ON THE AGENDA: CITY COUNCIL SEP 12
A likely TBID protest vote, a Navigation Center for the unhoused finds a home, and another Brown Act violation
School has started and the final days of summer temperatures are lingering with the first day of Fall just around the corner. Welcome to the last Twentynine Palms City Council meeting of the summer! Now to this week’s agenda…
Closed Session Pursuant to Government Code Section §54956.9 Potential Litigation (1 Case). Per the agenda,
“A “Closed” Session of the City Council may be held in accordance with state law, which may include, but is not limited to, the following types of items: personnel matters, labor negotiations, security matters, providing instructions to real property negotiators and conference with legal counsel regarding pending litigation.”
The Brown Act rules on closed sessions are complex, especially with regards to pending litigation. The Desert Trumpet questions whether the City is fulfilling Brown Act requirements with regards to pending litigation. Per our research, a 2020 court ruling states that cities are required to include the nature of the threat in the agenda packet. The discussion of the threat with the City Attorney is to be done in closed session.
The Court concluded that, “Read together, sections 54956.9, subdivision (e)(5) and 54957.5 require public agencies to include with the agenda materials litigation threats to be discussed in closed session.”1
If any of our readers are attorneys with experience in public law, we would welcome advice on Twentynine Palms’ use of closed sessions, especially for pending litigation. We have also informed the City Manager of the court ruling and will update this article when a reply is received.
This week’s invocation is scheduled to be given by Pastor Michelle Ronia, Oasis Community Church. This presenter is from the same church that gave the invocation at the last council meeting. The City is aware of residents’ concern that the preponderance of invocations by evangelical ministers excludes those who hold other beliefs. Anyone is welcome to offer an invocation; if you would like to do so, contact the City Clerk at email@example.com.
AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS
#1-3. An introduction of the New Government Relations Manager for Southern California Edison and proclamations declaring September as Hispanic Heritage Month and Hunger Action Month.
The Consent Calendar usually consists of routine items approved with a single vote. This meetings calendar include the following:
#5. Approval of the Minutes from the August 8 meeting
#6. Luckie Park Stadium Light Project Management One of the priorities listed during strategic planning, this project would replace the wooden light poles surrounding the ball fields in Luckie Park with steel poles and upgrade lights that have not already been changed, to LED. The City allocated $1M to this project, which is now showing a cost of approx $1.5M. To make up the difference, the City will need to take a loan for the additional $500K or pull the funding from reserves.
#7. Second Reading - San Bernardino County Fire (SCBFD) Fire Code updates. The Desert Trumpet reported on the first reading of this during the Aug 22 agenda article. During the Aug 22 meeting the first reading was adopted 5-0.
#8. Acceptance of Work for the Community Development Department Tenant Improvement Project - City Hall staff have been overcrowded with insufficient office space for a while, prompting the Community Development Department to relocate to an adjacent building at 73660 Civic Center Drive. This approves the $162,672.60 used remodel the interior of the building to transform it from dental offices to City offices.
#9. Transportation Impact Fee Study -
In the past Development Impact Fees (DIFs) were charged on new construction at a rate of $77 per linear foot of street frontage up to a maximum of $11,250. The study recommends the DIFs be based off of the square footage of the construction with fees as follows:
Single Family residential dwelling units: $2.94 / square foot
Multifamily residential dwelling units: $3.16 / square foot
Commercial development: $8.52 / square foot
Office development: $8.94 / square foot
Industrial development: $5.17 / square foot.
A question that comes to is how is the square footage of the “construction” calculated on something like a resort, which might have several buildings distributed across a large parcel?
The reason these adjustments are needed are stated in the study:
Development impact fees are designed to ensure that new development will not burden the existing service population with the cost of facilities required to accommodate growth. The City’s General Plan Goal LU-4 states, “Adequately address the potential impacts of new development on the existing community and the City’s infrastructure system.” The purpose of the fees documented in this report is to support this goal by providing a funding source from new development for to fund its fair share of transportation facilities as new development adds traffic to the City’s roadways.
The study is based on growth projections; however, the numbers in a key table illustrated below are based on City limits, which means they include population and housing that is part of the Marine Base yet do not align with the census numbers used for City Council redistricting in 2022. Do the projections of a population increase of 16,266 residents, 1835 units of house and (only?) 793 jobs and a similar calculated increase in commercial, office and industrial square footage by 2040 also include Base numbers?
#10. Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) Levy of Assessments.
The Desert Trumpet covered the August 22 marathon TBID discussion in our last Council recap. The 4942 hotel, motel, RV resort and short-term rental (STR) owners affected by the 1.5% TBID addition to the 9% TOT tax were informed by letter of the intention to levy on August 24. Another lengthy session is likely as a protest vote by the owners is expected and a combination of emails, letters, and live votes will be tallied during the hearing. If 50% + 1 of the owners object to the levy, then the TBID, the levy, and the estimated $300,000 in 2023-2024 revenue the levy generates is DOA.
It’s difficult to predict the outcome of the vote. Some owners see the additional levy as funds well-spent on needed marketing, while others see the TBID’s resistance to collecting hard data and the accumulation of a half million in reserves as indicators of poor management. Some feel that a TBID or similar body is needed but that the current formation is flawed, others want it eliminated entirely or would keep the levy and have a marketing position and/or cultural affairs position hired by the City. The staff report promises “The City, Advisory Board, Hospitality, and City Stakeholders are planning a strategic planning session in early October to review the current marketing plan and recommend a pathway forward in marketing our destination.”
The staff report concludes, “Tourism represents one of the biggest opportunities within our community and the City has a bright future with new developments within the market place coming soon, including a Hilton Home 2 Suites hotel planned for downtown at Freedom Plaza, and Reset, a unique shipping container style resort.” However, the developers of the Hilton Home 2 Suite have purchased the Fairfield Inn, and may be using it as a test site prior to beginning construction on the Hilton. Per the an email with City Manager Frank Luckino, “We have a contract with Hilton 2 about the land, and there is a timeline for them to develop, and if they do not, we have the ability to buy back the property.”
#11. Conflict of Interest Code Update.
This agenda item stems from concerns voiced by Cindy Bernard in December 2022, when she was a new member of Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC). Bernard was handed a Form 700 Statement of Economic Interests, which is required of all public officials as well as several City employees. The form requires extensive disclosure of financial interests with the goal of ensuring that officials are acting in the public interest and not making decisions benefitting their own finances. All Form 700 Statements are public with Council Member statements available online and other statements viewable on demand at City Hall.
Given that the PAAC was all-volunteer and controlled a small budget of just $15,000, it struck Bernard as odd that she would be required to do the same level of economic disclosure as a City Council member. She made an inquiry to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FFPC) and learned that the City had failed to bring their code into alignment with current law, which requires the City to define disclosure catagories for each class of City employee or public official subject to economic disclosure. Theoretically, this code update rectifies that issue.
However, as written the disclosure categories still fail to make the required distinctions, throwing all Council members, Planning Commissioners and standing Committee members in to the same category as having to disclose all assets even when their purview is extremely limited.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
#12. Morongo Valley ARCH Navigation Center Sponsorship
Per the staff report, this item comes to Council after being discussed at the August 1st Homeless Committee meeting. Yet, nowhere on the agenda for that meeting was a Navigation Center mentioned—a clear Brown Act violation. This is the second time an item has come to Council from a Homeless Committee meeting without appearing on the Homeless Committee agenda. Enforcement of the Brown act takes place by citizen action in court.3 We wonder how long it will be before residents decide to take our City to court for this ongoing lack of transparency.
During public comment at the August 1 Planning Commission meeting ARCH director Astrid Johnson discussed the need for a Navigation Center. In a session that wasn’t live streamed or recorded on an item that wasn’t on the agenda, the Homeless Committee recommended that the City support basic costs of a Navigation Center run by ARCH. The request is for $32,010 plus 10% for indirect costs, which would cover one year of monthly expenses: $960 for rent and $1200 for utilities in addition to a $2,880 rental deposit. The funds would come from monies already allocated for homeless services.
Per ARCH’s presentation, primary objectives include:
•Addressing the Immediate needs of Twentynine Palms’ underserved, underrepresented population
•Strengthening Homeless prevention methods
•Advocating for the development of affordable housing units
The Center will also provide extreme weather programs and nutritional food programs working toward a Whole Person Care Approach.
#13. Self-Help Construction Program - Agreement to Negotiate -
The Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHV) gave an extensive presentation to Council at the June 27 Council meeting on their self-help construction programs.
If approved this would allow the City Manager and the Development Director the authority to negotiate with the (CVHV) to establish a self-help construction program in the City of Twentynine Palms. Per that staff report, the City has only $184,000 in housing funds as $1M has been allocated to Milestone Housing for the affordable housing project that is being planned for behind City Hall.
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Per the TBID report included in the agenda, there are 11 hotel/motels, 482 STRS and 1 RV resort in City limits.