Monday, March 2, 2009

City Council Meeting tonight

The agenda is a little beefy. If readers find concern or interest regarding a particular item, please comment.

City Council Agenda 3/2/09

I'm worried about Item 22 (Public Hearing-Zoning code amendment). This amendment covers construction of fences and walls. I believe, currently, the city only requires permits for masonry walls over 4 feet. This amendment would extend the permit requirement to other forms of fencing.

Here's the problem. If this amendment is passed in its current form replacing your fence in a historic district will now require a Major COA (Certificate of Appropriateness). If you haven't been reading my snarky comments on the tree ordinance, you might have missed that a Major COA will cost you $500. Even before a single hole is dug or a screw is purchased, a homeowner in the historic district will be $500 poorer if they want to replace their fence.

Does every resident in the city get smacked with a hefty permit fee. Nope. In fact, based on comments included in Item 22, the members of the Planning Commission apparently were concerned about the cost of the permit for the rest of the city, but still decided to require a Major COA (knowing it would cost $500) for historic district residents.

Can we swap out a standard dog-eared fence for another dog-eared fence? If so, should it require giving the city $500? Will the $500 yield better fences in the historic districts? I'm not opposed to some oversight, even at the possible risk of homogenizing the fence styles. Does it make sense to be yanking $500 out of people's pocket when they want to improve their property? With trees and fences, can we find some way to fast track these alterations and decrease the time investment of the Planning Department, as well as allow review by the HPC.

It's your money (or the little old lady's, on the corner). Speak up! The Council members with historic districts are Soto, Atchley, and Lantz. Send them an email, if you can't attend.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that 99.9 % of the front yard fences put in in Lincoln Park are stupid and mess up the streetscape in the neighborhood. If this $500 fee gets passed it might slow or stop this front yard trend.
If you feel the need to separate your area from your neighbors...grow a hedge.
Of course this is just my opinion and I'm sure some people love these fences.
Mark

Anonymous said...

Me again ..... when we lived in south Pomona, many if not most of the yards that have front yard fences also tended to have huge dogs in them. We had to stop walking our dogs because the fences that were put up had little hope of holding pitbulls and rotties back.
There are already a couple houses that have dogs in the front fenced area in Lincoln Park and it makes it hard to walk by.
Mark

Pride in Garfield Park said...

Here are my concerns:

Item #8 -- Does this mean we're getting three more tow companies? I must not be reading this correctly -- shame on me for trying to slam seven pages of meeting agenda during my lunch hour. Just think of the care I could take if these were made available earlier.

Item #18 -- Um, TODAY is March 2. So, the motion is to make today a special day, yet the vote won't take place until after the end of the business day. But then how will we get the word out about the special day? Or the special week? Government logistics at their finest.

Anduhrew said...

i still live in south pomona with said pitbulls. however if those pitbulls can escape, they will have already escaped. I ride and walk by them often. I think the better point is, if the fence is broken and the pit bull escapes, will the poor folks in south pomona shell out $500 additional dollars to put up a better fence? probably not. I think they'll just keep their crappy insufficient fence, get another pit bull from the pound and wait for it to escape again. It doesn't take a genius to put up a fence that works. But if you say you have to pay another 500 bucks they just might not want to put up a fence. As far as aesthetics go in fences, we'll leave that up to the hysterical district... I mean historic district. I wish i could go to that meeting but I'm trying to get into calculus tonight. It's always school... I do have a question. How are they going to enforce this outside the historic district?

John Clifford said...

Anduhrew,

Since there are no historic districts in South Pomona, the $500 shouldn't be an issue.

I believe, and Ed please correct me if I'm wrong, but a like-for-like replacement (as it is with windows or other work in historic districts) is considered ministerial and does not require a major COA. Minor COAs are done over the counter and don't cost as much (this was the case with the recent re-plastering {stucco} of my house in Lincoln Park).

I believe, again, that the major would only be for New construction or where you wanted to replace original materials with something that would detract from the historic nature.

Skrip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

So if you want to replace your existing fence it may only cost $125 or so, but if you want to build a new fence it will cost $500??

I find it strange that there has been alot of talk about enacting fence regulations especially within historical districts. Usually chain link is brought up as an example of what needs to be "regulated" by the City and these new rules - yet chain link fencing is often the most historically accurate and appropriate fencing? This isn't about keeping an area historically correct, instead it is about a few invoking their vision upon an entire population and the city creating yet another new revenue source.

Ed said...

This language was taken from page 24 of the document and page 13 of the amendment. I don't read it as allowing like-for-like replacement.
"All new fences and walls constructed where there is no existing fence or wall and
those fences and walls constructed to replace more than 50 percent of the length an existing fence
or wall, or where an existing fence or wall is rebuilt more than 50 percent of the length of the
original fence or wall that are to be located in a front yard, street facing side or rear yard where
visible from a public street require approval of a major Certificate of Appropriateness (COA)
pursuant to Sec. .5809-13 of the Zoning Ordinance"

Even like-for-like becomes complicated since non-conforming fences can't be replaced or significantly repaired or extended. This amendment IMHO goes far beyond the fencing that irritates Mark. If it includes fencing (and gates) running along front facades, then it could probably hit 75% or more of the homes in the historic districts.

Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm hoping I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

I think it's really sad to watch the "caging up of Pomona".....by that I mean the front yard fencing of the front yards in the Historic Districts..... Look at Towne Ave between San Bernardino Rd and Alvarado...... all these chain link and wrought iron and cinderblock fences.... they don't blend with each other.... don't "go" with the houses... and create a visual block from seeing the homes... the landscaping or the 'character of the historic neighborhood'.... it's looking like a City of Cages... of people who have gotten into a house... and then want to separate and then wall themselves off from their neighbors.... A shame....
Claremont looks good because there are trees, there is greenery and the lots are not barricaded up to separate neighbor from neighbor and occupant from street. Good Thinking !!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ed I read the documents and your assessment looks right on to me.
As for Pomona having fences that "don't go with the houses" - with all due respect, who are you or anyone at City Hall to say what an owner feels he/she wants for their home. Certainly, issues related to safety can/should be overseen, but fences?
Using Claremont as some form of example makes no sense either...your talking apples and oranges. Sort of like saying Brentwood looks good, or Marina Del Rey, or San Marino? I think regulating the fence issue is a little over the top and is something that each property owner should be able to decide for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Well then.... let's bust up the Historic Districts and paint our houses purple and orange and neons because it's a FREE COUNTRY....!!!! Let's throw out the Historic Ordinance codes!!! We can level all the landscaping because it's too much work to keep up... and we can cage up our properties to mark our turf.... Why do we want Historic Districts in Pomona anymore?

Pomona actually has a larger stock of historic homes and larger size home lots than Claremont (Village area--which is no Beverly Hills.....West Adams District LA also) .... but Claremont is committed to maintaining a few aesthetic guidelines ...people buy into the neighborhoods there because they like the "look and the feel" of community and they join their neighbors in preserving it.....resulting in protecting the homebuyer's investment.

There are thousands and thousands of great Pomona homes available for purchase NOT in Pomona Historic Districts for homebuyers who wish to remodel, raze, expand, build up, re-purpose, fence or un- fence, landscape or not... or to otherwise put their personal stamp on their properties.

Why wreck the Historic Districts and have them de-certified because buyers come into the Districts with plans to change the property into "non-contributing" status.... which threatens certification of the whole District ???

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how a chain link fence might be considered historic.
Maybe for a factory.
Mark

John Clifford said...

First. Monday's council meeting was cancelled "in honor of Nell Soto." It seems that there was a service for Nell Monday night and many of the council members wanted to be there. So this issue will be rescheduled.

Ed, my apologies. I didn't read this particular ordinance, but assumed that it followed the rest of the historic guidelines. If it had, like-for-like only applies to historic materials. Even now you can't replace vinyl siding that was put on a wood bungalow with new vinyl. If the vinyl was permitted prior to the district formation, you can repair the vinyl, but you'd have to replace with historic materials.

Since I have some time now to review, I'll do so and adjust my opinion. I tend to agree with most of the comments made by Anon (3/4 12:03 am) [Can we please use a fake name so that this kind of notation isn't necessary?]. There are very real reasons to protect the historic neighborhoods. You're not forced to buy here.

As for the "property rights" folks, you're already limited in what you can do with your property. The community (call it government if you must) has rights as well. Some of those include that health and welfare will not be affected by what you do on your property (so you can't use your property as a toxic dump, as example. you can't raise farm animals in non-designated areas,etc.). During the Reagan administration, the concept of historic preservation was determined to be an "environmental" issue, so it was built into the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which also regulates air and water quality. There was a recognition, at that time, that there is a benefit to the state in preserving those things that are historic. Our historic ordinance derives from this concept.

Ed said...

Even if you're opposed to front yard fences in the historic district, I hope you see the problem with requiring a $500 fee for new and replacement fencing. If the goal is oversight, then draft an amendment that achieves that end without creating a financial burden for low-income residents.

I feel like we've created a new card for the game of Monopoly. "CITY LEADERSHIP FAILURE: Pay the city $500 for the priviledge of fixing your fence". It goes with the other card: "$500 fee to ASK the city about trees".

Please speak up! Send emails to the Council members.

John Clifford said...

Yes, I DO agree that the fee amount seems egregious. I'm always dumbfounded that there are minimal, if any, sanctions on doing something illegally, but roadblocks in the form of high fees for following the rules and doing the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Gosh where to start...
Mark, you might want to do some research on chain link fencing. Actually it came to America in the late 1800's and was a key "historical" fencing element in residential housing for most of the
19th century, even being used by many prominent architects and designers.

As for throwing out "our" historic ordinance codes - I would love to do just that. But unfortunately they are not "our" codes - we were not given any opportunity to approve them or to vote them into existence. Instead, they were imposed upon us by the local leaders. Personally I would like to have seen a situation whereby local property owners were allowed to approve the historic districts. It is also interesting to note that Claremont codes are not anywhere near as restrictive or costly as those in Pomona? go figure.

Mr. Clifford - as always I appreciate your thoughts and insights. I guess it boils down to the fact that we disagree on this subject. I certainly understand the legal basis you mention for the formation of Historic Districts, however I believe the law is being often times mis-used to further the agenda of a few. It is interesting how different Historic Districts are formed, maintained and regulated from City to City? In Pomona, I find it troubling that owners are not allowed to approve these formations or, I believe, fully informed of what this new Historic designation will have upon their property. Your right, I don't have to buy in a Historic District - however it is unfortunate that I can't buy in such a district simply because I don't want to have someone else's vision imposed upon me. Certainly you did not have to buy in Pomona when it didn't have Historic Districts, but you did. You then set out to use CEQA and other avenues to help form Historic Districts in an attempt to regulate what you felt the areas should reflect. And kudos to you for exercising your right to do so.
I am not opposed to Historic Districts overall, just the way they are being imposed upon folks in Pomona. The fence issue is just the latest issue, I won't be surprised if paint color is next.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous....
So the white picket fence and the wrought iron fence is just now sweeping the nation?
The only chain link fencing available now is industrial grade shit. It is not at all what you are refering to.
There is a reason it can be rented.
Mark

John Clifford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Clifford said...

Anon (March 4, 2009 9:39 PM --please use an alias) Where do you get the idea that residents don't have a say in the creation of historic districts in Pomona? Section E-5 of the historic ordinance (available under resources on the Pomona Heritage web site) states:

"5. Fifteen (15) days prior to the first scheduled public hearing date on the Historic District Designation application, the returned responses shall be counted. No application for Historic District Designation shall be noticed for public hearing if fifty percent (50%) of the property owners plus one (1) property owner within the proposed district respond in writing opposing Historic District Designation of their property."

So everyone is notified by registered mail and if 51% don't want the district then it can't even be considered. In addition, any person who is notified has the option of opting-out of the district. That is, their property will not be considered to be ruled by the ordinance as long as that property is owned by that owner. At a sale, the property reverts into the district.

So how is that our "city leaders" deciding on districts?

As far as Pomona's ordinance and those of other cities, it's interesting to note that the Los Angeles Conservancy recently awarded letter grades to preservation programs throughout LA County and Pomona only got a B grade. Mostly due to the fact that districts require over 50% approval for formation, that residents can opt-out, and that there is a "hardship" clause. Their assessment is that these requirements don't do enough to preserve historic resources.

As far as buying into a historic district, it's the same as buying into a gated community, HOA controlled community, or any other area with restrictions. Even buying in one city over another as each city sets its own land use standards (zoning codes). One city allows farm animals, the next doesn't. One city allows cars parked in the front yard, the next doesn't. You need to be an intelligent buyer and know what you're buying into before you buy. I'm afraid that your argument there is not very compelling.

As for a history of the fencing issue, this all springs from a "white picket fence" initiative that was promoted by Norma Torres as mayor. Downey did a program promoting residents to put up white picket fences in their neighborhoods to get rid of chain-link and other ugly fencing which, according to them, was very successful in reducing crime and improving neighborhoods. The city has a program for helping to pay for such fence improvements and the new regulations are an attempt to follow up on that initiative.

Ed said...

When reading Anon's comments, I do find the general tenor compelling. Although the establishment of historic districts is done by majority approval, the creep that we're currently seeing (trees and now the proposed fences) has been imposed by the Council. Unless residents become vocal, I doubt any of the Council members will even reach out to their community to ascertain public opinion on the fences. And NO, I don't think the public hearing process at a Council meeting is really reaching out to the community.

I'm not suggesting the creep may not produce a more aesthetically-pleasing neighborhood, but would the historic districts have been formed if residents were aware that trees and fences would cost them $500?

Can someone give me a reference that clarifies whether trees and fences are considered contributing structures?

Btw, the Village area of Claremont does have front yard fences, so if the point is to identify front yard fencing done tastefully, then Claremont is a wonderful choice.

John Clifford said...

I don't believe that fences have ever been identified as contributing structures in any of the documents that I've seen. Pomona does have a fencing ordinance that is very loose and has been in place for a long time. Mostly you can't have more than a 3 ft. high fence in the front or 5 ft. in the back and you need a permit for block walls but not wood fences. This applies throughout the city.

The tree ordinance was a separate ordinance. It was created in 2000 and is the only current ordinance, outside the historic ordinance, that is specific to historic districts and sites (it does cover trees on individual historic landmarks as well as in districts).

As far as how you do community outreach on issues such as fencing, I have no idea. For district formation multiple mailings are sent out, multiple neighborhood meetings are held, flyers are distributed door-to-door, and still people say they were never informed. Even something like needing a permit for window replacements is published in the water bills and still people don't see it or pay attention to it.

Anonymous said...

Ed,

Will you stop feeding the animals.

MAC

John Clifford said...

Watch out MAC, some of us bite.

Ed said...

MAC,
Alright, I'll stop.:-(

But I really do like the short front yard fences that have been popping up in the Claremont Village area (a possible future post).

Have I said that the $500 really bugs me!, so if you agree, please let your Council member know how you feel.

Paula said...

While I haven't received any phone calls or emails on the fence issue, just know that I read your comments here on a regular basis. You may be surprised to know that some of our City staff do too... I wrote three pages of comments/questions to them about the fence/wall agenda item. For you Historical buffs, one of my issues was the COA requirement for all fences, like-for-like included. I know that the cost is because of all the staff work required to bring an item to the Historical Preservation Commission. So why doesn't the HPC establish criteria for fences in the Districts, so that if folks were willing to construct something in keeping with the "rules," they wouldn't need a COA?
It will be on the March 16th agenda for a public hearing, so you'll have plenty of time to read the staff report for things applicable to the entire City as well as Historical Districts. I'm interested in any and all feedback. There are some interesting rules about setbacks and landscaping that warrant consideration. Hopefully you'll find some other things as well. This is a difficult issue to tackle, but one that I think is long overdue.

calwatch said...

If so, can we have the public hearing moved to the START of the meeting, or right after the presentations please? It was really bad to make folks wait several HOURS to testify for a legally noticed public hearing.

John Clifford said...

Thanks for the input Paula. It saves me a phone call.

I appreciate that you think that the HPC should create criteria for fencing in historic districts. One of the problems is that the HPC doesn't set their agenda. It's set by the planning staff. It appears that planning either side-stepped the HPC in developing the proposed ordinance OR it wasn't clearly presented to the HPC. I appear to have some recollection of the item being discussed, but only at an early stage, not when a developed plan was about to be presented to council. We have to remember that the HPC is volunteers who, while very dedicated, require direction.

Cal: But then we'd have to put off all of the presentations and the always riveting council member communications and consent agenda items.

I love old stuff said...

Comparing residential fencing and a toxic waste dump?

A $500 Major COA for fencing is not "protecting the historic neighborhood" It just gives me pause if I should bother fixing up the place. I think Lincoln Park would survive a little less ordinance.
Just because someone did not have to buy here, does not mean one should agree with all and every historical screw, ordinance, chain link aphobe, etc.

T said...

We're historic district-adjacent, and when we moved in there was an unkempt picket fence in front of our house. It fell over and we haven't replaced it. Since the demise of the fence we've enjoyed the following experiences:

- the cops chasing a criminal through our back yard
- the guy at 6 AM on a Sunday rummaging through our backyard, who said he was looking for scrap metal but carried what smacked of a duffel of stolen goods pinched during the wee hours
- the guy in the stolen pickup hiding from the cops in our driveway at 1 AM
- too many fruit thieves to number
- people we don't know coming to our back door instead of our front door
- lots of big, gnarly stray dogs
- high school kids partying in our front yard
- trash on our lawn

There's the dirty laundry. I'm sure I'm forgetting something. While I appreciate the look of open lawns, and hate some of the really ugly fences out there, we will replace our fence with a tasteful iron fence. There are several very nice fences in the historic district, and I agree with Ed about Claremont, too. If the fence is incorporated in a manner with landscaping to create a unified whole with the house, I think it can add to view rather than detract. I don't suffer the illusion that a fence will solve all of our problems, but we did have fewer when we had a fence.

John Clifford said...

Love Old Stuff:

Again, $500 is too much for getting approval to remove a tree or to build/replace a fence. Of course, since you don't actually live in the district, you'll only have to pay a much lower fee. All such high fees are going to do is to encourage people to bypass the permit process (as they already too often do) and hope that they don't get caught. A reasonable fee, yes. This kind of fee: Huh????

T:

A couple of years ago I was the victim of a home invasion robbery (actually I don't think they realized anyone was home as I was able to awaken and scare them off fairly easily, but not until after they had stolen several thousand dollars worth of computers, electronics and other things). It was noted that the perpetrators had hopped the back fence and broken in through a back window. I went to the city an found out that, for security reasons, I could get a variance from the 5-foot height limit and take my fence up to 8 feet. Since I decided to add a 2-foot wooden portion to the top of the block wall, it didn't require a building permit (no permit was required for wood fencing), but since I live in a historic district, the design of my addition had to be approved prior to construction.

My recollection is that the fee for the variance was about $35 (or at least I'm sure that it was below $50). This certainly seemed reasonable (and at least I got a permit unlike my next door neighbor who built a common block wall 8 ft. high without a variance, or my neighbor on the other side who built a 10 ft. high common block wall (he has a pool--since it was there when I bought I don't know if he applied for a permit or not).

I am aware that the applicant for a tree removal on Palomares at the cancelled HPC meeting was really ticked that the fee was $500. So Paula, you're likely to hear from that neighbor if you haven't already.

I don't think Lincoln Park needs less ordinance, I think it just has to be reasonable. If we had any less, we wouldn't qualify as a National Register district at all as our houses would not be conforming to the era of significance but would become modern versions of older houses, now what historic preservation is about at all.

Gilman said...

Sorry for the delay in posting back - damn work can get in the way of things. Anyway, Mr Clifford as to how I arrived at my opinions about the Historic Districts....I guess they have been reached after - reading the City Historic Preservation ordinance, discussing it with dozens of folks living in these districts, owning multiple properties in multiple historic districts and experiencing (I really mean enduring) the process of obtaining a minor and major COA's.
As you are aware, residents of a particular neighborhood are NOT the ones who decide if an area should be designated a Historical District. Instead, the ordinance allows anyone to begin the process, there is no requirement to be a resident and to the best of my knowledge at least two of our districts were NOT sponsored by residents.
As for your reference to the current system whereby owners can disapprove the formation, this is far different than being given a chance to vote to approve a district. Additionally, owners are not notified by registered mail but instead receive any notice my regular mail. The notice does not state on the envelope that the materials could have a major impact upon the owners property and need to be read. Neither does the notice properly (my opinion) inform the affected owners of what impact this new land use designation could have upon them - either in regulation or potential cost. One only need look at the outcry from owners in these newly formed areas about how poorly the notifications are being handled.
I think for residents to truly "have a say" in this process, they should be balloted and given a chance to cast a vote - much like the process legally required to pass new assessments.
I know that you have repeatedly mentioned the myriad of folks that go before the Historic Commission AFTER they have already made an unacceptable improvement...I don't think we are a town of law breakers. Instead, I suspect that most had no idea what impact the Historic designation would have upon them, nor the cost.
As far as the Los Angeles Conservancy...I think they illustrate my point perfectly. They are an organization made up of a few hundred volunteers and about 7,000 in total membership - yet they have successfully pushed for "Historic District" regulations that have affected hundreds of thousands, if not millions of home owners? I simply think it is wrong for a few to impose their vision upon an entire population -we aren't talking about a safety issue, health issue, crime issue...it is an aesthetic issue.
I certainly understand that it is like buying into a HOA controlled community. However, I have owned dozens of homes in Pomona and continue to own several properties...I just don't think that a few people should be able to impose their vision for a properties renovation on me or anyone else.
Oh and our City Leaders..they are the ones that imposed this ordinance upon us and that is why I feel they are ultimately responsible.
I understand that nothing I say will change your position on this issue and I appreciate and commend your passion for the issue. We just disagree on who should control the appearance and aesthetics
of a property.
And don't get me started on the simply ridiculous
approval process that owners must currently endure.....

Gilman said...

Mr. Clifford,

oops, forgot to ask -

do you believe that chain link fencing is a historically accurate and appropriate material?

John Clifford said...

Gilman,

Chain link may be appropriate in some instance, but I know, by the historic record, that there were no chain link fences prevalent in Lincoln Park (as an example).

I also know that the push for designation of all of Pomona's districts DID come from within the districts. Pomona Heritage was instrumental in the formation of all of our districts. Heading up the district push in Lincoln Park was Dan McIntire (among many others, I just use his name because I know for sure of it off-hand) who IS a resident of Lincoln Park. One of those heavily involved in Wilton was Debra Martin, a resident of the Wilton district. One of the key people involved with the formation of Hacienda was Jim Kercheval, who also served until recently on the historic commission, and lives in Hacienda district. So you're implication that districts are formed by "outsiders" is not accurate in Pomona. Pomona Heritage takes the position that designation should come from within the neighborhood. We encourage it, but will only help if there is sufficient interest at the local level. We're not out trying to force people into being in districts.

So you're suggestion is that we have a vote? Do you understand that even fewer people would be involved in a vote than in the process as set up? We make a great effort to ensure that there are neighborhood meetings and that everyone knows what's going on. You don't have to be registered to respond to the district formation. While I wouldn't be opposed to a referendum vote for formation, it would mean that it would be handled as all elections are. There would be not specific information outside of "voter pamphlets" for it. AND registered voters who don't own property at all would be able to vote on the item. Is this what you're suggesting as a "better way" to create our districts?

Hey, if it's a great idea, put it up for discussion when the general plan (and all of the city's zoning and land use laws--including the historic ordinance) come up for review. It's in the works as we sit here discussing. I, and Pomona Heritage have been involved. It's not a secret, but my guess is that very few out there have enough interest in shaping their city's policies so people like you can just complain, after the fact, that you've been "screwed over" by government.

Remember, a) we get the government we deserve, and b) the reason for that is that WE are the government.

I'll continue to work to protect the historic fabric of our historic neighborhoods. I think that it is important. If you feel otherwise, you have that right and should pursue what you think is appropriate. We can disagree, but in the end it's those who are involved who help to shape decisions.

Gilman said...

Mr. Clifford,

I guess for starters, I don't recall ever saying I was "screwed over" by the government? And I am sorry to see that you feel I am complaining "after the fact". Maybe that wouldn't be the case if I (along with most of the affected property owners) had been given adequate opportunity prior to the fact!
However, we weren't. How could we complain about a process that was never fully explained, disclosed or approved?

I would also suggest that just because folks can't attend every Council meeting, general plan workshop, Historic Commission meeting, etc., it doesn't mean they are somehow lacking "interest" in their city's policies - maybe they just expect their elected officials to represent their interests and to keep them informed of these proposals. Nor are these citizen's opinions and views any less important simply because they don't, and probably can't, devote the time and resources which special interest groups
do to "shaping their city's policies".

Are you stating that Debra Martin and Jim Kercheval sponsored the formation of their respective Historic Districts or was it Pomona Heritage with the input from these individual residents and PH members? Doesn't it make sense that a larger number of residents should be required to sponsor such important land use regulations?

No, my suggestion is not that we hold an election as you outlined. Instead, it is a vote of the affected property owners much like what which is required currently under State law for the passing of new assessments. Each affected owner would receive a ballot, along with full and accurate information on the proposed regulations and costs, and then given an opportunity to cast their vote with the City. I don't know how you can conclude that a vote would somehow lead to even "fewer people being involved". I suspect the people actually affected would be far more involved and informed.

Again, one need only look at the number of property owners going before the Commission only after alterations have been performed to see we have a serious communication problem and a large number of affected owners who do not understand the Historic Designation regulations.

I agree that here in Pomona, it seems those who are involved help shape decisions. In the end, I just think that is a shame and that everyone should have an equal voice.

As for your thoughts on government....well, I think a quote from G. Norman Collie sums up thoughts -
"In free countries, every man is entitled to express his opinions and every other man is entitled not to listen".

John Clifford said...

Gilman,

The "screwed over" was an inference from your statement that you "endured" the COA process and from your comments that indicated that you were being somehow adversely affected by governmental decisions.

You say that the process was never fully explained, disclosed, or approved. If you're talking about the creation of the ordinance. It was passed like any other ordinance. It went to the city council and was debated and had all of the legal notification required. Unless you want additional notification for all ordinances, public hearings, and rule changes, I don't know that it is any different than the city deciding to put in speed humps or stop signs.

As for the districts, I personally KNOW that multiple stages of public output was performed. People went door to door to discuss it, meetings were held at multiple locations, in homes in the neighborhoods, where the issue was presented and discussed. Unlike other issues, you didn't have to go down to city hall to get the information. In addition, mailings went out per the ordinance, and handbills were put on each door in the neighborhood.

And remember, the official city notices went to the owner of record's address. So renters were not to be part of the process, family members living in homes owned by parents were not part of the process. Property owners, including absentee landlords, banks, etc. were all legally notified and had an opportunity to respond either with a nay vote or to opt out.

Your election idea might have some merit. The way it's set up now, it virtually is an election. A notice is sent out to be returned, a count of returned notices is counted. How is that not an election? It's similar to the election of the downtown property owner's assessment district.

In addition, at district formation time, every property owner is sent a notice that they can not only vote on the item, but that they can "opt out" of the district. Unlike an assessment district, where however the vote goes, you're stuck. At the time of district formation you can decide that you don't want to be part of it. AND those notices went out to every property owner. I've heard that people didn't get it or didn't know, but it went out and, just as you stated, some people don't go to every meeting or read notices. How do you propose to inform them. I know that Pomona Heritage, while not liking the provision, was very forward in informing people at those meetings of their rights under the ordinance.

As for who initiates districts. In Pomona it has ALWAYS been individuals living in those districts. People like Debra Martin and Jim Kercheval were the ones who did the heavy lifting, with assistance from Pomona Heritage.

Pomona Heritage gets requests for information on district formation from individuals all the time and ONLY if there is sufficient interest from the neighborhoods do we even start to pursue it. Some of the areas that have approached us have included Yorba, Ganesha Hills, Westmont, Presidents (above Lincoln Park between McKinley and San Bernardino), and the area east of Towne between Holt and San Bernardino. In these cases not enough interest has been shown and the matter has not moved forward. In some of these areas residents are still working to try and drum up interest, but for Pomona Heritage to get involved, we need to see that interest.

Your comments about "special interest groups" is quite apropos. Yes, Pomona Heritage is a special interest group. It is a group that was formed to promote historic preservation in our city. Like-minded people got together to work toward our common goal. There is nothing to stop someone else from forming a non-profit group to promote "tear down the old and only have new" group if they wanted. We in Pomona Heritage use our organization so that we don't all have to go to every meeting. We share responsibility in letting our membership know what's going on and to advocate for our goals.

Gilman said...

Mr. Clifford,

Actually the procedures utilized for the formation of the downtown property owner's assessment district have little, if any, resemblance to the way Historic Districts are formed.

The downtown district only moved forward after the city received a petition signed by over 50 percent of the affected property owners expressing an interest in the formation of the district. This is far different then the current requirement outlined in the Historic preservation ordinance which requires a minimum of only ONE person to sponsor the formation of a district.

With the downtown district, an Engineer's report was prepared and available to all affected owners which outlined exactly what the new regulations, services and costs would be. It even went so far as to specify exactly what any future costs would be limited to. With the historic district, owners are not given a full explanation of what regulations will be imposed, how this will affect their ability to perform work on their property nor the costs involved...either present or future. And, of course, no cap to future costs.

Lastly with the downtown district, all affected owners received a BALLOT and were able to cast their (informed) vote either for or against the formation. The votes were tabulated and approx. 2/3 of the affected owners voted in favor of the formation. With the Historic District, owners received no ballot, instead receiving a notice. They were never given an opportunity to vote for the proposal simply an opportunity to voice their opposition. Again, I suspect this system was quite confusing for many and they were not sure what they were being asked to decide. Additionally, even though Pomona has a Hispanic population representing 65%of the entire population, I doubt the "notice" was sent out in Spanish...but correct me if I am wrong.

We do agree on the "opt out" provision which makes little sense and was probably included due to concerns by the politicians....thus giving them some wiggle room with any upset owners.

As far as Pomona Heritage...kudos to you, and the entire organization, for pursuing what you believe. I am certainly ok with that, I just think your voice should be no more important than the voices of every resident within the city. I believe improving the notification, approval and administration of our Historic Districts could use some improvement and ultimately should be decided by the affected owners.

John Clifford said...

Hmmm, the ordinance says that if 50% +1 doesn't want the district it isn't formed. But that's not a vote? Not voting (casting a ballot or returning a notice) is an option that everyone has. Since the district does not impose taxes, the regulations are less than for the dpoa. However, I appreciate what you're saying. But you can own a home in the district for 50 years and never incur any cost, so the analogy (I understand I started it) doesn't really hold.

Once again, do you have a solution to make it better the next time a district is proposed? The ordinance is currently under review and can be modified as part of the new "development plan" (new word for zoning ordinance) which is being considered with the new general plan. Actually, I'd love it if the process were cleaner, but I doubt it would really satisfy everyone. My experience is that no matter how much notification there is, no matter how fair an election, there will still be those who will claim that they didn't know or that it was unfair.

As for Pomona Heritage's voice. It's not the only voice, but at least, as an organization, we make sure that ours is heard. Believe me, if there was enough feeling on the opposite side of these matters, then there would be an organization that made sure their voice was heard.