October 6, 2008 in Uncategorized By: Dave Emerson
You’d think I should be thrilled with the Citizens for the Preservation of Los Alamitos, especially former Mayor and Council Member Charles Sylvia and his wife Carol. After all, they’re spending a lot of time reporting on their “research” on the two incumbent Council Members who are up for reelection, and I’m running for one of their seats.
I think they raise a number of valid issues, including the current majority’s ongoing spending down of our reserves, the dramatic turnover of staff, excessive travel spending, and Ken’s votes to increase both OC Sanitation Department fees & his pay as a Sanitation Board Member.
However, apart from traffic issues, the main motivation for my campaign is to get our Council to work together as a unified team, with mutual respect, even when they disagree. Too often, it seems to me like the C.P.L.A. is just pouring fuel on a fire that’s already raging out of control.
Take Mrs. Sylvia’s letter to the editor in last week’s News Enterprise about Mayor Ken Parker’s new sign for his recently relocated tax and accounting business. When I first scanned the letter, it impressed me as taking a step towards a more reasonable, fact based approach, and I actually called Carol to commend her for her new, less abrasive approach, as well as to thank her for an earlier suggestion that proved helpful.
Then, late Thursday, I picked up my candidate’s packet for tonight’s City Council meeting, where agenda item 9A is a public hearing on that sign, and I got a clearer picture of what’s going on. I was appalled.
Turns out there are several significant inaccuracies in Mrs. Sylvia’s letter. Now, to be fair, I don’t think that was entirely her fault. She didn’t have all the info in that Council Packet in front of her about a week earlier when she wrote the letter (that’s one reason I prefer electronic media like this blog over print media, with last week’s news). Still, we all tend to believe what we want to believe, and this may be another example of a divisive feud perpetuating itself. It also turns out that it was actually Council Member Troy Edgar who appealed the Planning Commission approval of the sign.
I think Mrs. Sylvia’s letter, Council Member Edgar’s appeal, and even the sign itself are three more examples of the “Hatfields vs. McCoys” feud that’s been dividing our Council for the past ten years.
I’ll print most of Mrs. Sylvia’s letter below, in a quote box, with excerpts from the staff report relative to this item on Monday’s Council agenda interspersed in bold italics, and my comments in [brackets in bold regular type]. [A link to the full staff report appears near the end of this post] :
[News-Enterprise headline for letter:] How did Parker get sign privilege?
Anyone interested in witnessing Mayor Parker’s latest display of POWER and his disregard for our laws should take a drive down to the building at 5122 Katella (across from the racetrack). There you will see his Parker & Associates sign on the west side of the building. [see photo above] How do you know his sign is non-conforming? Because it’s the only one ON the building. Everyone else had to put theirs on the monument sign in front.
[from staff report, page 3:] All proposed signs [in the application for Parker's sign] comply with the size criteria specified in the Zoning Code. Pursuant to Section 17.28.090(3B) of the Zoning Code, the applicant is permitted to have a maximum of 24 square feet of wall signage per tenant (up to a maximum total aggregate of 50 square feet) for each building frontage. The applicant proposses 19.,13 square feet per frontage.
[Back to Carol Sylvia's letter:] How did he get that special privilege? By stacking the Planning Commission with his friends, especially Art DeBold, the chairman. Remember Art DeBolt–he’s the one-term councilman the electorate bounced in 2002. Mayor Parker must have heard the sign was being appealed, because he had it installed right away without getting the proper permit or paying the fees like everyone else.
[Staff report, p. 2:] The applicant approached the City with a request to install several wall mounted tenant identification signs on the subject property. . . . [staff research revealed factors that] require that the applicant receive approval of a Planned Sign Program by the Planning Commission in order to install the proposed signs. . . . [p. 3] An application for building permits for the two wall signs was submitted prior to the matter being considered by the Planning Commission. Processing of the building permit request was delayed pending consideration by the Planning Commission. In addition, when the Plannng Commission action was appealed to the City Council [on the last day of the 20 day appeal period by Council Member Edgar], that action further stayed the processing of the building permit application. . . . On September 8, 2008, one of the proposed wall signs was installed despite the fact that building permits had not been issued. Staff contacted the property owner [Abdul Mozayeni, not Ken Parker, who is a new tenant who requested the sign] who conveyed that the installation was done in error by the sign contractor.
[Again, back to Carol Sylvia's letter:] The City issued a “Stop Work” order to no avail since the sign is still there. [Carol, it was a "Stop Work" order, and the work stopped, pending the hearing of the appeal, which is scheduled for tonight's Council meeting.] If the sign stays, we can expect more and more signs to go up on office buildings and why should anyone bother with getting permission, getting permits, or paying fees? For that matter, why bother with the Planning Commission on anything? [The building owner, Mr. Mozayeni, did apply for permits and apparently paid the fees. The Planning Commission did approve the application. The building owner was not aware that the decision had been appealed, and stopped work as soon as he was aware of the problem. If the Council reverses the Planning Commission tonight and refuses to allow the sign, which the City Interim Planning Director states is in full compliance with all applicable codes, there is no doubt that the sign will be removed.]
[Again, back to Carol Sylvia's letter:] This is Mayor Parker’s second display of his POWER and lack of respect for the law. . . . [Actually, it would be Abdul Mozayeni's first display of his POWER and lack of respect for the law. . . . except that he's abiding by the city's request to stop work pending the Council's decision on Troy Edgar's appeal tonight.]
[Again, back to Carol Sylvia's letter:] . . . . When did telling the truth get to be dismissed as slimy politics? [When the C.P.L.A., Ken Parker, Carol Sylvia, Art DeBolt, on anyone else starts telling half truths and exaggerations instead of sticking to the issues that really matter to Los Alamitos' future.]
Well, that’s what I think. I’m passionate about avoiding a poisonous electoral environment in Los Alamitos, but I’m not intending to disparage anyone’s motives here.
The Citizens for the Preservation of Los Alamitos are also passionate about their beliefs, both as an organization and individually, and I respect them for that. What troubles me, as I’ve indicated before (see “Memo to the CPLA: Could you please be more forthright?“) is the lack of respect for our elected officials, which is also disrespectful of the many citizens who voted for them and still support them. We all need to work harder at disagreeing more agreeably, because civil discussion is essential to the preservation of Los Alamitos!
I’m also distressed by Council Member Edgar’s appealing the Planning Commission’s decision, for reasons that appear to be more related to the upcoming election than anything else. I believe Troy Edgar and Dean Grose have been treated badly by the current majority, just as Council Member Parker was treated badly by the previous majority during his first term. But that’s no reason for either of them to abandon reconciliation and respect for retaliation.
Frankly, we all should expect better from all parties involved.
Please feel free to add your comments in the comment box below. No box? Scroll up & click the headline. Please keep your tone polite & respectful and your language “family friendly.” Everyone’s view is welcome here! Let’s see if we can start finding common ground and building briges, or at least set some positive examples. Thanks.