ON THE AGENDA: CITY COUNCIL APRIL 25 MEETING
Housing Element, Revising the City General Plan, Fancy Microphones, and Wastewater
As is our usual, we’ll be pointing to agenda highlights but encourage Twentynine Palms residents to read the full agenda.
The public has multiple opportunities to comment at every Council meeting. Please use the opportunity of Council meetings to question your Council members on the issues affecting our City.
Public comments for all items are limited to three minutes per agenda item, but the public is entitled to fill out requests to speak on multiple items and may also speak during general public comments. To comment, pick up a green form at the desk, fill it out, and hand it to the City Clerk who is usually sitting at the desk at the front of room on the right side. The public can also send comments via email to Council members and the City Manager and cc the City Clerk requesting that comments be read at the meeting.
AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS
#’s 1-5. Among other proclamations the City Council will acknowledge April 2023 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. The agenda packet’s devastating statistics note that “one in four women and one in twenty-five men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives,” and that current reporting shows 16% of young children will experience some sort of sexual abuse in their lives before the age of 18. This is the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Below is a list of local resources for victims of sexual assault:
Morongo Basin Unity Home, located at 7237 Joshua Lane, Yucca Valley, CA 92284.
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656- 4673
The Consent Calendar consists of several items that can be approved with one vote. Generally they are routine items but the Council has the option to pull any item from the Consent Calendar for discussion. Despite the number of items, all public comment happens prior to the Council vote on the full list.
#9. Housing Element Annual Progress Report
This is the yearly progress report cities throughout California must file. Per California Government Code 65400, the California general plan requires that cities uphold the requirement for general housing needs for their communities.
Twentynine Palms, like most California cities and counties, is on an eight-year Housing Element cycle. The current cycle runs 2021 to 2029. The most recent Twentynine Palms Housing Element was approved by the state on Feb 27, 2023 after the state rejected previous drafts.
What’s remarkable in this report is that only 25 units of housing were constructed in 2022.
The City has promised to facilitate construction of 1016 housing units over the eight year period ending in 2029. To hit this goal, the City must average 127 new housing units per year.
The takeaway is that 29 is woefully behind in facilitating new housing in the City.
At the current development pace, the City of Twentynine Palms will meet only 17% of that goal by 2029. 154 housing units are currently in progress, which likely includes the 100 unit affordable housing apartment complex being constructed near City Hall.
#10. General Plan Status Report & Update
The City will conduct its annual review of the General Plan and submit it to the State for approval. Updates to the 2012 General Plan include an emphasis on continued downtown revival, affordable housing, walkability, and preservation of local arts.
While in recent years 8% of the City’s single family residential housing stock has been converted into short term rentals, the General Plan also includes the goal of protecting “existing neighborhoods and the area's natural surroundings by encouraging development that is compatible with the City's small-town character.”
The General Plan review includes a plethora of other items the City plans to address, ranging from traffic mitigation, public transportation, economic growth, housing development, safety, water conservation, and general improved quality of life for citizens. According to the proposed plan update, the top priority for the City of Twentynine Palms will be affordable housing.
#11 & #12. Approval of Project Phoenix Warrant register Totaling $124,680.60 and Approval of Warrant Register Totaling $5,853,394.43
Warrant Registers seek to provide information of approved payments made to the City's vendors on a month to month basis and give an in-depth review of how and where City funds are being spent.
#13. Microphone System for Community Center
To facilitate use of the Twentynine Palms Community Center, formerly known as Project Phoenix, as “a large meeting space for City Council Special Meetings, Planning Commission Special Meetings, study sessions, and large conferences,” the City wants to purchase a fancy microphone system for $35,769.
A quick look at the Community Center website reveals a graphic promoting the schedule with the entreaty, “Sign your waiver today!” Now there’s a way to encourage community use!
#14. Clean Water State Revolving Funding (SRF) Resolution
This is a resolution specifically authorizing City Manager Frank Luckino to pursue funding from the state for sewer. The California Budget Act of 2021 allocated $650M for Septic to Sewer Conversions, of which $350M is designed for Disadvantaged Communities (DAC) such as Twentynine Palms.
To build a sewer system the City hopes to get anywhere from $126M to $200M of this pot of state grant money. If the City is allocated something less than the minimum of $126M to fund initial phases of the current sewer plan, the City would supposedly rejigger the scope to accommodate the lesser amount.
PUBLIC HEARING - None listed
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
#15. Housing/Homeless Committee Appointment
A Councilmember subcommittee consisting of Mayor Pro Tem Bilderain and Councilmember Scott will recommend Andrea Keller and Veno Nathraj be appointed to the Housing and Homeless Committee to discuss and advise the City Council on Housing/Homeless related issues.
#16. Presentation of the Preliminary Two-Year general Fund Budget for Fiscal Year 2023-2024
The City Council will approve a budget adjustment of $104,090 in the General Fund for FY 2022-23 for Sheriff's contract cost increases (partial year for detective in current fiscal year) and review/comment on the two-year budget.
A proposed fiscal General Fund for years 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 is set to be approved by City Council in July 2023. Currently the City of Twentynine Palms is operating under a planned balanced budget. The proposed budget acknowledges that renovations to the local animal shelter and Theater 29 would require the leveraging of specific financing that exceeds the City’s current fiscal layout.
Goals of incremental budget cuts across various City staff departments are also noted in the report. For FY 2022-2023, the City of Twentynine Palms has already exceeded their initial proposed budget in multiple departments such as Patriotic Hall and Community Events, with a near $30,000 cost increase in Public Works compared to FY 2021-2022.
A handful of departments have managed to remain within budget for the current fiscal year.
The 2023-24 budget proposes debt financing for the City to take on various projects and notes that the budget surplus will substantially decrease to a mere $945 in 2024.
#17. Wastewater Advisory Committee
Members of the City Council will review and appoint one candidate each for service on the Wastewater Advisory Committee. Six residents submitted applications for the five positions - Joseph Carder, Karalee Hargrove, Nathaniel Mather, Elliot Balsley, Veno Nathraj, and Sean Michael.
#18. Mitigated Negative Declaration for Wastewater Reclamation Project Phase 1
Per the California Environmental Quality Act, a study was conducted to determine various impacts of the proposed wastewater reclamation site. Due to the results of that study, the City must implement mitigation measures to lessen impact on environmental, cultural, and archaeological resources at the desired wastewater reclamation location.
Archaeological studies and discussions with the 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians have noted the project’s significant impact to Native cultural resources, including possible and likely disturbance of human remains along the Oasis of Mara and Chemehuevi burial grounds.
Geological and paleontological surveys will be conducted due to San Bernardino County’s “extensive record of fossil life,” stemming as far back as 150 million years ago and the region’s vast geologic history.
The City claims that with these mitigation measures in place, environmental, cultural, and archaeological impacts from the Wastewater Reclamation Project will be lessened.
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