Tuesday, February 12, 2008

General Plan Meeting

Well, last night was the special joint planning/council workshop session on planning issues, including an update on the general plan. As noted in the agenda in my previous post, there were several issues that were actually being presented.

The meeting was a little over half an hour late because the council had a closed session meeting (at City Hall, which meant they had to drive to Ganesha Park afterward) to discuss the city manager situation (nothing to report). By the time the meeting began the room was full with standing room only. It appears that the mayor sent out 5,000 letters inviting the community to this meeting. Interestingly, no one from Lincoln Park that I've talked to received any of these invitations. I asked a staff member about them and he said that he understood that they all went to Phillips Ranch and Ganesha Hills (although I found out that a lot of them were received in the Yorba area as well. Hmmmm, Districts 5 & 6. Norma's old district (now Stephen Atcheley's) and Elliott Rothman's district. So people in districts 1, 2, 3, & 4 (or most of the city) are less interested in public safety than those North of the 10 or South of the 60. Seems like a whole lot of city who might have benefited from notification. I guess the message is that Councilmembers Hunter, Lantz, Carrizosa, and Rodriguez aren't as important (my I'm awfully catty for one who posts under their own name).

It appears that they were chosen because of the first issue, neighborhood safety (which was actually about group homes and sexual predators/Jessica's Law). This was especially evident when the majority of them left after the first item was discussed. Even the mayor had more important things to do as she left after item 4 was presented (the general plan) but before public comment. So much for wanting to LEARN and get public input (the purpose of a study session) . But then with the extremely small crowd that was still there at 9:00 pm I guess she figured that staff would fill her in if anything important happened.

Enough of the politics, onto the issues.:

The first two items discussed were, as noted, regarding neighborhood safety. The city attorney is finally looking at extreme measures to control the exceedingly large number of sober living and parolee homes in the city. It was noted that Pomona has a larger number of these, as a percentage of population, than any of our neighboring cities. I must say that I was impressed with the hard-line that the city attorney's office is looking at in regards to what they can legally do. They displayed a map (which they've promised would be posted on the city web site) which showed the areas where sexual predators would be restricted from living. Almost the entire map was restricted as they had overlapping areas where children might gather such as schools, parks, daycare centers, fast food places with "kiddie playgounds," bus stops, etc.

There was a lot of public comment on these two issues (they separated sexual predators from others). Most of it was, of course, in favor of the highest level of restriction on these types of homes possible.

The next issue up was Downtown liquor licenses. The report discussed the problem with "grandfathered" licensees. Newer licenses have to go through a CUP (Conditional Use Permit) process which sets up restrictions on the business. However, licenses that were given without CUPs or with lax CUPs can't be forced to comply with newer regulations. Things like security cameras, security plans, etc. are normal for newer projects. As an example, the Fox Theater, in order to get its license had to submit a security plan to the Police Department and is required to adhere to that plan or risk losing their license. Older liquor stores in the area, particularly, don't have any such CUP protections for the community. A method for controlling these older licensees was implemented in Oakland and the city attorney is drafting an ordinance for Pomona based on the Oakland model.

There was a lot of discussion between the planning commission and the council on where trouble spots are (especially along Holt--not as much downtown) and the kinds of things that they'd like to see enforced. The planning commission is on record as making a lot of CUP requirements for new licenses which go all the way to insisting on upkeep of building AND landscaping as well as security cameras and other requirements.

Finally, the staff gave a report on the General Plan. Basically, they've met with all of the councilmembers individually and asked them for input on what they felt that they wanted for development in their districts. Staff has come up with a modified map which will serve as a starting point for general plan discussion. Gone are the "corridors" which the council had so reviled last June. As Councilman Hunter noted, unfortunately, this looks more like a map of the past and not a map of where we want to go" (quote paraphrased). The council appeared to have good ideas, but staff tended to want to "play it safe," so things really didn't look that much changed.

There were only two speakers on this issue from the public (which represented about 1/4 of the remaining audience). I spoke to the fact that last June the council had reacted badly to the increases in density which were based on projected population growth. I suggested that the council might want to revise the growth figures so that we weren't adding additional population without corresponding infrastructure. As Planning Commissioner Arturo Jimenez pointed out, there have been a lot of apartments and condos built in south Pomona without a single new policeman, fireman, or repairs to roads.

The other speaker was John Mendoza who basically asked that the council think about the citizens and not create a future slum.

The staff promised to update the map with the information that the had received and will be bringing it back for more discussion in the next few months. Planning Commissioner Tim Saunders noted such a meeting needed to be held when the public could participate as he knew of several people had left who wanted to give input on the general plan.

Commissioner Saunders had also suggested that the rest of the agenda be postponed as the public had left and it was getting late (about 9:30 pm). Vice Mayor Hunter agreed to postpone the rest of the items.

It was a long night with most of the audience who was in attendance early, leaving very confused as to what was going on.

Also, in answer to Hank Fung's comment on my previous post: Yes, the problems seem to revolve around a toxic planning department. However I am somewhat impressed with Interim Community Development Director Mark Lazaretto and hope that he and Planning Manager Brad Johnson can turn things around. This Appeared to be a good start. But we will need to be vigilant as it's likely that this general plan will end up lasting 30 or more years as well.

11 comments:

Dublius said...

Thanks for the report!

Hank Fung said...

On the other hand, the planning leadership has always "appeared" impressive, but then for whatever reason disappear. The line staff are capable and perform the job within the tight parameters of upper management. Constant turnover helps no one.

The other problem with a self made General Plan is that it risks not meeting all of the requirements we toss at it. From the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, Regional Transportation Plan, Regional Comprehensive Plan, etc., etc., it is easy to get bogged down in the details, which is why you hire planning consultants to do the job in the first place. LeClaire seemed to want to attempt to do the whole plan himself, and I hope Johnson realizes that you need professional help to do these things. More meetings are great, which means that I get to do participate in the advisory process yet again (which is fine, although I would have liked to see more participation from the rest of the city.

John Clifford said...

Hank,

That's why Appeared was in italics. I really like Mark Lazzaretto and think that he'd be good to work with (something I never felt from Matt Bassi or Charles LeClaire). However, the Mark is the interim Community Services Manager and we still don't know who the new City Manager will be. A new City Manager will set the tone for the staff and for the direction of the city, even more so than our elected council.

With any luck at all, we should get a new City Manager who can fix the "toxic" atmosphere at city hall. But at this point, only time will tell.

And a belated thank you to you and all those who served on the committees for the general plan. Unfortunately I came into the process late. I believe that the committees need to meet with the council and understand their vision of development in Pomona as well. The makeup of the council has changed somewhat with the last election and that also needs to be taken into account as no matter how much effort you put into the process, they're the ones with the final say.

Garrett Sawyer said...

I live in district 2 and I get invitations occasionally, so I think it's districts 5,6, and people who have utilized the Access E Pomona portion of the city's website.
I do agree though, the people who are most concerned with safety would most likely be the people who live in the areas with most crime and blight. On the other hand, it's possible that district's 5 and 6 would seem more concerned because those districts have achieved less safety issues. It could go either way I suppose.

About the General plan, I have an idea that really isn't a necessity, but I'd like to see a new mall with around the same square footage as the Montclair Plaza in place of the indoor swap meet, you know, restore Pomona's shopping opportunity to it's formal glory. I think this could be achieved, it could utilize more vertical space to compensate for the lack of horizontal space on that property due to the adjacent school and what-not. There could also be a parking Garage. That would stimulate growth on that side of town which at times seems very crude, especially along Holt. Maybe someone could bring that to the council's attention.

It just seems to me that Claremont and Montclair shot up in value after the Plaza was constructed, which in turn drew business away from Pomona. We need to be the leader in shopping again, seriously.
Downtown urban transit oriented development is fine and everything but we need to recreate the past but in a modern way in certain areas, such as the old mall.

John Clifford said...

Garrett,

We'd ALL like to see a major regional mall in Pomona. The city council would like it, redevelopment would like it, the citizens would like it. But the reality is that the development community looks at Pomona's demographics and we end up with swap meets and 99c stores.

The site of the Indoor Swap Meet is probably one of the most undesireable places in the city right now. High crime, too far from the freeway, property mostly taken up by schools, etc.

If you know a developer interested in buildings such a mall in Pomona, PLEASE, let someone know. While these things are easy to suggest, the reality is that we can't force malls, chain stores, restaurants, etc. to locate where they don't want to. Until we can make Pomona so undeniably important to these folks, the we're not likely to see them locating here.

Our goal is to make Pomona a place that people will want to come. How? By cleaning up the city, creating historic neighborhoods that attract people to places like Pasadena, Orange, etc. and by offering quality of life issues that are unique. Only then will we be able to attract the kind of businesses that we need, desire, and deserve.

Ed said...

The indoor swap meet/school property is yet another conundrum for the city of Pomona. How about the school district's real estate holdings on south Garey Avenue?

I see the property on Holt as a potential mixed-used development. If you topped it off with housing, the views from those units would be amazing. And with the improvements in Holt that we've seen on the Montclair side, who knows what could happen. Of course, didn't Pomona just move forward with a trash transfer station down there. Who said the city of Pomona doesn't have VISION!

Oh yeah, there is the collapsing real estate market, but cheers to Garrett for at least thinking outside the box.

Garrett Sawyer said...

Yeah, the problem with Pomona is the real estate IS, literally, collapsing. Not all, but some...

I went onto Google Maps and looked for the Mall, guess what? If you all do it for yourselves too you'll see that the Montclair Plaza is exactly diagonally located north east from the swap meet, and as we all know, located adjacent to the 10 fwy. What a conspiracy! Montclair intended on turning us into Poormona, it was their plan all along. lol.

I still think something could be done with that place...something that will scare the ghetto out of it. If no one wants to, there has to be an area of Pomona large enough to build a mall (better than the Montclair Plaza), near a freeway, and and easy to buy out. There just has to be somewhere that demolition is welcomed. *evil laugh*

I'm thinking the General Dynamics site. I think it would be a waste to build anything but something large there. I've read Pomona has plans for that area, but their plans are wrong...lol.

John Clifford said...

Garrett,

The GD site will not be developed until after the grade separation to make the 71 an actual freeway there. Hopefully by then a regional center will be attractive, right now it's not and all plans have been for more housing.

The best bet right now for a large center is the merging of the Home Depot center with the now vacant Wonder Bread Bakery site. It's very large, right off 2 freeways and seems like a slam dunk.

Now it's up to Ray Fong and redevelopment to try and put together a package that a developer will find attractive.

Garrett Sawyer said...

And!! heres the best part about that area...It's really close to Chino Hills, so basically, a developer might actually consider it. lol. But where will Home Depot relocate? :( I guess theres always Lowes in Chino Hills for people to go to instead, but I don't think Home Depot will leave without a fight. I suppose as I mentioned before if the developement were more than a few stories it would utilize more vertical space instead of requiring more land. I think a good sized Mall and enough parking could be built on the Wonder bread property alone without merging with the MarketPlace property if there was a parking garage and several stories of retail space. ANother possibility would be the land between the 60, 71, Riverside Dr. and Resevoir Ave. could be used. That's just dreaming though... Theres already several businesses there so It would be kind of hard. It would be soo great, there is so many on and off ramps in that area, and it would increase property values to the north where theres so much gang activity. *Day dreams*

John Clifford said...

Toys R Us has already stated that they're leaving and Circuit City doesn't seem committed to the space either, so that leaves Home Depot and Office Max. Both could be conceivably integrated into a regional style mall. And, yes, close to Chino Hills.

Garrett Sawyer said...

Well, that's good to hear. I won't be the least bit sad or sorry to see when Toys R' Us leaves because all of my toys can be found at Home Depot and BestBuy at this stage in life...lol.