McMansion Development Brown Act Lawsuit in Arcadia
Mod: Here is some excerpts from an article that ran in the Pasadena Star News earlier this week.
Arcadia resident may file lawsuit against city for alleged violations of California’s open meetings law (link) - An Arcadia resident Monday gave city officials 30 days to respond to alleged violations of California’s open meetings law before he files a complaint with the District Attorney or pursues a lawsuit against the city.
In the letter, Highlands resident David Arvizu offered two alternatives to litigation: the council would either set aside the decisions made in closed session on May 5, or make the meeting minutes available to the public.
In a closed session May 5, the City Council voted to suspend comprehensive updates to the city’s commercial and residential zoning codes, postpone the Neighborhood Impacts Committee and proceed with a historic preservation survey, excluding the Highland Oaks Homeowners’ Association.
Kelly Aviles, open government attorney and vice president of Californians Aware, said the analysis of the act is not cut and dried but rather more fluid.
“We are talking about the intent of the Brown Act and how these types of laws are supposed to be interpreted transparently,” she said. “Closed sessions are supposed to be for the exception to the rule ... and are supposed to be interpreted narrowly.”
Aviles has prosecuted several cases involving Brown Act violations. If the decisions were ones that could not have been made in closed session before litigation was initiated, she said, they cannot be made in closed session just because litigation is pending.
In the lawsuit, filed March 12, Save the Arcadia Highlands challenged the council’s approval of two residential developments. The suit asks the city to conduct an Environmental Impact Report based on the cumulative impacts of the two projects, in addition to several others that have been approved in the past few years.
Arvizu, who is also a member of the grassroots organization, said since 2012, nearly 30 homes larger than 5,000 square feet have been proposed in the Highlands neighborhood alone.
A common thread among Arvizu and other residents who spoke during public comments Tuesday was concern the city did not give notice about its intention to take action on the three items, something open government advocate Gil Aguirre said is clearly stated in the law.
“They can’t piggyback items into a closed-session agenda item,” he said. “The agenda has to be very specific.”
April 7 and May 5 special meeting agendas state only that the city will confer with legal counsel regarding the matter of Save the Arcadia Highlands v. the City of Arcadia, et al. It says no business other than the above would be considered at the meetings.
Arcadia resident Arthur Lane said he was concerned the city was not being as transparent as it could be.
“I am discouraged very much by not seeing these kinds of topics that affect so many residents being discussed in open session,” he said.
Highlands resident April Verlato said because the public had no idea the city was going to be discussing zoning code updates or the historic preservation survey, they were unable to direct comments toward those items.
“It’s kind of huge that they excluded the Highlands from a historical preservation survey,” Verlato said. “I think a lot of my neighbors, had they had proper notice, would have liked to come and comment on that. The biggest problem now is none of us really know or understand why they made those decisions, and I don’t think that’s fair to the public.”
(Mod: There is a great reader comment attached to this article on the Star News website. I thought I should post it here as well. Note the City of Bell connection.)
Sierra Madre Middle School Update
The PUSD is saying that new contractors are supposed to be in place and they're stating that the same timeline will be met. As to why the three project leaders were let go, that is "confidential."
They are apparently doing everything they can to keep a lid on this story. Here is a reader comment from this morning that might shed some light on what are some pretty murky doings:
After several years of increasingly fractured leadership from senior PUSD administrators, Frazer resigned and has taken an administrative position in the SF Bay area. Had there been a history of open and honest communication from PUSD, as well as some assurance that his work on behalf of the District was appreciated, he would have stayed because he really didn't want to uproot his family.
Other long term Facilities staff has either left or is planning to leave in the very near future and it is likely that things will slow down considerably while Mr. Cayabyab tries to get a handle on the work. If he follows his past history at BHUSD, PUSD will probably hire a much higher priced construction management firm (such as Bernard Bros.) . Gee.... I wonder when the witch hunt will start.....
More when we find it.