December 16 Neighborhood Meeting Summary


E-mail reminders


6 members


JoAnn and Susan brought home-baked treats.


Agenda Items:

The meeting began about 11:25 am

  • Massive new Edison tower
    • Edison has erected a massive new one pole tower adjacent to Avocado Ave, just south of the pedestrian entrance to the park, in order to raise the previously “too low” high voltage power lines.
    • A worker drilling the foundation hole said they were going down 27 feet.
    • Do not know how tall the pole is, but it is taller then the tallest pine trees on the other side of Avocado Ave.
    • This thing can be seen looming on the western view shed from much of Avocado, Del Vina, and Las Lunas. It is much more imposing then the older four footed towers, which have a bigger footprint but are not as massive. It will take a while to get accustomed to it and learn to mostly ignore it.
    • Do not know if permits were even pulled for constructing it, since they were working on the foundation all day Sunday November 19. Construction is generally banned in the city on Sundays.
    • Do not know why they got around to doing this now, 12 years after the too low lines issue was discovered. There had been talk that Edison would add a tower when they put the new circuit on the adjacent towers in 2013. Didn’t happen.
    • No notice was received from the City; do not know if anyone beyond Pasadena Water & Power is aware it has been done. For example, the parks management. Have neglected to ask.
    • Back story:
      • The fact that the power lines were “too low” was discovered during construction of what originally was going to be the new park’s fence. It was going to be a chain link fence, just as all the fencing in the area. But the story goes that a guy standing on a ladder pounding a pole for the fence underneath those wires got an electrical buzz from those lines, which prompted Edison to investigate.
      • Those towers and lines had been that way for decades, with the plant nursery workers and kids walking to PHS beneath them.
      • Once it was realized they did not meet regulations, the plan for the park had to be revised to cut out the southeastern corner that fell within the exclusion zone.
      • When the park opened in the spring of 2006, an orange fence marked the new southeastern boundary. Shortly after the original white vinyl fence went up.
      • The initial “temporary” pedestrian entrance from our neighborhood was established on Avocado Ave at Alameda, running directly west to the city parcel, then north, entering the park immediately adjacent to the dog area. During this time, the City was still planning to build an ice rink facility on that entire area.
      • In 2009 agreement with Edison was finally reached and the current pedestrian entrance from Avocado Ave at Las Lunas was designed and built. It opened in October 2009.
    • Presumably the City could now take down the circuitous white vinyl fence and extend the park to the originally planned east-west boundary with a simple direct entrance. But as with all things, that will take negotiation with Edison, design, budget, … If they are even thinking about it, don’t expect any change any time soon. If this is something we want to see happen, we should start asking questions and making noise to the City Council and Manager. If we’d rather it stay as is, with visibility between us and the park largely blocked and many park users unaware of the entrance, it is probably best to not wake city management up.
  • New Accessory Dwelling Unit regulations
    • The City Council held a hearing again on December 11 about changing the regulations for building new Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) structures on Single Family Residential parcels to be more permissive. (ADUs are also known as second units or granny flats).
    • As previously reported, in an attempt to alleviate the shortage of affordable housing, a new state law already largely eliminated the City’s ability to regulate converting existing structures to ADUs.
    • Most of the Council wanted to be cautious in spite of a heavy push by advocates to allow larger ADUs on any size lot, and to eliminate fees for public recreation and transportation infrastructure for the increased demand by presumed new residents. The point was made that they can always reduce limitations later, but it is much harder to go the other way. They asked staff to revisit in a year or two to see what the effect has been.
    • Minimum lot size
      • Most of the public comment at City meetings has advocated for eliminating the minimum lot size requirement, or at least lowering it to 5000 square feet.
      • Many on the Council have been reluctant to lower it too far, worried about the impact of increasing density that much. They settled on the staff recommended 7200 square feet, which has been the City minimum size allowed Single Family lot size since at least the 30s.
    • Maximum ADU size
      • The maximum allowed size of a newly constructed ADU was also a big issue.
      • The new state law specifies 1200 square feet as the default.
      • The staff recommendation was the lessor of 50% of the size of the main house or 800 square feet.
      • One public commenter noted that some main houses are only around 900 square feet, and they thought 450 square feet was too small for anyone to live in. Others thought that 800 square feet was too small for a family, and this rule would relegate ADUs to be used only by singles and couples.
      • In response to a comment that they could at least allow larger ADUs on larger lots, the Council kept the staff proposed limit as the base, but asked the staff to come back with a provision to step up the 800 square feet maximum to 1200 square feet for lots larger then 15,000 square feet.
    • 2nd stories
      • The Council rejected demands to allow 2nd story construction because of the impact on neighbors, especially because by state law allowing it for new construction would also allow existing garages, which often have little to no setback from the property line, to have a second story ADU added.
    • Impact fees
      • There was a lot of discussion about the large fees that the Council adopted years ago for any addition of bedrooms on a Single Family Residential parcel.
      • The Residential Impact Fee is “to provide funds for City parks and park facilities to mitigate the impact of new residential development. This fee applies to all new residential development in the City, including Accessory Dwelling Units, and is calculated based on the number of bedrooms per unit, and not by size or square footage”. First adopted in 1988 at a much lower rate, the current fee rate for a one-bedroom residential dwelling unit is currently $19,494.61. However, if the unit is legally restricted to be an “affordable” unit, the fee is reduced to $957.30
      • The Traffic Reduction and Transportation Improvement Fee is currently $2,889.70 per new residential unit. This fee is waived for “affordable” units.
      • Both fees are increased each year by some inflation calculation.
      • Both fees are charged when the building permit for a new residential unit is issued.
      • These fees were set after “nexus” studies determined that the cost of providing the infrastructure for additional residents is even higher then what the Council adopted. (These studies assume that the number of bedrooms equate to the number of residents, a false assumption).
      • In recent months as people have made plans to use the new state law to convert existing structures into legal ADUs and pulled permits, some people have been surprised when they received the bill for the impact fees. Apparently the City doesn’t inform people about them up front. Often the fees make the cost of creating an ADU infeasible for those who want to use it for family members rather then as a rental. In response to complaints about this, and the state requirement to have rules that support the creation of ADUs, staff had recommended applying the fees to ADUs as if they were all “affordable” units, without any restriction to that end.
      • Council members worried over not wanting to waive needed fees only aid and abet developers/speculators making money by adding ADUs as they flip houses, just further increasing the cost of housing rather then helping to create affordable options.
      • Some suggested waiving the fees unless the property is sold within some TBD number of years, perhaps five.
      • After lots of deliberation, they decided to leave the fees as they are currently defined because homeowners can always put a covenant on their house requiring the ADU to meet “affordable” requirements. But those restrictions are usually required to last 35 years, and some Council persons felt that was excessive for an ADU, so they asked staff to bring back recommendations for reduced time limits.
  • City Marijuana regulations
    • Marijuana dispensaries and other related commercial operations were already illegal in Pasadena, but to be sure the administrators of the new state licensing system being developed for the new state rules taking effect on January 1 will recognize that fact, the City Council has put in place more explicit language.
    • All commercial operations are explicitly banned. Personal outdoor growing is banned, but indoor cultivation of up to 6 plants per residence is allowed, as required by the new state law. Where smoking is allowed is under the same restrictions as tobacco. The City’s no-smoking rules are stricter then most localities, including disallowing any use in parks and library grounds. Here is a link to the ordinance:
    • Because the Council recognizes there are some people with legitimate medical needs, the new regulations explicitly allow deliveries into the City of medical marijuana products by properly licensed vendors in other jurisdictions.
    • The new regulations also disqualify any operators of illegal businesses in Pasadena from being licensed and/or issued permits to operate in the future if the City changes its rules to permit such businesses.
    • The Council expects to revisit the regulations and possibly allow additional commercial activities after a bit of time for the state to determine all its rules and to be able to benefit from the good and or bad experience of other localities that have enacted various rules to permit it. They are taking a cautious approach with the realization that once something has been allowed, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to disallow it. Especially land use decisions. Think about the inability to close down nuisance liquor establishments; they can continue to operate, even if the ownership changes, because the Conditional Use Permit runs with the land, not the owner.
    • If you want to better understand the Council’s thinking, watch the long hearing on the subject during the November 6 City Council Meeting. It is item 6.
    • Urge caution in signing petitions on any subject. Do not take whatever the petition hawker says at face value. Most of them are paid by the signature. Many lie or fail to provide pertinent information. Many of the petitions may have a headline you agree with, but if you read the substance and do a little research you’ll feel differently. Often you’ll be urged on based with the claim there is no downside to signing, that it just gives the voters a say. But you need to be aware that these petitions are increasingly being used by wealthy and powerful interests just to scare legislative bodies to enact or retract legislation in order to avoid the considerable cost of an election.
    • Last spring, a cadre of people paid by the illegal marijuana operators went door to door claiming their petition was to stop the City Council from damaging small businesses. They said nothing about it actually being all about the City’s attempt to shut down illegal marijuana dispensaries by being able to shut off utilities after the operators have ignored all other legal avenues to shut them down, including court orders. The petition circulators obtained the requisite number of signatures. When that petition was submitted to the Council, it had to decide to either spend a large amount of money to hold a special election on the subject, or to rescind the ordinance. They gave in and rescinded the ordinance.
  • City Council election changes
    • The Council has been agonizing over how to respond to a new state law requiring municipalities to move their elections to the same dates as the statewide elections in order to increase the number of voters participating.
    • The City of Pasadena’s Charter sets the the dates for primaries at the beginning of March of odd years and for run-off elections, if needed, six weeks later in April. The new state law will require moving to March/June and/or November of even years.
    • It is quite likely that the new state law is actually unconstitutional with respect to Charter-law cities such as Pasadena, but the Council has been backed into a corner by the potential costs of not changing to the state’s election dates and using the County to run the elections. In addition to the potential cost of litigation if the State’s Attorney General chose to sue for non-compliance, the election services company the City has used for decades is going to go out of business because of all the other separate municipal elections that are disappearing. Setting up all the infrastructure for the City to totally run its own elections would be expensive. The County would also be more expensive, but it won’t run them separately for the City anyway because County officials are afraid of going against what they perceive to be the state law.
    • To begin complying with the new state law, the City had to set plans for change before the end of this year. Because whatever change is made will require changing he City’s Charter, and that requires a majority vote of the City’s residents, the Council voted to put at least one measure on the June 2018 ballot. But they don’t know exactly what we will be voting on yet.
    • No matter what new scheme is chosen, the current Council terms have to be switched to the new start and end dates. All the then current Council terms will need to be extended from when they would have ended in May of the prior odd year to whatever is chosen as the new start date in the even year. That could cause the last terms in office under the old system to be extended by 19 months.
    • None of the Council persons likes the loss of local election control.
      • It will cause the City races to be buried on the ballot after all the national, state, political party, court, and county races.
      • Voters will have less bandwidth to spend on learning about the City candidates and City issues.
      • Although there will be more voters, the vast majority will be even less informed about who or what they are voting on.
      • It will be more expensive to run a successful local campaign because it will be more difficult to break through all the noise of the other races.
      • There is a feeling the change is likely to make the local non-partisan races become more apparently partisan as they are run at the same time as partisan races.
      • The 5 to 8 months between the State primary and general elections is a very long time to sustain a campaign compared to the current three months to the primary and 6 weeks to the general. So it will be a lot more expensive for campaigns the need a run-off.
      • It will be a lot harder for political novices and candidates without big money connections to successfully run for office.
    • There have been many discussions about how to deal with the long length of time between the State’s March or June primary and the November general election. (March in presidential election years, June when not). That five to eight month interval gives the Council heartburn because:
      • It would make it much more expensive to sustain an election campaign that requires a run-off.
      • For races not requiring a run-off, the elected Mayor or Council persons would either need to start their term at a different time from those in a run-off, or wait 5 to 8 months to take office.
      • An incumbent Council person who either does not run again or loses in a primary will be a “lame duck” for all that time.
    • As a result of those concerns, there has been discussion about whether Pasadena should change to a “plurality” election scheme, which many other cities use, or are switching to. In that case, there is just one election and whoever gets the most votes wins. But this means the winner could be elected with a small minority of the votes cast. The more candidates there are, the lower the percentage of voters the winner might be elected with.
    • The best result might be gained by a single election where voters rank their choices. But LA County does not have any provision for this type of voting, so the City would have the expense of entirely running its own election and the confusion of that completely separate election and ballot occurring concurrently with the County run election for everything else.
    • Although the issue has been raised, there has been little discussion about the possibility that the voters will reject whatever new election scheme the Council puts on the June ballot. If there isn’t a majority vote, then the measure doesn’t pass, the City Charter does not change, and the Council has to start over figuring out what to do with less time to make it happen. It has been suggested they should put multiple alternative measures on the ballot so that there is more chance one will get a majority vote. If more then one received a majority, the one with the largest percentage would be the winner.
    • The Council has had several discussions about this in recent months, including a community meeting, but they are very aware that the public has so far shown very little interest in the issue. Just like many of the Council district elections.
  • Package thefts
    • Theft of packages delivered to homes has become incredibly common now.
    • Pasadena police reportedly told a resident who called to report a theft that it has gotten so bad that people should just stop having anything delivered to their home.
    • Cameras verify the delivery happened and was stolen, but do not seem to be a deterrent.
    • Having the delivery person hide the package or put it in a different location only works if the thieves are not watching the delivery happen. In many cases they are following delivery vehicles.
    • Being home at the time of delivery doesn’t fully solve the problem unless you hear the delivery vehicle and meet them at the door. Requiring a signature doesn’t always work because delivery people frequently ignore that.
    • On the rare occasion when a thief is caught, they face little to no punishment and are almost immediately released to continue stealing. There is no greater penalty for the number of times you get caught stealing misdemeanor value items, only if a single theft is expensive enough to qualify as a felony.
    • It is easier then ever for thieves to make money from the miscellaneous stuff they steal. They can use the same channels as honest people just getting rid of belongings they no longer want and honest vendors making deals with manufacturers or stores for leftovers.
  • Local Crime Summary
    • For the last month in our neighborhood, from (note that time is typically when reported, not when it happened)
      • Sunday Nov 26, 6:38 pm, 400 block Vineyard Pl, Armed Robbery
      • Monday Nov 27, 2:47 pm, 3100 block Alameda St, Petty Theft
      • Monday Dec 4, 6:13 am, 3200 block Orange Grove Blvd, Vehicle Break-in / Theft
      • Sunday Dec 10, 4:31 am, 300 block Santa Paula Ave, Malicious Mischief Misdemeanor Vandalism
      • Monday Dec 11, 8:12 pm, 3300 block Orange Grove Blvd, Vehicle Burglary
  • anything else attendees wish to discuss
    • Avon timing
      • Word of mouth is that current Avon employees have been told they will be there for at least another year.
      • It makes sense that this is possible in that the new property owners (Home Depot) have not yet submitted a proposed project to the City and, once they do, going through all the planning and permitting steps will surely take at least year.

Next meeting is January 20, 2018 at 11:15 am, in Hastings Branch Library meeting room

Adjourned about 1 pm