Monday, April 6, 2009

Shameful

The City Council meeting agenda is online. After clicking on the agenda, hit the "Browse" tab on the left to see all the agenda items.

I'll start with the mildly ugly and then jump head first into the really ugly.

First, the major rewrite of the city's rules governing landscaping and fencing is up for its second reading. In an earlier post, I rattled on about how intrusive this revision will be, and if I get the chance tonight or tomorrow, I'll take one more stab at trying to get the word out. If it passes in its current form and you find yourself under the code compliance microscope, I'd suggest you hold your Council member responsible. After all, I'd be surprised if even 1% of Pomona residents even know about the ordinance, so who else should we blame but our elected representatives. If you care to read it, here you go!

Next in the ugly list is the Public Hearing appealing the Historic Preservation Commission's denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness. Although I belong to Pomona Heritage, on the issue of trees is where I diverge from their publicly stated opinion. I don't believe that every tree in every yard should reach a protected status simply because it's trunk diameter exceeds 10 inches. I also disagree with taxing historic district residents $500 just to find out if their tree CAN be removed. If trees are so precious in this city, why not extend the tree preservation to the rest of the city? Is a mature tree in south Pomona less beneficial to that Pomona neighborhood? Won't future generations from those neighborhoods also benefit from a mature tree canopy if we take the time today to plant trees and also protect the larger specimen trees.
  • The particular case before the City Council has to do with several trees in the backyard of a home on McKinley. According to the report, one of the trees is a mere 36 inches from the house and the residents were denied permission for removal. The residents were also denied permission for the removal of several queen palms that are running over and under electrical lines. As stated, all these trees are in the resident's backyard. This lot is not overly large and one carefully chosen shade tree to replace this hodgepodge could provide shade for generations of homeowners. I should also point out that even the city arborist suggested removal, so the city is looking at potential litigation if they deny the appeal and an individual is injured or the structure is damaged. Just as a reminder, this resident has now paid $500 to the city and achieved nothing. This $500 could have gone to a mortgage payment, a car payment, groceries, or to buying clothing. I wonder, if given a vote, how many historic district residents would support tree protection if they knew it would cost $500 just to ask permission. Hmmmmm.

Okay, now for the really ugly. If you didn't know, the recently deceased, long-time elected representative from Pomona, Nell Soto, had been an advocate of the Safe Routes to School program for many years. This program makes funds available for cities to encourage children to walk or ride their bikes to school. I've written posts about biking and traffic safety in the past and will have a few more during bike-to-work week, so I'll limit my discussion to what I find particular egregious in this City Council agenda. In Item 5, we find several projects that the public works department would like to submit for possible funding through the Safe Routes to School program. Of the 5 projects initially identified, three have been considered to be a higher priority and therefore have become the basis for this request. The project I find disconcerting (well, downright ugly) is the proposal to close off Monroe ave at Orange Grove as a higher priority project than traffic alterations in front of Yorba Elementary and Garey High School. How a city can justify using this money for the closure of Monroe when it's intended for encouraging children to walk or bike to school is beyond even the greatest leaps of my imagination? At a time when childhood obesity is at record levels and in a community where forcing parents to drive their children to school creates a financial burden on families, city employees believing a project that will benefit only a handful of residents in one of the historic districts is a higher priority than the two other identified projects should be raising more than a few highbrows on the city council. Here is the school boundary map for PUSD and you can see that it's unlikely to benefit few if any Lincoln Elementary students and in fact, this closure will probably encourage more drivers to cut through other residential streets (particularly Garfield), making the Lincoln Park neighborhood less conducive to pedestrian and bike traffic. If you take the time to drive by our city's schools, I think even the most ambivalent could generate a list of projects that will encourage child safety more than the closure of a side street next to the freeway.

I'm not opposed to closing the street, but when we're requesting money that is intended to benefit children, let's actually put the interest of the city's children first. Sorry for venting, but I felt nauseous after reading this agenda item late Saturday night. Please take a few minutes to send a message to the city that the residents do care and we are watching.


Items I still need to read:
Redevelopment Agency Annual Report

14 comments:

Robin said...

State of the City Address by Rothman is to be presented at a $300 per table and $30 per head event. Only those with money may attend, and taxpayer dollars fund the event. What about the rest of us? Don't we get to hear it too since we're renting the tables?

Weren't speed humps installed on Monroe St. recently? I don't want to see the street closed, especially since I already paid for humps. I'm getting tired of all my secret routes across town being ruined. Same for my secret parking spots. Ease of travel and parking are one of the joys of Pomona.

Anduhrew said...

keep the Chainsaw buzzing Ed. I hear our city govt. is beginning to complain about our complaints. well. maybe if they listened to us, there'd be less complaints for them to complain about.

gilman said...

Dear Robin..
Can you point me in the right direction? Where is Rothman giving this address? Is it listed on a website? are other Council members attending?
thanks for any further info you can provide.

calwatch said...

Mayor's State of the City Address 2009

Date: April 28th
Time: 11:30am

Location: Pomona Fox Theater - 114 W. 3rd Street, Pomona

\"Maintaining the Vision\" Lunch $30.00 per person. For more information contact the chamber office

http://www.pomonachamber.org/events.php#58

gilman said...

Thanks Calwatch...much appreciated. Appears to be a Chamber of Commerce event vs. an official city event. I assume that we(taxpayers) are not funding the event, even though we subsidize the Chamber.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine anything more boring than listening to Rothman give a speech. Paying to hear it goes against my nature to a level I can't even describe.

Ed said...

Quick update:
The fence/landscaping ordinance has been pushed back to the next Council meeting.
The Safe Routes to Funding went through without even a question by the Council members.
The homeowner on McKinley will be allowed to remove his gum tree next to the house. He will be replacing it with two 36 inch box trees.

Council member Lantz tried valiantly to save the tree, but the others decided maybe the threat to the house was a higher priority. This decision is consistent with the view of the city arborist, so nothing too radical. Btw, the homeowner was killing his own case. FYI don't say a tree is a nuisance or we have lots of trees in the neighborhood. Focus on...."I'm worried this tree will damage my house!" And when it's a couple feet away and 45 feet high, the cautious path would be to remove the tree. If the same tree was somewhere else in the yard, I would have a completely different opinion. One of the more interesting moments was to hear that Paula Lantz didn't see a need to keep the queen palms since they might only be 20 years old. Hmmmm....

Anonymous said...

That was nice of the council. So he was able to take out 4 trees and replace with 2 - 36" box trees (don't you think that is a bit small). The camphor in the front of his home is probably causing more damage than any of the others...I am sure that one is next. Thanks for the update chainsaw Ed.

MAC

John Clifford said...

Robin,

I believe that the mayor's state of the city address is actually funded by the chamber of commerce, not the city (but it could have some city funding that I'm not aware of). This year it's at the Fox. The event is, as has always been the case, a time to address the business community, which is why it's a chamber event. A true state of the city would be held at night, not lunch, if it were for the general populace.

While I live on Monroe and this very directly affects me, I'd have to say that I'd be concerned about the funds coming from there too. I was led to believe that funding was coming from either development funds or from state CalTrans funds. I really don't see the closing of my street as a "safe route" issue either.

Thanks for the updates Ed.

Ed said...

Sorry if I confused people about the trees. The decision is that homeowner needs to keep the queen palms, but replace the birch and gum tree with two 36 inch box trees.

Mayor Rothman basically left this decision up to Soto and I wonder if applicants shouldn't approach these situations with a general landscaping plan for their yard. This lot is probably a typical 7000sq foot rectangle and the backyard might account for 3500sq feet. Given you already have a garage and two queen palms, I question the logic of throwing in two box trees. Sorry, I just have a bias towards large shade trees and I don't know that you have space to plant two. Since others out there have a greater expertise in trees, I'm coming from a position of some ignorance, but I wish I had heard some discussion about the lot size and the best long term solution.

Thirty years from now, I hope that residents look back on us and say "thank goodness they had a plan," instead of "what on earth were these idiots thinking."

Robin said...

Forgive me for not going back to the agenda to look for the quote, but I read about a $300 per table allotment being dispersed for the State of the City speech at the Fox on opening night. I was wondering why taxpayers are paying when tickets are being sold and the speech is not offered for open viewing on public access TV or the internet.

hey anonymous, thanks for the laugh!

Anonymous said...

I didn't catch whether any Council members used their discretionary funds to buy tickets to the State of the City Address, but Robin is absolutely right in that there is a reference to purchasing tickets for this event.

Hopefully, the Council member(s) are buying tickets for residents other than themselves, perhaps some high school students.

gilman said...

Does anyone know what the homeowner had to pay for the appeal before the City Council? If my memory serves me correctly, it is around a $1000 or more to make such an appeal?

John Clifford said...

Robin, council at almost every meeting approves tickets for council members to attend various events around the city. These include little league dinners, chamber events (such as the State of the City) and other community functions.

None of these events are broadcast or otherwise open free to the public. I'm not quite sure what your issue is with the council supporting, in a very small way, community non-profit organizations. Either we have those organizations paying to have councilpeople attend, or we have the system we have now where the city picks up the tab for the councilpeople to attend, or the council people (the salary for council is VERY low) take the money from their own pockets to attend. So, just what is your suggestion?

Personally, I don't have a solid opinion on this but would like to understand why it's that big an issue. This is the way that it's done in all of the citys surrounding us and we do less of it than most.

GILMAN: I didn't see if the applicant had to pay. When George Hunter was councilman, he felt that a citizen who had been denied something by a commission had a right to appeal and always waived the appeal fees. I'm not sure if the applicant's councilperson also followed that philosophy.

I'm also not sure of the fees charged. I believe that it used to be something like $120 to appeal, but I know that the council approved raising all fees, which is why the fee for a major COA jumped from $35 to $500.