in a separate conversation, suggested that,  “… neither he nor anyone at Hines ever saw a draft of the addendum, that they saw what the Commissioners and public saw when it was posted a week before the February meeting.

(These assertions ultimately prove to be either fractionally true or a shameless lie, both designed to disguise actual events. See blog post published on April 7.)

If you were a developer investing millions upon millions into a project of this magnitude, a developer with a 60 year history, $96.5 billion in assets, 533 properties with over 213 million square feet, would you really agree to be kept in the dark and excluded from decisions of this significance?

A cluster of contradictions.

In addition to the countless errors and misinformation littering the documentation and reports supporting the addendum… are the wild and wholly unbelievable marketing claims Hines offers to prove the project’s value to Brea.

In an ad Hines paid the Brea Chamber of Commerce to flood the city with, is the statement, “Economic benefits — millions in net annual revenues for critical city services such as public safety and street maintenance.”

Net annual revenues from what? As Dwight points out, that can’t possibly mean property taxes. After the state and county take their share, Brea gets only a fraction of property taxes… suddenly millions is reduced to hundreds!

If not property taxes then can Hines provide a detailed breakdown of where these “millions” would come from and how they would pay for city services?

The same ad claims, “Support of local businesses and new jobs ‑ $400 million in economic activity each year, bolstering the city’s businesses and creating hundreds of permanent new jobs.”

It’s easy to see how Hines duped the Brea Chamber into supporting their project… the Chairman of the Board served up the Kool-Aide and the Board fell in line to send form letters to the Commission.

I hope at least one of the Planning Commissioners has the insight and courage to challenge these absurd claims. Hines should not be given a pass on this. These bogus advertising claims challenge the voracity of every other assertion Hines makes.

The simple truth is, numbers don’t lie, but people do… show me the numbers!

It ain’t about the parking.

Not yet anyway. The 2003 EIR is too old. The other supporting documents are littered with error. No consideration has been given to cumulative impact from developments that came into being well after the ink on the 2003 EIR was dry.

We don’t have a clear enough picture of current conditions and potential negative impacts to start picking nits. Lets reboot this mess and do it right.

We need… deserve… scoping meetings and a fresh EIR to know where to take a closer look and how to eliminate as much negative impact as possible.

It could get even uglier.

If the Planning Commission blesses this mess just to get it off of their agenda the odds of an appeal to Council are 100%. Legal fees will pile up when we can least afford them.

Reboot Brea Place!

Last Thursday, March 17, Brea’s Planning Commission received a memorandum from Community Development Director David Crabtree, written by City Planner Jennifer Lilley, in short titled, CEQA Process Clarifications.

While it’s intent was to counter the growing public objection to the department’s bypassing much of the customary process CEQA provides to properly assess environmental issues it was little more than a last ditched effort to mislead the Planning Commissioners.

Here’s an excerpt, “In summary, the environmental checklist process, the requirement for new and updated technical studies to assess impacts and the expanded review process for the Hines application serve to respect the legal requirements of CEQA as well as the City’s commitment to informing the public beyond the legal minimum.”

What is the real question?

No matter how many times I plowed through the mountain of documents supporting the Staff Report, 1,553 pages, I kept coming back to the simple question… Why?

Why has the City Planner chosen to conduct CEQA in this manner? To keep the public from becoming formally involved? Why is there all this circular logic to defend the use of an Addendum by citing the Addendum itself?

I get it that CEQA requires new development projects to consider previous EIRs, that the city should consider whether the project is compatible with the General Plan.

What is not clear is why the City Planner considers Brea Place as a part of the 2003 Brea General Plan and not a standalone project. It seems little more than an excuse to back into the General Plan’s EIR as well.

So what if the corner of Birch Street and St. College was already broadly analyzed as a possible site for a mixed use infill project. The GPAC and authors of the General Plan didn’t close their eyes in 2003 and imagine the Hines project!

Brea Place is unique, a specific project with quantifiable impacts of its own!

CPRA + CEQA = NONE

I’ve submitted several CPRA requests seeking copies of correspondence, memos and documents providing details about how this process has evolved since it was launched by Hines in 2015. Requests, for the most part, come back with the stock answer, “After conducting a search of the City’s records we found no records responsive to your request.”

I challenged this with City Manager Bill Gallardo who described the planning process as a protracted, complex undertaking that doesn’t occur in a vacuum. That being said, I asked him… so, where is the paperwork?

No emails, no letters, no records of communication, no plans, no decisions. Nothing. He agreed that was a little strange and promised to get back to me.

(Subsequent to this point I discovered documents proving public opinion is rooted in the truth, that documents were withheld from the Commissioners and destroyed in direct violation of city records retention policy. See blog post published on April 7.)

Finding the missing link.

My last request ask for the following:

  • RFP to conduct an Initial Study of the Hines Brea Place project.
  • Proposal from Kimley-Horn Associates (KMA) to produce an Initial Study.
  • List of all parties invited and/or noticed to participate in Scoping meeting(s), including affected agencies.
  • Copies of invitation, notice and list of attendees at all Scoping meeting(s).
  • The final Initial Study, environmental analysis and review of the proposed Hines project, produced by Kimley-Horn Associates (KMA).

The only thing I got was Kimley-Horn’s proposal to write the addendum and a link to the city website where I found “Report 2” which was 1,211 pages released before… jammed into a single document. None of these was responsive to my request!

What, no RFP? The Kimley-Horn proposal estimated 258 hours to complete the project at a cost of $59,981.00! Was this done on a handshake? Were no other firms invited to submit proposals? Where is the documentation?

Worse yet, the proposal begins, “This Scope of Work assumes an Addendum to the Brea General Plan Final Environmental Impact Report (Final EIR) would be prepared…” Really? Damn!

Tell me how Kimley-Horn can assume anything without having had some communication outlining the scope of work being sought by the city? Wouldn’t that be included in an RFP?

Again, the simple question… Why?

An Initial Study… was it done or not?

The Staff Report released for the last Planning Commission meeting on 02/28 clearly states…

“After project submittal to the City, staff contracted with the consulting firm Kimley-Horn Associates (KMA) to perform an Initial Study and subsequent environmental analysis and review of the proposed Hines project. In it’s capacity, KMA serves as the City’s resource for environmental review…

An Initial Study was performed by KMA, and analysis and discussion performed with City staff and our legal counsel and identified that an Addendum to the General Plan EIR adopted in 2003 would be the proper environmental review tool to consider potential for environmental impacts…”

Okay, whoa. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either an Initial Study was done… or it wasn’t. If it was done, I want a damned copy of it posted on the city website immediately! If it wasn’t, staff better revise the staff report to reflect the truth and admit no study was done.

And they’ve ignored cumulative impacts!

Amongst the many things Initial Studies consider are what’s called cumulative impacts. If they’re of sufficient magnitude they will force a new EIR to be done. With the Hines project, two cumulative impacts jump right out.

Recreation: CEQA requires the analysis of impacts on parks and recreational facilities and the potential for a new development to increase use of parks to a point where the facilities would be degraded. Although the Addendum states that there would be a direct connection from the Tracks at Brea Trail to Brea Place, there is no mention in the recreational analysis of the impact of this increased direct access and use by approximately 2,000 more people.

Traffic: Also, none of the analysis in the Addendum appears to consider the cumulative addition of the Brea Place project’s impacts to other identified project impacts from developments like La Floresta and Central Park Village. The Addendum says that Brea Place would add 7,000+ daily trips to the roadway network and that this would not cause a significant impact. But the Central Park Village project, proposing about 5,700 additional trips, states in its EIR that it would have a significant and unavoidable impact at the intersection of State College and Lambert.

There are many, many more reasons to doubt the Addendum sufficiently analyzed the Brea Place project’s impacts. Is the City Planner attempting to hide behind the allowable Addendum process? Why?

Why should we trust that any of the analysis in the Addendum is a true and thorough representation of the project’s impacts?

You’ll hate the final… Why.

By choosing to use an Addendum, the City Planner is graciously allowing the public to make comments during the public hearings for the project, but there is no requirement for the City to consider, and respond in writing to, these comments.

With an Addendum, the City is not required to develop an Initial Study and to conduct the public scoping meetings required with an Initial Study, nor does the City have to open a formal public review process, allow the public sufficient time to review the environmental documents, and record and respond to any concerns the public has about the impacts that it would have to endure.

With an Addendum, the public can’t propose alternatives or mitigation measures and force the City to seriously consider and respond to those suggestions.

The City Planner has tried to pass the buck to Kimley-Horn and stifle any meaningful public input. Rather than admitting error and putting it right, a memorandum is sent to the Planning Commissioners, a “Hail Mary” attempt to further cover things up.

What should the Brea Planning Commission do now?

Just because something is permissible, doesn’t mean it is prudent. Falling back on the Addendum is a perfect example. A loophole may make that approach permissible but it is obviously not prudent.

If there was ever any project due for a reboot, it’s Brea Place.

I believe the only way to put the Brea Place project back on track is for the Planning Commission to immediately continue the item when it comes up on the agenda. Don’t waste time on that Hines dog-and-pony show or further public comment.

Cut to the chase. Instruct staff to issue a legitimate RFP for an Initial Study, to hold proper scoping meetings, and only then determine whether a new EIR should be done or not.

And for crying out loud try and do a decent job of maintaining a credible, accessible public record.

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