The most recent example of what I am talking about today would be news of the hiring of our new Director of Planning and Community Preservation, Vincent C. Gonzales. Nobody knew anything about this guy or his new job until that news was first made available here.
This was something City Hall had known about for a while, but decided for whatever reasons to keep it all a big secret. Even the City Council had not been told about it. Which is probably not the best way of doing things. After all, it was the City Council who had decreed that we needed a Planning Commission firmly tied to Community Preservation.
Vincent is a guy whose planning past is tied to heavy high density redevelopment projects, which is a field of endeavor about as far away from Sierra Madre community preservation as Attila the Hun is from Gandhi. Doesn't make him a bad guy mind you, just not the right fit for what this town needs.
So here is our next breaking news story. A friend of mine was out of town attending a convention of some sort. And while there he met with some people who mentioned that they'd heard this crazy rumor about Sierra Madre, a paramedic and her rescue dog.
Apparently this paramedic was fired for what many in the department feel was not a very good reason.
Like most who work there she was a part-timer, in this case one that also does work for the LA County Sheriff's Department. This individual saw what she thought was a need in this town, which was for a trained rescue dog. Something that would be useful in many emergency situations.
Knowing that Sierra Madre had no budget for a rescue dog, she decided she would use her own money to purchase a fully trained one herself. The cost being $5,000. Which is a lot of money for anyone, much less someone living on a part-time paramedic salary. It seems to me that this was a pretty generous thing to do.
Long story short, the woman was fired from her job here. Apparently the City Manager caught wind of this, didn't think the dog had any place there among the Paramedic and Fire Department staff, and sent this woman and her dog packing.
There is now a lawsuit, of course. In this day and age city employees cannot be summarily fired without a carefully prepared reason. Using your own money to purchase an expensive rescue dog, and for a department where such an animal would be put to the very best use, just doesn't seem like a good justification for such a dismissal.
If anyone has any details to add to this story, please let us know.
Pleasanton CA joins our call to halt RHNA numbers until the drought is over
Last Sunday I had an opinion piece in the Pasadena Star News (link) that called for an at least temporary halt to Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers, or RHNA. Cities in California have been required to meet these numbers for quite a few years now, and nobody is particularly happy about it.
In case you are blissfully unaware, these are mandated new housing development quantities handed out on behalf of the many cash friendly Sacramento construction and Realty lobbies (along with their all too agreeable legislative pals), by organizations called Regional Planning Organizations, or RPOs. Our RPO is known by the unfortunate acronym SCAG.
The threat here is that any city refusing to enable planning for RHNA mandated increases in SCAG housing runs the risk of being hit with all sorts of dire Sacramento financial penalties and consequences. The state can be real jerks about it.
This so-called "RHNA process" is supposedly done in order to meet the housing needs of the many mythological new people arriving in California any day now. Even though there haven't been very many of them in the last few years, with nearly as many leaving the state as showing up.
In places such as Sierra Madre, which like many towns thinks of itself as being built-out enough already thank you, these numbers are particularly onerous because they are often responsible for driving the kinds of unwanted high-density stacked and packed generica that many feel is out of character with their special place in the sun.
So here is my question. Are RHNA numbers relevant anymore? Particularly when Governor Jerry Brown has now decreed that places like Sierra Madre, Arcadia and Pasadena, along with many other similarly water cursed communities, must somehow reduce their usage by as much as 35%?
How can you tell cities to build a lot of new high density condos while a the same time ordering them to cut their water use by draconian amounts? That doesn't seem reality based, even for Sacramento.
Well, it appears that we are not alone in this. Pleasanton California, a town that had a few years back resisted the "RHNA process" to the point where then-California Attorney General Jerry Brown actually sued them over it, has now made the news again. This from the always informative Pleasanton Weekly (link):
Thorne, Olson in Sacramento today for Legislative Action Day - City mayors, council members to focus on water policies, housing, transportation issues: Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne and Councilman Arne Olson will be in Sacramento today to talk to legislators about transportation, public safety, economic development, housing and infrastructure and water policy issues.
They are part of the League of California Cities annual "Legislative Action Day," an event that brings hundreds of city officials to the state capital to focus on the organization's and individual cities' legislative priorities.
The issues to be discussed by the Pleasanton representatives are aligned with the city's general interests as well as the City Council's current work plan.
Thorne and Olson also will ask legislators to make changes in the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) law by either extending the current planning period to allow communities to reduce building toward achieving the RHNA-imposed housing numbers or by suspending RHNA housing numbers until the current state drought is over.
What a great idea.