JOINT CITY COUNCIL AND PLANNING COMMISSION
AUGUST 14, 2007
CLOSED SESSION 6:00 P.M.
SPECIAL MEETING: 7:00 P.M.
1. Conference with Legal Counsel: Existing Litigation—Government Code Section 54956.9(a).
Foster Poultry Farms, Inc. v. City of Livingston, Merced County Superior Case No. 149443.
2. Conference with Legal Counsel: Existing Litigation—Government Code Section 54956.9(a).
City of Livingston v. Foster Poultry Farms, Inc., Merced County Superior Court Case No. 149647.
3. Conference with Legal Counsel: Existing Litigation—Government Code Section 54956.9(a).
Foster Poultry Farms, Inc. v. Richard Warne & Paul Creighton, United States District Court,
Eastern District Court of California: 1:06-CV-00931-OWW-DLB.
CALL TO ORDER
Mayor Samra called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m.
City Council Members Present:
Mayor Samra, Mayor Pro-Tempore Ingram, and Council Members Vierra, Soria, and Espinoza.
Planning Commission Members Present:
Chair Alvear, Vice-Chair Blevins, and Commissioners Avila, Benafield, and Silva.
City Manager Warne, Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Lewis, City Engineer Gottiparthy, Public Works Director Creighton, Recreation Superintendent Benoit, PMC Planning Consultant Allinder, Administrative Assistant Arredondo.
Colette Alvernaz, Jim Alvernaz, Gerri Martin, Maureen McCorey, and others in the audience.
Pledge of Allegiance
The pledge of allegiance to the flag was recited.
Changes to the Agenda
Colette Alvernaz, P.O. Box 255, Livingston, read a letter expressing her disagreement with the Ranchwood sewer trunk line installed between “B” Street and Magnolia Avenue. It does not make sense to her that the City of Livingston has a need for such a massive sewer trunk line for a population of only about 14,000 people. She conducted an investigation to determine the capacity of a 42” sewer trunk line and the percentage of volume required to make it run properly, which is a minimum of 8.5 million gallons per day.
Gerri Martin, 16181 Vinewood Avenue, Livingston, stated that she put in a public document request with the City for several records, but doesn’t think she got them all. She asked for all records regarding the purchase of the Horta property. Based on the copies she received, it seems that this item was never discussed in a public hearing until the City Council voted to spend $1,408,543 for this property and it was a consent item. She requested the environmental impact report. She was told by the City Manager that there wasn’t one.
Mrs. Martin also requested documents on the proposed Wastewater Master Plan which is targeting another 100 acres of agricultural land outside the Sphere of Influence. She requested documents on the background of the decision to expand to the west, instead of the east, but she has not received any.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
At this point Chair Alvear assumed control of the meeting.
Presentation of General Plan Update Process
Chair Alvear commented that the Draft Master Schedule outlines several projects and shows time tables of when things are going to happen.
City Manager Warne said PMC Consultant Sara Allinder was available to explain the General Plan process and go over the Master Schedule in detail and answer any questions about it. He added that he was going to recommend to Community Development Director Kenney that the Planning Commission be given updates.
Sara Allinder, PMC Consultant, presented an overview and background of the General Plan Update and the City’s reason for doing it. Ms. Allinder explained the primary document is the General Plan and the Environmental Impact Report that is being completed along with it. The time table identifies the major point in that time processing, including any public review periods to give everybody an idea of when they can expect notices and when they can be involved in the process. The public review period is the first major stepping stone and once it closes, PMC will assemble all of the comments they get during that public review period and will provide responses to those comments. They will then provide that information to the Planning Commission and the City Council so that they know what kind of comments came in and how those are going to be addressed in the Environmental Review and in the General Plan document.
The Environmental Review document is going through its own separate public review period. There will be another workshop to give the public another opportunity to hear what the responses to comments were, how they got incorporated, and also to provide another opportunity for comments that are specific to any other environmental issues. At the end of the Public Review Period; staff will respond to those comments. All those responses will be incorporated into the Environmental document which will be going to Planning Commission for their recommendation and to the City Council for final certification. This will complete the General Plan and the Environmental document.
Ms. Allinder added that some of the other larger projects going on now that support the General Plan are the master plans that have been going to Council for approval. She clarified the difference between approval and adoption. She explained that approval gives the Council a chance to look at the document overall and say if they like the document and give them the go ahead to do the environmental review on it. Once all the master plans (water, wastewater, roadways, parks and recreation, and storm drainage) are seen by City Council, then they will be looking at those under the CEQA process and will still have an EIR of those master plans.
Ms. Allinder explained the Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion project. She said the project scope is limited. The current plant is at 2 million gallons per day (mgd) and the expansion would increase that to 4 mgd. The environmental review for that project will look specifically at the ponds that are needed to go to the 4 mgd and those ponds are all located on the existing site. Ms. Allinder explained the Notice of Preparation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and mentioned that the NOP is sent to all the state and regional agencies and those agencies would give general comments back.
Chair Alvear asked how strict are the dates listed on the master schedule.
Sara responded this master schedule is only a draft with target dates; they are not set in stone, and added that updates will be provided as things move along.
Commissioner Silva asked what the process is to begin answering comments received on the Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plant environmental document.
Ms. Allinder responded that PMC will go over those comments and provide answers to those comments at the end of the review period. Those comments and responses to the comments will be incorporated into the final environmental document which will come back before the Planning Commission and City Council.
Commissioner Avila suggested that any concerns from the public be brought up at the Planning Commission meeting so they can addressed them before they make a recommendation to the City Council for final approval. Chair Alvear said the Planning Commission would try to get all the questions answered at the Planning Commission level and then give them to the City Council so that they don’t have to go through the same questions again.
Ms. McCorey asked when was the appropriate time for a concerned citizen to ask questions on the documents that were provided at this meeting.
Sara Allinder responded she could contact Community Development Director Donna Kenney any day during the week.
Commissioner Benafield entertained a motion to allow people in the audience to ask questions.
It was moved by Commissioner Silva, seconded by Commissioner Avila. Motion carried by consensus.
Chair Alvear allotted a 3-minute time limit per person.
Jerry Martin asked how to address comments and questions on the General Plan.
Sara Allinder responded it doesn’t matter, a question can be a comment or a comment can be a question, it doesn’t have to have to be one comment per page. It will be helpful to cite what you are actually asking for.
Maureen McCorey questioned if at any time citizens have an opportunity to engage in a lively debate or discussion about the future of their community or if citizen participation is limited to making comments for the record and then someone pulls those comments together responds to them.
Sara Allinder responded that although it’s not reflected on this timeline, there have been seven public workshops on this subject since June 2004, and that is when citizen discussion would take place. She added that at this time, if there is a point of contention, it should be discussed at the Planning Commission meeting because they will make the recommendation to the City Council.
Colette Alvernaz asked when the public comment period for tonight’s agenda item is held.
Chair Alvear respond it would be at the end of the agenda item.
City Council Comments:
Council Member Espinoza explained the reason for the General Plan update is because, by law, all the cities have to do a General Plan update every seven years and the last one done in Livingston was in 1999. It’s a long process – this update was started three years ago.
Mayor Samra mentioned that the dates in the Draft Master Schedule are only tentative dates and can change at any time. He added that they want this legal process to be as smooth as possible.
Mayor Pro-Tem. Ingram commented that Council asked staff to put this schedule together because the process is long and they wanted something to go by that would point out when things were going to happen. It also gives staff ample time to get out notification to the public when they will be discussing these issues, so people can attend the meetings and bring up their questions and concerns.
Mayor Samra commented that most of these discussions will come to the Planning Commission before they go to the City Council and added that the Planning Commission has the authority to call a special meeting. He would like better communication between City Council and Planning Commission and suggested that one representative from each body meet on a regular basis.
Chair Alvear suggested that the City Council liaison to the Planning Commission go to the podium during Planning Commission meetings and give them an update of what is being discussed at the Council meetings.
Richard Warne explained the “Pending Issues and Projects” list provided to the City Council on a periodic basis. This list summarizes the projects that are being done and being worked on, and then when the project is finished, it is crossed out. If the project has multiple milestones, one can see under the project what is crossed out so that at any one given time, the Planning Commission, City Council, and the public can see where they are on each project.
Mayor Samra asked that this list also be provided to the Planning Commission on a regular basis.
Mayor Pro-Tem. Ingram said it might be helpful to citizens if both the Draft Master Schedule and the Pending Issues and Projects list are posted at the counter so they can come in and review it.
City Manager Warne thinks this is a good idea and added that if at any time anybody has any questions and comments, they can call him or Community Development Director Donna Kenney on any issue that the City has ongoing.
City Council and Planning Commission Goal Setting
Chair Alvear initiated the Goal Setting discussion.
Two of the goals that were mentioned at the last meeting were 1) Improving the Downtown, and 2) Recreation.
Council and Commissioners expressed concern about the downtown; however, it was not very clear about what things they were specifically targeting in the downtown. Some recreation projects have been completed; therefore, this category would have to be broken into what has been done and what has yet to be done. Chair Alvear would like to list and discuss these two goals along with any others that are brought up. They can then prioritize them.
- Better traffic flow to downtown/parking
Mayor Samra thinks there will not be any downtown revitalization until they get people moving in and out of town.
- The Court Theater Project ($1.5 Million)
- The support and assistance to businesses
Planning Commissioner Silva thinks is essential to the improvement of downtown.
· Code enforcement/clean it up
Commissioner Benafield thinks we need to take a look and really concentrate on what is going to make the downtown area look better. Signage and sidewalk sales sometimes make streets look trashy.
· Need workshop to review existing codes that are not effective anymore
· How to deal with the homeless
Commissioner Benafield asked for clarification on the traffic flow to downtown – Does that include the parking situation or is that a separate issue?
Mayor Samra thinks it should be lumped all together. You can’t bring in cars if there is no place for them to park.
- Get more certain businesses to downtown
Council Member Espinoza stated that in Merced, they forced all the movie theaters to locate downtown. Maybe Livingston can look at an ordinance to locate certain businesses downtown and that would bring more people to shop downtown, but for that they need to improve the traffic flow downtown.
- What should downtown look like
Commissioner Benafield feels that they need to decide what they want the downtown to look like.
- Downtown revitalization
City Manager Warne explained that in this year’s proposed budget, they have set aside $125,000 to do a Downtown Specific Plan with two components: 1) Economic Component, and 2) Aesthetic Component. The Economic Component gets into the kinds of businesses, how to promote businesses, and businesses that are appropriate for the downtown. The Aesthetic Component is the development standards, the ordinances, and the codes.
Chair Alvear stated they first need to come up with a list of goals and then they can decide what is going to be their top priority based on what moneys are available. Discussion followed.
Commissioner Avila thinks the downtown is becoming a ghost town and they need to do something about it. This has been his goal since 2004.
Commissioner Silva thinks they need to set a time limit to complete these goals.
- Improving sidewalks
Mayor Samra thinks they should be looking at a downtown redevelopment project. Then once they have a plan, there should components within the plan.
- Street improvements – crosswalks, pavers, etc.
Mayor Pro-Tempore Ingram thinks the Planning Commission and the City Council need to look at what is available to them right now in the downtown that can be improved (i.e. holes up Main Street). How can they get businesses involved? What businesses can be attracted to the downtown?
Commissioner Espinoza feels financing is the most important part. They need to determine what kind of financing they get every year from the Redevelopment Agency, and then prioritize what they want to do with that money because obviously there is not enough money to do everything.
Chair Alvear asked that they prioritize the goals stated.
Commissioner Benafield thinks it is important to determine what the downtown should look like so they can have a starting point.
Chair Alvear remembers a couple of years ago when PMC staff presented them pictures of what the downtown should look like and the Planning Commission voted on those pictures.
Mayor Samra suggested that they put one or two people in charge from each group to make sure this is carried through.
Commissioner Benafield stated that in the past, the Planning Commission has spent many hours going to different communities, researching, and getting pictures and they are willing to put their time and effort to do it again, but they need the support of the City Council. Also, once they present their findings to Council, then Council has to take over from that point on. She added that former planners from PMC brought them more than one presentation and designs, but she doesn’t think they were realistic designs because Livingston is a different economic community than other bigger cities.
Commissioner Silva suggested they start with realistic decisions that will be supported and carried out. He feels that two years for a Mayor is not enough time to accomplish anything. A new Mayor can come in after two years with a different point of view and then everything will change.
Council Member Soria thinks that realistically for the downtown, they need to concentrate on the Court Theater.
City Manager Warne elaborated on the kind of moneys that are available for the Court Theater. He explained the Court Theater Committee has recommended to the City Council and the City Council has accepted the elevations and the floor plans. The total cost estimate for this project is in excess of $7.6 Million. What the City has acquired so far is in approximately $1.5 Million – $500,000 in Community Block Grant moneys, $500,000 from the Roberti-Z’berg-Harris Grant from the State Department of Parks and Recreation, $362,000 from the Redevelopment Agency, and a little over $100,000 in 1% amenities fees that the City puts on every building permit that is issued in the City.
Mr. Warne explained that they need to move forward with the architectural drawings and use the funds by December 31, 2007. If those moneys are not used by the deadline, the City would have to turn back the Community Development Block Grant moneys and the Roberti‑Z’berg Harris Grant, so they have kind of reached their cross roads. They either have to move forward on this project or decide not to do it. The only way that he can see to actually construct the Court Theater would be that they issue bonds and then use the Redevelopment Agency to pay principal and interest at least in the initial years. After the initial years, then once the City Hall is paid for, they can switch the Municipal Facilities Impact Fees to make the principal and interest payments. If Council moves forward with the architectural drawings, they can actually be in construction in the spring.
Council Member Soria commented that they have managed to get the California Transportation Commission to provide the $2.5 Million that it takes to do the engineering on the interchanges.
City Manager added that no matter what City you belong to, you have to have a vision and a plan and you have to have drivers to implement the plan. He thinks this Council has a vision. They are working on all these plans and he knows they are drivers to make things happen and the staff is committed to making things happen and not just have them sit on the shelf.
Council Member Espinoza stated that they can build the Court Theater, but if there is no traffic, there is going to be empty businesses.
City Manager Warne thinks one of the primary components of a downtown specific plan should be the circulation, so they ought to get more engineers to sit down with the map and look at what would be feasible and once they get that put in place, make that a part of the plan and then as development takes place, they can require the developers to build.
Council Member Espinoza feels that traffic flow downtown is a priority. He mentioned that he had previously brought up the issue about the owner of Napa needing more customers. He only has a certain amount of business that he can get from the farmers and residents in the area. He wants new traffic to run through Livingston and he had asked Council for directional signs off the freeway to the downtown, but that discussion never went anywhere.
Chair Alvear thinks the Court Theater is the most feasible goal right now since they already have a design sketch. Why not focus on the design so when they try to get more businesses downtown, they can resemble that and be consistent. At the same, engineering should be working on the traffic flow. She thinks workshop should be scheduled with all the businesses in town to review and discuss the codes and then start enforcing them.
Mayor Pro-Tem. Ingram said that there is a perfect opportunity on traffic flow because they are putting in the interchange. He thinks that as it sweeps down through Livingston, they need to decide how they can use that to bring back the traffic flow into the businesses in the City. He said that is a perfect opportunity to work on that along with the theme of the Court Theater. If they want to build businesses downtown, they have to go with the theme and the flow of the City. He added that they must not forget the other side of Livingston; they must get the traffic flow to start there, up to Winton Parkway and bring it into downtown.
Council Member Soria feels that they have addressed some issues and more are being addressed as they go along. Two examples are the Court Theater and the revitalization of City Hall. By looking at these projects, you can see that they are addressing the revitalization of the downtown.
Chair Alvear thinks there should be updates on that similar to the Draft Master Schedule they currently have.
Commissioner Benafield thinks we need to formalize a plan for what downtown should look like. It’s not set in stone; it’s going to be changed as they move along.
City Manager Warne stated that there is $125,000 set aside in the proposed budget to have an overall plan that talks about development standards and the vision for downtown. He added that staff will commit to prepare the Request for Proposal (RFP) and circulate it to the Planning Commission and the City Council for review within the next 30 days. Once they look at it and review it, then staff will circulate it. Then when they look at doing the RFP, staff will make sure that all the goals that were talked about tonight, and other ones that get added, are addressed in the RFP.
Commissioner Benafield asked for a time frame of where they are going to go after the 30 days. She thinks that once they review and discuss the RFP, they need to have another workshop where they come together to get into specifics. She would really like to see something in writing and drawings by the end of this year. Her biggest concern is that when it gets sent out to other firms to draw, they may get so elaborate that it becomes unrealistic. Discussion followed.
City Manager Warne explained that usually a downtown redevelopment plan is a process that takes over a number of years. They can do specific projects, like the Court Theater, and then work on other things.
Commissioner Benafield feels at the same time that they are doing this, there will be other projects that are not going to be as expensive for them to taken on – things that can really enhance the downtown. Following a lengthy discussion, it was agreed by consensus to go with the City Manager’s recommendation.
Council Member Espinoza commented that one issue that they need to discuss in the future is whether they want to change the name “Livingston-Cressey” (since it is part of downtown) to “North Main Street” or leave it the same.
- Sports Complex
- After school programs
- Indoor facilities
- More soccer fields
- More buildings for recreation classes
- Rec. Committee Input
- More parks
- Golf course
- Horseback riding lessons
- Skate park
- After school programs
Commissioner Benafield thinks perhaps the Recreation Commission should be involved in reviewing these goals and then bring their recommendation to the Planning Commission and the City Council.
Assistant City Manager/Finance Director Lewis thinks we need to come up with activities to keep kids off the streets.
Commissioner Benafield asked about after school programs to keep the younger kids off the street. Maybe some of the older kids will come in and work with the younger children.
Recreation Superintendent Benoit said that after school programs is something that they would like to do if they had facilities. She added that every school in Livingston will get Proposition 49 monies for after school programs this year.
It was the consensus of the Planning Commission and the City Council to send the list of Recreation goals to the Recreation Commission for review and comment.
Discussion followed regarding City parks.
Council Member Vierra mentioned that the City has three parks on the verge of being finished – one small neighborhood park in the Kishi Subdivision off of Hammatt Avenue, north of Walnut Avenue; one small neighborhood park on SunValley Avenue in the Sommerset 1 Subdivision; and one large park on Winton Parkway, between “F” Street and Peach Avenue.
- General Plan complete
- Control growth
- Commercial development
- Affordable housing *
- Saving farmland and open space (experts will be brought in from LAFCo) *
- Greenbelt between Atwater and Livingston (experts will be brought in from LAFCo) *
- Plan for the Sultana overpass *
Winton Parkway congestion
- Opening Winton Parkwayall the way through
NOTE: * goals to discuss at the next goal setting meeting.
Discussion followed regarding greenbelt. If it’s in our Sphere of Influence, the County can still intrude.
Mayor Pro-Tem. Ingram wants the experts from LAFCo to come in and give a presentation.
Discussion followed regarding the Lighthouse Development project in the Livingston‑Cressey area.
Discussion followed regarding Winton Parkway congestion and opening Winton Parkway all the way through.
Discussion regarding affordable housing.
It was agreed by consensus to schedule another Goal Setting joint meeting in six weeks and try to have one meeting per month.
MAYOR’S REPORT OUT OF CLOSED SESSION
There was no reportable action. The Council gave direction to staff.
Jim Alvernaz, 15975 Vinewood Circle, Livingston, addressed the City Council. He said those who live out in the country are part of Livingston, but they are X’d out because of plans drawn on pieces of paper. It’s nice to see that saving farmland is one of their goals, but it seems awfully hollow when they are talking about saving farmland, because the maps he sees are just wiping out thousands of highly productive acres of farmland. He doesn’t like the SOI expansion the City Council is shooting for. He thinks they should be shooting for a population somewhere between 25,000 to 35,000 and not 75,000. The City Council has the absolute power and no one can stop them from deciding how big Livingston is going to be. Mr. Alvernaz added that it is his opinion that the land that is in farming is better left in farming.
Gerri Martin, 16181 Vinewood Avenue, Livingston, said she appreciates listening to Mayor Pro‑Tem’s comments about LAFCo because she has been trying to figure out all this herself. It’s almost funny to hear the City worrying about the County intruding on their land when she is here desperately worried about the City intruding into her land. LAFCo has an attorney, but she cannot afford one. She heard that the City is not doing anything; they are just building the sewer pond on what they already have so far, but in the City’s budget and in the General Plan, it states they already bought the 54 acres for sewer ponds. That land is not in the City’s Sphere of Influence; that is county land and is zoned agricultural. She is very glad to see that saving parkland and open space is a goal and she hopes her house is one they are going to save.
Colette Alvernaz, P.O. Box 255, Livingston, stated that everything they have gone through this last 1 ½ years with the sewer line is inexcusable. She has lost five pounds. Many people have approached them and tell them they can sue the City, that they have a wonderful lawsuit, but they have kind hearts. They have a right to farm and they are doing well. They care about the people who work for them. They have elderly workers (91, 87, and 86 years old) that work for them to supplement their incomes. What commercial business would come in and hire these men?
Ms. Alvernaz read a letter requesting that the City Council and Planning Commission understand the value of the agricultural industry to our community. Livingston is known as the “Sweet Potato Capitol of the West.” Agriculture is an industry. Why destroy the most solid industry in the area by planning homes on viable farms and packing sheds? She asked the City Council and Planning Commission to slow down and rethink this general plan of mega urban sprawl and protect the agricultural industry that the City of Livingston has been blessed with.
Closing comments from Planning Commission:
Commissioner Silva addressed the audience saying this is a requirement from the State to have a General Plan. It doesn’t mean anything is going to happen right away. The reason why they do these public meetings is because they want to know the people’s feeling and how it will affect everybody. He would be definitely concerned if he had his house in that area. He thanked the audience for coming in and for giving their input.
Commissioner Avila thanked all the people in the audience for attending the meeting and encouraged them to get more people to participate in the meetings. He remembers our City being small and he liked it that way. Everybody knew everybody. He thinks more input is needed from the Citizens to direct the City Council and Planning Commission to where they want them to go.
Commissioner Blevins: No comments.
Commissioner Benafield addressed the audience and said that she does feel that farmers are a vital part of this community and thanked them for their comments. She can remember Livingston when it was 700 people. She has seen Livingston go through a lot of diversity and a lot of changes and growth is painful for everyone. The best way of resolving issues is by everyone being open. Everyone will have to give and take.
Chair Alvear stated that she feels the community is the key and added that it is their goal to work on having better communication between both City Council and Planning Commission.
Closing Comments from City Council:
Council Member Vierra: No comments.
Council Member Soria stated he can relate to the citizens in the audience. He has seen and suffered the pains of growth. His home was demolished to allow for the construction of the new highway. His business was lost because the property owner wanted to do apartments and he had no where to go; but nonetheless, the only thing they can do is manage the growth because growth is here whether they like it or not. Everybody has children; they will need homes too, so how do you stop growth? He added that they are trying to do everything legally and respectfully to manage growth.
Council Member Espinoza: No Comments.
Mayor Pro-Tempore Ingram stated that he understands where farmers and ranchers are coming from. He thinks it is good to have people outside the City limits tell them how they feel.
When he got on Council, their vision was to let the City grow to 30,000 and now that vision is gone by the wayside. He added that he wants to bring an expert from LAFCo to sit down with Council, Planning Commission, and City staff and invite all the citizens to come in so LAFCo can explain what they do. The LAFCo Commission was set up in the State of California to protect the farmers, the ranchers, and the land. The LAFCo Commission can protect farmland and that is why he recommended to move the City’s Sphere of Influence. There are a lot of entities that work into all this. The most important thing is that they as City Council and Planning Commission and citizens of Livingston all work together to make the City what they want it to be. He invited all the citizens to come in and give their vision. He commented that one of the big problematic things that he keeps hearing at the LAFCo Commission is that the children of the older farmers have gone away for school and they are not interested in farming, and the older farmers are too old to do it.
Mayor Samra addressed the people in the audience and thanked them for attending the meeting. He assured them that they are being heard. People may think Council Members and Planning Commissioners are harsh, but they are not. They are not professional politicians. They are learning and they are doing the best they can to address their concerns. He encourages everyone to contact them if they need to. Things may not change, but the citizens will certainly get a response. It’s not easy to take someone’s livelihood and their home away.
The meeting was adjourned by consensus at 9:34 p.m.
City Clerk of the City of Livingston
APPROVED: September 4, 2007
Mayor or Mayor ProTempore