Wednesday, February 6, 2019

2.5.19 Meeting Summary

As mentioned previously, there were a few key matters discussed at the meeting last night.  A quick summary:

  • The previous ordinance regarding temporary non-commercial signs on private property was unconstitutionally restrictive.  The Council directed staff to prepare a change to that ordinance to reflect a maximum individual sign of no greater than 16 sqft.
  • The Ad Hoc Committee (Councilmember Wolfe and myself) that was formed last meeting reported back to the full council our recommendations.  The Council then directed staff to prepare a resolution consistent with those recommendations for a pilot preferential parking program in certain affected areas near Regency Gate on a pilot basis.
  • There was a report regarding the City's use of Glyphosate (Round Up) and associated safety measures taken when that is done.  We heard information about how areas being sprayed are indicated and the Mayor agreed to include a note in her next column to help publicize the practice.
  • We discussed the ongoing goals of the city and the potential for creating a report out on the status and associated metrics related to these goals.  The Council declined to direct staff to take action on this item.
A few more detailed thoughts:

Temporary Non-Commercial Signs:

Staff discussed several cases where the issue of sign size was limited and provided overall guidance on what had previously been struck down and what had been upheld in the courts.  There was a sentiment to avoid sign blight, the city should adopt an ordinance as restrictive as possible as to size that is consistent with the law.  I took a different approach here.  I think the first amendment and speech are critically important.  The protections over speech are not necessary to express views that are popular.  Free speech protections are needed for expressing views that are unpopular.  It is in protecting unpopular speech that we demonstrate our principles.  Any time speech is being restricted I would challenge the basis on which such restrictions rest upon.  

And while I personally would not want to see the city littered with signs of all manner, the principle of free speech supersedes my desire for aesthetics.  Ultimately the Council directed staff to come back with a draft ordinance that limits individual signs to no greater than 16 sqft, without any aggregate limit and no time based limit.  The vote was 4-1, I was opposed because I would have not imposed such a restriction.

Regency Gate and Parking Permits:

The proposal that the the Ad Hoc Committee (see page 59 of the agenda packet) returned with was a compromise that attempted to alleviate some of the residents' concerns while maintaining public access to the park.  It would not create any restriction on large areas of Regency Dr., including space for approximately 20 vehicles immediately adjacent to the trail head access point, as well as an additional 20-30 spaces a short walk away (Google Maps says 4 mins).  The restriction focuses on areas in front of people's homes only on weekends and holidays during the daytime.

What the proposal does is attempt to provide continued parking on a limited basis for anyone who wants to enjoy the park. Many of the areas on the affected streets would be unchanged by this proposal. There would still remain room for 40-50 cars at designated locations, which is quite a lot for a residential street. We would have signage recommending the designated parking area at the Mitchell Canyon Staging lot, where the fees are nominal and are used for the benefit of the State Park. In my view, this attempts to balance the interests of the residents most impacted, and others who will continue to utilize and enjoy the park and its trails. 

To be clear, the city is under no obligation to take any action. Given the fact pattern – a public road with long standing access to the State Park, the path of least resistance is to do nothing. Knowing the area and what’s been going on there with regard to parking, I am sympathetic to the sentiment of the local residents. That’s why I volunteered to be on the ad-hoc committee to look at this matter and bring it back to the full Council. When we talk about quality of life, quiet enjoyment, I’m right there with the residents. 

There is also suggestion that it’s not that bad, or that the park was there first and the residents should just deal with it, or that somehow social media can be guided to not recommend this area to park.  Respectfully, I disagree. I’ve been there multiple times on weekends and the crowds are unwieldy. As I mentioned before, this is a matter of concentrated costs to the residents, and diffused benefits for everyone else. Suffice to say, with the publicity around the Regency Gate area, that cat is out of the bag and there isn’t a way to put it back.  Sure outreach can be done and that may have marginal benefits. But there is no policing the internet. People can say whatever they want, and as long as what they are recommending remains legal (public parking on the street), then that is what they say, and what they will do.

We also considered the potential of spillover, or that other areas in the city could be impacted in a similar way.  To address this we proposed a process whereby if certain criteria are met we could address those as well.

Ultimately the Council directed staff to prepare a resolution consistent with those recommendations for a pilot preferential parking program in certain affected areas near Regency Gate on a pilot basis.  The vote was 3-2 with myself, Councilmembers Wolfe and Diaz in favor.  Mayor Catalano and Vice Mayor Pierce were opposed.

Council Goals:

In borrowing from my work in the private sector, I asked the for a report out on the status of our goals and a rough outline of how the goals would be accomplished.  This would be for the purpose of informing the public, and a way to highlight the accomplishments of the city.  Ultimately the Council determined that this wasn't necessary as we already get a weekly report on these goals.  As a result, I will use the information provided to us and provide updates as to our goals in an effort to share some of the major efforts the city is undertaking.