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City Manager’s Weekly Report – For the Week Ending Noon on Thursday January 15, 2009

January 20th, 2009 by Temple City Tribune

●        Former Alpha Beta Property up for discussion on Jan. 20
●        Councilmember Judy Wong receives invitation to Presidential Inaugural
●        Temple City finances are in good standing
●        City liabilities are fully insured at very low rates
●         Council is trying now to correct past mistakes re Las Tunas zoning
●        Charles Martin to continue as City Manager until after election
●        LA County supports the Temple City public library at a cost of $1.5 million per year
●        Recent court cases that could impact city operations
1.    Mayor Cathe Wilson has put on the Agenda for the meeting of January 20 the status of the Alpha Beta property on Temple City Blvd just north of Las Tunas Dr.
Mayor Wilson has indicated that several decades have passed without significant development of the property, and that Council should do something to speed up the development.  The owners of the property have been invited.
2.    L.A. County expends about $1.5 million per year on the Temple City Library.  In comparing this expenditure with other County Libraries in the San Gabriel Valley, Rosemead and Duarte, the amount seems reasonable and in line.
3.    I am forwarding the following information about the declining revenues that Temple City and all of our surrounding cities are facing:  The Mayor just returned from a legislative meeting in Sacramento, where almost all cities are shedding tears over their financial difficulties and deficit financing but Temple City is still OK.
a) Interest income has slipped severely due to declining interest rates; building permits have declined substantially as new construction slows, and our L.A. County rebated taxes have declined due to re-assessments and late payments.
b) It is now estimated that our total revenues will decline by a total of about $500,000.  As a result, we are now predicting that our revenues will exceed our expenditures by only a nominal amount, but that we will end the fiscal year on June 30, 2009, without a deficit.
4.     The following information is submitted with regard to the financial information as of the close of business on December 3, the half-way point of our fiscal year:
a) cash reserves:   City;    $29,997,000 (a gain of $521,000 over last month)
CRA:       4,743,000 (a gain of $243,000 over last month)
Total   $34,709,000 (a gain of $764,000 over last month)
b) Budget: (December 31 was the half way point of our 2008-09 budget, and shows:)
City Revenues:      @  25.5%
City expenditures:  @ 45%

[CRM comment: The 25% on revenues is just slightly under target. We receive the bulk of our revenues in the second half of the year. Best guess: we will end up with revenues equal to about 95% of our budget estimates.
As to expenditure, we are currently operating about 5% under budget. If maintained at that level, the revenues and expenditures will both end up at 95% of the budgeted amounts.]

c) Even the critical Star News has given us reluctant credit for our financial success in these difficult times  – News article enclosed.

5.     Judy Wong,  as a Temple City Council Member, has received an invitation to, and will attend, the inauguration of President Obama.
6.    Again, the Star News is publishing its annual City Biographical Special where each city is invited to send in its plusses for publication in the Special Edition.
I have always recommended against this expenditure on the basis a) that the only people interested in Temple City are the people of Temple City (and the residents of e.g. South El Monte don’t care to read about the good or bad of Temple City); and 2) the cost in my opinion is excessive  at about $5,000 per one time page each year.
If the Council feels that this expenditure is worthwhile every year, please let me know.
Until then, I shall continue to operate on the “Martin Principle”; just because we have a dollar, does not mean that we have to spend a dollar.
Administration (CRM)
1.    One of the easiest ways to determine whether any city is operating in a sound financial manner is to take the annual budget (or final annual expenditure), and divide that by the number of inhabitants to arrive at a cost per resident.
Temple City expends about $12 million per year in both the General Fund and all special funds, Temple City has about 35,000 inhabitants. Dividing $12 million by 35,000, the annual cost per resident is about $350.
Compare this to any other city in the area: e.g. San Marino has a budget of about $12million and a population of about 13,000, so spends just under $1,000 per person. The average around the San Gabriel Valley is about $800 – $900 per person per year. In many cities, a substantial portion of the cost per person is the repayment of debt.
Temple City (by order of the City Council) operates as a property tax free agency, and provides ample services without going into debt.
Temple City also has adequate reserves to weather the current recession.  Other San Gabriel Valley cities are operating with current and prospective deficits forcing layoffs etc.
2.    Another test is what the City has to pay for its liability insurance foretelling what its safety record is against claims and law suits.

The JPIA (Joint Powers Insurance Authority) reports that Temple City’s liability insurance rate with JPIA is lower than most of the other cities in the San Gabriel Valley, indicating that our liabilities continue to be low, and have not increased over the years.
3.    Still another, is whether a city has at least one-half of its current budget in cash reserves, so that it has a rainy day fund of at least six months if a recession or depression hits.
Most of our surrounding cities have little or no reserves, and are now in the process of trying to cut expenses– including employee salaries and department budgets.  Temple City has a reserve of 36 month’s General Fund budget, and thus is well prepared for a major recession, if one comes.
4.    In my opinion, based on more than 50 years in municipal government, in good times and in bad:
a) The only real problem this City has is the problem of correcting a mistake (or failure to act) made 25 years ago when the then Council decided to remain a bedroom community (Mayberry), by not participating in the commercial modernization of Las Tunas Drive with new and modern commercial centers – thus surrendering to the nearby malls with adequate free parking.
In hindsight, with 20/20 vision, this may have been a wrong decision, and is now in need of correction with what may be too little, too late.
b) Granted this correction will be a difficult task because of the small lots, lack of parking, diverse ownerships, high and selective rents, and the reluctance to exercise eminent domain.  For example:
– do we continue to have a declining commercial area, because we have no parking areas, or do we exercise eminent domain and condemn expensive property to make room for parking – and if we do so,
– do we condemn expensive commercial property (thus diminishing the opportunity for large or big-box activities, or do we condemn adjacent residential property at lower cost so as to preserve and upgrade the commercial properties at the loss of the homes and residents?
– And, what money do we use? Our reserves (all allocated for infrastructure) now produce in interest about 10-15% of our annual revenues – if we expend those reserves for parking to increase the sales tax, do we put at risk 15% of our revenues? And then, what do we do about the aging infrastructure? Raise taxes? Not easy questions to answer, and every answer will have opposition.
c) Nevertheless, after all of the surrounding cities have developed malls and concentrated commercial centers, the present City Council is now trying to update the commercial zones so as to ameliorate the depressed areas and increase diminishing sales tax revenue.
d) This effort may take years – with a “two steps forward, one step back” approach, and with some successes and some failures – it cannot be consummated overnight.  Nevertheless, the present Council has at least started the conversion process, and has received recommendations from the Planning Commission and its Task Forces.
e) There are those that say a new Council and new management could accomplish this goal overnight – but let those critics answer the questions set forth above and proceed with eminent domain, and see what happens.
5.    We have a graffiti problem along the railroad right-of-way near the Rosemead Blvd. railroad underpass.  The taggers love to place their handiwork on the backside of residential fencing along the railroad right-of-way.  Our contract graffiti remover refuses to enter onto private property without the consent of the owner, and they regard the railroad property as private.
We have two choices: 1) leave the graffiti in place until the RR  grants permission for entry (a matter roughly equivalent to an act of congress); or 2) authorize our contractor to enter without such consent and agree to indemnify him.
Option two would seem to be the better choice, but recognize that as soon as one graffiti is painted out, another will take its place.  We would then have a repetitive problem that eventually will turn expensive.  Please let me know.
6.     We have been able to save tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars on some of our recent local construction projects by not paying prevailing wages on our local projects. As you have been told, we have accomplished this by relying on the fact that we are a charter city, and that the projects are a municipal affair.

It is anticipated that our good fortune in this regard may soon come to an end as the union position gets stronger, and the attitude of the state legislature changes to favor the unions.

7,     Four months have passed and we have heard nothing more from IRS with regard to penalties, if any, for failure to hire independent contractors as employees.

Community Redevelopment Agency (CRM)
1.    There has been no progress on the ongoing battle between the City and Randy Wang with regard to the development of the Piazza Project. Mr. Wang has still not signed an application for review by the Planning Commission of his proposed changes.
a) The unsubstantiated charges and counter-charges are filling the newspapers, but as yet no proof has been submitted, and any trial on the issues is months away.  The July trial date has been vacated until we know whether there is an extant contract.
b) The only facts submitted thus far are that Mr. Wang signed a contract to complete the project in four years; and for three years continued with that optimism, but suddenly and without warning a year ago, announced that the project as promised was dead, and the project would have to be re-negotiated. The Council said “No,” and the battle was on – with the charges and countercharges flowing freely.
{In my opinion, the charges by both parties may be interesting and may well become election issues, but at this moment remain totally unproven. It is easy to take sides or criticize based on unproven allegations, but those who prefer to deal with “facts” will wait for the as yet un-submitted proof before taking a position on any of the charges or counter-charges. Matters that are submitted to a court for decision are best left to the court, and not pre-judged.
Community Development & Housing Authority (CRM)
1.    The Planning Department and its professional consultant has still not been able to convince HCD as to its approval of our re-submitted Housing Element. This delay is causing a delay in the review of the General Plan.
The indicated writers have submitted the following items. All have been reviewed and approved (but may have been edited) by the City Manager.
Department of Parks & Recreation (Director, Cathy Burroughs)
1.    The play day to select this year’s Royal Court for the 2009 Camellia Festival was held last Saturday at Live Oak Park.  Applications from 51 first graders were received by the Camellia Festival.  The court has been selected and will be officially crowned on February 6th at Live Oak Park.
Department of Community Development (Manager, Joe Lambert)
1.    At their meeting of January 13, 2009, the Planning Commission voted to continue Conditional Use Permit 08-1726 and Zone Variance 08-1727 until the next meeting of January 27, 2009.  The applicant’s request is to allow the establishment of a pastry shop/coffee house with outside dining along with wine and cheese sampling at 9153 Las Tunas Drive – all without the requisite off-street parking.

a) The proposed project requires a Conditional Use Permit for food and beverage service and a Zone Variance because of a parking deficiency.  The entire site currently provides six parking spaces in the parking lot, and under today’s standards, the site would have to provide 13 parking spaces if both units were occupied by either retail stores or professional offices.  With the proposed pastry store/coffee house, the site would have to provide 19 spaces to comply.  As a result, the site is deficient by 13 parking spaces using today’s stringent parking standards.
b) Using a more optimistic perspective, the parking deficiency will be reduced to six spaces if we consider the existing parking as legal non-conforming.  As the subject unit is approximately 1,000 square feet, it should have four dedicated parking spaces (calculated at 4/1,000 s.f.) for a retail or office use.  As a restaurant/ coffee house, code requires ten spaces (calculated at 10/1,000 s.f.).  The difference between the two is six spaces, so in an optimistic view, it could be argued that the deficiency is actually only six spaces.
c) According to the Downtown Specific Plan, the Gateway Commercial District is intended to cater to restaurants, retail, and entertainment establishments.  This area is envisioned to be the link between the Piazza site and the city center near Temple City Boulevard.  Therefore, the parking regulations conflict with the vision of the Downtown Specific Plan to an extent.
e) Ultimately, Staff recommended denial of the project, because we found it difficult to justify the required zone variance findings due to the severity of the parking deficiency.  We also offered the following counter argument to the Planning Commission as part of our analysis:

f) “Staff recognizes that there are parallel issues facing the City that are equally compelling. Lack of parking is rather a common dilemma within the Gateway Commercial District, and has been a hindrance to the recruitment and retention of new businesses – especially sales tax producing businesses and entertainment businesses.
The dwindling sales tax revenue of the City calls for a strategic approach to the problem, and in Staff’s opinion, the City may have to relax (to some degree) the stringent parking standards in order to maintain the viability for this area.  Is this the right case to begin with?”
[CRM note: do we ease the problems of parking deficiencies by approving businesses that don’t meet the present standards? – and even if we do, is a greater parking deficiency better than an empty store?]
g) Staff suggested some draft conditions of approval in case the Planning Commission wished to approve the proposed business.  The draft conditions of approval included measures to help address the parking situation, including the payment of an in lieu parking fee, suggesting limiting onsite parking to one hour parking, and suggesting that all employees park offsite in the public parking lot a few blocks to the west.

h) After much discussion and deliberation, it seemed that the Planning Commission wanted to approve this request 4-1, however it was unable to do so, as the findings to approve the Zone Variance were not yet drafted.  The draft resolution would need to be changed from a recommendation of “denial” to a recommendation of “approval.”  Therefore, this item was continued to the next Planning Commission meeting of January 27, 2009, at which time Staff will present a draft Resolution for approval.
i) In a related note, in light of the discussion regarding the proposed Café Roule, City Attorney/City Manager Martin initiated a discussion regarding Las Tunas Drive and the parking deficiencies, which discourage commercial growth.  The Planning Commission would also like to revisit and study the Downtown Specific Plan, in effort to encourage sales tax generating businesses.
j) The Planning Commission directed Staff to study the parking deficiency and land uses in general within the Downtown Specific Plan area.  The Planning Commission indicated that a survey of other jurisdictions to examine how they have solved their parking deficiencies might be appropriate.  For example, do all cities require a zone variance for a parking deficiency, or are the regulations waived in certain situations?  These issues will be agendized in the near future.
2.    The Requests for Proposal (RFPs) for economic development consultants will be included on the next City Council Agenda at the request of Mayor Wilson.  We have proposals from four companies: Keyser Marston Associates, JWA Urban Consultants Inc., Avant-Garde, Inc., and Urban Futures.  Staff will prepare a report and will attach the RFPs for City Counci review with the January 20 Agenda packet.

Department of Public Services (Manager, Chuck Erickson)
1.    Pat Lang and I did a field review for the City of Arcadia.  They are planning to do a street widening project  at Live Oak Ave. and Santa Anita Ave. that will involve relocating the traffic signal on the southwest corner.
2.    On Tuesday, our Engineer Elie Farah and I met with L.A. County to go over the construction project at Rosemead Blvd. and Callita St.  The County at first wanted about $50, 000 to do the work at this interaction, and then raised the price to $90,000.  At that point, staff cancelled that portion of the work from the County Project.  We will add that work to the City’s Rosemead Blvd. project later.

Division of Public Safety (Public Safety Officer, Bryan Ariizumi)
1.    The Crime Statistics Report for the week of January 4 – 10, 2009, is included with this Manager’s Report.
[CRM note: The crime statistics remain surprisingly low, especially for the recession extant]
Office of the City Attorney (Charlie Martin, City Attorney)
1.    I sat without speaking  through the discussion at the last meeting regarding my position as your City Manager; now, 10 days later, I feel I should comment on your conclusions because I am involved with and am affected by your decision.

a) You will recall that I sent you a memo on August 28 that I was contemplating my retirement on February 5, 2009, but that if the Council could not find a replacement by that date, I would be happy to return the benefit of my 44 year tenure with the City by continuing in office – even if I had to serve as a volunteer, without pay for a part or all of that time – for which (if the Council agrees) I shall prepare a contract for the Council’s protection in due course.

b) Now it is apparent that Council will not pick a successor until well after February 5th, — nonetheless my promise still stands.

c) On the other hand, over the ensuing months much of the current controversy over the Piazza has germinated into a full-fledged war, and shows every indication that the controversy will not end soon – even though it is my opinion that the charges against the City and its Council Members are not true, but that might take months to resolve.

d) I think that it is important to “keep the team together” until the charges and countercharges can be resolved; if Council agrees, I am willing to do my part, and “fight” for and with Council – at least until we know more about the charges or a specific new contract is forthcoming.. I think my testimony as “Manager” would have more weight than as “Replaced Manager.”

e) I appreciate the confidence you have shown in me; I will continue to do my best to deserve it.
f) In my opinion, the City is in better shape today than at any time during my 44 years of service.  The troubles with Randy Wang (and the opposition of the Pasadena Star News whose editor resides in TC., does not support his own community, and seems to have a personal grudge against me), notwithstanding.
In addition, TC is in better financial shape than any other city in the area, many of which are in financial difficulty – and remember, Temple City has no taxes that we impose on our residents.
f) Naturally, with the pending successful financial status, capital improvement program, and community events, we are bound to run into those who disagree with one or more of the problem areas, but leadership requires that a “leader” proceed and “march to the cadence of his own drummer”, despite criticism from the minority (who offer no substitute) so long as he is convinced he is in the right.
g) “It is better to light one candle, than to stand and curse the darkness”.

2.    The McAllister case below is interesting in that the decision was to deny the project, but the Commission found that it could not support the project because it could not make the first three of four standards, and felt that they did, therefore, not need to make a finding on the other one. The Court sent it back to make the missing findings so that the Court could review all of the findings.
Of course, the conclusion on each finding must be supported by substantial evidence that makes the findings at least debatable.  A mere conclusion is not a finding.
3.    Cases of the week:
McAllister v. Coastal MN 97: In making a decision (for or against) an administrative permit, the agency must make a finding on each and every standard in the ordinance, and, if it fails to do so, the decision may be invalidated and remanded for the missing findings.
Sandoval v. L.A. DAR 253: An ordinance stating that a three day unexcused absence is presumed to be a resignation is valid – but it may be only a rebuttable presumption.
A.G. Ops 07-905: City may not lease a portion of its park property to a school for school use (see San Vicente v. L.A. 147 CA2d 79, 87, 78 Ops A.G. 181, 184, Mile Square v. Orange 92 CA4th 1142, 1147) – but a reservation (lease?) by a school for school baseball for 4 hours a day for 3 months might be OK as a reservation and not as a lease.
Council Calendar
*These City Manager’s Reports are compiled each week by the City Manager as a Report to the City Council of the week’s activities. It is intended to be a fair report from the City Manager, but is not intended to bind the City Council or any of its members to any particular statement or report.  Opinions (in italics) are those of the City Manager or staff, and are not intended to reflect any position on the part of the City Council or any of its members.
Exhibit #1
A new bill has been enacted that will cause new complications in connection with CEQA:
SB 375 has three major components:
1. Using the regional transportation planning process to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions consistent with AB 32’s goals;
2. Offering California Environmental Quality Act incentives to encourage projects that are consistent with a regional plan that achieves greenhouse gas emission reductions; and
3. Coordinating the regional housing needs allocation process with the regional transportation process.
To do so, SB 375 (in very broad terms):
1) Sets up a collaborative process between metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and the ARB to establish greenhouse gas emissions targets for each region in the state.
2) Requires inclusion of a “Sustainable Communities Strategy” in each MPO’s regional transportation plan that demonstrates how the region will meet the Air Resources Board greenhouse gas emission targets; if the sustainable communities strategy falls short of meeting the targets, the region must prepare an “alternative planning strategy” that, if implemented, would meet the targets.
3) Requires that decisions relating to the allocation of transportation funding be consistent with the Sustainable Communities Strategy.
4) Creates California Environmental Quality Act streamlining incentives for projects that are consistent with the Sustainable Communities Strategy or the Alternative Planning Strategy (if needed).
5) Includes changes to housing element law to tie housing planning into the transportation planning process.
6) Contains significant and robust processes for public input into the development and review of MPO plans.
Exhibit #2
“The curious retirement of Councilman Tom Adams got even odder Tuesday night as Adams lashed out at well, no body — and everybody. The nastiness came toward the end of a discussion of cuts to the City budget, which revealed that all City departments are taking a 2.5% cut as a result of the State budget crisis and general economic gloom.
The report and accompanying decision, while obviously significant, were not all that surprising or controversial. Every city in the area is having budget trouble. At any rate, a 2.5% cut to non-salary expenses is not minor but there also aren’t a heck of  a lot of options — even if there were a politician outside of Sacramento who wanted to raise taxes, anyone who knows anything about business knows that would only raise unemployment, further reduce consumer spending and generally make matters worse.
So, Monrovia, and most other cities are doing what Sacramento ought to — living within their means. Imagine that (but, I digress).
Mayor Rob Hammond took great pains to emphasize that no public safety positions are being cut (more on that later), but frozen positions in other departments would remain frozen.  After the budget presentation by City Manager Scott Ochoa and staff, Adams launched his nasty shot, prefacing his comments with words to the effect of ’since I’m leaving soon, I can speak my mind on things I wouldn’t have said before.’  (I wasn’t taking notes, so that is not a direct quote, but it captures the essence).
Adams proceeded to criticize and demean Monrovians for not talking about the issue.  Again, a less then exact quote. ‘There are these people, I call them Roswell people or alien people, who come down here and tell us what they think whenever they have something on their mind, but then when it’s a big issue like this they don’t have anything to say.”
That’s right, if you speak your mind at the City Council which you helped elect, you are an alien, a wierdo some socially unacceptable freak.  Why, you probably can’t even get admitted to the Rotary Club.
Clearly Mr. Adams fails to grasp the concept that people in this country are free to address their elected leaders.  If I want to take to the council podium and rail against waste, abuse, cop-bashing blog comments that come from Adams’ office or the price of ice cubes in Eskimo towns, I can do that.  It’s not a privilege, it is a right!
Perhaps if Mr. Adams had gone to a place where people do not enjoy free speech and fought for it he would appreciate the concept.  But, I guess he never got around to that. I mean, there were no battles against communism going on in the late 60s, were there?   Hammond corrected him, noting that due process (such as it is in the Council Chamber) had not yet run its course, but the matter was eventually resolved with a remarkable 5-0 vote.”                                                 –   excerpts from CaliforniaCityNews.org

TO:            The Honorable City Council                    DATE: January 15, 2009
FROM:        Charles R. Martin, City Manager
Charlie’s Bon Mot
Tribute to Ricardo Montalban:
“The four stages of an actor.
according to the Directors:
“Get me Ricardo Montalban
“Get me a young Montalban
“Get me a Mountalban look-alike
“Who is Ricardo Montalban?”

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