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.