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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Quasi-Live Blogging from City Council Chambers on Shriner's Issue

It was my hope to blog the city council meeting live today, but the city has not quite resolved a couple of technical issues with their wireless in the chambers. So I am writing this live as the meeting goes on, but will only post it after the meeting when I can connect to the internet.

Rules require that the Council meets once a month. However, since the council takes the month off, they meet on August 1 early in the Morning so they can go off and go on vacation.

There is really one key item that I am covering and that is the item placed on the agenda by Councilmember Stephen Souza regarding the Shriner’s Property. However, if anything else comes up of interest, I will report on it as well.

Tankhouse EIR will be on October 2 rather than September 26.

Dan Berman during public comment speaks on two resolutions about continuing support of public power and one on a proclamation honoring PG&E for their donation to the street smarts program for the city. Suggests the council reconsider their proclamation until after the recess.

Two proclamations on consent agenda as Mr. Berman stated. One is the continuing support of public power and the other a proclamation honoring PG&E. Recall that originally PG&E was going to be honored a few months ago at the same time they were opposing the efforts of Art Pimentel in Woodland for a resolution similar to that of the Davis City Council today. Councilmember Heystek thought that was inappropriate and had it pulled until the council could come forward with the resolution that they are passing today. Note also that what was controversial in Woodland is passing in Davis without so much as a peep. Remember that PG&E had set up phone lines lobbying Woodland City Councilmembers, however, they seemingly do not care about the resolution in Davis. Very odd.

Heystek has pulled the item awarding PG&E to take up the issue of Dan Berman, Greenwald has seconded the motion for purposes of discussion. Ruth expresses some interest in a letter of inquiry. Now Greenwald offers a substitute motion, she wants to thank PG&E for contributing today. Emlen suggests an informal inquiry into the use of money. Ruth wants to thank for help and contribution but still look into it. Substitute motion would direct staff to informal inquiry. Substitute motion passes unanimously.

Now main item brought forward by Councilmember Souza.

Covell Gateway LLC member representative is here and needs to go somewhere at 9:30.

Souza begins talking about this item…

How this started: Souza was contacted by his neighbor about the sports park. Both felt location where thinking about sports park had problems—concerned with kids getting out on bicycles getting there in a safe fashion. Looked at golf course location. This location, the Hallett Ranch best location at this time. Was there another location that made more sense? The Shriner’s Property made most sense.

The decision to negotiate would have to go through staff if the council decided they wanted to do so. But he went to talk to the owner to see if they were willing to sell the property. Met with Steve Gidaro out at the Conaway Ranch. (This seems different from his version in the Enterprise does it not)? He asked Gidaro about selling it, and Gidaro said I’m interested in talking about it. Souza decided time to take it to his colleagues, to see if this would work. Never used Measure O to acquire open space adjacent to the city.

“When opportunity comes along and a willing seller comes forward, I think we have to take that opportunity.”

Souza talks about benefits of the sports park and the open space protection.

This item is about directing staff to enter into negotiations about the acquisition of this property… (I’m at a loss here, wasn’t it Souza telling us in the paper that he was a “shrew negotiator” and that he wanted to tell Gidaro to “go away”?)

Greenwald speaks about the sports subcommittee talks. The sports subcommittee picked the Hallett(sp?) as a location to look at. In exchange for 89 houses beneath the signature curve, property owner was willing to “give” city land. She shows parcel A which is owned by Gidaro. Parcel B is owned by signature folks and willing to donate the city parcel B for a sports park. The two properties are adjacent to each other. This is only in exchange for 89 houses and this proposal is before the housing element. This proposal is further from existing houses. Parcel A is adjacent to houses, the second parcel is further and therefore does not have some of the noise issues. This was considered as an alternative to Hallett since Hallett is too far away. Greenwald thought it was only fair to bring this to the housing subcommittee before they bring this forward.

Ruth asks whether the goal is open space or sports park? Wants to direct staff to look into Shriners and other properties. Seems like Sue has talked to Signature folks and Steve has talked to Shriners folks. Ask what we want and what our goals are.

George Phillips here on behalf of Shriners property. Saylor asks about past proposal. Phillips says Souza made clear this was only an alternative location for sports park and organic farming. Asks about residential development? Answer: no. Qui pro quo? Answer: no. Understood coming in this is not part of larger proposal. Asks about other parcels controlled by Gidaro? Wait and see. No other proposals at this time. Do anticipate that this negotiation will enable any additional benefits? No.

Would this require a measure J vote? Harriet says no but it would depend on the proposals. For uses of parkland and open space—exempt from Measure J vote. Souza reads from exemption language. “Land to be used for public parks” is specifically exempted. (The question is then, if this is converted from Park to housing, would it require a Measure J vote).

Saylor makes reference to this being on TV and youtube (hmmm…).

Heystek questions. This thinking came about in mid-February. See value of preserving this land with the adjacency from the city, then brings up proposed mitigations to agricultural land. Talks about adjacency requirement. Why did you propose we exempt Wild Horse Ranch project from adjacency requirement?

Souza starts talking about past and his commitments to land preservation. This is not something new to me. (Not answering the question). Completely dodges the issue of why he is favoring this while he made exceptions for the Horse Ranch. Claims that was too small, but misses the fact that that land that will not be mitigated is part of Gidaro’s land. Answer is vague and non-descript.

Heystek restructures question: why would we pay for this rather than the developer of the Horse Ranch doing it? No one is arguing with the intent, but rather the mechanism. Why would we rather pay for part of Shriner’s property rather than a developer?

Souza dodges again by saying this doesn’t preclude an agricultural easement. Totally fails to address Heystek’s question.

Heystek—I understand that, but purchasing that land requires money. Why would we want to use our open-space funds but did not require developers to bring that forward?

Saylor objects to the questioning. Greenwald rules that this was appropriate. Souza is acting as the staff member.

Heystek asks staff if we are subject to the “right to farm ordinance”

Emlen, says, “I believe we are.”

Fight breaks out. Saylor objects to questioning of Souza. Ruth sticks here nose in.

Greenwald pushes on with questioning him about his support for a permanent urban limit line.

Souza objects to the question and then pontificates. He stays calm, but Greenwald is losing her cool.

Greenwald says Souza is acting as staff member

Ruth objects to tone and lack of respect—objects to interrogation of Souza

Greenwald says Ruth you can only make a point of order

Greenwald says she overrules point of order

Harriet interjects. Souza brought this forward. Staff answers questions, relative to comments, sometimes staff does not have an answer to the growth. Harriet suggests council has option as to whether to pursue it.

Greenwald asks Harriet why she is interrupting.

Harriet cites brown act and keeping it within the scope.

Greenwald continues to raise her voice and she this is entirely appropriate.

Ruth moves for adjournment.

No second.

Greenwald asks question about urban limit line. Souza refuses to answer question.

Saylor seeks to make a motion. Moves direct staff that we investigate potential acquisition of Shriner property while at same time looking at other adjacent cites. Souza seconds.

Saylor finds there to be some “intriguing aspect” of proposal. Finds the proposal to be a resource to the city. Expresses skepticism with this particular property owner but we’ve been told there is nothing else in the wings. Reasonable move to enter into negotiation because it may be in the interest in the city—he doesn’t know yet. We should also look at other cites.

Heystek—reinforces appreciation for apparent intention of bringing this forward. Genuine difference of opinion about what priorities are. Areas like this adjacent to the city have not been in the past prioritized for open space from Measure O money. There is no question about the value of acquiring this land. There are questions about motivations of person owning this property. Steve Gidaro’s main interest is in making money and he would be unloading this land because of unsuccessful efforts to develop it. Also questions why we did not do this with the agricultural mitigation ordinance. Why aren’t we holding the developers to the same standard. Mindful of limited nature of Measure O funds. Look for other areas that may be useful for these purposes.

Ruth—speaks in support of the motion and also the importance of looking into other sites possibly for having this.

Emlen: First component is open space/ ag land preservation; second is the sports park; were prepared to do the EIR on Hallett in October, now is going to wait and see.

Greenwald perplexed about the process here. Mitch Sears explores open space acquisition, asks Emlen why he did not take this to Mitch Sears when he heard about it. Sports Park has to be looked at differently. Doesn’t think this should be discussed without a discussion of our entire growth policy. Greenwald complains about being interrupted at this point.

I raise the question during public comment as to whether this property which is exempt from a Measure J vote in current form, would then be exempt from a future Measure J vote if this property were at a future point in time converted to residential housing.

Souza answers my question, that Measure J suggests that any future switch to residential development would require a Measure J. So that alleviates one of my concerns about the proposal. Good to see that the drafters of Measure J thought about that contingency.

My own view at this point, concerns and skepticism about both process and procedure aside and questions about developer motivations is that some sort of land acquired for open space and a sports complex would be okay. The next question is whether the city could get for free from the Signature people what they would have to pay for, for the Shriner’s property.

Souza’s closing statement, buzzword for the day is “leveraging”—on the other hand, I think Heystek’s question about exemption needed to be better addressed. Souza asserts right to bring forward any proposal. Does not have the right to negotiate on behalf of the city. (But again, his quote… “I’m a shrewd negotiator.”)

Greenwald makes a substitute motion, to make the Signature property equal priority for exploration. Ruth seconds for purpose of discussion. Saylor had raised objections to the housing development of 89 and the potential of leap frog development at the Shriner’s property. Greenwald suggests not growth inducing, free, and why wouldn’t we investigate as an equal weight alternative? Emlen said that anticipated that would have discussions with Signature folks. Greenwald: are they looked at as equal weight?

Saylor: suggests its alright that have talks with owners of alternative sites.

Ruth: interest to move forward with EIR as soon as possible with a timeline. If you look at alternatives, it will slow it down.

Emlen: one possibility is that we end up doing both… and put the sports complex on the signature property.

Don moves the process as Emlen lays it out, Ruth seconds it.

Heystek: Hallett since we own it outight and have it today, we should consider that the superior option. Reminds council that some of Signature property would involve agricultural mitigation. Residential proposal on Signature Property would be subject to Measure J vote. Requiring agricultural easements are not bad either. Suggests Hallett project is the real location.

Greenwald: doesn’t think we should do Shriners without larger look at our vision. In favor of at least examining it.

Final vote: passes unanimously

Interesting stuff after the meeting with Mayor Greenwald getting in Emlen and Steiner's face and Asmundson appealing to me that she is being abusive to staff. Greenwald was angry about Steiner interjecting into the discussion when the council had not overruled her ruling. Staff intervened at a point where they should not have. The council needs to govern itself. How much did they pay for the counseling services? Wasted tax payer money if you ask me.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting