State College Controversy Grows.

Last week’s public meeting regarding the State College controversy has stimulated a significant amount of chatter, comment and email. Jim Grosse, former Brea Planning Commissioner, whose home is contiguous to the State College properties, attended the meeting and was motivated to correspond with Council. With permission, I reprint it here.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Honorable Mayor and City Council,

JimG_400This memo concerns the proposed “State College Slope Enhancements” and the use of CFDs. I attended the meeting on June 23, but am an unaffected homeowner. I appreciate the attendance at the meeting by staff, Eric Nicoll and Bill Bowlus. At least one council member should have attended.

There was a lot at stake for the 44 homeowners. It was explained that Option 3 was out of the question. However it was the only one that really solved the problem in a permanent fashion. Options #1 & #2 are merely band-aids. Option #2 suggested a patchwork of replacement fences. This fact was not going to be disclosed until I brought it up. Thus rewarding those with poor conditions while those with fences in good repair paying the same increased assessment. What happens the next time those folks replace their fences?

With an overlay in place will they have to bear that cost? The overlay voted for in 2005 on the 28 homes south of State College has only resulted in four conforming fences in over nine years. Problem not solved.

These suggested options will never get a 2/3’s vote. Two things were achieved; we wasted $24K on the consultant and insulted these neighbors with the suggested tax increase, in all 3 options. Option #1 – $52K, Option 2 – $170K, Option #3 – $466K. Option #3 includes another 28 homeowners which I understand will pay an equal share for a six foot fence as a neighbor with 25 foot wall. Correct?

At least four of our council members are homeowners and three own multiple properties. Would you think this something acceptable to you? These homes are valued at $500K to $700K. In the end the benefit to the home’s value is about $10K, until you consider disclosing a CFD in the above stated numbers. It might even lower value and salability.

These options should have never been placed on the table. State College needs fixing. It would be a community benefit. But it should be paid by the community as a whole or find a funding source. Any council member claiming to be a “fiscal conservative” or ran on a platform of “not raising taxes” should rethink the position. For a couple of you this is an election year.

Question? On the presentation handout there is a stated General Fund Responsibility of $14,500. The Resident Cost for Maintenance is $324, or for 44 properties is $14,256 per year. Is this the same money or co-payment so to speak?

Question? Can we define “Financing Cost?” An additional cost to the homeowner?

Question? Is there a accounting function that assures the resident this is not an income stream?  Apples to apples?

The bigger issue is CFDs as a policy. What’s next? It could be in your backyard. The recent Madrona decision there was a comment “Let the buyer beware”. That is okay as long as it is disclosed in bold print and explained. But what we are asking of the folks on Buttonwood and Candlewood is just not fair. Think about two categories, the first time buyer, struggling to make that monthly payment or the senior folks who are on a fixed income.

As a planning commissioner who voted on “Central Park Village” we certified the project and the EIR just to let the developer get started with the project. Commissioner John Koos and I insisted the council look at the suggested CFD. Although the EIR stated there was no need for additional public safety funds, it was the ramification for the CFD.

I appreciate your service and understand the fine line in decision making. Double taxation and taxes not placed in equity is not right. I welcome your response.

Best Regards,

Jim Grosse

We want answers and we want them delivered publicly.

Jim Grosse has raised at least a dozen or more key questions that demand an answer prior to Council coming to any conclusion regarding the State College corridor. It should start with having the “summary memorandum” prepared as a formal staff report, presented during the main Council meeting held in chambers.

Reviewing this in study session is a blatant rejection of reasonable transparency in government.

The public should not be limited to commenting during matters from the audience, but should be afforded the opportunity of a formal public hearing. The precedents that could possibly be set here are wide ranging and likely to impact the entire community, not just the 44 homeowners selected as the target du jour.

Grass roots mail/email campaign?

Ray Ribal wondered, in his comment on “State College Slopes Need A Facelift” would a mail/email campaign have any effect? I’m not inclined to believe so, but would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.

Lets all keep a sharp eye on this and, as necessary, be prepared to hold Council accountable for maintaining open communications with us and for promoting greater transparency in government.