Planning Commission Blindsides Breans.

commission meetingI 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?

Markman & Flower

Brea Place Raises Concerns.

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 PlaceBrea 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?

Brea PlaceIsn’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 Place

Cannabis Cultivation In Brea?

Proposition 215 (the Compassionate Use Act of 1996) is a California law legalizing the use of medical cannabis. Enacted on November 5, 1996 by means of the initiative process, Prop 215 passed with a majority vote of 55.6%.

Though medical cannabis was legalized and accepted by the majority of California voters, Prop 215 does not supersede federal law. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law which causes a conflict between the state and the U.S. Government.

A legal frame of reference.

cannabisFearing that state law might be created that would usurp local control, on April 3, 2007, Council adopted emergency interim Ordinance No. 1100-U prohibiting medical cannabis dispensaries in the city of Brea.

On March 18, 2008, Council, adopted interim Ordinance No. 1113 extending the prohibition — with a one year time limit, expiring in April 2009.

Prior to the expiration of Ordinance 1100-U the city’s options were to either adopt a full prohibition of cannabis dispensaries or form standards to allow the use.

Obviously, Council opted to adopt full prohibition. On December 9, 2008, the Planning Commission adopted a resolution which recommended language to Council for an ordinance prohibiting medical cannabis dispensaries in the city of Brea. (Documentation)

Council, on January 20, 2009, had the first reading of an amendment to the Brea Municipal Code prohibiting medical cannabis dispensaries in the city of Brea. As on all prior occasions public hearings were conducted. Having no one wishing to speak to the matter, hearings were opened and closed without comment.

On February 3, 2009, Council had the second reading of the resolution and adopted Ordinance No. 1120, a full prohibition of medical cannabis dispensaries. (Documentation)

It only took 19 years for the next chapter in the Chronicles of Cannabis to be written.

On October 9, 2015 AB266, AB243 and SB643 became California law. Known as the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA). It’s charter was to license and regulate commercial medical cannabis. MMRSA created the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation in the Department of Consumer Affairs – an agency to be similar in scope to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Buried deep within MMRSA, a phrase marked for deletion indicating that any county or municipality not having an ordinance on the books by March 1st regarding cultivation of cannabis would have their authority to control locally ceded to the state. Inadvertently overlooked, this clerical error triggered panic across the state.

Clerical error amended!

AB21, introduced by Assembly member Jim Wood, on January 4th, is making the rounds in Sacramento and should land on Governor Brown’s desk by January 18. Governor Brown has guaranteed his signature. By the time Council meets the compelling need to respond will no longer exist. (Documentation)

Frankly, there have been too many instances of emergencies like this and this sort of unnecessary pressure hasn’t generally produced the best results.

Still, the sky is falling in Brea?

Pot_BReacting to the clerical error, on December 15, 2015, Council declared a state of urgency and enacted Interim Ordinance No. 1181 “Prohibiting all commercial medical marijuana uses in the city, including deliveries, prohibiting all medical cultivation including cultivation for medical use by a qualified patient or primary caregiver.” (Documentation)

Though the title of this ordinance clearly is all inclusive of areas subject to local control, it has been commonly referred to as a blanket prohibition of cultivation. The ordinance obviously extends to usage and distribution of cannabis issues as well.

On January 19 Council will duplicate it’s extension of the antecedent temporary ordinance prohibiting dispensaries, pushing out the prohibitions of Ordinance No. 1181 to January 2017. And, as before, the Planning Commission is (tentatively) being tasked “… to make a recommendation to the City Council related to land uses associated with the cultivation of marijuana (MJ). This recommendation will be in the form of a proposed amendment to the Zoning Code.

If this goes to the Planning Commission to initiate the process of making the “interim” prohibitions permanent, it will likely be at their January 26th meeting. Agendas for these meetings have not been finalized or publically released.

Stirring the pot, pun intended.

Pot_CInfuriated with the absence of public input in all prior policy-making, I’m hoping to encourage greater comment and opinion from Breans. At the Council meeting on January 19 and, if it is decided that nothing less than permanent law will be adequate to protect Brea’s authority, at the Planning Commission on January 26.

Okay really… an interim ordinance doesn’t say, “Please try to avoid doing these things.

An interim ordinance is as fully prohibitive as a permanent ordinance. The only difference is one runs out after a year the other remains in effect, theoretically, in perpetuity.

A lot of dust hasn’t settled.

Here are a few of the reasons I’m inclined to believe an interim ordinance would be sufficient to give Brea the time for a better look at the evolving landscape.

  • It will take as much as two years to get the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, the enforcement agency, up and running.
  • Much of the operating scheme of this agency is yet to be determined, i.e. licensing, fees, oversight and enforcement policies, etc.
  • More than one initiative dealing with aspects of cultivation, processing, distribution and usage (yes, think recreational) is either already qualified or likely will be qualified for the November 2016 ballot.

Pot_DAs we will likely know so much more by next November, wouldn’t it be better to wait to finalize Brea code until we have more answers than questions?

It’s been said that we shouldn’t worry about committing to a position now because we can always amend the code later. Really? It’s okay to do a half-assed job now because we can rewrite it later?

Sorry, but I don’t come from a place that thinks, “We can’t afford to get it right the first time, but we can always afford to fix it later.

The jury is still out.

For reasons that shouldn’t need explanation, I am in limbo on all of this. In the short term, understanding there is not really any urgent need to codify to preserve authority, what should Brea allow or prohibit and why? Should commercial cultivation and personal cultivation for medicinal use be linked together or treated separately?

Please, if you have feelings or opinions about this — of any persuasion — do yourself and your community a favor and carve out some time to be part of the process

Without your input how can the Council or Planning Commission be confident that the majority will, in fact, rule?

Pot_Icon_300