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.

An Oh So Blustery Day.

Thanks to the high winds today, the skies over Brea were uncommonly clear… except for the curious puffs of white smoke coming from just east of the 57 freeway. Eerily reminiscent of the first signs of the Triangle Fire, I hustled in that direction to see if another conflagration was starting.

Thankfully, the answer was no.

The smoke was coming from a couple of dozers up on the hillside in the new Blackstone development. However, as I stared at the scalped hillsides, I began having a few questions, none the least of which was, “I wonder why so few people around town have any clue what’s happening up here?”

So, I did a little surfing.

Here’s what I gleaned from a brief article on the City of Brea website.  Blackstone is a sanctioned County of Orange project.  All construction is being overseen by the County. As phase one (sold out) becomes occupied, Brea will work out some sort of annexation arrangement and begin the provision of public services to residents.

Where are we with this? What is the additional burden on city services and what is the projected property and sales tax increment from those living in these mini-mansions? Will we at least make a couple of bucks to help bolster our reserves?

Built in four phases, Blackstone (a joint effort between Shea Homes and Standard Pacific Homes) will feature 795 new homes.  Having skirted Brea’s hard-nosed Planning Department and, except for a dog and pony show on the hillside repair and enhancements, the Planning Commission, I wonder how many of these homes would have made it to the final development agreement?

If “La Floresta” and “Central Park Brea,” on the old hospital site, are any indication, Blackstone would still be about five years away from breaking ground and would be limited to less than 300 homes.

Digging a little deeper.

Blackstone’s website, pretty minimalist by developer standards, says that in addition to Blackstone’s big lot, über-stylish mini-mansions, the development will feature a robust recreation center with “wading pool, Junior Olympic pool, spa, outdoor fireplace, barbecue and children’s water activity center.

As if this weren’t plush enough, Blackstone will also incorporate walking trails, six pocket parks (one with a tot lot), and a 14-acre linear park (Wildcatter’s Park – will be turned over to the city), dog park, fancy schmancy gazebo and a variety of sports fields rivaling our new Birch Street Sports Park (20 acres).

Will we be competing with ourselves?

Didn’t I hear a lot of pushback when folks talked about having some of these amenities at the new Sports Park? Now it’s okay to put these things in a pseudo-private residential neighborhood? Will the HOA take on the costs? Or, like Central Park Brea, will these parks be open to all?  Answers… I think we deserve answers.

When the city “takes over” Blackstone, whatever that might mean, I’m feeling some big, on-going infrastructure maintenance expenses on the horizon and what do we know about them?  Precious little.

Folks used to trust Hills For Everyone to watchdog stuff like this but I found no mention of Blackstone anywhere on their website.

Their mission statement is, “To protect, preserve and restore the environmental resources and natural environs of the Puente-Chino Hills and surrounding areas for the enjoyment of current and succeeding generations and to initiate, sponsor, promote, organize and carry out plans, programs, and activities that will tend to further these ends.”

I guess Blackstone doesn’t fall under the “surrounding areas” provision. I checked out their “Current Projects & Threats” info and, though there are 14 items listed, not one says squat about Blackstone.

Hmmm, maybe a better name for the group might be Only Some Hills For A Few Of Us. Naw… that’s too long and difficult to remember. Besides, it’s not really that flattering either.

Still wonder why we need accountability and open governance?

Didn’t think so.

OC Register Says No On Measure E.

– – – – – Update: 06.06.12 – – – – –

Brea voters defeat Measure E, saving property owners millions in increased taxes and preventing a massive legacy of debt from being passed on to their children. Now it’s time to sweep out all the old deadwood from the School Board and put some creative thinking, fiscally responsible people in control.

– – – – – – – Original Post: 06.04.12 – – – – – – – 

The Orange Country Register strongly opposes Measure E, the $54 million General Obligation bond that will put Brea homeowners deeper and deeper in debt without offering anything remotely looking like a detailed plan to spend it. The 20 year plan on the school district’s website is woefully lacking project specific information.

Here’s what the OCR Editorial Board has to say, “Measure E – NO – This measure would increase by $54 million Brea Olinda schools’ bond burden to build facilities with a mere 55-percent vote. Taxes would increase $9 a year on each $100,000 of a property’s assessed valuation.

We calculate that to be $40.50 a year for a new homeowner. Homes purchased before about 2002 would be assessed less because of Proposition 13 protections. But costs could jump as high as $34 per $100,000 in fiscal year 2028-29, or $153 a year for a $455,000 home.

Government money is fungible, meaning this increase for “facilities” could be used to free money for any other purpose, including teacher and administrator salaries and operating expenses.”

To see what the OCR has to say about other ballot measures, go to: “Recommendations for June 5 ballot

Hopefully, tomorrow, cooler heads will prevail and the very expensive media blitz produced by the small special interest group feigning interest in our kid’s education will be foiled. They say it’s for the kids. It’s not.

Do the right thing, vote NO on Measure E.

Your kids and neighbors will thank you for years to come.