Thursday, February 27, 2020

On Recusal and Representing the Public

Earlier this week I received an email from Bill Jordan regarding his project that is coming before Council next week.  In this email, Mr. Jordan requested that I recuse myself from the proceedings, and included what I interpret as a thinly veiled threat: ("I would hope you seriously contemplate my request for your immediate recusal for the obvious significant downside of not recusing yourself.").  I wonder what the obvious significant downside could be?

Below is the letter he sent:

First, I must say I'm flattered that Mr. Jordan is such an avid reader of my writing.  Rather than go line by line about various irrelevancies, I'll quote a few paragraphs from the CA Supreme Court in Fairfield vs. Superior Court:
A councilman has not only a right but an obligation to discuss issues of vital concern with his constituents and to state his views on matters of public importance. His role in the community is depicted in Todd v. City of Visalia (1967) 254 Cal. App. 2d 679 [62 Cal. Rptr. 485]. Rejecting a contention that councilmen who had acquired information outside the hearing room concerning a proposed assessment district were disqualified from voting at a hearing to determine the validity of that district, the court observed that: "A city councilman is elected usually because of his acquaintanceship and popularity. He may not be instructed on many of the technical matters to which he is called upon to pass judgment. He is frequently an extrovert, who circulates widely in the community and talks with businessmen and voters about all sorts of questions that may come before the council. He is a legislator, an administrator, and at times a quasi-judicial officer. In the present instance, it would be strange if the members of the council living and working in Visalia did not have considerable cognizance of what was going on in the city, of the efforts of [14 Cal. 3d 781] some people to form the present assessment district and of the municipal needs in this respect, fanciful or actual." (254 Cal.App.2d at p. 691.)

Many of the alleged statements on these community matters that plaintiffs seek to adduce were made during the election campaign of Campos and Jenkins. [8] Campaign statements, however, do not disqualify the candidate from voting on matters which come before him after his election. In Wollen v. Fort Lee (1958) 27 N.J. 408 [142 A.2d 881], the court stated: "[I]t would be contrary to the basic principles of a free society to disqualify from service in the popular assembly those who had made pre-election commitments of policy on issues involved in the performance of their sworn ... duties. Such is not the bias or prejudice upon which the law looks askance. ... The contrary rule of action would frustrate freedom of expression for the enlightenment of the electorate that is of the very essence of our democratic society."
Suffice to say, I will be declining Mr. Jordan's request.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 3.3.20

There is only one significant item on the agenda for the next Council meeting and that is the continued hearing of the appeals regarding the Olivia Project.  At the last meeting there were several questions posed to staff and the remainder of the hearing was continued until this next meeting.

With two Planning Commission meetings held that by all accounts were well attended, and a previous meeting at Council that was also well attended, this item clearly has a lot of public interest. I encourage people to come to the meeting and share their thoughts during public comment, and to be patient and civil.

If you have any thoughts or questions about this item please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Update: I had a typo in the title, the date of the meeting is actually Tuesday, 3/3/20 at 7pm in Hoyer Hall

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

2.18.20 Meeting Summary

Last night the Council took action on a couple significant items:

We received a staff report on four enhancements to traffic and pedestrian safety around our schools.  Those were:
  1. Replacing the traffic dots with improved thermoplastic striping to increase visibility of the lane dividers at the Pine Hollow and Mitchell Canyon Road intersection and adding interactive stop signs that flash when vehicles approach at that same location
  2. Adding interactive stop signs in downtown at the corner of Old Marsh Creek Rd. and Center St.
  3. Making the intersection in front of the middle school at Old Marsh Creek and Marsh Creek a "pedestrian scramble" so when students exit the school they will be able to cross in any direction.  Kids already do this, but this makes the light timing more effective, adjusts some traffic signage,a dn adds the appropriate striping
  4. Adding a "signal ahead" flashing light at east bound on Marsh Creek near the middle school.  My preference is that this sign be connected to the traffic light so that it flashes when there is an upcoming red light.  Due to placement requirements and distance, staff is exploring if this is feasible given available technology.
Council directed staff to investigate the possibility of additional interactive caution signs on Marsh Creek outside of the middle school, additional interactive stop signs at Mitchell Canyon and Pine Hollow, potential costs, etc. and we will resume back when more information is available.  All were supportive of each of the items above.

In addition, we also appointed five new members to the Trails and Landscape Committee (TLC).  I had previously requested the Council discuss and formalize the duties of the TLC. 

The Council directed staff to address the unclear language in the current documentation regarding TLC roles and responsibilities to make sure the city takes an inclusive approach with the TLC.  Because the TLC was established by voters, I felt it was important to ensure that the duties adopted by the Council were consistent with what the voters approved.   In recent years, the focus of the TLC appears to be more budget focused, rather than providing advice regarding other areas of the areas covered by the TLC.  Staff will draft updated guidelines and as the liaison to the TLC, myself and Councilmember Catalano will review the updated language and update as necessary to be brought back before Council when finished.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Upcoming Council Meeting 2.18.20

There are a few significant items on the agenda for the upcoming meeting:
  • A discussion about pedestrian safety enhancements near our schools.  I had requested this as a previous action item at the 4.2.19 meeting and the Council discussed a number of items at the 5.7.19 meeting.  At that time the Council directed staff to pursue a number of options and to report back periodically on progress.  There are four main prongs that are being advanced currently - updating striping and replacing certain pavement dots to enhance visibility near the elementary school, interactive stop signs near the elementary school, a pedestrian scramble style intersection near the middle school, and advanced warning lights near the middle school.
  • A discussion about the roles and responsibility of the Trails and Landscape Committee (TLC).  After the TLC shed several members, I thought it would be a prudent time to discuss the role of this group as envisioned by the ballot initiatives approved by Clayton residents.
If you have any thoughts or questions about any of these items please comment or contact me and I'll do my best to respond or find out more and report back.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

2.4.20 Meeting Summary

Last night there was only one significant item on the agenda and that was the appeals related to the Olivia Project on Marsh Creek and High St.  Ultimately the Council took no action as there were a number of questions raised of staff and prior to any discussion by Council we felt it prudent to wait until staff has a chance to respond to those questions.

I am glad that the community was able to be present in significant numbers to make their voices heard.  Ultimately as an elected official my role is to represent the people and hearing from folks at the meetings, and through any other channel is the best way to ensure I can represent their interests.

Both Councilmember Catalano and Mayor Pierce offered ideas that for the applicant to consider and if these come to fruition could increase available parking at the project significantly.  I thought both of these ideas had potential and I hope they are given serious consideration.

Staff will take the questions from Council and address them.  The meeting was continued until our regularly scheduled meeting on March 3.  Below are the questions I posed:

Independent of any potential questions I may have after hearing back from staff, I asked the following:

  • Contiguous parcels - why was the application for three separate parcels submitted together?  The parcels are located in a PD zone, which indicates a project can consist of multiple contiguous parcels.  The parcels in question however are not contiguous.
  • Why was the criteria to meet the exemption for Class 32 Infill changed from statute? Item C in the CEQA statute says that for a project to qualify, among other things, it must "occur[s] within city limits on a project site of no more than five acres substantially surrounded by urban uses." However, in the staff report this requirement is described as, "occurs within the city limits on a project site of no more than five acres, surrounded by developed areas". "Developed areas" is different than "urban uses". I asked for clarification on the definition of these terms, as well as whether the surrounding zoning of "rural estate" is consistent with urban uses. By my read being urban seems to be mutually exclusive from being rural.
  • What was the onus for the city to engage Raney as a third party?  Is a third party required?
  • Can the report include actual reports and work papers from the consultants engaged, rather than just the summaries.  I asked for a table of the various consultants and who engaged them.
  • Staff report indicated that parking could not occur on Marsh Creek Rd and wanted to verify if that was accurate?
  • What are reasonable nexus and proportionality in terms of conditions of approval?  Applicant attorney's opinion conflicts with staff report about the existence of nexus.
  • I inquired about property tax calculation methodology for both special assessments and ad valorem taxes.
  • What is the delineation between concessions and waivers, in what ways are they the same, and how are they treated differently under density bonus law?
  • I asked if it was appropriate to have a CEQA exemption without an attached project?  It seems like the Planning Commission determined that something was exempt from CEQA, but it wasn't the project in question since that was not approved.
  • How is the project to be consistent with the General Plan, specifically the items called out by Mr. Hummer in his appeal?
  • How have we addressed certain things identified in the letter from Michael Baker International? For example, using Concord rental rates, the assumption that contingencies and developer's fees were included in the ROI analysis, that the parking study data was based on only three sites located in Pennsylvania from data collected in 2008, for an age group that skewed higher than the proposed development, and the local setting that is rural with limited shopping and employment opportunities and transit options all of which would influence upward the rate of auto ownership. This report also indicated that residents would likely seek nearby on street parking in Stranahan and that this was not discussed or addressed..  It was the opinion of Michael Baker International that the parking analysis did not demonstrate that the parking provided is consistent with the CA parking experience, nor did the study provide sufficient evidence that the proposed parking supply will not cause parking impacts in adjacent residential neighborhoods.  I asked for staff to address these items.
  • I asked about the Fair argument standard and how it applies to CEQA analysis?

I also intended to ask about the applicability of fire risk as it pertains to CEQA review, in pulling from one of the appellants but I didn't get to during the meeting.  I will be asking about this directly from staff to include in their responses.

If anyone has further questions, please reach out and I'll see what I can find out.