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Newsletter No. 35

  • Mattucci pushes for residents, rather than developers, pay new costs.

  • City OKs housing corridors.

  • Santa Monica loses a round in canceling districts.

  • Airport update.

The question on the table: Who will pay for infrastructure upgrades needed when 5,000 new housing units are built in Torrance, as required by the state?

Residents or developers?

At the Aug. 22 Council meeting, District 5’s Aurelio Mattucci made his position clear: He prefers to have the City’s budget pick up the additional costs, rather than dun the developers.

Here’s the background:

Prop 13 in 1978 limited the funds cities would derive from property taxes. Four years later, the Legislature passed the Community Facilities Act to allow cities to find alternative sources of funding. It’s commonly referred to as Mello-Roos, named after the two legislators who proposed it. It lets cities put a parcel tax on properties, which is an end run around raising property taxes.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, areas such as Orange County used Mello-Roos on big developments. By then, cities, such as Torrance, were largely built out so there wasn’t much incentive to set up Community Facilities Districts.

However, the state is now pressuring Torrance to add 5,000 housing units in the next four years. Those additional units will critically stress the city’s infrastructure and will increase the need for police and fire and other City services.

Concerned about the strain on the budget to absorb those expenses, City staff has suggested adopting a CFD that would apply to any new construction of five or more units.

Setting one up is complicated, and the Council members had many questions for Finance Director Shirley Poisson. She explained that CFDs are designed to relieve cities of the burdens that new projects put on the infrastructure and on City services.

“The idea of a CFD is to have growth pay for growth,” she said. Mayor George Chen acknowledged that the City has been subsidizing developers.

District 4’s Sharon Kalani pointed out that successful cities are not so dependent on the sales tax. She asked what a comparable city is doing and was told that Carson charges developers $1,200 a unit.

Community Services Director Michelle Ramirez told the Council, “This is a way to potentially control some of the development that we are experiencing in our community.”

“We see additional developments coming in, and the state mandates are saying that we can’t require as much private open space in a development.” Consequently, she said, residents need to use our parks. Also, since the City no longer can require on-site parking, more cars are parked on streets.


“It’s increasing the uses of our facilities that requires more maintenance than we’ve had to experience in the past,” she explained. “A lot of the grants when we talk about grants are for improvements that need to be done, not maintenance. It’s the maintenance that we are talking about here.”

District 6’s Mike Griffiths said he felt conflicted over setting up a CFD. He appeared to be leaning toward it because he sees it as a possible resolution to the increased costs from the state’s unfunded housing mandates.

“We can’t have it both ways,” he said. “We can’t say we don’t like housing mandates because we aren’t getting money for infrastructure, and then say we can’t put fees on top of development. It’s a mechanism for dealing with the issue.”


Mattucci disagreed: “I’m a hard no on this.”

The other Council members weren’t so dismissive. Instead, the one thing the others agreed on: It’s a complicated proposal that deserves further study.


After much discussion, the Council supported the motion from District 2’s Bridgett Lewis and turned the topic over to the Council’s Finance and Government Operations Committee. District 1’s Jon Kaji chairs it; Griffiths and District 3’s Asam Sheikh are its other two members.



Housing corridor overlays:


But the Council wasn’t done with housing issues. The mandate to add 5,000 units was again key in a public hearing on creating housing corridor overlays. In these cases, the City is looking at rezoning underutilized commercial properties so developers can build housing. Specifically, the focus is on transit-corridor properties.


Griffiths praised the overlays for giving “us some control over the mandated housing.”

The Council approved all the measures that needed their OK. It had an added incentive: Torrance’s housing element would have been out of compliance if the overlay had not been approved.

At that point, the City would have lost all control, and developers could have built whatever they wanted wherever they wanted. Santa Monica is currently feeling the consequences of not having a state-approved housing element.


Update on cities’ districting:


Torrance’s City Council has been closely watching Santa Monica’s attempt to overturn the law responsible for cities switching to districts. On Aug. 24, the California Supreme Court said a state appeals court, which had ruled for the city, had “misconstrued” the California Voting Rights Act and sent the suit back to the appeals court to reconsider.



Airport update:


Sheikh got a concurrence to reconsider having a ban on touch and goes. That happened at the very end of the meeting during the second Orals.

The Coalition for Torrance Airport Reform had sent the City a letter on Aug. 18 to request that the Council at its Aug. 22 meeting reconsider its decision not to ban touch and goes.

But the airport discussion, which had been planned for that Council meeting, was pulled from the agenda. Instead, careful agenda readers noticed this item:

14C.

CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL - ANTICIPATED LITIGATION (Initiation of Litigation Pursuant to California Government Code § 54956.9(d)(4)):

1)

One case.

Apparently, the City had learned that Sling plans to sue Torrance because of the proposed airport reforms. Often, current rules remain in place until a legal issue is resolved. Sheikh’s request and the Council’s agreement is perhaps a sign that the City doesn’t intend to back down. Look for the items to reappear on an agenda in the next two months.

Residents are still reeling from nonstop flight activity. During the first Orals, Michael Lyon asked: “What does 40 to 50 planes overhead per hour sound like? This morning like this: 8:29. 8:30. 8:31. 8:32. 8:34. 8:35. 8:37. 8:38. 8:40. 8:41. 8:42. 8:43. 8:45. 8:47. 8:48. 8:49. 8:50. 8:51. 8:53. 8:54. 8:55. 8:56. Another one at 8:56. 8:58. 9 o’clock. 9:01. 9:02, etc. . . . Ban the touch and goes that are steadily driving us out of our minds.”

Budget update:


During the CFD discussion, Sheikh asked about our reserve’s status. Poisson said we currently have $55 million, which is impressive given where we were a year ago, but she added that low-risk cities have $100 million.

How late was it?:

The Aug. 8 meeting adjourned a little after 10 p.m. The Aug. 22 session, which also started at 5 p.m., called it quits at 1:58 a.m. Mattucci asked his colleagues for a concurrence, and they agreed to discuss adding a third meeting each month.

Mark your calendars:


· Griffiths has scheduled a community meeting on Monday, Aug. 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Walteria Senior Center, 3855 W. 242nd St.

· As part of the Beach Cities Dems’ series, The Race to Replace Feinstein, Rep. Adam Schiff will speak on Labor Day — Sept. 4 — at 4:30 p.m. at Rock & Brews, 6300 Pacific Coast Highway. For a $40 ticket, which includes food and drinks, go to www.secure.actblue.com/donate/09-23.


Before I go:

Want to tell the City Council your opinion on an agenda item or address any concerns? Send it to CityCouncil@torranceca.gov; in the subject line put the agenda item or the topic.


If you also want your comments to appear in an agenda item’s Staff Report, send it as well to CouncilMeetingPublicComment@torranceca.gov. Make sure that you have sent it by 2 p.m. on the day of the meeting – earlier if you want it included in the agenda’s first posting, which can be a week ahead. Jean Adelsman

Feel free to share this email -- or tell friends about www.TakeBackTorrance.com. And if you email a response to jeanadelsman@yahoo.com, please indicate whether you are expressing a thought for my eyes only or whether I may share your comments with the whole audience.

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