Thursday, May 6, 2010

Will SB 375 Make the Trains Run On Time? The League of California Cities Has Some Doubts

The range of folks reading The Tattler these days has grown far and wide, and lately the most amazing documents are being sent my way from people I don't even know. Which is fine with me as this site burns through material pretty quickly. And I guess it might give some parallel spirits working deep inside the monkey palace a wicked sense of pleasure to imagine the most sensitive of Sacramento documents showing up on a news site as wild and woolly as this one. But whoever you might be friend, we here at The Tattler salute both your taste in quality reportage along with your sense of mischief.

So what is this document? Well, it comes from the League Of California Cities. You know, that confab of towns and cities from across the length and breadth of this our Golden State, all a-working together to make things better for the likes of us. Which we all know usually turns out to be about as bad an idea as can be imagined. Functional special interest lobbyist bait is what these kinds of things become, with our interests at just about the murky bottom of what is an immense mountain of chicken manure.

Or so I've thought. Now what could be more embarrassing to the hardened skeptic than to discover that something good could be happening at "The League." An effort that might actually be an answer to our prayers as we fight to save our city from falling into the hands of a grotesque regionalism? Here is how the document I've been talking up for three paragraphs is headed:

To: League Policy Committees Considering Motion to Suspend AB 32 and SB 375 until Sufficient Implementation Resources are Available.

From: League Staff

Date: March 25, 2010

Re: Background Information Related to Policy Committee Recommendation to Draft Letters Asking the Governor to Suspend AB 32 and the Legislature to Suspend SB 375

Now THAT is some exciting news, and from what I would consider to be a most unlikely source. I'm not sure Mayor Mosca will be very happy to hear about this one. You know that once he gets his mind set on something, he really doesn't like it very much when people are not in complete accord. And for The League to be considering something this subversive and contrary to what the sensible folks in Sacramento and SCAG are saying these days? Well, it just isn't supposed to be like that. As the current thinking here in Sierra Madre has it, how can we be happy when everybody doesn't agree? On everything?

So what is the League's beef with AB 32 and SB 375? It does seem surprising given that when these two now widely disparaged laws were first being cooked up, the League of California Cities was quite supportive. And here even claim to continue to still be just that. But now it appears that they've figured out that the congenitally impoverished Sacramento is going to try and get it done on the backs of California's cities. Their concern here is just as it was when Sacramento was confiscating city property taxes and redevelopment money. The League has gotten their game on once again and is telling Sacramento that if they can't pay for AB 32 and SB 375, then they have no other choice but to suspend them, at least for a while. Because their member cities sure can't be expected to pick up the tab.

Here is how The League, in a letter to State Senator Darrell "Father of SB 375" Steinberg, lays it all out:

1) Sufficient Funding for MPOs: First, we believe that the regional metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) should have adequate funding to address their new duties under SB 375. Although MPOs have access to federal planning funds that are not available to local governments, it is likely that the new planning, modeling, and environmental review requirements will exceed those resources - particularly in those regions where SB 375 will apply first.

2) Sufficient Local Planning Dollars: Second, local governments will need additional planning dollars to help reduce GhG emissions. Even if all of the $90 million of Proposition 84's sustainable planning funds were allotted to local government planning, it would be a small fraction of the ongoing cost that California's 480 cities and 58 counties will need to update their general plans (including public outreach and environmental review) to develop plans that will reduce emission targets. We are somewhat heartened by the potential availability of funds from the federal energy efficiency and conservation block grant program for planning, but also note that these funds are also intended for a variety of energy saving strategies that will have a greater immediate impact on reducing GhG emissions than planning.

3) The Infill Infrastructure Challenge: Third, we also look forward to working with you on finding new ways to fund the infill infrastructure needed to serve the type of infill communities that we all agree will help create more livable communities for California. As we have discussed on several occasions, our state's fiscal structure favors greenfield developments where local agencies can most easily establish capital facilities funding plans and Mello Roos financing districts. Finding adequate infrastructure dollars for the new water and sewer pipes, walkable pathways, safe streets, adequate fire and police protection, and parks needed for infill areas is much more difficult.

4) Current Budget Process Must Protect Local Revenues to Make Progress on SB 375 and AB 32: Finally, we wanted to address a real concern we have with the state's budget situation. We know the state faces daunting deficits. However, the state must lead by example. The Scoping Plan refers to cities and counties as essential partners in achieving AB 32's goal. But the partnership has already been put to the test by budget decisions that took money from two key pots that will be necessary to build the communities envisioned by SB 375: redevelopment for infill development and Spillover Funds for transportation.

Sounds like yet another good reason for spending city redevelopment funds on public education rather than Arnold and Darrell's Jetsons visions for the future. Then there is this:

We support the stated goals of AB 32 and SB 375, but local budgets are already under extraordinary stress and can not withstand any more state takeaways or "loans" of property tax, redevelopment, transit and street maintenance funds. It is essential that thee state keep its part of the bargain. Asking local agencies to shoulder any more of the burden of AB 32 and SB 375 implementation or using local funds to finance the state budget will essentially slow or block our progress toward achieving the goal.

What The League of California Cities seems to be saying to Sacramento here is that if you want this stuff, you are the ones who will have to pay for it. Because we sure aren't.

But then there is this ominous scenario. What if the state calls The League's bluff and goes forward with AB 32 and SB 375 anyway? And does it with billions upon billions of seized city property and redevelopment tax dollars? Wouldn't this be the wholesale confiscation of traditional city powers over their own financial destinies, centralizing them in Sacramento in order to enforce what is a state scheme for a massive reorganization of the way people in California live their lives? Didn't some similarly misguided folks attempt this sort of thing in Eastern Europe during the 1950s?

Just about as big an issue as you will find anywhere these days if you ask me.

Bonus Coverage: The Measure CC election is going to set back the PUSD $530,000 in County of Los Angeles costs. PSN story available here.


  1. Strother MartinMay 6, 2010 at 7:41 AM

    Oh, dat Cool Hand Luke. Dat's my baby Boy! He always tell da truth. Now we're all gonna go out and slurry seal da streets.

  2. Cities? they're obsolete, dude. The only reason they'll even have names is so that there is something to call the post office. One state, one people. one California. Get on the bus and shut up.

  3. This is good news, Tattler.

    This is why we need true representatives for Sierra Madre and other cities in California.

    MaryAnn MacGillivray! Keep fighting for us!

    The defeat of CC doesn't surprise me. We are on the verge of a "taxation revolution".

    Did anyone hear Carroll on KFI yesterday talking about the L.A. City Council'new plan to try to pass an ordinance to require home owners to be responsible for repair of the sidewalks in front of their property?
    At first I thought it was a joke, but it's not.

  4. There is hope after allMay 6, 2010 at 8:30 AM

    I hope the ballot measure to repeal AB 32 succeeds wildly and leaves that reprehensible state money grab disguised as "green policy" in a smoking heap and wipes out SB 375 as well. This is our legislature in action, directly victimizing state residents, as usual, instead of acting in their interests.

    You can't fool all of the people all of the time, Mosca and SCAG forgot that and subsequently showed their hand, didn't they?

  5. Sacramento wants to enact SB375 by making us pay for it? Isn't that like what Kurt Zimmerman once pointed out? Like making the condemned prisoner pay for the needle that will execute him?

  6. Local architectMay 6, 2010 at 8:36 AM

    OK, the City of Pasadena has already made residents responsible for sidewalk repair and maintenance. I called the Public Works department and suggested that the residents have the sidewalks removed, hence there's no more liability. They liked that idea.

    More importantly, it shows very clearly that California cities can no longer maintain fundamental infrastructure on the budgets that are today's reality. It's all crumbling in the older communities, and the newer subdivisions have no means of paying for it a few decades out unless the HOA and other fees skyrocket (which they will). None of this is feasible, particularly if more growth is piled on top of existing infrastructure, which will bust it. That's part of what the League has been saying.

  7. You can read about the latest outrage by the L.A. City Council:

    Scroll down to Bill's list of the City Council members email addresses.

    Send them a message! This could happen in Sierra Madre if we aren't careful.

    MaryAnn would never do this, but Mosca, Moran, Buchanan, Walsh (or is it Doyle) would.

  8. BTW Sierra Madre is offering to do the sidewalk repairs IF the homeowner pays for the material. That is just one step away.

  9. Thanks, Local Architect

    Good information to know.

  10. My sidewalk has been repaired several times over the years, If the city would remove the ficus trees, and plant a proper tree for the parkways, the sidewalk would not need repair every 2 years. P. S. the city does not trim the trees either, they are huge now.

  11. Nothing a few million dollars in borrowed money won't fix. Good news: the "live for today" city council is in place and they
    have a nice new box of red pens to take
    care of everybody's needs.

  12. We aren't crumbling they are crumblingMay 6, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    League of California Cities still has the redevelopment angle going on. I want the redevelopment agencies sunseted out, the funds release back to the cities, CA already requires a planning department, they are all purpose, the redevelopment agencies carrot on a stick to a donkey city jumping for crumps, and way too many expensive building projects for the pissley return to the city.

    But, I did read about charter cities, I think I will declare myself a charter city of 1. I would have more benefits than lotted to me by my broke city.

  13. That will solve the problem of street repair, just make the property owners maintain the street. I would like to charge a toll on my street.

  14. I got $20 that says the City Council will offer to pick up the costs of some AB32 and SB375 related matters. Including the consultant costs associated with folding it into the new general plan.

  15. 10:52 is right, city staff (and Joe and John)have been pushing for a consultant for the general plan committee since its inception. Watch, this consultant will be hired within a month citing the need for GhG plans to be put into the General Plan. There is no reason that a consultant couldn't be hired after the GP Committee finishes it's work to refine it to comply to the GhG mandates.

    Also noted in the California Cities article is the mention of the need for updated water and sewer pipes, adequate fire and police and parks.

    What didn't the voters understand when Alcorn, Watts and Crawford ran on the premise that over-developent will put a burden on the City's resources. While the LLC's and investors walk away with their pockets full of money, there will be many times in the next few years that we will all sadly say, "I told you so."

  16. I don't think it is a matter of if they
    will do it, rather the question is how
    they will attempt to explain it, 11:47.
    I suspect they'll go the Mosca route that
    they're only following the law, totally
    avoiding the possibility of negotiating
    our way to something that is in Sierra
    Madre's real interests. The way this is
    set up allows pliable local politicians
    to blame the state while what they are
    really doing is collaborating.

  17. Stock market fell a ridiculous amount today. The debt crisis in Greece being the reason according to what I've been reading. Greeks are rioting in the streets because of possible austerity measures cutting into their favorite programs.

  18. been there, done thatMay 6, 2010 at 12:42 PM

    John Buchanan will lead the charge to support AB32 and SB375 regardless of the cautionary words coming out of the surprisingly pro-citizen League of California Cities.He will do it with fear,as in if we do not do this we will be sued into oblivion.This is his constant position,that we have to do whatever developers or Sacramento say or we will be sued into oblivion.

  19. Isn't this kinda like Imelda Marcos wanting more shoes after the fall of her husbands regime?
    Ya know, it'd be nice but the money isn't there?

  20. Sorry it was a human trading area that caused all the trouble

  21. Water, water, water.

    The League of California Cities has put it together that finding money for infrastructure is difficult, money for "new water and sewer pipes". How about the water to go through the pipes?

    Sierra Madre's Downtown Specific Plan was informative in this regard:
    Level of Significance Before Analysis and Mitigation: Potentially Significant Impact.

    Level of Significance Before Analysis and Mitigation: Potentially Significant Impact.

  22. Who is it at that organization who brought common sense into the equation? Good goals, can't afford, let's not do it - makes too much sense for the usual special interest lobbyist bait organization.

  23. 12:55 - League of CC seems to know that Sacramento wants to suck their members
    dry. Sacramento is just a black hole in
    space right now, sucking everything of
    value into it. There will be nothing
    left before they finally stop spending.
    Funny that now they can use global warming
    as an excuse to take every penny of city

  24. Any excuse in a meltdown will do.

  25. In a couple of years they'll change the
    name of Sacramento to "New Athens."

  26. 12:42 LOL. Where have I heard that before?

  27. 1:10
    When the developers want to build on One Carter, Stonehouse or in the Downtown.

  28. The political issue at the heart of this Sacramento vs. cities struggle is very scary indeed, and reminiscent of the early struggles in our country of states rights/federal rights. Too bad the majority of the voters aren't interested in the struggle.

  29. I hear you 1:15.
    Doesn't the constitution protect cities from this "wholesale confiscation of their traditional powers"?
    Are the cities of this state going to have to organize to kick some butt at the Supreme Court level?

  30. Can't we all just get alongMay 6, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    12:07 you are so right.
    No one is dumb enough to come out pro-development.
    It will be a question of 'interpretation'
    How can we 'interpret' Measure V
    What kind of 'interpretation' of the HMZ ordinance 'fits' with Stonehouse
    How are we going to 'interpret' the Canyon Zone.

  31. 9:46 I prefer broken sidewalks with a warning sign rather than removal of the ficus trees. Check out Colorado Blvd where a beautiful street lined with shade ficus trees were removed so we can get a clear view of thousands of meaningless signs and a clear shot of the floats New Years Day.

  32. Field + Election Costs =$1,430,000 Who Needs Measure CC Anyway?May 6, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    From Today's PSN:

    A new softball field

    Pasadena dedicated its softball field with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a Pacific League game against Burbank on Wednesday.

    "It's absolutely magnificent," coach Chuck Zerkle said. "I've been coaching for 30 years, and to see what the city and school district has done for the girls is magnificent."

    The $900,000 project is a combined effort of the school district and city. It will eventually include lights and will still be available for soccer teams to play on.

  33. I'm sure it' a wonderful field but in such desperate times couldn't the money be better spent on teachers and books? Maybe arts and music programs?

  34. At least now Pasadena Unified has something to blame for the big classes and lack of materials. Back when they were getting everything they asked for from the voters they didn't have that excuse.

  35. Let the concerned parents who are able to do it clean out the administrative offices. You get a devoted mom looking into things, and those who are milking the system and coasting on the backs of the kids will be out on their bottoms tout sweet.

  36. Someone yesterday said the problem with the PUSD is the administrators. This certainly underlines that statement.

  37. Coaches are only interersted in superior athletes. The facilities are built and maintained at serious costs. Only a half dozen teams are allowed to use them, resulting in a small percentage of students priviliged to use them..Title IX is following the same model.
    Sorry It ain't for everybody!

  38. Also from the PSN...

    The tax, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, would have funneled more than $7 million per year into the district over the next five years to save teacher jobs.

    $1,4 million represents about a year of that $7 million. This is gut wrenchingly ignorant on the part of PUSD. Somebody ought to go to jail over this.

  39. What's a community parter?May 6, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    This from Coburn's site; can anyone translate just what Mosca said?

    "Another challenge that we will not shrink from is the obligation to continue planning for our future. Through planning, we will ensure the preservation of our community. And, planning for our community and working with and through our community partners will ensure that we and our children will continue to live in a community, and a region, that has a high quality of life." -- Joe Mosca at City Council reorganization meeting after being voted Mayor for 2010-2011

  40. Our community partners will no doubt want to continue our low density town the way it is now, and will happily forego any potential development that would take the heat off them, you know, for our children.

  41. are ficus trees natural to Southern California? if not, we should do away with them in the city

    I've had a city tree drop large limbs without warning and have complained several times to the city and they've never done anything. I'm sure our stellar Public Works dept is waiting for a child to get crushed before they act.

    The more I learn about John Buchanan, the less I like him and respect him. I'm sure he's grooming a replacement candidate for his position in two years, heaven help us if he convinces Shirtless Pete Siberell to run for Council.

  42. Wikipedia says:

    F. microcarpa was widely distributed as an ornamental plant and is one of the most common street trees in warm climates. The symbiotic pollinating fig wasp, Eupristina verticillata, was introduced along with F. microcarpa. Such an introduction, however, can be delayed: in Brazil - where specimens of the tree had been used in gardening since the nineteenth century, when it was introduced by the French architect Auguste Fran├žois Marie Glaziou into various public parks of Rio de Janeiro - the appearance of saplings began only during the 1970s. Such saplings are considered to be very aggressive, as they can grow on the walls of buildings, bridges, highways, and other concrete structures[3]. The tree is considered a major invasive species in Hawaii, Florida, Bermuda, Central America, and South America.

  43. Cracked and lumpy sidewalks make for much more
    interesting bike rides.

  44. Grifters in Very High PlacesMay 6, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    Has anyone seen the World Report by Christopher Story? The May 2, 2010 issue is especially revealing. The stories are jaw dropping. There is a link to a video of Christopher Story himself. He has a great face too.

  45. Anybody know the reason that PUSD decided to go the expensive way with the mail-in ballots?

  46. Anon: "are ficus trees natural to Southern California? if not, we should do away with them in the city"

    who cares if they are not natural? neither are Eucalyptus, some of our most beautiful trees (my personal favorite).

    Save trees!! they make cities beautiful.

  47. Politicians and Grifters Grazing RetreatsMay 7, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    Dear Editor thanks for the bonus coverage, I pulled up The SCAG website, did not see any gloating of the the successful retreat.

    But I am watching a video of their April meeting, on another screen. It is ugly and not for the faint hearted, observing them smooze and eat, poor ikraty is not inhaling between pita bites, it pans out and I see more eating and be sure to influence talk, it is scary, oh a plug for SB375, oh there is dissention of doubt among the troops about SB375 and 32, asking SCAG to stay out of it.

    I didn't know they had videos, go take a look??

    I think SCAG uses the old distract them with food trick, and Ikraty looks like he is ready to steal the other people's food.

  48. Virginia, you're a good sport the way you keep posting on various topics even when the reception you get about some of them is not the gentlest.
    The problem with invasive species is that they will kill the chances of other species. It's a tree by tree decision. I never want to cut any trees down, at all, but have come to understand that sometimes you have to. Pepper trees and scrub pines have completely dominated some areas to the detriment of native birds and other wildlife. I think the ficus have been having a hard time of it because they need a lot of water. Eucalyptus are my favorite, but fire safety people refer to them as "matchsticks" - so it's complicated.

  49. Yes, urban trees are a complicated issue because up until recently they were treated as kind of an aesthetic decision. Hence the scraggly mashup of palms and ginkgos turning up on west Colorado Blvd; the business folks pushed that one so the stupid storefronts are there for all to see, but no shade for anyone who wants to actually walk around in the downtown. All they had to do was to select a variety of tree that has a high, open canopy that doesn't block the lower story and a half. Paris and other cities in Europe are full of them, feel like urban gardens. Delightful.

  50. Here in Sierra Madre at the newest hillside development we lucked out that Laing Luxury/EmarrDubai dropped out of the picture.
    They were wanting to fill the hills with palms.
    The bank that owns the hills now has shown more sense with using oaks.
    Hope it stays that way.

  51. Get a grip 12:01
    The hills will be filled with millionaires and whatever they want to plant.