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.

Measure E – Follow The Money

Glancing over the “Committee for Brea Olinda Schools – Yes on Measure E” financial disclosure (FPPC Form 460) covering the period between January 1 to May 19, 2012 presents some very illuminating information.

Contributions received total $29,250 and expenditures total $18,212.37 with an ending balance of $11,037.63.

Perhaps there remain outstanding media bills for the heavy campaigning that occurred in the final weeks that will chew up the leftovers, otherwise I’m not sure where that money would end up. It’s pretty much a done deal now, isn’t it?

Who contributed, and why?

Only one contributor was reported from Brea, the PAC’s treasurer Terry Swindle, and one contributor from La Habra, Warren Kraft/La Habra Fence. Mr. Kraft is the retired and well respected Superintendent of La Habra City Schools and a long time supporter of BOUSD. Both Terry and Warren contributed $500 each (or 1% of the total).

The rest of the list reads like a who’s who of companies making a living off of school districts, their construction projects, their bond issues, etc. LPA Architects, Irvine ($5000) who built Brea H.S. and Caldwell Flores Winters, Inc., Emeryville ($7,500) school planners, financiers and bond election services and their CFO Khushroo Gheyara kicked in $250 personally. Illuminate Education, Irvine ($500), Stifel Nicolaus, St. Louis ($5000), BCA Architects, San Jose ($5000), Bernards Builders Management Services, Ontario ($5000).

What’s in it for them?

Seems obvious to me, greasing the wheels of progress to help a little struggling school district in Orange County get it’s hands on $54 million in fresh tax dollars with it’s tagalong $20 million plus from local developers. The ROI stood to be substantial for the winners, except they didn’t win.

So why absolutely zero support from Brea? From Brea parents? From Brea teachers? From all the good hearted active citizens who lent their names and faces to the Yes on Measure E campaign? Even they didn’t seem inclined to put their money where their mouths were.

Where did the money go?

Into an ill conceived, poorly executed and singularly unconvincing advertising campaign conducted predominantly by AMAC, Redondo Beach to the tune of $15,954.44 to date and $1000 to Andrew Todd (now there’s a familiar name) to produce their website. At least with Andrew, they shopped Brea. A quick look suggests that AMAC would do well to hire Andrew to bring their website out of the last century.

Complete with the look of a 1960’s stock photo campaign, this antiquated approach included huge postcards plastered with endorsees (most of whom admitted they hadn’t even read the proposal), brochures, email blasts and personal prerecorded pleadings in unsolicited phone calls from school principals.

And they lost. Beaten by the North Orange County Conservative Coalition who, if I’m to believe what I hear, spent well under the FPPC limitation of $1000 to sufficiently help influence public opinion, ensuring that Measure E went down in flames.

When the education of Brea’s children is more about raising the quality of their learning experience and less about lining the pockets of the special interests or getting out from under the mounting unfunded pension liability… when a full accounting by an independent third party sheds a little light on where the $27 million bond issue and additional $80 million in developer’s funds they got in 1999 were really spent… maybe a bond issue might stand half a chance.

Until then BOUSD, we’re not your personal ATM!