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Sense and Nonsense: The Planning Appeals Debate

There’s something about Greig Smith that never ceases to amaze me and makes me worry that his chief of staff Mitch Englander will be more of the same when he succeeds him in 18 months, much as Smith was more of the same when he took over for his boss. Hal Bernson.

They never saw a development in their Northwest Valley they didn’t like as long as there was some juice in it of one sort of another.

Smith represents the city’s more conservative district, one with as high a ratio of home ownership as any in LA, yet when it comes to soaking the middle class for more money to feed the city treasury, he’s the No. 1 tax-and-spend liberal.

To Smith, any services the city provides to homeowners are subsidies so he leads the charge to triple the trash fee on single-family homes with a promise to use the money solely to hire more cops for the LAPD, which by necessity puts most of its resources into providing services to areas with low percentages of homeowners. But police services are a legitimate expense, not a subsidy.

On Wednesday, he put his full weight behind increases of up to 2,000 percent in the fees charged homeowners and community groups to appeal planning-related actions, arguing that the city shouldn’t be subsidizing such things because they are so widely abused to stop development projects.

Besides, he said, the under-funded and under-achieving Planning Department needs the money since its staff has shrunk from 400 to 290 and half its workers are being furloughed once every two weeks and it could drop below 250 when the early retirement deal is finalized.

It’s as if Smith wasn’t a power on the Budget Committee that slashed planning funding, wasn’t a Council member who put planning officials on furloughs and engineered the early retirement deal.

Only one Council member, Richard Alarcon, stop up and pointedly showed that Smith was talking nonsense, if not a hypocrite.

As expected, the Council lost its nerve in the face of a public outrcy and backed down Wednesday on increasing the appeals fees — for now.

But you can be sure these people will be back in due course with a new plan to raise the fees and find other ways to squeeze money out of the middle class. They are desperate for cash and too weak to confront the simple truth that City Hall costs too much and delivers too little.

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25 Responses to Sense and Nonsense: The Planning Appeals Debate

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hal Berson to Greig Smith to Mitch Englander = Mullah Nasrudin’s soup.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You’re right that Smith was chief among those who pushed to triple the trash fee hikes, which hit homeowners only and IF they went for the cops we were promised by the Mayor/ Bratton/ some others, would be used most heavily in high- crime areas which happen to be mostly rentals.
    BUT he never promised the money would go for cops — he never said WHERE the money would go when he pushed for the fee hikes to leave himself an “out” to come out later (after his taxpayer-paid world junket to visit trash sites) and say the money was NEVER promised for the cops. But only to “offset real cost of trash pickup” because, based on what he saw in Germany or Japan or somewhere else, he realized homeowners had been getting “too good a deal.” As though our taxes don’t already go for basic services like trash pick up? He’s gotten Parks, Rosendahl, Zine, Koretz and a bunch of others desperate for any excuse to steal our taxes to claim it would be “illegal” to use the money for cops instead of toward the plundered General Fund. That THEY starting with Parks let happen.
    This is another case where Smith is desperate for any excuse for “full recovery,” high fees. BUT don’t make Alarcon out to be some people’s hero just because he’s going for the sound bites. He, Janice Hahn and other far lefties want to keep raising our taxes to subsidize a “living wage” of some extremely high wage with full health benefits for illegals so they can buy homes and that’s how he wants to pull them into the current minority that DOES own homes. On the backs of those who got them the old- fashioned way. Just a socialist con game.

  3. anonymous says:

    Once elected, there must be some sort of invasion of the mind snatchers that kicks in. Maybe there’s a secret initiation after they take the oath of office and they morph into the same thing.

  4. Anonymous says:

    City Council debating an issue = Mullah Nasrudin’s blind men and elephant

  5. KK says:

    So, let me see if I understand this. Because there is a budget crisis in the city, the planning department has had to cut back personnel. This allows the city to ONLY spend 1 million more day than they are taking in.
    To fund the positions in planning that the deficit budget took away, the appeals fees need to be raised only on neighborhood groups, while the developers pay less? Am I understanding this correctly?

  6. Charlie Baker says:

    I don’t know what Smith is talking about an abuse of the system. Appeals are not easy to win, if a developer/applicant proposes a “by right” project.
    If you ever attend PLUM Committee meetings for larger projects, you will see how loopsided the process is in favor of the applicant/developer and against average citizen or neighborhood group.
    The only reason individuals and small neighborhood groups have a chance on winning is because the City approvals violated the law. That is how our court system works.
    The City Council violates the law on a routine basis and the only way to stop it, is for a Citizen to challenge the City’s decision through the entire administrative process (exhausting administrative remedies) and into the court of necessary.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Interesting! Why was the Planning Department authorized 400 positions? Was a study done before this was authorized? Was it based on quantifiable products delivered within a specified time? Are there checks and balances to see if that was accomplished? Has anyone considered the enormity of this number? Even 290 is a huge number. The problem is not with the number of employees, but with a management competent enough to know what to do with them.
    It is a numbers game all departments play including Police and Fire. Why are 10,000 cops better than 9,999. Why are the latest management efficiencies to do more with less, absent in government? What have citizens receievd more now than they did before? Just admit that the taxing power allows you not to perform, otherwise the Mayor and Council could do with less than the enormous staff they have. They set a poor example and department heads have learned to ignore them. Government more than private organizations should lead by example. Whom do we follow? The Mayor, the Councilmembers or equally dishonest department heads?
    The current budget crisis is the result of problems ignored till the breaking point. Nobody part of the current city management structure deserves another job. By the way, where is the Mayor with all the photo ops he has with bursting water pipes all over the city.

  8. James McCuen says:

    I just took a look at the speakers at today’s hearing on Agenda Item 37 and there was one in favor of the appeals fee increase, a speaker from the Central City Association.
    For those of you in CD-2 watch out for Christine Essel she had her heart and soul in the Central City Assocation and this is exactly what they stand for: Oversize development, taxpayer subsidies for wealthy developers (i.e. AEG in Downtown), and Eminent Domain for PRIVATE projects.
    What a boondoggle.

  9. Sandy Sand says:

    I guess that every time they try to pull a fast one and try to raise fees (TAXES) we’ll have to do a “public outcry” on them and show them that we’re paying attention and we’re MAD AS HELL and AREN’T GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE !!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Gabriella Holt spoke at our meeting today (Federated Republican Women) of Sacramento and in 2010 we shall have a proposition to change
    the state legislature to a part-time citizen legislature on the ballot. There will be real consideration and responsibility for the residents of California – so please sign the petitions to qualify it. These people will not have hours and hours of time paid for by you and me and all of us. They will probably be retired or people who can take time to fulfill their civic duties and are able to survive because they are small business people or on leave from progressive large companies which support civic participation and allow time off for that effort.
    Teddy Howell, CPWHRWC, FEDERATED
    Hmmmmm Maybe that is the solution to SLAP.
    A part-time city council instead of money grubers who are stealing us blind.

  11. Rachel says:

    Eric Garcetti may have been out of town but his presence was felt strongly. The City Clerk, at the direction of Garcetti’s staff, held this item back from the meeting agenda and instead posted a second agenda at 10 minutes before 5 pm. last Friday afternoon. Hmmmm. Nice try Eric, but the people are catching onto your tricks.
    I guess Eric was hoping that no one would notice it over the weekend and then, when Monday rolled around, there would be no time for the public to prepare a response.
    But someone did notice and they put the internet to good use to inform the public and rally groups. Some Council offices had hundreds of emails and faxes on Monday expressing outrage over raising appeal fees on the middle class while cutting big developer appeal fees by tens of thousands.
    This incident shows what the activist community can do when it mobilizes itself: It can make City Council back down and apologize to the people.
    Ron puts it all in a bigger picture. One thing after another that this City Council is trying to load onto middle class backs while the rich walk off with the loan forgiveness, the CRA taxes, and the goldmine. The people are tired of getting the SHAFT from these asses.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Richard Alarcon wasn’t always on my radar, but whatever he has done in the past, he surely redeemed himself beyond clouds on this one. He is right on target on this one.

  13. Kate Barner says:

    Rachel: I couldn’t agree more. That’s the beauty of shining a light on ill conceived decisions of our elected officials.
    This current generation of City Council is especially brazen and pompous and doesn’t want to have the public weigh in–they are control freaks and corrupt.
    On this issue we saw Alarcon and Rosendahl step up to the plate and look out for the people. Koretz is very weak (and dangerous) talking about re-cooping costs and buying into that propaganda!
    Maybe Alarcon and Rosendahl are just part of a show and like you said, maybe Garcetti will try another sneaky move and try to get this through under the radar-that’s going to be harder now.
    Its important to push fundamental issues like this and expose the hypocrisy of some like Garcetti who pretend to be for the little guy.

  14. Patty says:

    Dear Kate,
    I must disagree. Eric is for the “little guy and lady”
    He also has been good for local neighborhoods.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Eric Garcetti said to Nasrudin: “Mulla, all the great leaders of the past had honorific titles with the name of God in them: there was, for instance, God-Gifted, and God-Accepted, and so on. How about some such name for me?”
    “God Forbid,” said Nasruddin.

  16. david r2b says:

    Teddy -
    Please try to have your organization coordinate with the City activists that are working on the “half-off” petitions. I fully agree that the State can function fine with a part time Legislature. But I feel that “this” City requires a full time Council but with twice the number of members. I’ve read previous posts that mentioned the Borough approach, as in NYC.
    With twice the number of CM’s you could cut the “staff” requirements radically and in the end save $$$$ and offer better personal constituency service. Also with 25 or 30 CM’s there wouldn’t be the ability of some slick, from the side of their mouth talking con artist, to push through and get “14 Ayes” 99.9% of the time. There would be a lot more discussion required on everything. Therefore things would move slower and the Public would have more time to learn and comment and give legitimate input.
    Come the first part of the New Year, and I’m standing out in front of Ralph’s getting signatures, I might as well have TWO to offer.
    (On a side note to the part time Legislature concept: Both Hamilton and Jefferson, in their Federalist writings, were both of the opinion that governing bodies WOULD be made up of retired life experienced folks. NOT some young kid who’s Daddy had a name or who after graduating from college spends a year and a half with some community activist group then expects to spend the next 40 years in elected office, with no life experience. The only way, considering the competition, to stay in any office that long is to have sold out near the beginning of the run. That’s what H & J were trying to avoid.)
    Thank you.

  17. Anonymous says:

    This LACK of leadership City Council, includng Councilmember Alarcon who is attempting to move public comment towards the end of council meetings, is on a run away train with no acountability to thier constituents who continue to vote them. So STOP complaining!

  18. Anonymous says:

    This LACK of leadership City Council, includng Councilmember Alarcon who is attempting to move public comment towards the end of council meetings, is on a run away train with no acountability to thier constituents who continue to vote for them. So STOP complaining!

  19. El Quixotian says:

    Yours must be a great mind!
    Only yesterday, while recollecting times of contemplation and conviviality amidst the throngs at the Teahouse of the Mullah Nasrudin’s Donkey, it was determined that the wisdom distilled in the persona of the Mullah MUST have been known by, and influential to our predecessor, Cervantes.
    Huzzah to your characterization of the respect due to our Council President.

  20. El Quixotian says:

    david r2b
    Another point regarding “constituent services” is that much of what a CD office does is take note of the concerns constituents either persistent or politically connected, and escalate the issue with the appropriate department, and having them moved to the top of the list.
    For example, if there’s a long backlog of street resurfacing (years) or sidewalk repair (decades), either the squeaky wheel or well-oiled machines) can take cuts.
    Better to refocus the staffing to have properly managed and appropriately staffed departments rather then facilitating the granting of indulgences.

  21. ellen vukovich says:

    Too bad my response is kinda at the end…Paul Koretz introduced a motion to put off any fee increases until after 30 days worth of public comment is submitted to the Council.
    So, send out the viral emails and tell everyone to write all of the council members accordingly.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Who does Greig Smith thinks is listening to him? There is nobody out there who believes that there are some residents who will object to a project just because a particular developer is involved. The only reason anyone would put their valuable time, money and effort into fighting a project is to save their neighborhood. Why else fight the blatantlly dishonest area planning comm’n whose decisions are already made before we get there. Case in point, Kohl’s at Granada Village. I know the script, since it has also come up in so many other cases. Developer comes in to the APC, having made some concessions already. Developer’s paid (bussed in) supporters get unlimited time to speak before APC, even if they did not appear at any prior hearing. Opponents, the real residents who will be affected, who are giving up family time, work time, paid time, to be there get unlimited time to speak, and are sometimes asked to get one person only to speak. APC makes unnanimous decision on the spot without any supporting reasons for giving exemptions, waiving ordinances, etc.
    Greig Smith sent in a letter in the case of Kohl’s, which his cheif of staff, the self important Mitch Englander prepared, which was used by developer to show Smith had no objection to the project. The same letter was given to residents to appease them, because it said that Greig “was concerned” about the traffic study. However, he was not concerned enough to object to the project. Thank goodness Jim Summers and others appealed the APC decision b.c the 88,000 square foot Kohl’s will not be moving into Granada Village. Nobody in their right mind would take on what the opponents of Kohl’s did unless it affected them directly. In the pocess of that, we all learned how Greig Smith’s office works. mark armbruster, the attorney who represented the developer (Regency) is a good friend of Greig’s. For GREIG’s support of Kohl’s, Mr. Armbruster, and his wife (Palos Verdes residents), made a large contribution to the North Valley Y, as did the developer Regency. They Y in turned named Mitch Englander, Volunteer of the Year, for raising so much money. THAT IS a Contribution, in my opinion, made at the behest of an elected official and it is against ethical rules. On top of that, take a very close look at which Mitch Englander claims to have accomplished as Greig Smith’s chief of staff: the same stuff Greig has done. Why are we paying them both? Has Greig been asleep at the wheel, and Mitch doing all the work? Is Mitch taking credit for Greig’s work? Why are we paying both of them, Mitch $140,000 K and Greig Smith $180,000.00 plus all the perks? Anyone who lives and votes in council district 12 should not allow Mitch to become elected: he is related to a PR man for developers. Goodbye to the quality of life in the NW valley, if there is any left.

  23. Anonymous says:

    The North Valley APC has to be the most corrupt APC, I’ve dealt with. They are in pocket of developers with some of them being developers. It is good that Greig Smith is not running again, but to elect anyone from his office will be more of the same. Start planning right now, so your Council District does not end up with the same debacle as CD2.

  24. El Quixotian says:

    Not to drift further off topic too much…
    But it’s interesting to see how the roles for CF staff have changed.
    Once, particularly before tem limits, the CD might legimately mentor more then a single field deputy, and one of them may or may not be deemed heir apparent.
    (A previous poster explained some of those specific exceptions – e.g. citing CD4 where LaBonge was not hand picked in advance, and came back by way of another post prior to outpolling an interim appointee? How notable that Ferraro was long time chaif of the Audit and Governmental Efficiency Committee…a bit more torque then Arts, Parks, Health and Aging committee…perhaps someone here familiar with the numbers could brief us how efficient Ferraro’s city was)
    Lately, as with California Legislature, more examples can be found where it may be the staffer who is pulling strings. Sometimes, perhaps, a post is made available to a prior opponent, which may serve to both quiet dissent and leverage the skill set of a runner-up who may not have had enough “charisma” to beat a well-funded, ‘professional’ candidate.
    All in all, making for a weak soup, and a better recipe would be one that spices things up with good, independent, neighborhood stakeholders to step up.

  25. Philadelphia SEO says:

    I don’t usually reply to posts but I will in this case. WoW

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