Council Appoints Ad Hoc Members for Budget Committee, Drops the Center Median Project, Denies Appeal on Gainsborough and More on Dec. 9
As the San Marino City Council moves forward with a new mayor, a new vice mayor and two new members, objectives for the next year have been made clear.
Review of the budget, maintaining beautiful neighborhoods, preserving the integrity of homes, demanding service with a smile and improvements of facilities such as Stoneman and the San Marino Center were named as top priorities by Mayor Allan Yung on Wednesday, Dec. 9.
“I believe it would be good to make our budgetary process more transparent,” Yung said.
Public input will be requested as they move forward with an Ad Hoc Budget Committee. The hope is that every councilmember will be more involved, he said.
“Times are different now and a review is in order,” Yung added.
Secondly, maintaining beautiful neighborhoods happens with the help of the public works staff. Some of these duties include street repair, sidewalk repair, trimming the trees and keeping infrastructure in good working condition.
The next goal has been identified by the community as being very important, and is discussed frequently – preserving the integrity of homes.
“As a community, I believe we should demand good architecture, good quality and a compatible style with the neighborhood,” said Yung who mentioned that defining “compatibility” is the difficult part.
The Design Review Committee and Planning Commission exist to determine if the project should be approved. Though the city has very strict rules, Yung said they need to better follow the guidelines and close any loopholes in the system.
“Enforcing rules does not mean staff will not serve with a smile,” he said expanding upon his fourth point. He said he hopes city staff will continue to be user friendly.
And finally, the city and community members have talked about Stoneman and the San Marino Center over and over again. The time has come to act to improve these properties, he said.
“We cannot afford grand buildings,” Yung said, “but the buildings that stand now are not up to the city’s standard.” He suggested building a brand new community center which complements the library. He also suggested at least make Stoneman ADA compliant, add a new coat of paint and possibly even install heating and air conditioning.
New City Councilman Steve Talt said he believes these goals are in line with what he sees as necessary to keep San Marino great.
Vice Mayor Richard Sun said he supports the mayor in all his stated goals, but added that he would like to see a reduced crime rate in the next year. Steven Huang – who, like Talt, was attending his first official council meeting – also added public safety to these goals as well as reduction of the city’s unfunded liability.
First Ad Hoc Budget Committee Members Chosen
Mayor Allan Yung and councilmember Steve Talt were appointed to serve on the first Ad Hoc Budget Committee.
Huang described it as “internal auditing.”
Talt noted that this will go hand-in-hand with the new budget process beginning Jan. 20. The scope of work is different than an actual budget review because they will be discussing operations and why things are done the way they are.
The ad hoc committee will be able to make recommendations to the city council on how to improve processes, if they find ways to manage the department better. The council will make final decisions on their recommendations, said San Marino City Manager John Schaefer.
Yung said he thought the departments should be broken up into police, fire, administration and public works, and recreation and library, not necessarily in that order. Talt suggested they start with administration and public works. The first committee will help the rest in determining what works well and what needs to be improved upon.
Council discussed the method in which they would review all departments – whether it be one ad hoc committee with alternating members or multiple committees. City Attorney Steve Dorsey said legally the city would need to form several different ad hoc committees in order to have every councilmember serve. This would keep the council from being in violation of the Brown Act.
No Council Support For Center Median Project
The concept design for center median landscaping was brought back before the city council on Dec. 9 after design changes were requested at the last meeting. However, the new council could not agree that the project was even necessary.
San Marino applied for the SoCal Water Smart Turf Removal Program, and was approved for $38,688 to cover the costs of new drought-tolerant landscaping for just two center medians. If the city completed the project by a certain deadline, they would receive the money – which pencils out to $2 per square foot.
Otherwise, the city would lose out on the money and have to pay for the project from its own budget.
Yung explained the prior city council thought they should move forward because they already spent the money for the design. And with El Nino coming, he said they didn’t want to wait.
Additionally, the Public Works Department would be completing the construction as a way to save the city money. Assistant City Manager Lucy Garcia said because staff time would be spent on this project, there is a tradeoff.
It would remove crews from their everyday work and other projects would get delayed, she said.
Several San Marino residents said they worried about the maintenance of it, especially over the first couple years. The proposed plan would have been time consuming, costly and difficult to maintain.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with it if I knew it wasn’t going to cost money and I’m not convinced. When you tell me it’s going to be a wash, I don’t believe it,” said Fran Benuska, a San Marino resident.
Public Works Director Dean Werner agreed with the fact that maintenance would be the biggest part of the project for the department. He said they haven’t received input from the neighbors yet either.
One such neighbor who would have to see the medians every single day said she didn’t think it would look aesthetically pleasing.
Staff will also have to keep watch over the new Circle Drive bridge to ensure no mudslides occur during El Nino, adding to the reasons not to begin the project right now. Werner encouraged the council to do the project later, if they decided to move forward with it at all.
Council’s first motion to discontinue the center median project was deadlocked on a 2-2 vote (Councilman Richard Ward was absent), and no other motion was made. Therefore, the project is dead right now.
Council can reapply for the program next year, though the rebate will be reduced to $1 per square foot.
Memorandum of Understanding Approved Between Police, City
City council adopted a resolution establishing the salary and benefits schedule for the San Marino Police Officers’ Association employees on Dec. 9. The term begins retroactively on July 1, 2015 and continues through July 9, 2016.
No salary increase has been given, but cafeteria benefits have increased by $200 a month for every employee – essentially a 2.2 percent raise. Previous council spoke on their concerns regarding this increase. However, because it took the city and police association nearly a year to reach this agreement, it would have been difficult to go back to the table.
Also new in the contract is the “use it or lose it cafeteria benefit provision” that states all members of the association will be able to cash out the cafeteria benefits at 100 percent or place the money in the city’s deferred compensation program. The Fourth Level Survivor Benefit was added as well.
New councilmembers had no additional comments to make, and the resolution was passed unanimously.
Appeal of Gainsborough Project Denied By Council
The owners of 2793 Gainsborough Drive appealed their proposal to the city council after being denied by both the Design Review Committee and the Planning Commission. The proposed project included a 678-square-foot second-story addition to an existing one-story home.
City Council denied the project 3-1 with Richard Sun dissenting.
The Planning Commission had issues with the proposal because they believed it exceeded the 50 percent rule, which basically states no residential building can be reconstructed or altered to the extent of more than 50 percent of its replacement value.
According to an official valuation done on the property after the Planning Commission meeting, it was less than 50 percent.
Talt did not believe the valuation was accurate as there were many costs not listed.
“I can see why the Planning Commission has a problem with these plans,” he said.
Mayor Yung said the only way to convince everyone of the valuation’s reliability is to give more detail of the costs. The architect said the next step would be to complete construction plans, which would provide that extra detail.
One neighbor noted the house would have been dramatically different from what is there now. It would not be just the 678-square-foot change.
Council asked if the addition could be added to the first floor so the floor plan could stay the same. Associate Planner Amanda Merlo said the existing ground coverage is over the maximum allowable already, and the applicants would have to apply for a variance.
In the end, council decided not to approve the proposal. It will be brought back before the council for an official resolution of denial. Council also suggested they waive DRC fees for a new home proposal, which will have to be approved in January.
Five Segments of Roads Limited Again to 25 mph
After additional review of five street segments in San Marino, the surveys recommended the following street segments maintain 25 mph speed limits: El Molino Avenue (from Monterey Road to South City Limit), Euston Road (from Wembley Road to San Marino Avenue), Oak Grove Avenue (from North City Limit to Circle Drive), Stafford Road (from Oxford Road to San Marino Avenue) and Virginia Road (from Oak Grove Avenue to Rosalind Drive).
Engineering and traffic surveys of 2014 and 2015 analyzed the roads for measurement of prevailing speed, accident history and roadway characteristics not readily apparent to motorists. This is to comply with the California Vehicle Code.
Associate Planner Amanda Merlo made it clear that the speed limit is not changing. It is already 25 mph.
City council adopted the survey results unanimously.
Old Mill Foundation To Install 65 Banners
The Old Mill Foundation is celebrating its 200-year anniversary in 2016. To recognize the special anniversary, 65 banners will be installed on poles throughout the city.
Banners will be posted in February 2016 and remain up until November 2016. This will be a one-time occurrence.
One unresolved question remains of whether to charge them, said City Manager John Schaefer. City Council previously agreed to hang banners for the San Marino Schools Foundation, and they have agreed to pay for the services. The Old Mill Foundation’s banners will take the place of city hangings, so there will be no extra work for city staff.Talt asked to review the policy for charging in the future. He recommended no charge for the foundation for the banners. Mayor Yung said the Old Mill Foundation is part of the heritage of San Marino, and he is happy to see them getting involved like this.
Crowell Public Library Gives Annual Report
Crowell Public Library staff are required to submit a report to the state every year detailing statistics on library operations. The report was presented to the city council Wednesday, Dec. 9.
The number of registered borrowers increased by 8 percent over the previous fiscal year. The Friends of the Library contributed $50,000 for adult and children’s programs and materials. A Library Foundation donation, for example, replaced 36 public internet access computers.
The library grossed over $70,000 in passport acceptance fees in fiscal year 2014-15, a 106 percent increase over the previous year. All other operating income comes from donations.
One patron’s donation even allowed the library to purchase Rosetta Stone. A series of music concerts were held in June and July. Partnerships with the San Marino Historical Society, USC Emeriti, United Charity Foundation, LA Opera and Pasadena Humane Society helped establish and continue other programs.
Total circulation decreased slightly, but staff believes it is because of the addition of electronic books. Strong emphasis has been placed on developing the library’s collections.
Council Redefines Massage Therapy Establishments in City
Assembly Bill 1147, the Massage Therapy Act, restored local jurisdictions land use power to regulate massage establishments differently than other personal or professional services establishments. San Marino City Council approved a moratorium on new massage establishments in response. This would allow city staff to review current city codes regarding this issue.
The city council chose to amend city code to revise the definitions of “massage therapist,” “massage therapy” and “massage therapy establishment” and impose a massage permit requirement in addition to the Conditional use Permit process.
Additionally, each establishment is required to obtain a permit from the police chief’s office and a city business license.
There are no massage therapy establishments currently operating in the city.
San Marino Prohibits All Medical Marijuana Facilities
Though the city of San Marino already prohibits the establishment and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, cooperatives, collectives and similar uses, the city has to expressly state it prohibits the activity.
The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which will become effective Jan. 1, 20l6, requires this act for cities who desire to ban deliveries or mobile dispensaries. The interim ordinance was unanimously passed by the councilmembers on Dec. 9 to specifically state their prohibition.
The interim ordinance will expire in 45 days, but can be extended for up to 22 months and 15 days following a public hearing.