Very fervant appeals were made during the Vista City Council meeting last night from the public as well as elected officials.
Councilmember Amanda Rigby asked to pull two items from the council’s consent calendar: (c5) the Establishment of Regular Meeting Dates for the Joint Financing Authority and (c6) 2015-2020 San Diego Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice.
Regarding the JPFA, Councilmember Rigby stated she was looking to streamline government for efficiency and did not need a report from staff when Mayor Judy Ritter asked about it.
“I would like to see us try to streamline government function a little bit, and this is one of those places I think we might be able to do it,” replied Rigby.
She observed previously that much time and energy was spent by city employees to make their reports and bring them before the city council. Besides requesting that “the minutes for [the JPFA] meeting come to us in a timely fashion,” Rigby questioned why the only thing accomplished may be merely to have the meeting date changed. “I would like to see … whenever there is business for the joint powers financing authority, that it comes to council when it’s timely for that, without having to change the meeting dates back and forth on our calendar.”
In his response, City Attorney Darold Pieper replied that the reason for this resolution was at the request of the bond council. During his remarks he also stated:
“Councilwoman Rigby, the reason for the regular meetings and the resolution is a change in the law that required actions on bonds to be adopted at only ‘regular’ quote unquote meetings. And the previous resolution had established the only regular meeting of the Authority in the month of November. So in order to transact any bond business in June, we did establish the two regular meeting dates by calling a special meeting of the Authority in order to set those up. We could establish a regular meeting of the Authority, consistent with all meetings of the council. I’m not sure what workload that represents for the clerk … but that could be done.”
In voting Rigby motioned and the mayor seconded as the council decided to approve the recommended action, to establish regular JPFA meeting dates, unanimously.
Block grant/zoning change requirements
On Rigby’s second pulled item, she also stated no report by staff was needed. “I just have the comment to make that I am not going to be voting in favor of this.” In statements following, the councilwoman said her understanding is that, while Community Block Grant money is important to the city, she did not like the fact that there are “outside influences telling us that we have to do something, and change our ordinance for something they want us to do, when they are not part of our community.”
She likened the situation to being held hostage by those parties, if they do not like what is being done by council.
Kathy Valdez then made the staff report to council. “As a Community Development Block Grant recipient, the city is required to complete an analysis of the impediments to fair housing choice, take action to eliminate identified impediments, and to maintain fair housing records.”
According to Valdez’s report, three impediments were identified for Vista, and these impediments “will require changes to existing city zoning ordinance.”
“Those include the extension of affordability covenants to 55 years for density bonus,” Valdez said, “modification to transitional and support housing provisions, and provisions for farm worker housing and employee housing.”
Valdez followed by mentioning that these were all state mandates, and by making these changes it “will bring the City into compliance” with state law.
By accepting the report, the federal agency known as HUD [Housing and Urban Development] will release the grant money to Vista, said Valdez.
Mayor Ritter made the statement that “we have to comply with our state mandate.”
“I don’t see that we have a choice,” further stated Ritter, “or they withhold our CDBG funding, which funds all of our social service agencies. And also fair housing, I know, that’s an important thing.”
Councilmember John Franklin’s remarks were then made. “I remember we just approved some CDBG allocations. Are we repaying some debt with CDBG money…?”
“That’s correct,” replied City Manager Patrick Johnson. “We have a little over 1.9 million dollars left in repayments that will take place… with this payment now, and two following years.”
Franklin asked what the length of the covenants is now.
“It is forty-five currently” and would be boosted to fifty-five, but that would only apply to future covenants, Valdez stated.
Franklin requested a summary of the new designations and what the impact might be.
Impact of zoning changes for grant money
Patsy Chow the assistant planner for the City was called upon to respond. Franklin clarified his questions to her.
The councilman asked first, what is transitional and supportive housing and secondly is it it prohibited now in the zones?
The transitional and supportive housing are currently allowed in the multi-family zones, stated Chow, following the same development standards. “In the single family zones,” Chow added, “there are certain provisions for transitional housing for families that are in crisis.” Chow mentioned battered women with children, and “that accommodates currently in our code.” The housing element is asked to be more broad in those single family situations.
Franklin asked specifically if transitional housing meant “persons released from prison.”
“Typically,” said Chow, “it is for families that are in need of help income. Low income households, again, single mothers or with children. It’s not so much to address individuals that are coming out of prison for instance.”
Further on Franklin summed up what he thought was happening with this. “So we are making specific language changes that are required by the state law. But what i am hearing you tell me is that there is not a substantive change in the actual zoning ordinance or what it allows.”
“I think it’s not a substantive change,” said Chow. “It’s making it more clear, or clarifying the issue, so that there is no doubt for anyone.”
Deputy Mayor Aguilera asked about debt we are paying. Staff replied that it was “just under 1.4 million this year.” If the money were not available from the grant, another revenue source would need to be identified apparently.
“I think for that reason I am going to have to support this,” said Aguilera, and also give the fact that “it is not substantive.” He motioned to support it.
Franklin did want to add another thought. “I just wanted to join with councilwoman Rigby in saying how much I share her dismay and what Sacramento is doing to cities in opposing these types of policies. In particularly in extending these covenants in determining what our local housing policies are going to be by holding funding that we are entitled to, that our citizens paid in tax dollars. We’re entitled to our share of. It is pretty dastardly, and I disagree with it. But our hands, as a city, are clearly tied by the actions of Sacramento.”
Councilman Cody Campbell put in a second on Aguilera’s motion, and the vote was 4-1, Rigby voting no.
Planning Commission Appeal
Quite a number of statements were made by the public regarding this item. Patsy Chow again reported to council on the matter.
The Optimist applicants requested a change in the permit to allow for a public address system to be installed. The optimist little league site plan was approved by the 1999 Planning Commission. Conditions back then stipulated that the games would be over by 10 p.m. said Chow, and the lights would be out by 10:15 pm.
Prohibited was the use of sound amplification or air horns, said Chow. Now in 2015, the commission heard the request to amend the plan. The subject site is zoned R-M 10. Surrounding it are single family and apartments.
The applicants want public address systems mounted and directed at crowds. The decibels allowed would normally be 55, but the staff recommended it be lowered to 50 decibels as a condition.
The mayor asked for disclosures which might prevent members of council to make impartial decisions. No one believed they would have any conflict. Franklin said he lived a half-mile away and did not hear the noise.
Matt Leonard spoke as the current President of the Optimist Club, saying that their goal is to help develop the youth of Vista. The point he wanted to make is that you can never know what event in a child’s life might be the thing which builds confidence and helps him succeed in life. “So I am here as the President of the club and here to support the initiative.”
Nearby resident Debbie Gilken spoke in opposition of the application. “We were guaranteed … that there would be no amplification of sound.” She also stated that in hearing the public address systems used there, the sound “amplifies out” and stated it is not a minor issue it is a major issue. She and others also believe that since the decibel testing occurred when games were not being played, it is not a valid test of the noise level. (The level sample was below 48 decibels with no games in progress.)
In the end, the council modified the conditions to allow Public Address systems, to be operated no more than 50 decibels, and use on Sundays allowed but not before noon. Hours allowed were between 9 am and 10 pm on other days of the week. Letters will be sent reminding everyone about the city codes, and a sign must be posted as well.
The applicants were successful. The council vote was 4-1, with Rigby voting no.
No cigarette ashcans
Despite the efforts of Councilwoman Rigby and the iloveacleansandiego organization, no fellow council member wished to allow the installation of cylindrical ashcans downtown, even though funding and maintenance would be donated for the project.
Cliff Kaiser stated in public comments that the Vista Village Business Association supported the idea.
Hard ending remarks
As the council was adjourning for the evening, heated remarks were brought on after Rigby tried to get an issue of the red light cameras put on the agenda.
Councilman Franklin’s dialogue with the City Attorney, in search of clarification, happened.
Within those remarks, Franklin stated “… you can’t bind the hands of a future council”and “we have the right to amend any code, ordinance or resolution with a prospective action that is not a reconsideration of a past action.”
Attorney Darold Pieper replied. “Are you suggesting revisiting the action of approving the contract [with a vendor] and terminating it? It’s not clear to me what you are proposing.”
“No, I am suggesting and would like to offer a new resolution which would provide guidance that would be different from past councils…. We have the right to amend any code, ordinance or resolution on a prospective basis. We are not bound by the action of previous councils. So it’s not a reconsideration of a past item. This is a new resolution to provide guidance in a prospective manner. “
Pieper: “It’s a question of the interpretation of policy, I would as with all parliamentary issues, propose as to the issue of putting it on agenda the chair would make the ruling on whether or not it complies with policy, and if there is disagreement from the council, either accept or overrule the chair.”
Franklin: “…we voted on this, by a vote of three, we voted that we would have the right to offer new items, and new items include changes to existing policy.”
At this point Councilman Campbell jumped in. “Point of order. I’d like to ask the city attorney if we’re getting into the realm of having discussion on how to discuss putting an item back on the agenda. I think we just agreed to place that policy back on the agenda at a future meeting for discussion at that time. But my remembrance … when this current council policy was recently adopted, this discussion came up for the potential for this exact scenario and the current policy was approved. “
Pieper: “As the council has already agreed to bring back the policy at the next meeting, so perhaps that will clarify how the council wants to treat this. But it is up to the council how they put items on this agenda.”
Franklin: “I’m confused. Was councilwoman Rigby told that the action the council took at the last meeting invalidated because it did not comply or does that actually stand? The action that puts the item on the agenda, does it stand or does it not stand?”
City Manager Patrick Johnson: “I mentioned to her that it didn’t appear to follow policy 200-04…”
Franklin: “I’d like to point out to the council that this wrong interpretation –I mean flatly wrong– is a complete repeal of our understanding of the change we made to the council policy, and I would suggest any member that does not join me in that thinking, that they are preparing to return to three members to put something on the agenda.”
“Because everything is a revisitation of something passed by a previous council,” Franklin summed up. “Everything. Every single thing.”
Mayor Ritter interjected. “Why are we not just putting everything — back on? Should we adjourn?”
Franklin: “Is it two or three?”
Franklin dropped his inquiry when told that three of the council had indeed agreed to bring this back.