September 12, 2009 Meeting Summary


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


Susan brought raisin oatmeal cookies.


9 members, 1 guest


Agenda Items:

The meeting began about 11:24 am

  • Ice Rink before City Council again on 9/14
    • On September 14, the City Council will hear a revised staff recommendation to continue working on the Ice Rink project.
    • The last public action occurred with the August 3rd meeting.
      • At that meeting the Council directed staff to do more investigation of options and come back on August 17 if the bid winning construction contractor would not further extend its bid until this September meeting.  Otherwise return with additional information and recommendations to this September meeting.
      • Apparently the contractor did extend its bid and participate in more studies, but now the recommendation is to reject all bids and not put any more effort into the project as originally conceived – city developed and financed with contracted management.
    • The staff recommendation for Monday is a slightly revised version of the “public/private partnership” presented on August 3.
      • The city would formally enter negotiations with Polar Ice Ventures (PIV) to come to a “ground lease” agreement by the end of the year.
      • The city would lease the land to PIV and PIV would be responsible for both building and running the project.  The proposed lease would be for 30 years with two 10 year extensions.
      • PIV would select their own building contractor (one they have worked with on another rink), would assume the construction costs risks, “reduce construction costs through value engineering”,  provide construction management and oversight (thereby reducing those costs).  As a result it is believed that “capital costs” might be reduced to $18 million (more study required).
      • The staff report indicates that PIV is only willing to take on responsibility for $10 million of debt.  The city would have to be responsible for the other $8 million.  (A pointed question is if PIV really believes in the cash flow projections, why is it not willing to take on responsibility for all of the projected cost?  Or is it just thought to not have a sufficient reputation as a company for bond purchasers to support that much commitment? )
      • The projections show the cash flow coming up a million dollars short of what is needed to pay off the bonds during the first 3 years.  The city would have to pay that difference also.
      • The city’s allocation of $11.1 million in Recovery Zone Economic Development Facility (aka “Build America”) bonds authorized by the federal stimulus legislation would be used to issue tax-exempt bonds.  PIV would be responsible for paying off any such bonds issued to it.  The staff report does not indicate if just $10 million would be issued if that is all PIV is willing to be responsible for.  It is additionally confusing because the staff report discusses talking with the County about getting some of its issuing authority.   So would the city be issuing the remainder to itself?
      • The staff report does not mention whether the city would still be responsible for the PCC and Edison contracts and for building the access road and utility connection infrastructure.  On August 3 that was the plan.  That would be as much as almost $1 million for the utilities, $200,000 for the traffic signal, $100,000 for the access road, $15,000 per year for the Edison lease.
      • Note the pro forma of expected revenues and expenses in this staff report now assumes only 5% increase in utility costs instead of the 6% previously used.
      • It was noted that the pro forma revenue numbers for General Admission, skate rental, and birthday parties are much higher in the first year then in subsequent years.  The numbers for such things as hockey and group sales are considerably lower in the first year and then higher, presumably because it will take time to ramp up organized usage.  So apparently the assumption is that there will be much greater demand for general admission then can be provided once group and contracted activity is fully underway.  And that general admission demand will exist right from the start.  Cynics might say they are just filling up the general revenues in the first year to match the desired revenue outcome.  To meet the projected general admission revenue of $470,700 in the first year, assuming a general admission price of $8 as noted in the August 3 staff report, they would have to have 58837.50 general admissions the first year, an average of over 161 a day.
      • The staff report barely mentions private fund raising to reduce the city’s financial exposure.  Essentially an acknowledgment that it probably won’t amount to anything.
      • In response to Council member Holden’s suggestion of looking into a joint project with other nearby cities, the staff report mentions that other cities would not be able to participate in this project due to their own financial problems.  As expected, no acknowledgment of his mention of locating the project at a better location in another city.
    • The staff report recommends that if the City Council does not want to go forward with negotiations with PIV, then it should direct staff to put together a proposal by Feb 28 for renovating the existing Convention Center facility and operating it after the current lease expires in September 2011.
    • No mention of what project development process the private project would be subjected to, much less what process any “value engineering” design changes would need to follow.  It would seem that making it a private development should cause it to be subject to the process rules for a private development.  The current design has never been approved under the lax process under which it was initiated, and the Council explicitly exempted the project from the newer city development process.
    • Its bad enough having Pasadena Water and Power run roughshod over our neighborhood.  This “public/private partnership” is likely to be even harder to get anyone to take responsibility for anything that is or isn’t done during construction and/or operation.
  • Electric and dump trucks on Alameda, Avocado, Del Vina…
    • As of our last meeting we discussed the letter writing efforts underway.  The following Monday many huge dump trucks as well as large electric trucks changed their route to Avocado and Del Vina and sometimes Las Lunas instead of just Alameda.  The private vehicles have not been apparent on the new route.  Initially there was work underway at Alameda and Sierra Madre Villa that might have caused diversion, but that was finished after a few days.  Yet the heavy truck traffic has continued on all the streets.
    • The trucks are Poulk and Steinl, the contractor to Pasadena Water and Power and are using the PWP property between the water well and the substation.
    • One neighbor on Avocado who has been observing from afar says it appears they may be bringing in dirt from somewhere else, dumping it out on the ground, filtering debris from it, and then taking it away somewhere.
    • They have been rumbling down the street as early as 6:15 am and as late as 6 pm.  They tend to go slowly in the early morning but some are in a big hurry in the late afternoon when people are most likely to be out on the street.
    • Your President has not received any response to e-mailed questions.  Will try again now that city employees should be back from their summer vacations.
    • Have others sent letters?  Has anyone else gotten any information on what is going on?
    • It was mentioned at the meeting that a neighbor on Alameda said they made numerous phone calls to various city departments and was unable to find anyone who would acknowledge the activity or responsibility for it.  Not known if Pasadena Water and Power was called.
    • Last meeting we discussed whether to do a petition or individual letters.  Multiple individual letters have more impact.  On the other hand, many people will not make the effort to write an individual letter, so it might make sense to do a petition as well as encourage individual letters.
    • Last time we discussed the traffic count and documentation of speeding on Alameda in September after school starts.   Could it be the revised traffic pattern is an attempt to avoid being counted?
  • Walnut and Kinneloa extension construction to begin
    • At its August 17 meeting the City Council approved awarding the construction contract of up to $2.4 million for the “first phase” of the Walnut and Kinneloa extension construction.
    • Construction was expected to start in September and be completed “in spring 2010”.  Considering how far off all projections have been so far, don’t give much credence to this.
    • Included in the work:
      • Extend Walnut Street approximately 1,100 feet east from the intersection of Walnut Street and Sunnyslope Avenue to the
        intersection of Walnut Street and Kinneloa Avenue.
      • Reconstruct approximately 600 feet of Kinneloa Avenue from Colorado Boulevard to the Walnut Street intersection
      • Extend Kinneloa Avenue approximately 675 feet north to the intersection of Titley Avenue (to be renamed Kinneloa Avenue) and Foothill Boulevard.
      • Removal of concrete curbs, gutters, sidewalks, drive approaches, reinforced concrete walls, the Avon access ramp, asphalt concrete pavement and existing fences
      • Construction of storm drain facilities
      • Reconstruction of the bridge over Eaton Wash Channel
      • Construction of concrete curbs, gutters, sidewalks, wheelchair ramps and drive approaches
      • Installation of a street lighting system
      • Traffic signals and traffic striping
      • Planting of street trees.
    • What phase 2 is or when it might occur was not mentioned.  According to a January 12 meeting item, phase 2 “includes the improvement of Walnut Street from Cook Avenue to Sunnyslope Avenue, and Altadena Drive from Walnut Street to Foothill Boulevard”.  The expected total cost of both phases was $9.4 million.
  • Code compliance questions
    • Kathy is arranging for a meeting at her house on October 10 at 11 am.  463 Vineyard Place.
    • We’ve begun putting together a list of questions (some are more comment then question).
      1. What is the process for a homeowner to follow if they think they need a permit for some work?
      2. Can my contractor fill out the necessary forms or is the property owner responsible for filling out the paperwork?
      3. How is a homeowner supposed to know all the little nitty things that the city codes require a permit for?
      4. How is a homeowner supposed to be able to figure out which repairs/fix ups require a permit?  Do you really expect them to call the permit office and ask every time they lift a hammer or wrench?  You certainly can’t expect them to understand all the code that apparently even the permit office can have trouble interpreting.
      5. I heard that even if the permit office makes a mistake and issues a permit in error, when the error is discovered the homeowner will be on the hook to re/un do whatever was done incorrectly based on that permit. Is this true?
      6. I live in an old house that has obvious changes, how do I know if a permit was issued?
      7. I heard that when a house is sold there is now supposed to be an inspection and the new owner is required to bring everything up to code.  Is this true?
      8. If I apply for a permit for one thing, such as replacing my water heater, does that then allow an inspector of that work to look all around my house on his way to and from the water heater and cite me for anything he thinks might not be permitted or up to code even though there is no relation to the water heater work?  Does code compliance understand how this would discourage homeowners from applying for permits?
      9. How are permit fees calculated?  For example, if somebody wants to replace some windows?
      10. Someone pointed out there is a website to calculate the fees.  But it does not work.  Who should be notified?
      11. Is there any cost advantage to trying to get permits for lots of unrelated fixes at the same time?
      12. What does a compliance officer look for when driving around the city?
      13. If I receive a compliance letter and I think it is wrong or I don’t understand it, what should I do?
      14. If I receive a compliance letter and I cannot afford to fix whatever it complains about, what can I do?  Especially if I don’t qualify for whatever assistance programs might be available.
      15. A complaint was made about a neighbor and we haven’t seen any improvement, why? What is the process?  Can we call the office for an update?
      16. Recently heard there are two different kinds of permits.  A zoning permit and a building permit?  Is this true? What’s the difference?
      17. Are there different rules for residential vs business properties?
      18. If I’m doing my own maintenance upgrade do I need to follow the same work schedule as a contractor?  What hours are contractors allowed to work?
      19. Heard that trash cans should not be visible from the street, I don’t have a garage only a carport, what can I do?
      20. My backyard is an alley with businesses on the other side, how can I be assured that the restaurant outdoor patio has a permit for usage? What restrictions are in place for a business near/next to residential properties?  For example sometimes patrons from the restaurant sit in the patio until midnight or later and tend to be quite loud.
      21. The original purpose of building codes was safety, and zoning was safety and community standards.  Worthy goals, but in a “free society” it is a balancing act to not have government be overwhelming and overly intrusive.  The system has become a giant game in which most residents feel like pawns to those who exercise the power of playing the game.
      22. Do code compliance officers understand how the permit system makes it such a hassle and so costly that people feel it necessary to avoid the permit system either by not fixing things or doing it without permit?
        The system was certainly not designed for homeowners doing small fix up jobs.   Have heard it takes hours to go window to window for a permit at the permit office, and there is no free parking.  And extra documentation is needed for everything now.  For example, needing to have “plans” for the house just to replace a window in the same opening; most older houses don’t have plans so that means extra time and money to draw them up.  And permits that cost more then the work.  Further, requesting a permit for one thing can lead to being required to bring other unrelated things up to code or under permit.  And it’s all so complicated you can’t figure out what you are taking on ahead of time.
      23. Recently it seems code compliance officers are making a point of trying to get homeowners to turn their neighbors in for any and every potential infraction.  Do they understand how devastating a code compliance war can be to quality of life in a neighborhood?   Raising suspicions of neighbors against each other and plots for revenge.  Instead of neighbors being friendly and looking out for one another, they are set on edge, draw into themselves, put up mental and physical walls.  Even if something “suspicious” is not wrong, just getting a notice and having to deal with the system is very stressful, time consuming, and potentially costly.
      24. Do officers have any training or clue about how they can be pulled in and used as weapons by neighbors with unrelated disagreements?  While it is true that using code compliance can be useful for authorities when a house or household is causing major disruption to a neighborhood, generalized use in any dispute is a very bad idea.
      25. Many of us suspect an awful lot of these regulations and enforcement of them boils down to getting more money for the city and/or hiring more employees to extend the bureaucracy and power and/or generating more make work for the building trades.  It also seems that some inspectors are on personal power trips.  Further, whether it is true in Pasadena or not, permit offices and officers have a long standing reputation in many localities of being on the take.  Many residents do not trust the system to do anything other then make trouble for them.
  • anything else attendees wish to discuss
    • New park pedestrian entrance
      • Surveyors were recently observed at the corner of Avocado and Las Lunas, apparently working on measurements for the new gate, crosswalk, curb cut.

Next meeting is October 10, 2009.  Note that instead of at the library, this meeting will be held at 11 am at Kathy’s house at 463 Vineyard Place.
It is anticipated that a guest from code compliance will be attending to answer questions.
(For the unfamiliar, Vineyard Place is a cul de sac street that runs north from Alameda Street between Santa Paula Ave and Avocado Ave.)

Adjourned about 12:28 pm