Planning Commission Dives Into Brea Place.

Planning Commission Study Session was the calm before the storm. Chairman James McGrade clarified options for the public hearing and meeting closure and Commissioner Jim Grosse commented on how little time they had to digest an unusually large volume of documentation.

It became quickly obvious that the Hines matter could require at least another 3 or 4 meetings before reaching a point where the Commission’s final deliberation might be possible.

Standing room only.

Stepping into the Council chambers, the Commission was confronted with an SRO crowd that probably made the Fire Marshal a bit nervous. It was a sea of red and a handful of suits sporting bright green thumbs up pinned on mini signs.

Following the obligatory invocation and flag salute plus a well earned commendation to outgoing Commissioner George Ullrich, the meeting headed straight into the Staff Report on the Hines project.

Director of Development David Crabtree opened with a site history lesson that, for most if not all in the room, was unnecessary. Eager to get to the real issues, twenty minutes of anecdotes seemed a bit much. Considering Brea is celebrating its Centennial this year it could have been worse.

Associate Planner Star Haro followed with a longer than necessary overview of project details, all of which were common knowledge to everyone in the room. If the 99 page 240 MB PDF of the full project plans in the information packet is any indication, Hines has a major dog-and-pony show queued up to present at the next meeting.

Next, Assistant City Attorney Stephen Flower was called upon to bail through the legalese related to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Aside from the fact that this was an obvious coverup to mask the inappropriate, if not illegal, reliance upon 14 year old data, Mr. Flower’s sideshow was another 30 minutes none of us will never get back.

Given the nature of what was shared, how it was shared, this was clearly building a foundation to justify using an addendum to the 2003 EIR. A clever ploy to bypass an Initial Study and avoid a public comment period where resident’s questions and concerns must be included in the public record and answered in writing.

Next stop, Fantasyland.

A conglomerate of preemptive rationale supporting reliance upon a General Plan long overdue for an update and a companion Environmental Impact Report (EIR) from 2003, the Staff Report was singularly unconvincing.

Planning mumbo jumbo from beginning to end. It was less what one might expect as a rationale behind recommendations to the Commission as it was an attempt to prep everyone in the room to swallow the idea that there are no environmental impacts in the Hines project requiring serious review.

How gullible and ignorant does the City Planner think we are? Did she think the heavily inflated 2,000 pages of documentation would overwhelm the Commissioners and general public, discouraging them from digging for the truth?

Obviously, hearing the public comments, that ploy didn’t work. Personally I found Ms. Lilley’s incessant little smirks as one after another stepped to the podium and thoroughly challenged the veracity of the Staff Report, arrogant and dismissive.

A public hearing worth hearing.

If you missed it you missed better than average public hearing. Of the 27 who stepped to the podium, only two supported the project and one other was essentially neutral.

If I use the convoluted algorithm Brea Envisions uses to project public opinion, 88.8% of Brea residents oppose the Hines project.

They object to the unconscionable distortion of the development process and are angry that they are being systematically excluded from having meaningful input. They believe it’s too big, too dense and doesn’t come close to fitting into their small town environment.

The remaining 11.4% are split between a questionable support for the project and the inability to take a stance that night.

The Brea Chamber weighs in.

Something to ponder. Heidi Gallegos, Brea Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer, brought a message of support last night for the Hines project.

She said the Chamber voted their support on August 21, 2016… six months before the subject of an addendum was mentioned or the massive pile of documents relating to the project were released.

What could have been their source of information?

I wonder if the Chamber’s Chairman of the Board, John Koos, might have played a role? After all, his company, Core Communications, is the local consultant to Hines on the Brea Place project and is taking home a big fat paycheck as a result.

Also speaking in favor of Brea Place was the Chambers Vice Chair of Finance and Operations, Bill Murray with Edward Jones Investments. Maybe the Chamber should revisit how they define a conflict of interest and what their relationship is with the folks of Brea.

Bill Hall straddles the fence.

Bill Hall, BOUSD Board Member, after sharing some insider humor with Commission Chair McGrade, told everyone not to worry about Brea schools being unable to handle a student influx from the Brea Place project.

Apparently they can accommodate 367 more kids in elementary school, 39 in the Junior High and 590 at the High School.

After chiding the audience about paying more attention to leaking roofs and swimming pools sliding downhill, he inferred that the district would receive enough funds to handle to increase in enrollment.

On one hand, this is a discussion better suited for the school board meetings. On the other hand, if folks have reservations regarding impact on Brea schools, shouldn’t this get a fair hearing with the Planning Commission as well?

In the future, I would love to see a little more transparency from the Brea Chamber of Commerce and the BOUSD Board of Directors. Not going to hold my breath however. The big fat rumor du jour is that Hall is eyeing a seat on Council in 2018.

Sorry Bill. Your dubious record on the BOUSD Board, including failed attempts to sensibly finance the district and the deplorable condition of Brea schools is more than enough reason to banish you to Clean Sweepville. You have no business on Council.

The people speak.

Twenty-three bona fide, unaffiliated residents of 9282, addressed the commission. They raised a lengthy, well articulated, civilly delivered litany of objections pointing out contradictions, inaccuracies, unsupported claims and utter falsehoods in the staff report and related attachments.

Hats off to Ken, Art, Ron, Sharon, Barry, David, Robert, Jason, Jackie, Chris, James, Keith, John, Eric, Bill, Rosemary, Zim, Arthur, Brian, Alicia, Maka, Denise, Bill and Blake.

Sharon Beauman shared a communication from her husband John, former Council member and Mayor, who had a prior commitment. Others commenting with a clear understanding of the details were Ken Salizar who shared…

“By preparing an Addendum instead of a standalone environmental study, the City Planner attempts to use consistency with the General Plan EIR as a substitute for fully identifying and disclosing the Brea Place project’s impacts.

We are not opposed to development in the city but we do demand that it be done in a responsible and collaborative manner and in compliance with existing environmental laws.”

Also Art Natera who added…

“The proposed Addendum does not consider specific cumulative impacts from other recent projects, such as La Floresta and Central Park Village, concluding significant air quality and traffic impacts.

By using an Addendum rather than a standalone environmental analysis, the City Planner is avoiding looking at specific project impacts and the aggregate effects combined with the many nearby projects.”

And Zim Walker concluded…

“I’m a resident of the Avocado neighborhood and a retired law enforcement officer. As an officer one of my duties was to gather evidence in order to determine if a crime had been committed. Also, I have a long history of community policing.

I am keenly aware of the critical importance of real public engagement. How else would I gather the evidence for making my determinations?

I also recognize a smoking gun when I see one.

I’m afraid that the City knew how much interest there would be in the Brea Place project and specifically jumped to the Addendum process to avoid proper public involvement.”

Until next time.

As many expected, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to continue the item until their next meeting on March 28th. Hines will make their full project presentation and additional time for public comment will be allowed again.

Frankly, I cannot imagine what motives might be driving Planning to twist facts beyond recognition in an attempt to justify dodging CEQA, a new EIR and public scrutiny.

Nothing I could conjure up would possibly come close to justifying the charade being perpetrated upon the citizens of Brea.

Brea 92821