- Paramedic Tax Is A Hoax. (25)Posted on January 24, 2018
Your property tax dollars, approved by ballot initiative 40 years ago “for the specific purpose of establishing and maintaining a mobile intensive care program known as Paramedics within the area of the City of Brea” have been diverted through the Redevelopment Agency/Successor Agency since 1978.
Every Council resolution creating or renewing the Paramedic Program special property tax, for 40 years, incorporated exactly that language. Not a single member of the Brea City Council (save possibly one) had a clue regarding the magnitude of their blunder – the product of a purposeful deception by members of senior staff.
Sounds a hell of a lot like a slush fund to me.
Based upon documents gathered through the California Public Records Act (CPRA), from both the City of Brea and the Orange County Auditor-Controller’s office, it is fair to assume that every City Manager and Finance Director, at minimum, was aware of the fiscal hoax perpetrated upon Council and an unsuspecting public for 40 years.
How much are we talking about?
Over $50 million of your tax dollars. Supposedly, thanks to some obscure directive in State law, these funds have been funneled through the RDA since 1978. Roughly 40% was spent on administrative costs, debt retirement and other expenses – none of which had diddly to do with a paramedic service.
When the state dissolved Redevelopment Agencies in 2011, things didn’t get much better. In fact, they got worse. Originally we did get our hands on 100% of the tax revenues collected.
In 2011 that was cut almost in half – 55% was paid to the Successor Agency letting them do whatever they wished with it. The remaining 45% went into the Brea Redevelopment Trust where the county followed state directions to pay off residual debts of the RDA.
How much longer will we be paying off RDA debt?
Total debt for the Successor Agency is $196 million. A payment plan has been submitted to the state’s Department of Finance, upon which we will be making payments until 2036. That’s 60 years to retire the debts created by the Redevelopment Agency.
The issue in a nut shell.
The people of Brea clearly expressed what we were willing to be taxed for. There was a legitimate attempt in the beginning, by well intentioned members of Council, to fulfill the people’s wishes.
Underneath it all, the covert diversion of tax revenue has continued, virtually unabated, for 40 years.
The good news.
Facts by the ton, discoveries that would light up the eye of Julian Assange, have been dug out of the archives and studied by a “team” including myself, 2 members of Council and 3 long time community leaders.
The details of decades of staff reports, resolutions, budgets, county tax records are being poured over and the revelations emerging out of the data paint a clear picture of the atrocious irresponsibility that ran amok… without restraint, for 40 years.
The gorilla is being drug into the light and the right people, the people we elected to oversee city business, are back in charge.
Undoubtedly more will be learned in the near future. We may be called back into the voting booth to help rescind a failed tax and approve a remedy that will provide us with the sort of paramedic services we thought we were getting 40 years ago.
We’re a long way from knowing the complete truth and from digging ourselves out of a hole 40 years in the making.
- Final Thoughts For 2017. (29)Posted on December 31, 2017
In the summer of 2011, then City Manager Tim O’Donnell told me that his favorite definition of leadership was, “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.” The implication was heinous and has proven to be the underlying rationale of countless decisions made by Council over the seven years I’ve written this blog. Here are a few of the most obvious:
- Raising Council’s stipend and flex benefits.
- Burying key decisions and large capital expenditures in the Consent Calendar.
- Commission and Committee appointees are predominantly political payback.
- Now defunct Redevelopment Agency created over $200 million in bond debt, most building or refurbishing city property for which there is no property tax which pays off the bond debt.
- Brett Murdock tacitly appointed to lead opposition to The Brea Open Governance Act and The Brea Accountability Act. Murdock failed to disclose his leadership of the Breans Against Measures T & U PAC and was fined $2,000 by the FPPC.
- City Clerk, under direction from City Manager and City Attorney violates election law resulting in litigation that was lost on appeal and cost taxpayers almost $1 million dollars.
- Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem and City Manager take an ill-advised two week junket to Korea and Japan, sticking Brea taxpayers with the bill (Koreagate).
- Mount a weak attempt to retain the Police Services contract with Yorba Linda.
- Reorganize Brea FD rather than seriously entertaining the possibility that contracting out the services could save Brea taxpayers a bundle.
- “Green Brea 2012” was a disaster but continues to be touted by city propagandists as a success. “Greenwashing” at it’s finest.
- Staff recommends Council pay annual pension obligation at less than 100%, adding to the mounting debt. Brea had a surplus of $21.9 million in 2001, what happened?
- 560 Fund (OC Landfill) earmarked to mitigate the traffic, noise, road damage and provide other “community benefits” is tapped twice to pay for the solar project – several million dollars. Remember, the one that would pay for itself.
- Create Landscape, Lighting & Maintenance Districts (LL&MD) and Community Facilities Districts (CFD) to dodge Prop 13 and generate uncapped revenue. Promises made to “revisit” these for possible double taxation and to add sunset clauses has never found it’s way to the agenda.
- Implement and repeat use of tiered water rates as a means of social engineering (deemed illegal in Capistrano Taxpayers Association, Inc. v. City of San Juan Capistrano – 2015).
- Cal Domestic. Need I say more? If the FPPC, State DOJ and/or OCDA would get off their asses maybe we would finally get to the truth.
- The perpetual appearance of collusion, backroom dealings and Brown Act violations every time Council reorganizes – never challenged, never proven but always questioned.
- Madrona. Self-explanatory.
- A “Civic & Cultural Center Demonstration Garden” proposed as a means of defraying costs of routine maintenance of Civic Center parking structure. Resoundingly rejected by residents.
- City budget deemed to be balanced for the last 17 years yet Pension and OPEB debt soars to over $100 million.
- Brea Envisions. Self-explanatory.
- Originally proposed in January 1999, the just completed downtown parking structure could have been built for $5 million dollars with Redevelopment money without disruption to existing businesses.
- Apprised of Constitutional due process issues buried within the Brea Municipal Code, triggered by the unilateral dismissal provision in Section 2.16.050, Council dawdles for 16 months without resolution. Will show up on agenda again soon.
- $73,069,750 spent since 1977 for a “mobile intensive care” Paramedic Program appears to be nothing more than a subsidy for the Brea FD. (This will likely add fuel to the fiscal fires in 2018 as the truth becomes known.)
How the hell does this happen?
It’s become increasingly clear, as I read dozens upon dozens of staff reports that, more often than not, we’re getting only a fraction of the truth. Having reached the conclusion that Council, Commission and Committee members and the voting public in general lack the vision and intelligence to manage their community — staff has gradually hijacked all authority.
At best, only one or two senior city staff actually live in Brea. They have no local roots, no family history, no personal investment or emotional ties to the community. They are here to achieve their personal professional best, as dictated purely by academia and tweaked in a never ending array of seminars and symposiums. That their “product” ever actually benefits Brea is purely serendipitous.
They are here to put in their time, to receive salary and benefits well beyond that offered for comparable work in the private sector and to retire with six figure pensions.
From time to time they make mistakes, we all do. These blunders are the product of bad judgment, ignorance or inattention. These gaffes are committed with our money and are often magnitudes greater than the day-to-day mistakes we make.
Our city’s cancerous corporate culture.
To preserve their lucrative but fragile existence they are inclined to cover up the truth rather than admitting to failure. A corporate culture develops around them that renders them incapable of providing the whole truth. Staff seems to operate in a perpetual state of circling the wagons.
It is an endemic condition that can only be overcome by stripping them of the authority they have stolen and return it to those we elected to do the job in the first place.
And here’s the problem. As this bureaucratic shadow management culture has grown, their influence and power have as well and this creates a vacuum that eventually sucks in our elected representatives and blinds them to their complicity in the improprieties going on right under their noses.
Where do we take our city from here?
Revive “Clean Sweep” and put strong willed candidates into office who will not bow to the corporate mentality infesting those managing city business.
Candidates must give you a true sense of trust and confidence that accountability and transparency are not simply campaign rhetoric, that they will set aside any and all personal agendas (and bloated egos) – keeping a single focus upon what truly serves the people of Brea. Otherwise, they have not earned your vote.
- Hines: A Tale Of Two Cities. (10)Posted on May 2, 2017
It was the worst of times… period. We’re fighting a war on two fronts and threatened with losing both. On one side Breans are going head-to-head with Hines Properties, a megacorp hell bent on building a hulking monstrosity on St. College north of Birch. On the other we have a runaway Planning department who seems to consider themselves above the law, repeatedly overreaching their authority.
Neither situation bodes well for the people of Brea. The fact that both are connected makes the threat exponentially larger. As the policy and procedural issues can only be addressed by City Council I’ll leave that for another blog and focus on the development issues that need to be solved by the Planning Commission.
Reining in Hines.
At their April meeting, under the less than subtle steering of Chairman McGrade, the Planning Commission ended up desperately trying to patch one small element of the Brea Place project and calling it done.
Commissioner Schlotterbeck made the observation that the project fell short, by about 20%, of complying with our 14 year old General Plan’s maximum density guideline. Next thing you know the much larger southern building and the hotel were tucked aside, seemingly approved and focus was turned to the northern building… Building B.
In a miraculous demonstration of redesigning-on-the-fly, the Hines architect made most of the fourth floor disappear and reduced the building’s density by almost 20%. That’s 22 apartments for those who nitpick numbers. Commissioner Schlotterbeck was quick to point out that the disappearing act also removed parking for 38 units, throwing the building into noncompliance with the 1.78 spaces per unit parking requirement.
Maximum vs. minimum standards.
So, the push seems to be to stay within maximum allowed density while meeting a minimum parking standard. Ok, I’ll say what you’re thinking. What the hell? This is like getting open heart surgery done on a low bid basis.
Why do these city planners think the best policy is to always operate at the fringes of acceptability? Why is building as close as possible to the maximum allowable density the best idea? Why are parking conditions always targeting the fewest number of spaces that might accommodate the demand?
How about building comfortably below the maximum density and designing a parking plan that would actually meet peak demand? What a novel damned idea.
Speaking of minimum standards.
While we’re on the subject, it’s this same unsupportable mentality that led to adopting an addendum to a 14 year old General Plan EIR as the best way to comply with CEQA. Again, operating at the very fringe.
Going with the addendum is the weakest, least defensible means of minimizing or mitigating environmental impact. Hell, the addendum claims there isn’t sufficient environmental impact to warrant doing a new EIR. Circular logic. Inexcusable.
Once again staff dances on the edge of rational choices. Why? To cut public comment out of the conversation? To fast track the project and save Hines the $1.5 million cost of an EIR so staff could extort it later to help defray the cost of some politician’s pipe dream or rock garden?
Drawing a line in the sand.
Hey… Commissioners, Planners and Mr. Ninty-Five Billion Dollar Out-of-town Developer… we’re putting you on notice. Nothing less than a blanket 20% reduction in density across the entire project is acceptable. Nada. Nothing.
And that’s the starting line… not the finish line. We still need to talk traffic, parking, building mass and setbacks, in lieu fees and retail that won’t cannibalize local business.
You walked out of the April meeting fist bumping and trading high fives. Listen carefully, you never count your money when sitting’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.
- Planning Commission Blindsides Breans. (15)Posted on April 26, 2017
I am still dumbfounded. With Chairman McGrade at the helm, carefully steering the Planning Commission towards an all too obvious destination, there was no hint of addressing the larger issues.
As people gathered for last night’s meeting, Director of Community Development David Crabtree was asked how he expected things would go. He smiled and responded, “It’s in the Commission’s hands now.”
Where did that confidence come from? What might he have known that the rest of us, on pins and needles, failed to understand?
My opinion? He knew the Commission had been prepped that process issues were not their responsibility, but Council’s. I think Commissioners realized that if they challenged process issues the City Attorney would have interjected and shut them down.
Consequently, there wasn’t a whisper about document destruction, the Records Retention schedule, arbitrary limitation of what the Commission was allowed to see or using an addendum to restrict public input.
Also my opinion, Chairman McGrade began his path to orchestrating the flow of discussion last night in January 2016, when he interjected himself into the selection process for Vice Chair.
Coincidently, this occurred at the exact same time that Planning Staff was rejecting the ICF proposal, deleting it from public record and moving forward with the addendum to the 2003 General Plan EIR.
Back to the meeting.
Dejected but still hopeful, a half dozen folks addressed the Commission during Matters from the Audience. They restated their concerns over density, building mass, traffic and parking — the big four.
The standout comments came from Dwight Manley. He shared a legal opinion from an environmental attorney clearly pointing out the gross error in using a General Plan EIR, which is a program level document, to assess a specific project… 14 years after the fact.
Right as rain, Dwight’s comments fell on deaf ears and Chairman McGrade moved on, without comment, and opened deliberation.
First to speak, Chairman McGrade set the tone by establishing his support for the project and his belief that everything was above board and legal.
Next up, Commissioner Schlotterbeck who went to great lengths to share the impressive extent of her due diligence. She reviewed thousands upon thousands of pages of highly technical and legal documents.
She also remarked that the public, whom she cared deeply about, had only a very limited understanding of CEQA. She cited specifics from the California Public Resource Code that proved there was nothing in the Hines project that violated law.
She also suggested that the project only complied with about 80% of the General Plan but failed to offer how to mitigate that shortfall. That’s like a transplant surgeon telling you that your new heart will work really well 80% of the time.
There are two solutions. Amend the General plan to accommodate the project so it is 100% in compliance or alter the project. Neither was done or even suggested last night.
Commissioner Schlotterbeck also raised the possibility that building “B” on the north lot might best be changed to condo/townhome product to lower density and add a very needed type of housing to Brea’s inventory. Other than weak applause from a few residents, the idea went nowhere. Why?
I’m wondering if changing from apartments to single family homes would trigger the need to change the zoning from Mixed Use to Residential. Such being the case, a new EIR would be automatically required. Not what Staff or Hines wanted.
Commission hits an impasse.
Chairman McGrade suggested a short break for Hines to discuss what options they were comfortable with moving forward. With Building “A” and the Hotel apparently in the bag, all that remained was to fix the density complaint for Building “B”.
Interjection: There is no way in hell Building “A” and the Hotel should have been given a free ride at this point! Everything should have remained on the table
The likelihood that a creative solution could be instantly designed when it took the better part of a year and a half to get to this point was nonsense.
During the break I asked one Commissioner, if none of them cared about the breakdown in process and the look I received in return said it all. There was clearly the presence of a sad inevitability in their eyes. Their shoulders shrugged and they plodded, dejectedly, back to their seat.
For weeks, if not months… Hines, their attorneys, architects, engineers and consultant, John Koos, hunkered down in a conference room playing “what if” with every scenario Koos might imagine.
Over the break, all they did was find the right page in their playbook.
They didn’t even mention the condo/townhome option but jumped straight to a mashup of 3 and 4 stories reducing the density from 285 units to 228 units, leaving the total number of project units at 690.
This reduced the “B” building by this mystical magic number of 20% but something markedly less is true for the entire project. Neither the massive Building “A” on the corner or the Hotel across the street has been touched.
Back to deliberations.
As they did earlier, Vice Chair Willis and Commissioners Fox and Grosse added little to the discussion… all echoing concerns for density, building mass, traffic and parking — reaffirming their lack of support for the project as proposed.
Armed with this get-out-of-jail-free card, all that remained was to morph Brea Place into something different than what was currently proposed. The Commission moved on with a single minded determination.
I was reminded of the used car salesman eye-to-eye with the first prospect of the day… “What will it take for me to put you in this little jewel today?”
No interest in whether the heap of junk was even close to meeting the prospect’s needs, let alone their dream of a new car. No concern that the rattling valves and acrid smoke coming from the tailpipe were clear signs of a car on it’s last legs. Unworried that the greater expense of maintenance would likely crush the prospect later.
It was all about closing the sale.
The people of Brea got steamrolled last night. Staff knows it. The Commission knows it. Hines, their consultant, attorney, architect, traffic engineer… they know it.
The last to realize the unthinkable had occurred were the folks with the red buttons and the high hopes.
Will there be an appeal when, inevitably, the project with it’s crushing density, easily foreseeable flood of traffic and long list of overlooked negative impacts is approved?
Maybe, maybe not.
“Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.”
This O’Donnellism, this longstanding municipal mantra, once again proved prophetic. I’m not fond at all of the fatalist’ mentality, but this feels a lot like, “Game over.”
I’m unwilling to give up. How about you? Are you ready to roll over or will you take some time out of your busy day to become part of the solution?
- Poking Holes In Markman & Flower (10)Posted on April 21, 2017
On April 13, the City Attorneys Markman & Flower released a memorandum attempting to refute some of the claims I have made on this blog.
What followed was eight pages of prickly language arguing against claims that were never made.
(1) that the City’s hiring of Kimley-Horn Associates was inconsistent with the legal requirements of CEQA. (2) that ICF proposed to prepare a subsequent or supplemental EIR to the 2003 General Plan EIR.
A cursory review of my previous blog will remind any careful reader that I did not make these claims, and I’m not sure why Markman & Flower think I did. I challenged the City’s hiring practices with regard to proposal and records retention processes as a whole, and ICF’s proposal explicitly stated that a subsequent/supplemental EIR or addendum were not the way to go to properly follow the CEQA process.
These facts didn’t stop Markman & Flower from furiously defending their irrelevant positions with disparaging language peppered with legal citations that did nothing to refute my original claims.
Markman & Flower’s opening statement, a blatant and unwarranted ad hominem attack against the character of those opposing the Hines project, underscores their complete failure with all allegations and arguments they made.
Further, Markman & Flower’s characterization of public comments and opinions regarding City Staff’s behavior as “spurious” and “reckless” are insulting, dismissive and unacceptable.
By continually saying things like “claims recently made on social media” they undertake to dehumanize us. We are real people after all, residents of this community who enjoy rights that allow for the free expression of our opinions.
We are not “social media.” We are taxpayers, citizens of Brea, and we do not appreciate any insinuation that our opinions are akin to “fake news.”
The eight pages of blustery, “Well, I never!” pearl-clutching arguments in the Markman & Flower memorandum are largely empty and don’t address the accusations we’ve made.
Markman & Flower may well have overstepped their authority by commenting outside establishing what they believe to be the legal standing of the city’s attempt to comply with CEQA. Their authority does not extend to commenting upon intent or purpose behind public comment, mine or from the general public. Jim… Stephen… if you feel compelled to publish snarky, baseless remarks like those in your memo to the City Manager… create a blog.
Memorandum misses the point.
Markman & Flower charge that we have made, “… unsupported claims… that the City Staffs decision to prepare an addendum to the 2003 General Plan Environmental Impact Report… violates the California Environmental Quality Act.”
Obviously, Markman & Flower only skimmed “social media” and never read the (originally deleted, recently recovered) ICF proposal to reach this conclusion. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. I pointed out in my last blog post that while some things may be legal it does not follow that they are prudent.
ICF’s proposal declared, “We understand that the City’s goal is to tier 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…, 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.” [emphasis added]
In what world does “not the best option for CEQA compliance” mean “violates CEQA” — it doesn’t. Markman & Flower, in their rush to discredit public opposition to the project and to fend off allegations of staff misconduct, seem to have accomplished neither.
Markman & Flower self destruct.
In response to Markman & Flower’s professionally myopic comment, “ICF is not a law firm equipped to offer legal opinions on CEQA.” I offer this, ICF employs legal staff well experienced in environmental law, and the proposal was developed and submitted by a principal with 22 years of experience in environmental consulting and CEQA documents.
The conclusions reached by ICF were provided at the request of City Staff. It is fair to assume that ICF was invited to submit their opinions because their expertise exceeded that available on City Staff.
If the City did not feel that ICF was equipped to offer legal opinions on CEQA, why was its proposal sought at all? Discarding ICF’s recommendations without first giving the Planning Commission an opportunity to offer their opinion is ludicrous.
Are Markman & Flower masters of disinformation?
Markman & Flower have little choice but to offer this to avoid any suggestion of treading upon our First Amendment rights, “Members of the public may rightly have strong opinions regarding the merits of the Project and are free to express those opinions through available means, including social media.” Then they immediately return to their ad hominem attack.
They next proffer, “Spurious [fraudulent for those without a thesaurus handy] claims of official misconduct are a different matter, however.” This assumes, without substantiation, that the public’s claims are fraudulent. Until proven otherwise, our claims remain protected speech.
Markman & Flower persist, offering another unconfirmed allegation, “There is no evidence to support claims of collusion or corruption by any City official and we can only conclude such claims are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the law, bad faith, or both.”
Evidence has been provided, in abundance. If Markman & Flower had invested a fraction of the time “we the people” have put into digging up the truth, they would have avoided these sort of bogus statements.
Further, the blog’s headline “Corruption’s Partner Is Our Own Indifference.” is the only use of the word corruption in the entire piece. It is obviously a reproof to readers not to become indifferent… a call to end apathy. Nowhere was staff accused of corruption.
Never poke a tiger with a short stick.
In recent years the voting, taxpaying public has paid closer and closer attention to how their community was being run and by whom. As the process of reviewing and approving the Hines project progressed, irregularities became apparent. Unfortunately, all attempts to get to the bottom of what appeared to be dodgy business was thwarted at every turn.
Documents were deleted, information requests turned up little or nothing. The City Council and Planning Commissioners were kept in the dark right along with the rest of us. Contrary to the disparaging criticisms peppering Markman & Flower’s eight page memorandum, all observations pointed to staff’s performance as questionable.
This behavior could be corruption, an indication of collusion or simply reflect a systemic case of incompetence.
I’ve shared enough by now to make it clear that I believe the Planning Commission and all concerned can round file, toss out, jettison, dump, ditch or deep-six Markman & Flower’s memorandum and get back to weighing the facts.
Fact: Records were improperly disposed of. Solution: Correct loopholes that allowed these documents to be deleted without proper oversight and beg ICF to send another copy of their proposal so the record can be restored.
Fact: Important documents have been withheld from the Planning Commission. Solution: Make sure the missing documents are included in their information packet for the April meeting.
Fact: Whether deliberately or accidentally, the Planning Department has not conducted a transparent process with the Brea Place project. Solution: Start over and invite the Planning Commission and the citizens of Brea into the process and the commenting and collaboration opportunities such a process presents.
- Corruption’s Partner Is Our Own Indifference. (16)Posted on April 7, 2017
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.
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.
Again, 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!
- An Open Letter From Dwight Manley To Brea Leaders On The Hines Project. (0)Posted on April 1, 2017
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.
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! (0)Posted on March 23, 2017
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.
- Planning Commission Dives Into Brea Place. (0)Posted on March 3, 2017
Planning Commission Study Session was the calm before the storm. Chairman James McGrade clarified options for the public hearing and meeting closure and Commissioner Jim Grosse commented on how little time they had to digest an unusually large volume of documentation.
It became quickly obvious that the Hines matter could require at least another 3 or 4 meetings before reaching a point where the Commission’s final deliberation might be possible.
Standing room only.
Stepping into the Council chambers, the Commission was confronted with an SRO crowd that probably made the Fire Marshal a bit nervous. It was a sea of red and a handful of suits sporting bright green thumbs up pinned on mini signs.
Following the obligatory invocation and flag salute plus a well earned commendation to outgoing Commissioner George Ullrich, the meeting headed straight into the Staff Report on the Hines project.
Director of Development David Crabtree opened with a site history lesson that, for most if not all in the room, was unnecessary. Eager to get to the real issues, twenty minutes of anecdotes seemed a bit much. Considering Brea is celebrating its Centennial this year it could have been worse.
Associate Planner Star Haro followed with a longer than necessary overview of project details, all of which were common knowledge to everyone in the room. If the 99 page 240 MB PDF of the full project plans in the information packet is any indication, Hines has a major dog-and-pony show queued up to present at the next meeting.
Next, Assistant City Attorney Stephen Flower was called upon to bail through the legalese related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Aside from the fact that this was an obvious coverup to mask the inappropriate, if not illegal, reliance upon 14 year old data, Mr. Flower’s sideshow was another 30 minutes none of us will never get back.
Given the nature of what was shared, how it was shared, this was clearly building a foundation to justify using an addendum to the 2003 EIR. A clever ploy to bypass an Initial Study and avoid a public comment period where resident’s questions and concerns must be included in the public record and answered in writing.
Next stop, Fantasyland.
A conglomerate of preemptive rationale supporting reliance upon a General Plan long overdue for an update and a companion Environmental Impact Report (EIR) from 2003, the Staff Report was singularly unconvincing.
Planning mumbo jumbo from beginning to end. It was less what one might expect as a rationale behind recommendations to the Commission as it was an attempt to prep everyone in the room to swallow the idea that there are no environmental impacts in the Hines project requiring serious review.
How gullible and ignorant does the City Planner think we are? Did she think the heavily inflated 2,000 pages of documentation would overwhelm the Commissioners and general public, discouraging them from digging for the truth?
Obviously, hearing the public comments, that ploy didn’t work. Personally I found Ms. Lilley’s incessant little smirks as one after another stepped to the podium and thoroughly challenged the veracity of the Staff Report, arrogant and dismissive.
A public hearing worth hearing.
If you missed it you missed better than average public hearing. Of the 27 who stepped to the podium, only two supported the project and one other was essentially neutral.
If I use the convoluted algorithm Brea Envisions uses to project public opinion, 88.8% of Brea residents oppose the Hines project.
They object to the unconscionable distortion of the development process and are angry that they are being systematically excluded from having meaningful input. They believe it’s too big, too dense and doesn’t come close to fitting into their small town environment.
The remaining 11.4% are split between a questionable support for the project and the inability to take a stance that night.
The Brea Chamber weighs in.
Something to ponder. Heidi Gallegos, Brea Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer, brought a message of support last night for the Hines project.
She said the Chamber voted their support on August 21, 2016… six months before the subject of an addendum was mentioned or the massive pile of documents relating to the project were released.
What could have been their source of information?
I wonder if the Chamber’s Chairman of the Board, John Koos, might have played a role? After all, his company, Core Communications, is the local consultant to Hines on the Brea Place project and is taking home a big fat paycheck as a result.
Also speaking in favor of Brea Place was the Chambers Vice Chair of Finance and Operations, Bill Murray with Edward Jones Investments. Maybe the Chamber should revisit how they define a conflict of interest and what their relationship is with the folks of Brea.
Bill Hall straddles the fence.
Bill Hall, BOUSD Board Member, after sharing some insider humor with Commission Chair McGrade, told everyone not to worry about Brea schools being unable to handle a student influx from the Brea Place project.
Apparently they can accommodate 367 more kids in elementary school, 39 in the Junior High and 590 at the High School.
After chiding the audience about paying more attention to leaking roofs and swimming pools sliding downhill, he inferred that the district would receive enough funds to handle to increase in enrollment.
On one hand, this is a discussion better suited for the school board meetings. On the other hand, if folks have reservations regarding impact on Brea schools, shouldn’t this get a fair hearing with the Planning Commission as well?
In the future, I would love to see a little more transparency from the Brea Chamber of Commerce and the BOUSD Board of Directors. Not going to hold my breath however. The big fat rumor du jour is that Hall is eyeing a seat on Council in 2018.
Sorry Bill. Your dubious record on the BOUSD Board, including failed attempts to sensibly finance the district and the deplorable condition of Brea schools is more than enough reason to banish you to Clean Sweepville. You have no business on Council.
The people speak.
Twenty-three bona fide, unaffiliated residents of 9282, addressed the commission. They raised a lengthy, well articulated, civilly delivered litany of objections pointing out contradictions, inaccuracies, unsupported claims and utter falsehoods in the staff report and related attachments.
Hats off to Ken, Art, Ron, Sharon, Barry, David, Robert, Jason, Jackie, Chris, James, Keith, John, Eric, Bill, Rosemary, Zim, Arthur, Brian, Alicia, Maka, Denise, Bill and Blake.
Sharon Beauman shared a communication from her husband John, former Council member and Mayor, who had a prior commitment. Others commenting with a clear understanding of the details were Ken Salizar who shared…
“By preparing an Addendum instead of a standalone environmental study, the City Planner attempts to use consistency with the General Plan EIR as a substitute for fully identifying and disclosing the Brea Place project’s impacts.
We are not opposed to development in the city but we do demand that it be done in a responsible and collaborative manner and in compliance with existing environmental laws.”
Also Art Natera who added…
“The proposed Addendum does not consider specific cumulative impacts from other recent projects, such as La Floresta and Central Park Village, concluding significant air quality and traffic impacts.
By using an Addendum rather than a standalone environmental analysis, the City Planner is avoiding looking at specific project impacts and the aggregate effects combined with the many nearby projects.”
And Zim Walker concluded…
“I’m a resident of the Avocado neighborhood and a retired law enforcement officer. As an officer one of my duties was to gather evidence in order to determine if a crime had been committed. Also, I have a long history of community policing.
I am keenly aware of the critical importance of real public engagement. How else would I gather the evidence for making my determinations?
I also recognize a smoking gun when I see one.
I’m afraid that the City knew how much interest there would be in the Brea Place project and specifically jumped to the Addendum process to avoid proper public involvement.”
Until next time.
As many expected, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to continue the item until their next meeting on March 28th. Hines will make their full project presentation and additional time for public comment will be allowed again.
Frankly, I cannot imagine what motives might be driving Planning to twist facts beyond recognition in an attempt to justify dodging CEQA, a new EIR and public scrutiny.
Nothing I could conjure up would possibly come close to justifying the charade being perpetrated upon the citizens of Brea.
- Understanding CEQA. (0)Posted on February 22, 2017
With the passage of the Clean Air and Water Acts in the early ‘70’s, the Federal government set legal standards to protect human health and improve the natural environment. Concurrently, the State of California followed suit by enacting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 1970 to protect the physical, biological, and human environment.
In simple terms, CEQA Guidelines require that every project undertaken by a state or local agency, Brea is a local agency, must include analysis of the potential impacts on the environment and mitigate (lessen) any negative effects that are considered significant. CEQA Guidelines apply to public and private projects and nearly all projects in California undergo CEQA analysis.
What’s in it for you?
A vital part of the CEQA process is public involvement. Thanks to CEQA, the general public must have an opportunity to comment on any project that could potentially affect them. CEQA also requires that the lead agency, the City of Brea’s Planning Department, respond to public comments in writing, providing evidence for their responses and addressing all comments related to the environmental document and any issues within it.
The first step in an environmental review is the initial study, which helps the lead agency determine a broad estimate of impacts that may occur. There is no evidence that the Planning Department conducted an initial study for the Brea Place project. Without this crucial first step, the Planning Department essentially eliminated all meaningful public involvement opportunities from the project.
The Brea Place project, at more than 500 dwelling units, requires the Planning Department to conduct at least one scoping meeting where it formally invites the public, representatives from neighboring cities and counties, responsible agencies, and public agencies with jurisdiction to learn about the project, express their concerns, and comment on environmental impacts or suggest alternatives.
Normally, a lead agency (the Brea Planning Department) would send out a request for proposals for environmental analysis documents beginning with an initial study and continuing on to the appropriate level of documentation.
In the case of the Hines Brea Place development, the Planning Department decided that it would prepare an Addendum to the 2003 General Plan environmental impact report (EIR), dodging the requirements for an initial study and leaving the public out of the process. In other words, the public has no opportunity for involvement in a project that could significantly affect them.
Adding insult to injury.
As if this behavior weren’t bad enough, it is abundantly clear that the Planning Department has usurped the oversight, guidance and authority of the Planning Commission.
It is inconceivable that the Commission, assuming they were provided full and timely information, would have allowed such an unwarranted deviation from accepted best practices… from a proven process of environmental stewardship that is inclusive of the public.
By short-cutting this process for the Hines project, the Planning Department is evading this important step and increasing the potential for the project to have significant impacts that will affect Breans for generations.
This is not game over.
We need to demand that the Planning Commission put on the brakes, voting to continue further review of the Hines project, instructing the Planning Department to go back to the beginning of the environmental analysis process and properly follow the CEQA Guidelines.
We need to demand an adequate environmental review and public opportunities to comment on its conclusions. Through the public review and comment period, we’ll have a legitimate chance to collaborate with the Planning Commission, the City Planner and Hines to design a project that will address residents’ concerns, produce a project consistent with the surrounding community and provide the developer with a fair and reasonable return on their investment.
If we can fix the process, we can fix the project.
- City Planner Makes Midcourse Correction! (0)Posted on February 16, 2017
Likely City Planner Jennifer Lilley was left with no choice but to rein in the runaway process jamming the Hines Brea Place development down the throats of the Planning Commission and the general public.
Also likely that public pressure will only continue to mount as the word of this boondoggle spreads. I’ve only run into one person who thinks relying on a 14 year old EIR is okay – I’ve nicknamed him “Clueless in Brea.”
Late this afternoon the following was sent to City Council, Planning Commission and key city staff. What a classic example of damage control.
From: Lilley, Jennifer
Subject: February 28 meeting.
I wanted to provide for you an update on our February meeting agenda. As you know we have been preparing to have the Hines application come to the Commission at this hearing. City staff has been working to ensure the Commission and the public have time to learn about this project and absorb information before a decision is made. To that end city staff is recommending the following:
- The Hines item scheduled for February is recommended to be continued. Staff will present the report at this meeting including a history of the site, the entitlements an overview of the request and a summary of the environmental analysis. Given many folks from the community will likely be present we would recommend the public hearing be opened for questions and for the Commission and staff to get input on what questions or information the community may need.
- At the next meeting (March 14 or 28) dependent on the Commissions decision the applicant and their technical team would present their application and information. Public input again would be taken and questions and comments could be addressed. The Commission can determine if they are ready to make a decision or need additional information and direct staff to that end.
Your packet is being prepared and we will have it available as soon as possible. Once it is available to the Commission it will also be made available to the public. If people are contacting you looking for information staff encourages you to direct those folks to the city and we are happy to set up meetings with groups or individuals to walk through information and answer any questions.
If there is anything else we can help you with, please let me know. Thank you so much.
Alternative fact number 1.
“City staff has been working to ensure the Commission and the public have time to learn about this project and absorb information before a decision is made.” Hogwash. Every effort was made to smuggle this past the watchful eye of the public knowing the rejection would exceed the blowback over Madrona.
Alternative fact number 2.
“Staff will present… a summary of the environmental analysis.” What environmental analysis? The 14 year old EIR that has long passed its “use by” date? We don’t need some self serving “summary” of an outdated report, couched in language designed to overcome public objection.
Alternative fact number 3.
“At the next meeting… the Commission can determine if they are ready to make a decision.” Hold on! The Commission has every right to continue this until a new EIR is completed by a firm with a successful history of providing such service to Brea before. Like for Chevron’s La Floresta project or Central Park Brea on the old hospital site.
Why do we have to listen to the applicant and their technical team’s dog and pony show before proper studies (by firms not on the Hines payroll)? Answer… we don’t.
Alternative fact number 4.
“If people are contacting you looking for information staff encourages you to direct those folks to the city…” so we can jam one more barrier between you and the people you’re charged with representing!
We understand the ethics involved, that Commissioners are not supposed to prematurely form opinions prior to the public hearing. We get that. But there should be no roadblock placed between the Commission and the public by city staff. Unacceptable!
A battle won but the war continues.
People of Brea, the impact zone of this project stretches across the entire city. This is not a problem limited to the closest neighborhood. If you cross Brea once a day getting a child to school, to buy groceries or getting to work – you will feel the effect first hand.
Keep the Planning Commission meeting on the 28th on your agenda and the Hines Brea Place project on your radar.
- Dear Ms. Lilley… (0)Posted on February 12, 2017
On the heels of last Thursday’s resident’s meeting on the Brea Place development by Hines, the following communication to City Planner Jennifer Lilley has circulated from former Brea Council member and Mayor John Beauman.
John has been considerate enough to allow Brea Matters to add this to the public discussion before the next Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, February 28.
Dear Ms. Lilley,
This paper is a flashback — based on the best of my recollection — when I served on the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC), 2000-2001, prior to being appointed to the City Council in Nov. 2001, serving through Dec. 2010, including two terms as mayor.
The General Plan (GP) was approved in Aug. 2003, which I had the opportunity to participate in, including staff presentations. In light of the extensive overview of the overall GP, no particular concerns were noted or addressed for what is now the Hines’ project site, which is understandable in light of the broad scope of the GP, a 2-inch-thick document covering a broad array of diverse study areas.
For the reasons stated below, applying the 2003 GP EIR to the proposed project is both inadequate and inappropriate.
The GPAC committee consisted of fourteen (14) members, representing a cross-section of the community, with a variety of professional and educational backgrounds. None of whom had expertise in urban development or zoning.
Our focus as a committee was principally on the overall GP rather than on any specific urban-infill site. Our collective knowledge was based solely on what consultants and staff presented. Our ability to ask relevant questions across the broad range of development was naturally limited by our lack of specific experience and knowledge.
At the time, there was no compelling reason to dig deeper into any potential future land uses for that site, since no specific concerns were raised. Even with it being designated Mixed Use I, there was no discussion or insight into what any future development may look like, especially without specifics.
I certainly did not imagine a project the scope and magnitude of the proposed multi-story apartment complex.
Our limited knowledge at the time was not even remotely adequate to project any future potential use for that site. In conclusion it was virtually impossible to even wrap one’s imagination around what any potential future project could potentially look like, all of which necessitates the need for a current EIR.
One last word, when reviewing that particular area, one envisions that any development on that site would be consistent with the community at large. Such a large apartment complex as is being proposed certainly isn’t.
John Beauman, former Mayor
There, Ms. Lilley, is the real truth.
You are allowing this development agreement with the Hines Development Corp. to advance in a manner that is, if not illegal, certainly unethical and… as Mr. Beauman suggests, “is both inadequate and inappropriate.”
You have two weeks to rectify this situation, bring the Brea Place project to a temporary halt while initiating the sort of envisioning and environmental scrutiny a project of this scope… and Brea citizens, demand.
First, fix the process then fix the project.
- Brea Place Raises Concerns. (2)Posted on February 6, 2017
Posted on Nextdoor today: A group of concerned Brea citizens will be hosting an informal meeting to discuss the proposed Hines Brea Place development this Thursday, February 9 at 7:00 p.m. – at the Brea Methodist Church (St. College and Lambert, 480 N State College Blvd.).
Brea Place is massive.
Look at the preliminary project design from Hines. Does that look like an “infill” project to you? Labeling Hine’s Brea Place as an “infill” project stretches the definition of “infill” beyond credulity. Who’s idea was that? Why? Fast track project? Avoid public scrutiny?
Isn’t the Planning Department managing negotiations of a development agreement? How could Hines employ this totally inappropriate strategy to dodge doing a new EIR without tacit approval of the Planning Department?
Brea Place documents still MIA.
Staff report and documentation have yet to be publically released. Will they include a more detailed project description beyond the promotional materials, a new traffic study or parking assessment?
How many 2 bedroom units are in the design? Could this project “legally” result in over 2,000 new residents? How many will be joining the daily commuting logjam? How many will be forced to park on the Target Center lot because there aren’t enough spaces on the property?
Don’t rush Brea Place.
I hope the Planning Commissioners are reading this thread and, at their meeting on on February 28 (7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers), will be prepared to demand that staff address these questions and those posed by the many residents attending.
IMHO – The most reasonable action that could be taken would be to continue the item.
- Brea Envisions Needs Midcourse Correction. (4)Posted on April 9, 2016
Compared to the 121 pieces posted to Brea Matters over 5 years, this has been the most difficult blog to write. Here’s why. I do not want to diminish or dismiss the contribution of those volunteering as Brea Envisions Steering Committee members or Ambassadors.
One of Brea’s great strengths, for decades, has been a consistent outpouring of volunteerism. Brea Envisions is only the most recent beneficiary. Brea schools have long benefitted from the hard work and largesse of PTAs. Youth sports have thrived thanks, in large part, to the generosity of the community.
Around 1996 then Mayor Glenn Parker launched the Mayor’s Annual Youth Award helping to instill the spirit of volunteerism into countless young Breans. Brea’s faith based community and service organizations have touched every aspect of life in Brea.
Where did the problem start?
With the best of intentions, Council launched Brea Envisions with the stipulation that no current or former elected or appointed officials could be on the Steering Committee. This was designed to prohibit the committee from being peppered with the same old faces (Old Guard) in an effort to overcome the legacy of manipulation that has blemished every effort at public engagement in recent history.
They forgot one thing, creating a means of continued oversight. Beyond the occasional self aggrandizing updates they’ve been given, Council has no real clue how leadership has evolved. Convinced to not select a Chair, the Brea Envisions Steering Committee essentially handed staff the keys.
Supported by their very expensive consultant MIG and their subcontractors, staff has taken over, concocting a long range planning project hardly touched by the very people they’re hired to serve.
What was my first clue?
A sparse, poorly conceived social media effort and a cookie cutter website that was difficult to navigate and barely mobile friendly. Then I heard about this all purpose hashtag, #breaenvisions, that would be the linchpin tying everything together and triggering a viral response.
Newsflash: going viral is not a strategy, it’s a phenomenon. Jimmy Fallon’s Thursday Tweets create so much traffic they become trending topics because Fallon has 38.4 million followers and his staff understands how to engage their fans. City of Brea has 4,800+ followers interested in traffic updates and Amber alerts. Do the math.
The Brea Envisions website, an app/template from consultant subcontractor Crowdbrite copyrighted in 2015, is an off-the-rack one-size-fits-all “engagement” tool sold to city after city. As I said, it is far from user friendly on mobile devices and almost impossible to determine if or when any new content is added.
Did you take the survey? Did you know there is a new survey now and you can take it too? I didn’t think so.
A third of the survey questions ask for narrative input. Yeah, you have to type sentences and stuff. Someone explain to me how this anecdotal input will be translated to quantifiable data. Plus, as of this writing, only 60 folks have taken the survey. Many questions are phrased, “What are your three favorite…” which leaves zero room for constructive criticism.
This overly Saccharin Pollyanna approach has been the hallmark of that bogus old City Manager Survey that Council used to justify giving Tim O’Donnell raise after raise.
Brea Envisions: Trust but verify.
I checked in with a couple of Brea Envisions committee members, off the record. As promised, they’ll remain anonymous… but they shared that they couldn’t remember the committee having any influence in originating anything relating to the website or social media.
Since Steering Committee meetings are, by law, open to the public and anyone may attend, which Council confirmed during their Study Session the night prior, I decided that sitting in on one was the next logical step.
Last Wednesday evening I went to the third floor conference room, picked an unobtrusive seat to ensure my presence wouldn’t have any impact on the meeting. I stood, for a brief moment, and took a photo with my phone, then sat quietly for the rest of the meeting.
As the meeting started, a quick head count showed that attending were 11 committee members and 8 city staff members. The meeting was run and dominated by staff who easily filled 80% of the airtime. Most of their rambling presentation seemed designed to convince committee members how amazingly well staff was succeeding every step of the way. Near the end of the meeting the committee did interject a few comments. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Yup, a whole six posts a week! The plan is anchored on the assumption that all followers will “like” and share every item with their entire network. The plan will go viral!
Business entities relying on social media for their company or personal brand, employ management apps (Hootsuite, IFTTT, TweetDeck etc.) and often post 50, 100, 200+ posts a day across a half dozen social media platforms. Do the math.
They also rely upon advanced analytics which allow them to know precisely how they’re influencing the market. I heard nothing of the sort shared with the committee.
Committee input mostly rebuffed.
When staff was challenged about there not being a dedicated Brea Envisions Facebook page, the answer was, “We decided that it would be potentially too confusing.”
Whoa. Wasn’t that the committee’s job? Doesn’t the Brea PD have their own site for recruiting? What about the Curtis Theater and Brea Gallery?
The heart of marketing, and that’s what this is folks, is built upon differentiation. Burying Brea Envisions in the city’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages is completely backwards. Don’t even get me started on their ridiculous use of Periscope to live stream video of the Ambassador training session. They got 2 viewers.
Committee comments were either greeted with rebuttal or the standard city speak, “We’ll look into that.” which often means waiting long enough that the comment is forgotten.
Time for Council to reassert itself.
There is much more of the racetrack still ahead of us than behind. If Council can find a way to take a more hands-on role in overseeing Brea Envisions without interfering with it being a project by the people, the interest, expertise, energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers will not be squandered.
Otherwise, Brea Envisions will join the ranks of so many other workshops, public discussions and charrettes that tapped the public only for validation and not direction.
- Council Tackles Parking Again. (0)Posted on June 18, 2015
As expected, Matters From The Audience was dominated by folks addressing Council about the downtown parking structure. Opinions varied. All but one speaker contributed civil, thoughtful, meaningful comments. Everyone seemed to agree a structure was needed, however opinions were divided on which design made the most sense to them.
The solo speaker who ignored the real subject, ranted to Council about his disdain for one Brea businessman citing an email exchange that he either misread completely or manufactured the most bitter inaccurate interpretation possible. Read about my take on this misguided antagonist here: He’s No Friend Of Brea.
What did the real Brean’s have to say?
Comments and email received by Council predominantly favored building a parking structure but were equally divided about how to best fund the project. Some had no problem using general fund money, others strongly objected. There were even a couple of compassionate comments pointing out other projects or services they felt were more important than parking.
Also, several comments expressed excitement about the proposed new Improv entertainment and dining complex, recognizing how it would greatly contribute to revitalizing downtown.
Frankly, between the presentation of the Mayor’s Student Achievement Awards and the overall quality and tone of those commenting last night, I came away with a renewed appreciation for the people of Brea.
I was additionally pleased to see several genuinely new, younger faces. Brea needs to recruit strong, youthful leadership, to fill future elected, appointed and voluntary positions within Brea’s municipal government. This New Guard is an essential component of tomorrow’s leadership and our best guarantee of a bright future for Brea.
Rather than trying to summarize the he said and she said of the lengthy Council debate, I asked one of the new young speakers to give us his take on the meeting. Thanks to Jason Kraft for the following…
“At the June 16th Brea City Council meeting, the council agreed that a parking structure with at least 300 new spaces is needed behind the Tower building to provide critical infrastructure for the expansion and redevelopment of businesses on that block. The open questions are how to fund it and whether to include housing and office space in the parking structure.
The council did not make any final decisions at the meeting, but they are proceeding with a request for bids to build a parking-only structure. The council also requested more detailed information from the developer of the “Parking Plus” plan, which includes office space on the top floor and 40 affordable housing apartments within the parking structure.”
The clock is ticking.
Staff indicated that the RFP process might take as much as 90 days, mostly driven by the complexity of the process for the “Parking Plus” option. Likely, figures could be available sooner than 90 days for the “Parking Only” option.
The Improv did say that synchronous opening of their complex and the structure isn’t necessary, but we all can guess that it needs to be reasonably close.
The “Parking Plus” option, it was pointed out, wouldn’t be able to apply for tax benefits until next March with a one year processing period being typical. Add another 2+ years to complete the project and the ribbon cutting wouldn’t likely happen until mid-2019.
I would be more than a little concerned that the total time required to complete any “Parking Plus” option would sufficiently conflict with the Improv’s timetable and cost Brea the project.
I trust staff and Council will weigh these and the soft cost issues carefully, that the immediacy of Brea’s ROI will be clearly understood and that we’ll finally reach closure on this prolonged matter.
Another resident speaks.
I’ll let these few words from Brea resident Tom Dunlap, whose position reflects the majority of communications reaching me, to provide the closing thoughts.
“As long as Brea is prudent with the spending and it does not dip too heavily into the General Fund reserves I am in full support of this project going through. We have a golden opportunity to create something very special downtown and I would hate to see this slip through the city’s fingers and end up with a deteriorating downtown.”
- Brea Downtown Parking Structure. (6)Posted on June 11, 2015
Not since the Madrona Project and the Drought Tolerant Rock Garden has there been a more divisive and misunderstood topic than building a parking structure on Superblock 1. It may all come to a head at last on June 16th when Council wades through the latest staff report and recommendations.
If the recent record setting discussion on Nextdoor (130 comments) is any indication, Breans have had little to consider but rumor and speculation. That’s about to change. On Tuesday evening the full staff report was posted on the city’s website. Tough to find, but I’ve downloaded it and you can get it here.
A Little History.
At their special meeting in April, Council reached consensus that it’s time to build the parking structure. With over a decade of meetings, closed door discussions, faltering negotiations, false starts and the loss of redevelopment funds designed to pay for it… Council finally drew a line in the sand.
With full agreement that the parking structure must provide a minimum of 300 additional spaces beyond those within the building’s footprint and setting a not-to-exceed limit on cost to build at $9 million bucks – Council ask staff to come back to them with answers to these three simple questions:
- What parking structure design will best meet the public’s need?
- How much will it cost to build?
- Where will the funds come from to pay for it?
Sounds simple, right?
When you read the staff report you’ll likely be as shocked as I was.
Buried within the 50+ pages of cityspeak, hidden agendas, a blizzard of numbers that would boggle the mind of John Nash must be some answers. If you can find any, please post a comment here and share them with the rest of us.
If you came away with more questions than answers, I know I did, I hope you will step up and share them with Council on the 16th.
The only conclusion I am able to state with any certainty is this; somehow Council needs to back away from the politics and focus on building a sensible and affordable parking structure that serves the people first.
There is a lot more riding on this than simply solving a decade old problem.
Somewhere between $30 and $40 million dollars of private investment hinges upon Council making a prudent and expedient decision. Click here for a condensed presentation of what some of that investment would be.
A novel idea?
From day one Council’s mantra has been, “Parking in downtown Brea will always be free.”
The most contentious element in the equation has always centered around funding. The greatest objections have always been against spending General and 560 Funds.
The probability of ever getting our hands on even a fraction of the redevelopment money, millions, pilfered by the state remains uncertain.
Who besides me would be okay with paying a buck or two to use the new parking structure? Seriously, it’s cheaper than valet, faster than walking from Parking Structure 1. I’d even pay a couple of bucks a month on my water bill for a resident’s annual pass.
Okay… it’s just a thought.
When you email Council or, better yet speak during Matters From The Audience, try to avoid hunting for the guilty parties, getting mired down in petty politics and making ad hominem attacks. This does not move the discussion forward, serves no useful purpose and will not advance any cause that benefits the community.
Take a stand. Make a difference. Contact A Council Member.
- Mayor Marty Simonoff – email@example.com
- Mayor Pro Tem Christine Marick – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Council Member Steve Vargas – email@example.com
- Council Member Cecilia Hupp – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Council Member Glenn Parker – email@example.com
Addendum: June 15
Ask Council to be bold enough to ask the hard questions and demand truthful answers.
It would seem prudent (at least to me and several thousand of my closest friends and neighbors), considering all the facts that have emerged in recent days, that Council should: issue an RFP not-to-exceed $9 million for Option 2: purely parking, a trash facility suitable to supporting the food and beverage business and police annex.
No housing. No commercial. Simply the parking structure we’ve needed for many years.
Cost should be managed as follows:
- $3.7 million from returned RDA
- $1.5 million balance of Valencia Drive fund
- $300 thousand from Gas Lamp Square
This remaining balance of $3.5 million Council may choose between funding with reserves or a bond. It will easily be REPAID via valet and cell tower revenue and the incremental increase in sales tax.
Net cost to city/tax payers is ZERO. How’s that for a parking structure plan?
- Moore On Madrona. (0)Posted on June 6, 2014
Having born witness to the folly that has been Madrona since the beginning, few are better equipped to provide a history lesson than Council Member Roy Moore.
In his newsletter, Brea Net (No. 687) published last Wednesday, he offered this summary (published here with permission).
“I was beginning to think we would never make a final decision on the Madrona project. It has be in process now for about 15 years. The City Council finally voted last night (4-1, Simonoff dissenting) to deny the appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the project (formerly known as Canyon Crest) and to allow the 162 Carbon Canyon homes to proceed to construction.
It has been a long and excruciating journey and now that we have reached the end (barring any legal challenges) I would like to share my disappointment, not in the final conclusion, but in the final deliberative process of the City Council.
After having read hundreds of pages of data, including the EIR, developer’s submittals, emails for and against, staff reports, etc., the Council was directed that in order to approve this project we had to find that its benefits outweigh the negatives of three overriding considerations: (1) The increase in traffic on Carbon Canyon Road, (2) the removal of 1400 oak and walnut trees, and (3) air pollution generated during construction.
A public hearing was conducted over several City Council meetings as we listened to hours of testimony from residents most expressing their opposition to the development. The public hearing was finally closed on April 15. Now it was time for the much awaited discussion and deliberation by the Council. There seemed to be a reluctance to speak but finally Council Member Simonoff stated his opposition to the project for public safety reasons and moved that the project be rejected. The motion did not receive a second and failed. More silence.
Finally I read my statement (included in Brea Net No. 682) that addressed my positions on the three overriding considerations as well as subsidiary issues of water, fire, earthquakes, landslides and private property rights. I thought this may generate some challenges and kick off a lively discussion. It did not.
Council Member Garcia voiced his support for Madrona.
At this point Mayor Murdock and Mayor Pro Tem Marick tossed a brick into the punch bowl stating they could not endorse the project unless the developer agreed to eleven new conditions essentially highjacking what was already a weak or non-existent deliberation.
All the attention now switched to these conditions and away from other key issues. Interestingly none of these additional requirements addressed any of the three overriding conditions, except for water shares, would impact Brea residents only indirectly, would increase the cost of the development and the purchase price to the future home buyers.
There is nothing wrong in requesting added concessions from the developer. I had a couple of my own. The Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem should not have waited until the public hearing was closed to discuss their concerns which must have been known several weeks earlier.
They set the council agendas and should have scheduled this topic for at least a Study Session allowing the whole Council to participate, maybe modify or add to the list. The public hearing would still be open allowing for residents’ comments.
So what could the Madrona developer do but to agree to substantially meet all the additional requirements. I understand he is facing financial difficulties and needs this project to survive. He must have invested millions already in the land, legal development, architecture design, etc., costs. He probably could not sell the land without entitlements.
Council Member Simonoff read a statement further elaborating his public safety reasons for opposing the project and requested his council colleagues to clarify their positions in regard to the three overriding considerations.
I had already done this with my statement at the April 15 meeting and voiced my continued approval of the project as did Council Member Garcia.
The Madrona applicant was called on and expressed substantial agreement with the added conditions, the City Council was satisfied and the development was approved.
After taking hours of testimony the Council did not take the time to weigh all the public’s concerns but placed most of our emphasis on how much more we could extract from the developer.
I don’t think the final result would have changed but maybe the concerned residents would have felt that we had listened to their concerns and given them consideration.
On issues like this one, often the Law of Unintended Consequences applies. Brea has worked for years to develop a good reputation for working well with developers and the business community. Sometimes it only takes one issue to sour such relationships and result in Brea losing future beneficial projects.
Not likely to be Madrona’s final chapter.
Roy mentions the possibility of litigation, a topic that has been bandied about since Hills For Everyone convinced Bev Perry, their perennial spokesmodel, to act as the appellant in their long running effort to halt the development. I’ll wager we’re nowhere near the end.
The appeal was overturned with little or no interest in traffic issues, tree removal (the paperwork for Madrona staff reports, correspondence, revised site plans, seismic data and that monstrous EIR probably destroyed more trees) or short term environmental concerns. Following the brick in the punchbowl heard around the world, most attentions turned to seeing how much more could be wrung out of a developer already beaten half to death.
Simonoff prefaced his remarks with some Kenny Rogers “condition my condition was in” reference then read a long winded reprise of his public safety message. Taking the negative position, even in the face of confirmation from staff and the Fire Chief that his concerns were unfounded, seems to me to be more about preserving his relationship with the appellant than about providing “substantial evidence.”
Then Simonoff asked that the other Council Members state their findings. C’mon Marty. A bit too obvious to some of us what this is really all about. Roy reiterated his position again. Garcia stayed out of the fray and let the limited soundbite of his support for the project speak for him.
At Murdock’s urging, the applicant’s attorney, John Erskine, addressed Council restating his clients willingness to provide sufficient overriding considerations, including their agreement to make both a voluntary community park donation and a voluntary water shares contribution, dodging the illegal nature of Murdock and Marick’s initial request, sweetening the pot by over $3.4 million.
Murdock wades in with the final word on Madrona.
Repeatedly prefacing his remarks with, “the Mayor Pro Tem and I,” muting Marick for most of the discussion, Murdock’s tortuous and generally disconnected comments sounded more like a stump speech on the campaign trail than a legitimizing of that brick in the punch bowl.
Marick was able to finally toss in a few words of wisdom of her own, but the die was cast as far as Madrona was concerned and her purpose seemed more to reclaim her independent territory than add anything new to the discussion.
Sorry Roy, but your final analysis rings a bit hollow.
You said, “Brea has worked for years to develop a good reputation for working well with developers and the business community. Sometimes it only takes one issue to sour such relationships…” and here we disagree completely.
I am certain, if you could convince folks from Madrona, Brea Downtown, South Brea Lofts, La Floresta, Central Park Brea and other major developers with history here to share without concern for retribution their experiences – you would discover Brea’s real reputation for pushing developers to the brink of economic failure.
It’s this sort of shakedown that paid for the War Memorial and countless other pet projects over the years. Sadly, it’s not that difficult to see what sort of condition our condition is in.
- Council Is Blindsided Again! (0)Posted on April 19, 2014
While watching Tuesday’s Council meeting (04/15) my cellphone blew up with calls and texts saying, in one form or another, that Council is blindsided again. Most referenced last December’s Council reorganization meeting as the blindsiding benchmark.
After receiving Planning Commission approval, first in 2008 and then in 2013, the Madrona development was challenged again by a small but vocal special interest group Hills For Everyone. Their Vice President/Treasurer, Bev Perry, took the lead role as appellant and asked Council to overturn the Commission’s decision.
After several hearings going back to November of last year, the appellant presented their objections to the project, the applicant presented overriding considerations, both sides rebutted the other’s facts and figures and the public was given the opportunity to wade in, on the record, with their opinions.
The finish line was in sight.
Or was it? With the public hearing closed, this was to be the wrap-up discussion by Council with a vote to either uphold the appeal or deny it – in essence to deny or approve the development moving forward. Then Council, at least some of them, had the rug pulled out from under their feet.
Suddenly we were listening to Mayor Murdock and Mayor Pro Tem Marrick dive into their special list of additional considerations ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime.
No one calling or texting me thought this was appropriate and wondered why neither other Council members or the City Attorney interjected and pulled the plug on their dog and pony show.
Well within their rights.
I discussed this with folks either having a strong background in planning and development or legal authorities specializing in development law.
Murdock and Marrick were well within their rights to present their considerations.
But what is legal may not be prudent. Many still question their secretive style which seemed more than a little politically motivated. Plus, the items they rattled off, with marginal support from other Council members, added weeks to a process most in the community were ready to put to bed.
How critically important are these last minute considerations?
Here, lifted from Roy Moore’s Brea Net (#682) newsletter, are the items in question. (The commentary is mine, don’t go calling Roy on this.)
Roy concludes, “As you can see many are relatively harmless with minimum cost impact. Others are major and may be hard for the developer to comply. The Council approved a motion to ask staff to develop a draft of the [above] conditions for approval of the Madrona development. The Madrona saga continues on May 6.”
1. Madrona should not be a gated community.
Claiming that good old Brea’s reputation would be poorly served by creating a security barrier around executive estates, that it would appear snobby… I guess Marrick overlooked the numerous gated apartment and condo properties throughout Brea.
Besides, why would owners of million dollar plus homes want that sort of security anyway?
2. Other than for emergency uses, Olinda Place will never be used by Madrona residents for daily use.
This really doesn’t provide an overriding consideration benefitting much of Brea outside of Olinda Village residents, the loud voices droning on and on supporting Hills for Everyone.
Noteworthy however is that this allowed emergency use provides the second ingress egress point felt mandatory by Councilman Simonoff who seemed to be weighing his total view of Madrona based on a public safety technicality.
To be sure, Simonoff has a lengthy track record of fighting for public safety issues. Someone should remind him that Fire Chief Kanaabe was satisfied with the plan as written.
When I questioned Simonoff about this, he reconfirmed his position relative to safety issues and said that, if Olinda Village came to him today for approval, he would likely vote no on it as well.
3. A system should be included in the development to collect and recycle water runoff.
For most concerned this is a useful and feasible consideration. Not sure where they want it collected or how they want it redistributed. I suppose we’ll hear more at the next meeting.
4. Each home should have the capability to collect and recycle “gray” water.
This will likely prove more difficult, more costly, because it calls for two parallel plumbing systems, doubles the number of connections and requires the addition of individual purification systems. No figures were given regarding water savings. And again, I have to ask what is the overriding benefit derived by the rest of us living in Brea? Weren’t water issues determined to be non-issues now?
5. The developer should procure water shares in Cal Domestic for the City.
In a word, impossible. There are no shares available now. The current price per share is $16,000 dollars.
What, you want a check so if and when shares become available we can acquire them? How big a check? At what price per share? Putting this “water in lieu” idea on the table is unfeasible, impractical.
Did you not listen to staff when they told you this? You keep laying it on thick how wonderful, how brilliant these folks are who, as Murdock put it, “get the big bucks…” Why don’t you listen to them? They’re trying to earn their keep. Let ’em!
6. The future buyers should have the option to include solar panels on their home.
Another half baked snake bit idea. From your conversation it’s clear that you have no clue how this would be implemented. Kudos to Garcia for mumbling something about solar panels he saw once at a League of Cities meeting that look like shingles. Maybe I was the only one who heard him because the discussion raced off in another direction and the whole matter was dumped into staff’s lap.
7. The development should contain 10% of the homes as true custom homes on minimum one-half acre lots.
There are half acre lots already, maybe they could be designated as your “custom” lots Ms. Marrick. But wait! This sounds really snobby to me! Big fat mini-mansions in the hills? How does this not completely conflict with your wanting no security gates? You can’t have it both ways, pick one and argue for it.
8. At least one of the pocket parks should contain amenities such as a tot lot.
Hmmm, pretending that you didn’t come up with this months ago Ms. Marrick, the idea still gets stuck in first gear for me. Tell me how many families able to afford million dollar plus homes have kids still in the toddler stage? Are they supposed to wait until they become grandparents before the amenity is useful to them? Or maybe you thought all of Brea’s young moms and dads would flock there, through the un-gated entry, on weekends and holidays. Yeah, that will help sell executive homes.
9. Provide back up generators for the two water pumping stations on Carbon Canyon Road.
Might be a bit excessive considering that the Fire Chief, already satisfied with the development, has a clear plan to cover this need. This sounds more like bankrolling political collateral. We’ll know for sure if, during campaign season, we see another of those “Look What I Did For Ya” flyers circulating all over town.
10. Get Cal Trans approval to the ingress and egress to the tract before beginning any excavation.
This is an absolute. It should have been on the “list” months ago. The space out there is tight and Cal Trans has a reputation of taking forever on matters like this. The Olinda Village signal took what, two years to get approved? Seems like it. This is the developer’s number one mission. Without this, nothing else being discussed matters.
11. Increase projected school fees.
12. Increase projected transportation fees.
These get lumped together because they’re statutory fees and arbitrarily doubling them, as pointed out Tuesday night, is actionable. The school fees are totally out of the scope of city business and Murdock needs to start paying better attention in class. These should be pulled off the list before the next meeting if for no other reason than to minimize the embarrassment to the community.
At the risk of opening Pandora’s box.
After the meeting the applicant’s attorney approached City Attorney Markman seeking to confirm that he and the applicant’s people will now be allowed to meet with city staff.
Both Murdock and Marrick, in there comments, alluded to this needing to happen. Markman confirmed that access was assured.
Really? What I discovered is that the appellant and her people had unlimited access to Council and staff during the hearings but that Markman barred city staff from having any contact with the applicant or their staff. What purpose did this serve?
It’s like trying to negotiate peace between Russia and the Ukraine… and telling the Ukraine they can’t come to the negotiating table. Sorry, but that sounds totally counterproductive to me and I’m surprised Council put up with it.
As long as the box is open.
Another issue that surfaced was, with all of these “new” considerations on the table, should the public hearing be reopened allowing the public to speak on the record again? When I queried Markman about this via email, here is his response.
“A reopened additional hearing would not be required legally. A Council may modify a project through conditioning as a result of a hearing process without reopening the hearing to discuss the Council’s revisions. The Council may reopen the hearing if the Council decides to do so by motion.”
Roy Moore asked the question. Brett Murdock said absolutely not. Markman said it’s possible but not required. The more people talked, the more they thought about what meaningful contribution John Q. Public made in this whole affair and the less interested they were in reopening public comment.
I agree. Don’t reopen the public hearing. Seriously, go back and watch the meetings.
Except for three or four very well articulated positions, everything else became a din of emotionally delivered soundbites of canned Hills For Everyone rhetoric delivered over and over like a broken record.
I know I’m going to get royally jammed up on that one so I’m hoping all of you who have turned off Matters From The Audience half way through to watch a rerun of Waking Ned Devine will support me with your comments.
It’s Time To Fish Or Cut Bait.