State College Slopes Need Facelift.

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

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

State College Slope Enhancement Meeting Summary.

By Ric Clough, Brea Planning Commissioner 2006-2010

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

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

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

Another consultant, another set of plans.

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

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

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

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

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

City tries pushing cost onto homeowners.

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

The LLMD option.

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

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

The CFD option.

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

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

Always read the small print.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this mean in simple language?

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

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

A summary memorandum is grossly insufficient!

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

The other side of the street.

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

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

10 thoughts on “State College Slopes Need Facelift.

  1. Rick, can you explain how a city can arbitrarily add a tax to your property? Did not a measure pass a few years ago that requires any new fee or tax be voted on by the public? Thanks. Paul

    • Paul… Excellent question. Yes, any new fee or tax requires a 2/3 vote of approval by the effected community.

      The financing options utilizing the Orange County Tax Assessor’s office as a collection agency were the brainchild of Harris & Associates, and I don’t believe Council has offered any comment on this idea. The consultant’s plan, less Option 3, was to be shared with the 44 homeowners effected.

      Changes in State law regarding LLMDs and CFDs has changed dramatically in recent years, partly from decisions rendered by the California Supreme Court. These changes precipitated, to some extent, the recent negotiations between the City and the seven original LLMDs. Districts 3 and 4 voted to increase their own fees but opted not to convert to CFDs. The other five districts simply declined all modifications.

      To date, though the opportunity has been available to the City since the early 70’s, Brea has never created financing or a bond with repayment via property taxes. Since those at the meeting unreservedly rejected both options and the details of each, thereby denying the 2/3 vote, use of property taxes is probably off the table for good.

      Don’t let this detail create a smoke screen masking the larger issues.

      One of the Supreme Court decisions says that if a larger community benefit can be established, costs can be spread out across the wider base. As I mentioned, the State College corridor is easily a principal artery into Brea and as such benefits the entire community. Justifying the use of Measure M and/or 560 Funds to pay for upgrading both sides of State College should be a no-brainer.

      Hope this helps clear up any confusion. Thanks for your support!

  2. The most telling part: That no city council members attended the meeting to hear community feedback. It’s obvious they don’t care and are going to do whatever they want.

    My political involvement throughout the county is proving this to be the case on most boards and councils. Public apathy has given most of these members, who are no longer public servants, but career politicians, a reason and the power to pander to outside interests, rather than the public they are sworn to serve. Just look at Yorba Linda and Huntington Beach…

    • Desaré… Council seems to be delegating more and more to staff and, except for Roy Moore’s weekly visit to the Senior Center, there is no consistent effort to stay connected with their constituents. To me it looks like staff is getting to do what they want and Council merely lends an air of credibility to the process.

      BTW – Murdock changed his Facebook profession from Attorney to Politician. He’s either acknowledging how (un)successful his law practice has been or providing an early warning that he intends to devote his entire self-absorbed life to a similarly opportunistic métier.

  3. Rick: Seriously, what in the name of almighty God is wrong with these people?

    This is the time to pay down debt and rebuild reserves not spend on subjective aesthetic boondoggles. Attempting to crawl out from under their responsibilities by passing costs on to homeowners already taxed to death adds insult to injury.

    You’re right. We need to tie the camel up well away from the tent. Would a letter or email campaign to Council members do any good?

    • Ray… I’m hoping a larger group than the 44 homeowners steps up to help quash this ridiculous approach to what should be a rather simple infrastructure project. The whole community benefits.

      Is this a good time to do it? That’s a different question entirely, and one rarely addressed by Council or staff.

      I have mixed feelings about a letter/email writing campaign. Addressed to the Mayor and Council, you’re not likely to even get an acknowledgement that your correspondence was received, let alone an intelligent response. As self-serving as it might sound, adding your thoughts here is more likely to get through and have some impact.

  4. Rick, another great job at keeping us all informed.

    When the fence line at St. College and Lambert routinely fell apart during high winds back in 1998, I pushed the council to address the wall and was told it would be cost prohibitive. In 2002 they managed to pull it off.

    If the City can loan the School District 1 million, why can’t the City at least fund the project with a no interest loan to lower the cost of the LLMD so it is affordable. The 44 would benefit, the rest of Brea benefits and there is no liability shift regarding property rights… seems like a win-win-win.

    Steven Vargas, Brea Councilman, 1998-2002.

    • Steve… thanks for wading in and adding a little historical perspective.

      The zero interest loan idea is big-hearted but the creation of either an LLMD or CFD is the heart of the issue. Changes in the laws governing these type of organizations since you were in office have created a loophole that allows municipalities to dodge their fiscal responsibilities and shift sizable amounts of infrastructure update and maintenance onto the backs of hardworking residents.

  5. Its not fair to ask 44 homeowners to absorb the entire cost. Especially when the property is inaccessible and basically useless.

    • Lisa… you are absolutely right and that is why homeowners rejected every option offered by the city.

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