July 11, 2009 Meeting Summary

July 11, 2009

Preparation

E-mail reminder was sent and some phone calls were made

Attendees

6 members, 1 guest

Meeting

Agenda Items:

 

 

    • monthly E-waste collection at PCC
    • Recommended by the Grapevine progress

The meeting began about 11:20 am

  • Ice Rink decision imminent
    • Since our last meeting:
      • As of our last meeting, the Ice Rink project was going to be discussed at a Finance Committee meeting on June 22.  That meeting was canceled.
      • Instead, a private discussion of contract terms for the proposed Ice Rink management firm was scheduled for the closed City Council session on June 22.   Since it was a closed session, we thought that meant there was no way to publicly comment, just send e-mail/letters.  At least a couple e-mails were sent by neighborhood residents to Council members.
      • In response to one of the e-mails, our Councilman gave this response:
        "While it may not change your opinion of the project, the project does generate a positive net present value in excess of $2 million and generates a positive cashflow in excess of $12 million over the thirty year life of the construction bond. Negative cashlows in the early years, positive cashlflows in the later years."
        Up to now, there has been no public release of information to support this statement.  Presumably that will happen this coming Monday.
      • Over the weekend before the meeting, the person behind the "Build the Rink" support committee sent out e-mails encouraging supporters to go to that closed session for Public Comment.  How?  Tim Price, the President of Daisy Villa Neighborhood Assoc (across the Wash from us) visited the City Attorney the afternoon of the meeting and was told there was no Public Comment at closed sessions.  Then he went to the City Clerk's office and was told, yes there is Public Comment.  So he went to Council Chambers and filled out a speaker card along with about 5 ice rink supporters.  The closed session was scheduled for 4:30 pm, but it wasn't until 4:50 that the Council had a quorum.  They then listened to the public comments for almost 20 minutes before going to another room for their Closed Session.
      • The comments were video taped.  They were replayed at the beginning of the regular Council meeting replays on television, but are not included in the replay available on the internet.
      • Tim Price's comments focused mainly on the procedural issues.  How come the ability to comment at closed sessions is so little known that even the City Attorney's office didn't know?  Why didn't the Planning or Parks and Rec Commissions ever get to weigh in on this project?  Who is this Polar Ice company?
      • Our Councilman seemed to be quite annoyed that we didn't contact him with our Closed session public comments question.  The Mayor stated they have taken Public Comment at Closed Sessions on many occasions before but there doesn't seem to be much demand for it.   (Did not seem to occur to him that might be because few know it is possible.)
      • Supporters claimed to be sure the rink project would pay for itself over time, that it would stimulate the economy, that it is so very needed.  One supporter did extol the virtues of the current rink management and denigrated corporate rink managers.
      • There have been at least three articles in the Pasadena Star News about the coming decision and the Build the Rink committee.  June 17, June 22, and July 5.
    • On Monday July 13 at 4 pm, City Hall Council Chambers, the Finance Committee agenda again includes a discussion of the Ice Rink Project.  This is a public meeting, open for public comment.  Unlike a Council session however, where staff reports are published on the internet along with the agenda, we will not have access to any staff report until the meeting itself.  So we cannot analyze whatever is being proposed or its basis ahead of time.
    • On Monday July 20, during the regular 6:30 pm meeting, the City Council is expected to receive a report from the Finance Committee and as a whole make a decision about whether and how to go forward now, or some alternative plan.
      • Currently it appears three Council members support going forward now no matter what has to be done for financing, four have unfailingly supported the project in the past but have indicated some concern with the financial situation for going forward now, and one is a total unknown.  It takes five votes to make a decision.
    • UPDATE from July 13 meeting.  Finance Committee requested more information and resolution of some incomplete items.  Will meet again on the matter on July 27, with expectation of taking the full package to the full City Council that evening.
  • Water rate increases decided
    • On June 22, the City Council voted to have the City Attorney prepare an ordinance to increase water rates with some differences from what had been proposed, mailed to everyone, and discussed here previously.
    • The fixed rate charges (D&C + FPS) will be increased over 3 years instead of 2.
      • While this is supposed to make it easier on customers, the net effect is worse.  While the increases in the first 2 years are smaller then they would have been, in order to get the same revenue after 3 years the increase in the 3rd year brings the total rate higher then it was to have been after 2 years (114% instead of 102%).  The staff report did not seem to mention it, but this also means going forward it will be costing more/bringing in more revenue every year.
      • For our 5/8" and 3/4" residential meter sizes, the two month bill fixed charge will go from $16.34 now to $22.14 as soon as the ordinance is revised, to $28.10 starting July 2010, to $35.00 starting July 2011.
      • To deal with the reduced revenue for the first two years, additional borrowing will occur from capital improvement funds, resulting in further maintenance delays.
    • To be less hard on high level water users, a provision was added to retroactively credit or rebate customers charged for the new blocks 4 and 5 if the extra revenues from those blocks turn out to be more then what is needed to cover penalty costs from Metropolitan Water District (MWD) for exceeding the city's allowance.  The MWD allocation for Pasadena was reduced by 10% starting July 1.  Sometime after June 30, 2010 the MWD will determine any penalties owed and bill Pasadena Water and Power.  PWP will then figure out if extra revenue was collected and rebate or credit customers in blocks 4 and 5.  If too little revenue was collected then the extra costs will be charged to all water customers through an increase in the purchased water rate.
    • To help efficient water users who just happen to be in situations that use a huge amount of water (for example, a laundromat) there is to be a Block 5 rate relief program.  The customer has to apply for it, pay for a professional water audit, prove use of the most efficient technologies and practices, have reduced usage over the previous 3 years, and still be subject to block 5 rates for more then one billing period per year.  After all that, they would only be billed Block 4 rates rather then Block 5 rates.
  • Water shortage declaration
    • On Monday July 13, the City Council is expected to approve a declaration of a Level 1 Water Supply Shortage and a 10% water conservation target.
    • On July 4, the new all-the-time "water waste prohibitions" took effect.  These include:
      • no watering between 9 am and 6 pm except with a hand-held container or hose with an shut-off nozzle
      • no watering during "periods of rain"
      • no "excessive" water flow or runoff onto pavement
      • no washing down of paved surfaces except for safety or sanitation, and then only with a bucket, shut-off nozzled hose, or special cleaning machines.
      • leaks, breaks, or malfunctions must be fixed within 7 days
      • fountains and decorative water features must have recirculating systems
      • vehicles must be washed with a bucket and/or hose with shut off nozzle
    • The expected additional water shortage restrictions include:
      • Watering limited to 3 days per week from April 1 to October 31, and one day a week the rest of the year.
        • PWP intends to establish Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays as the allowed 3 days, and Saturdays only as the allowed one day.  They say they might allow choosing a substitute day under certain (unspecified) circumstances.
        • This restriction does Not apply to
          • Hand watering with a container or a hose with shut-off nozzle.
          • Low flow drip irrigation where no emitter produces more then 2 gallons per hour.
          • "Maintenance" of vegetation intended for consumption.  eg. vegetables and fruits
          • short periods during adjustment/repair of irrigation system
      • Leaks, breaks, malfunctions must be repaired within 72 hours of notice.
    • The staff proposal does not recommend implementing additional water rate increases or block size reductions at this time because the new rates and blocks already anticipated the need for the 10% reduction.
    • A brochure explaining the net new restrictions, rates, and blocks and "typical customer" estimates is to be mailed to all customers.  There will also be a new advertising campaign.
    • "PWP will implement enforcement activities to the extent feasible utilizing existing field staff and reassigning support staff on a short-term basis. The effectiveness and sustainability of this approach will be evaluated later this year."
    • Water wasters can be reported to the Pasadena Water Shortage Hotline at 626 744-8888, or you can fill out an online form:
      http://cityofpasadena.net/waterandpower/watershortage/waterwastereport.htm
      This is especially useful, for example, for reporting a commercial property flooding the street at night where you have no idea how to contact a responsible party.  The city can use its contact info.
  • Code compliance enforcement issues
    • Recently a code compliance officer decided to go down Vineyard Pl looking at every house for violations of any kind and writing up notices.  She announced to a neighbor that she was going to do this, and many if not all of the violations were for ticky-tack stuff and/or debatable.  The supposed complaint resulting in being on the block in the first place seemed to be bogus.
    • To at least some neighbors this felt like a witch hunt and it caused a lot of upset, fear, anger.  Until a few years ago code violation inspections in our neighborhood only ever occurred as a result of a complaint and those were few and far between because most neighbors would only complain about serious quality of life issues that could not be resolved by just talking with their neighbor.  Further when there was a serious problem and a complaint made, there didn't seem to be any action by the city anyway.
    • The question arose as to whether code compliance officers really do have carte blanche to inspect every property without any complaint or other good reason.  And what prevents disproportionate targeting of some areas vs others, in other words what seems to the targeted properties like a vendetta.
    • Another question is whether such antagonistic, bully-like behavior by a code enforcement officer is a good idea.  Maybe compliance officers should get some training in customer relations.
    • Yet another question is whether some of the codes, such as the frequently cited "trash cans visible from the street" are outmoded and ought to be eliminated or updated.
    • The answer to the first question is that code compliance officers do have authority to look for and cite any violation they can see without going into private areas, or from private areas with permission.  So it is totally legal for them to drive or walk down a street and write warnings/citations for any violation they see.  They are also allowed to do this for anything they see from a property where they have permission to be.  So if they have permission to be in your neighbor's backyard, and they see a violation over your shared fence, they can cite you for that otherwise unseen violation.  They can also cite you for other issues they see if they come to inspect your home for a permit for something else.
    • There is no apparent accountability to how code enforcement decides where to target their attention.  (This is always an issue with law enforcement functionaries.)
    • Have not seen such publicly available aerial services as Google Earth used yet for doing random violation searches, but it is probably only a matter of time.  It is known that the permit office is already using some such service to examine properties for discrepancies when a permit is applied for.  Right now such imagery provides an undated and out-of-date context so it can only be used for raising questions.
    • The answer to the policy/judgment questions are open to debate.
    • To some degree there is a citywide conflict between home owners who have spent a huge amount on a property which is all up to code and manage to keep it that way with older home owners who may have accumulated issues over many years, may have very little money, and are accustomed to the live and let live approach.
    • In recent years, City Council members have expressed in Council sessions a desire for more proactive code enforcement - presumably this is in response to some constituent demands.  The huge development bubble led to a seriously undermanned code compliance staff, and that staff was expanded somewhat.  The huge increase in property values and emphasis as an investment rather then a home has led to increased pressure to force everyone to make their property perfect.  Now with the economic downturn there are many properties which have essentially been abandoned and truly are a danger and/or eyesore.  Others, such as 3175 Alameda, have long been a problem and are now just worse then ever.  One might think that Code Compliance would focus on those properties.  But there is also the enforcement theory that if you go after every little violation then everybody is kept wary, will put things in order, and won't progress to larger violations.
    • Our Vice-President, who lives on Vineyard Place and is one of those cited, has suggested that we invite a Code Compliance official to a neighborhood meeting to discuss questions and concerns.  She has offered to host the meeting at her house. She says the Code Compliance officer she has been dealing with said they would be glad to meet with the neighbors.  So questions are:
      • Do we want to have such a meeting? If so,
      • What questions/concerns would we like to be sure are addressed?
      • Should we hold the meeting in place of a regular monthly meeting or at a different time?
      • Is it better to hold such a meeting at the library or at Kathy's house?
  • anything else attendees wish to discuss
    • monthly E-waste collection at PCC
      • 1st Sunday of each month from 8 am to 2 pm - same day/time as swap meet
      • corner of Cordova and Hill
      • run by a private company
      • Web site says does not accept microwaves, household batteries, light bulbs, although they did accept batteries and light bulbs from one of our residents
    • Recommended by the Grapevine progress
      • aka Directory of Tradespersons
      • Which streets were recommendation forms not distributed to?  Believe probably Del Vina, Mataro, Avocado and Avocado Ln, Sierra Madre Villa, Orange Grove.
      • Sharon reports having received a few recommendations and a dis-recommendation.  Wondering how long to wait to publish the first directory.  Doesn't want to publish printed version more often then maybe once a year because it is expensive. (Web version can be updated as frequently as desired.)
      • Rosalie will take on getting forms distributed to the remaining streets

Next meeting is August 8, 2009.

Adjourned about 12:50 pm

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