Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fencing Ordinance Update

Well, those of us in historic districts no longer have to worry about a $500 charge for a major COA to replace or install a fence, as long as city staff determines that it is appropriate for the style of the home.

While the new fence ordinance was item 32 on the agenda, the earlier items went pretty quickly (for a large agenda meeting) and we took up the issue at about 9:00 pm. I had submitted my speaker's card and as soon as the item was announced by the city clerk I was asked to make my statement. I was a little confused as a public hearing is usually proceeded by a staff report on the item, then the public is asked to comment, then the council, then the vote. But it appears that because this item had been to two commissions and a study session that staff didn't feel that a presentation was necessary.

Fortunately, after the comments generated by Ed's original posting on this issue, I took the opportunity to familiarize myself with the report and we were on our way.

I made the arguments that a $500 fee for a major COA might create situations where, as in my own case which I highlighted, a fencing project might only cost $125 to construct, but the COA would boost that cost by over 4 times the amount. I argued that, while wanting to preserve the integrity of our historic neighborhoods, that such fees would actually cause individuals to not upgrade fences or to do them without permits and hope they don't get caught.

Public Participation: I, and Arturo Jimenez, who is on the planning commission and had similar conerns to ming, were the only speakers on the issue (where were you Gilman and Ed?). No reference was made to any written comments, so I don't know if the council had received any or not. I was somewhat surprised as the various comments on the previous posting, particularly by Gilman, warned us about being vigilant and participating.

In the end, the council decided to delete the requirement for a major COA in historic districts, and reduce it to a minor COA which can be done over the counter. Councilwoman Lantz asked that guidelines be created which clearly delineated the appropriate materials and styles for each housing style within the historic districts.

Chain Link: The new ordinance restricts the use of chain link to back yards. It not be permitted in front yards or in back or side yards that face a street. The ordinance states that you can't put in new chain link fencing, nor can you replace/repair chain link fencing of more than 50%. So a damaged chain link fence which requires less than 50% replacement can be repaired, but if a car runs down a chain link fence and it is more than 50% damaged, then it has to be either removed or replaced with appropriate fencing.

Councilwoman Soto asked that chain link be allowed in front yards for the next two to three years due to the problems with the economy, for families who want a place where their children can safely play. She was concerned that other fencing materials might be a financial burden in these troubled times. The rest of the council was not inclined to go along with that approach. Unfortunately, no one explained to Councilwoman Soto that Pomona has a "white picket fence" program which reimburses residents for front yard fencing (vinyl white picket fences), and those in need can get assistance. Councilwoman Carrizosa made a passing reference to it later in the meeting just before the vote.

Now to see what we can do about the major COA costs on tree removal.

35 comments:

Ed said...

I was under the impression that this was the first public hearing. Shouldn't there be a second public hearing and then a vote? I'm so confused!

John Clifford said...

I believe that there's a second reading of the ordinance. That's usually on the consent agenda and, unless someone has an issue, it's not actually a public hearing. Sometimes changes are made at second readings, but pretty rare.

Robin said...

I watched last night on TV. Thankks everyone for making me more interested in city politics. The city clerk needs a functional microphone... I could not hear the agenda items. Our esteemed Mayor is where? I haven't heard much about him since the post election debacle.

About the fence ordinances... do these pertain only in historic districts?

I would not mind seeing chain link fences disappear from front yards all over the city.

Tell me more about the picket fence program! Is it available everywhere in town? Or only historic districts?

meg said...

I wrote both last time and this time!

meg said...

BTW, thanks for standing up for the cause, John, and then posting about it.

Ed said...

So if they already voted, what is the purpose of the second reading? I guess part of my confusion stems from another item on last night's agenda. If the proposal for decreasing Fulton Road street speed from 40mph to 35mph has a second reading, why wouldn't a rewrite of the city's fence, wall, and front/side yard landscaping ordinance also have a second reading? BEFORE the vote, I mean. Can you tell I'm a newbie to the political process?

Robin, I think someone has posted on the picket fences, but I'll try to do another one. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Robin said...

Ed, I read G of P's wish for picket fences from over a year ago, but have heard nothing further. Thanks for any discussion you can point me to.

John Clifford said...

Ed,

They have to vote twice on the issue so that there is time for "deliberation." They can change their minds at the second reading if they so desire. (At least this is how I understand it.) However, I don't believe that they have a "public hearing" at the second reading. The council is very good about pulling items for discussion if there are public speaker cards on items on the consent agenda, but there is no formal hearing at the second reading.

Robin, The fence ordinance is city-wide. The issue with historic districts is that you can't just put up any old fence. In historic districts they have to be of a style and materials conforming to the neighborhood. Thus the issue of a certificate of appropriateness (COA).

BTW, fences in Pomona now require a permit for any kind of fencing. However, the permit is a "No Fee" permit for standard fencing (particularly for wood or vinyl fencing). Block walls and some specific other types, still come under the building department and require a building permit which has a cost (I believe it's $35, but it may have gone up).

Last year the city adopted, under then Mayor Torres, a "white picket fence" program which helps to pay homeowners who wish to install vinyl front yard fencing. The city will reimburse the cost up to a certain amount. While I'm not sure of any actual specifics, I believe that preference is given to those who wish to replace chain link. I'm sure that the planning department will have specific information.

Ed said...

Thanks John.

And for all those who are interested, I'll try to put together a white picket fence post in the next couple of weeks.

Anduhrew said...

Ed I suggest reading up on Robert's Rules of Order(I'm sure that's what they use). It's what we use at our senate meetings(we're also subject to all the same state laws regarding meetings). It took me a couple of meetings to get familiar with it, but being a voting member forced me to get used to it quickly.

Gilman said...

Well Mr. Clifford you are absolutely correct - you don't know if the Council received any written comments about the ordinance, or emails or conducted one on one meetings with residents of the city.
Kudos to you for going to the effort to attend and speak your mind, but rest assured that I made my views known as well...just not at the meeting. I generally prefer to contact Council members directly to share my thoughts...they often tend to act very different at a public meeting, politics I suppose.
It was nice to hear the fee for historical districts was reduced from $500 to $125, but I was opposed to passage of the ordinance as it was presented.
I find it amazing that with the really serious issues facing this City, this Council chooses to spend it's time being the "fence police"? Obviously, the decision to ban chain link has no basis as a health or safety issue and again, it is interesting that a material that is historically correct is banned?
Maybe I am a little slow, but how is VINYL (code for plastic) fencing better for the City?
Kudos again for sharing the outcome with everyone here, wouldn't it just be great if the City could do that? Heck how hard is it in this modern age of technology to instantly post results on the website or other area?

Pride in Garfield Park said...

Great discussion.

How about crappy tattered wood fences in desperate need of paint and verticality? Can we get rid of those, too?

On that note, code compliance has been in the neighborhood recently. Yay!

gilman said...

Not to worry, the ordinance addresses tattered fences in need of repair.....owners, I believe, will be given 7 days to make the necessary repairs.
I wonder if they can't do something about ugly cars parked in the driveways or maybe unsightly birdbaths or garden statues in the yards?
Oops, I better not give anyone any ideas......

Pride in Garfield Park said...

How about Christmas lights and garlands still up in mid-August? Is there an ordinance for that?

calwatch said...

Vinyl at least looks more consistent. Good vinyl "picket fencing" is indistinguishable from driving view to chain link fence.

BTW, low turnout is a problem of holding public hearings at the end of the meeting. No one wants to hang around until 11 pm or later (potentially) to give their spiel. The better thing would be to put public hearings at a set time (say 8 p.m.) if they don't want to kick off with it right after presentations. This respects the public who shows up to these legally noticed items. It's somewhat ironic that you'll be able to speak sooner when the ordinance comes up for second reading, because it will be on consent calendar then.

John Clifford said...

Gilman,

Yes, they didn't, in this instance, report on any written communication submitted. In the past, they have referenced it on some occasions, not quite sure what spurs that on.

Written comments to the council as a whole are, I believe, at least entered into the record, as is the staff report, so we can see what information the council used as a basis for their decisions. Because I, as a citizen, only saw the early version of the staff report online, which did not include ANY input from the public other than testimony given at the planning and HPC commissions, I can only assume that is what they based their decision on and can't challenge any assertions you, or someone else, made in a non-public appeal. This is why the public hates lobbyists so much.

While politicians may appear to be more forthcoming and different when you make direct comment, they can also blow you off nicely. I, personally, am an advocate for PUBLIC democracy. It's only under public scrutiny that we get good governance.

Cal: The problem with agendas is everyone thinks their items should come first. The people getting awards/honors want to be first because they have children in attendance and don't want to have to sit through the "boring" stuff. Consent agenda needs to be first because it goes quickly (although even the "no more than 5 minutes on a item" rule was broken on two items which ran 10 and over 15 minutes, while the tow truck item was moved to the end of the meeting). Of course, reports of "important" items need to be done early because they are for public information and the public might not stick around. Then, which public hearing needs to go first?

I used to like the way that Eddie Cortez mandated that the public comment portion (items not on the agenda that people want to discuss) was always at 8:00 pm. So those who wanted to speak to the council knew when they needed to be there. They didn't have to get there too early and listen to the awards and other procedural stuff, but knew that if they were there at 8:00 pm that they would get an opportunity to be heard. Norma Torres did away with that as one of her first official acts.

As for all the other items discussed here (cars, Christmas lights, etc.) we already have ordinances that cover most of them (including brown grass and high weeds) but our code enforcement is reactive so you need to report those problems for them to be dealt with.

gilman said...

Calwatch,

You make several excellent observations regarding the public hearing process.

Unfortunately, in my experiences, I often see little concern for what the public thinks in these matters. While the current process is probably in full compliance with the law, I would love to see some real and meaningful changes to both the way the public is "noticed" and how they are allowed to voice their opinions on these various issues before the Council. Afterall, it is not the Council's business that is being conducted, it is our business.

I am not sure I understand your thoughts on vinyl being more "consistent" or "driving view"? Can you elaborate....

Anonymous said...

Did you know that Pomona was named Tree City U.S.A. by the Arbor Day Foundation for the 17th year in a row? You would think the city would run with this and use it to their benefit by making this known with signage as other cities do. Why is it that Pomona is so behind on the times?

If we keep allowing the tree removals we may just lose this honor. We should make the tree removal process a more astringent process....increase that damn fee some have an issue with. We should also consider protecting the redwoods in Ganesha Park by placing them on the National Register.

John Clifford said...

Anon,

The HPC actually approved designation for Ganesha Park as a local historic landmark and it has been continuously blocked by Parks and Rec. It has never made it to council as is required. Staff has decided that they don't have resources to write the designation so, despite going through the process and having been voted on, it languishes in the vapors of limbo.

Ed said...

Tree City USA has four requirements:
1. A Tree Board or Department
2. A Tree Care Ordinance
3. A Community Forestry Program With an Annual Budget of at Least $2 Per Capita
4. An Arbor Day Observance and Proclamation

Sorry Anon, we are not jeopardizing our status as a Tree City by cutting down trees, but feel free to donate some money when I need trees cut down.

What exactly is the benefit of designating Ganesha Park a historical landmark? I see a potential increase in red tape for the Parks Department, so what's the upside?

John Clifford said...

Oh Ed,

The upside is protection of the landmark park. There are various areas, river rock walls, and specimen trees as well as hardscape such as the plunge and it's buildings which have a great deal of significance to the area and the population.

Maintenance is not hindered. Yes, there would be red tape if the city decided to take out the pool or destroy the little bridges and walkways. Is that bad? Those who think that the area is important don't think so.

Did you know that Ganesha Park once had a very impressive Greek Theater? Many of those who do remember it mourn it's loss. Those are the kinds of reasons for designation.

gilman said...

Oh Mr. Clifford you are too funny!

In your original post, you take a subtle(or maybe not to subtle) shot at Ed and I, when you ask "where were you Gilman & Ed". Your implication was that we were somehow not as interested, or involved, as you because you went to the meeting.
When I shared that I took a different course of action(contacting various council members to voice my opposition to the ordinance) you imply that maybe I am being less than truthful since no city "report" was made of such communications. You go onto to say that regardless if I expressed my views or not, I somehow did not do it properly and it doesn't fall within your version of democracy.

please..tell me your kidding, right?

Again, kudos to you for pursuing the course of action which you felt was appropriate, but don't belittle my efforts or input simply because it was different from yours.

I have always preferred speaking to elected officials on a one on one basis. I can look them in the eye and get their stance on whatever issue is important to me. If their future actions don't match up with their words, well then I know I am dealing with someone who is lacking in integrity.

Let me try and give you a real life example - a while back I met with a candidate seeking election here in town. This particular candidate was being touted as the person to vote for by the local historic preservationists in town. I don't know if the group formally endorsed the candidate, but every member I spoke with was supporting this candidate as the "Historic Preservation" candidate.
I asked the candidate about the current Historic ordinance and about the group....the response was something pretty close to "oh you mean the house Nazi's". The candidate went onto to rant against the group, certain members and the overall group objectives. Well this of course simply did not match up with previous public comments made by this candidate?? So was the candidate blowing me off, or had blowing off the historic preservationists? Well who knows....but what I did know, was that this candidate lacked integrity and honesty. Needless to say, I did not support the candidate. If I had simply based my opinion on the public meeting forum, well I wouldn't know what type of person this candidate really was.

As for your remarks about "lobbyists", again I would disagree. Folks aren't unhappy with lobbyists because they have access to elected officials...instead, folks are pissed because officials are receiving MONEY/GIFTS/CAMPAIGN DONATIONS from some lobbyists to influence their decisions. Pay to play is the term I hear used.
Heck not all lobbyists are bad...Pomona Heritage, and correct me if I am wrong, has met numerous times with city officials and elected officials in an effort to further their preservation goals. Does that make them evil?..I think not, maybe just effective. Pomona Heritage has even lobbied(successfully it appears) to receive taxpayer funds to underwrite some of their activities.

So meeting with officials in a non-public forum is not wrong or bad, it is simply one avenue to pursue and I have....it makes my efforts no less than yours, just different.

Anonymous said...

This thread has taken on a nasty tone. I'll stop reading now.

John Clifford said...

Gilman,

I guess I have to be more careful in what I write between the lines.

I certainly did not mean to indicate that you had not expressed your opinion to council people. I was actually concerned that something that should have been part of the public discourse was missing if there HAD been written communication. I know that I've written several arguments on issues before the council that I was happy to see as part of the record. If that point was misinterpreted, then I apologize.

I also guess that I was not as clear as I could have been regarding lobbyists. Yes, money that buys access is what most people are concerned about. But you also hear a lot of concern about people like me, or Pomona Heritage, (among a lot of others. whose opinions they feel are taken more seriously because they lobby.

If you do express your opinion to those in power, and at the poling place, then I applaud you.

John Clifford said...

Anon,

I hope that you won't give up on us totally. We need all sides of all of the issues. That's how we learn. If we disagree, we at least know WHY we disagree. If we agree, we might learn something more about our position. In the end, discourse can only have a positive effect, even if it doesn't appear so in the short term.

Anonymous said...

I think anyone that takes the time to gather information to form their opinions, makes for more informed opinions. That is why it is interesting to read other people's writing here and on other blogs.
I may shake my head after reading it but I defend your right to have a different opinion than mine.
Nothing drives me more crazy than snap opinions with no thought behind them.
Also, I give John, Ed, Garfield and of course Meg props for taking the time to post updates to this great blog.
Mark

Anonymous said...

Ed,

I guess i will take you literally.."feel free to donate money when I need some trees cut down"....is this the real reason why you object to the fee associated to the tree permit? Plan on cutting some trees down soon? We will be watching you!

John Clifford said...

Ed,

I don't know who anon is, but I guarantee that it is not the Pomona Heritage "preservation nazis."

While I won't gaurantee that whoever tehy are they're not a member, PH is vigilant, but does not threaten people!!

Ed said...

Anon, you got me! Guilty as charged. Wow, how cool is that, I'm being watched.

Sorry, time to leave the keyboard and grab the chainsaw.....on second thought, the hand saw will be quieter.

And for anyone out there who didn't already know, I'm one of the geriatric home lovers from Pomona Heritage. John and I obviously don't always agree on the specifics of Pomona preservation, but we certainly don't disagree on the value of preservation.

John, but really, declaring Ganesha Park a historical landmark? You've got to be kidding! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Clifford...no apology necessary.
I always appreciate your passion and insight on issues even if I don't always agree on a particular issue. If I came off somewhat hard or nasty, well I apoligize since that really wasn't my intent.
I agree with you 100% about public discourse being a good thing...just wish the system allowed for a better flow of information from the City and a more effective public meeting format so more might become involved.

gilman said...

Oops, hit the wrong button on this high tech box I am using.....the above post was mine.

Anonymous said...

To Those Who Post Their Comments:

I must say, as a resident of Pomona, I'm pretty impressed by all the interested parties who, without a doubt, want what's best for the city. However, I am disappointed with the barrage of negative comments thrown around without a true understanding of their implications. From Gillman's all defensive "What do you mean!!" response to John's comment to Ed's "What is the benefit to designation...", it seems rather counter productive.

Mr. Gillman, you chewing the ear off of public figures is hardly a way to get the message across. Try doing it in a public forum, you are almot guaranteed instant results.

To all, try looking out your windows to see what you, as individuals, can do to help move the city in a positive direction.

There are a few of you who have great ideas and interests but lack the motivation and time to see it through. It's one thing to be vocal in these blogs but actions tend to have a greater impact...

Those of you who work tirelessly in fighting the good fight, thank you. Without your efforts, who knows where we would be...

Pomona, with all it's issues, is one of a few cities who still, in my opinion, has an identity. Let's help preserve it...

Anonymous said...

To Those Who Post Their Comments:

I must say, as a resident of Pomona, I'm pretty impressed by all the interested parties who, without a doubt, want what's best for the city. However, I am disappointed with the barrage of negative comments thrown around without a true understanding of their implications. From Gillman's all defensive "What do you mean!!" response to John's comment to Ed's "What is the benefit to designation...", it seems rather counter productive.

Mr. Gillman, you chewing the ear off of public figures is hardly a way to get the message across. Try doing it in a public forum, you are almot guaranteed instant results.

To all, try looking out your windows to see what you, as individuals, can do to help move the city in a positive direction.

There are a few of you who have great ideas and interests but lack the motivation and time to see it through. It's one thing to be vocal in these blogs but actions tend to have a greater impact...

Those of you who work tirelessly in fighting the good fight, thank you. Without your efforts, who knows where we would be...

Pomona, with all it's issues, is one of a few cities who still, in my opinion, has an identity. Let's help preserve it...

Ed said...

"There are a few of you who have great ideas and interests but lack the motivation and time to see it through. It's one thing to be vocal in these blogs but actions tend to have a greater impact..."

Wow! No offense, but I keep getting the image of Dick Cheney in my head when I read this comment.

I vote to put this post to rest,... so I can find that darn chainsaw. Thanks to all for sharing your opinions.

John Clifford said...

At rest. RIP