Six Hot Debates to Watch This Week

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Here’s a rundown of the main issues we’ll be tracking this week throughout Orange County.

Is there something happening next week we should know about? Let us know!

1. Irvine to Discuss Affordable Housing for Veterans

Irvine City Council members are scheduled Tuesday to discuss a proposed affordable housing site for veterans.

An ad-hoc committee, independent of the city, was supposed to discuss the site, currently designated at the Great Park.

But the committee, set up primarily to consider a possible veterans cemetery, was formed months ago, and as of July 22 still hadn’t discussed the issue, according to a memo from Councilwoman Christina Shea.

Shea is proposing the city transfer that duty from the ad hoc committee to the city’s planning commission, which would set up its own subcommittee to consider the issue and hear from various stakeholders, according to her memo.

The existing ad hoc committee members are:

• Steven Choi, Mayor

• Jeffrey Lalloway, Mayor Pro Tem

• Bill Cook, Chairperson, Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Committee

• Isabelle Krasney, Chairperson, Orange County Veterans Employment Committee

• Stephen Jorgensen, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Veterans Memorials & Cemeteries, California Department of Veterans Affairs

• Five Point Communities Management, Inc. Representative

Irvine officials will meet Tuesday starting at 4 p.m. Read the entire agenda here.

2. Villa Park City Council May Break Ties with CalPERS and Also Back Delay in Gas and Diesel Tax Hikes

The Villa Park City Council could vote Tuesday to end its contract with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System or CalPERS, the world’s sixth largest pension provider, in an effort to reduce increasing pension costs.

The CalPERS move follows an Orange County Grand Jury report that called for greater budget transparency in Orange County cities.

The report indicates Orange County cities’ unfunded pension liabilities have been increasing on an annual basis since 2007.

The city council also will decide if it will support an Assembly bill designed to hold off likely gasoline and diesel tax increases.

The bill, AB 69 by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) would delay putting vehicle fuels under the state’s cap-and-trade program until January 1, 2018 – three years later than originally planned.

The cap-and-trade program is part of California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which aims to drastically reduce the amount of climate-changing emissions before 2020. The program, however, permits energy industries to buy allowances offsetting greenhouse gases they produce including:

Carbon Dioxide

Methane

Nitrous Oxide

Hydrofluorocarbons

Perfluorocarbons

Sulfur Hexafluoride

Nitrogen Trifluoride

So far, gasoline and diesel fuels have not been added to the program. When they are, the California Air Resources Board, which implements the law, estimates prices at the pump could rise anywhere from 16 to 76 cents per gallon.

“A delay may be the best we can hope for at this time,” wrote Councilwoman Deborah Pauly in a letter to the council, adding that a tax increase of this size would make it difficult for residents who are still recovering from the Great Recession.

The delay, Pauly said, would give businesses and individuals, many of whom are unaware of the tax, time to prepare for the impact.

Californians currently pay 68-cents per gallon in federal and state gas taxes, the second highest in the nation behind New York, which pays about 70 cents, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The national average is about 50-cents per gallon.

For its pension costs, Villa Park, a north OC bedroom community of about 5,000, has a shortfall of about $3.5 million, leaving 17.5 percent of its employee pension costs unfunded, according to the grand jury report.

Gov. Jerry Brown enacted sweeping pension reforms in 2012 aimed at reducing pension payments for most public employees hired after 2013.

But because many public workers were hired before 2013, they are grandfathered into the old system, and reforms likely won’t make a dent for another decade, the grand jury report states.

Earlier this week, Brown blasted the CalPERS board for including temporary pay hikes in pension calculations and watering down the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act, according to the Sacramento Bee.

In 2013, Canyon Lake, a Riverside city of about 11,000 people, terminated its contract with CalPERS after the board raised its employee contribution rate by 50 percent.

The city council’s regular meeting is Tuesday at 6:30 pm. Read the full agenda and staff reports here.

3. Cypress To Consider Adding 40 Horse Race Dates to Los Alamitos Race Course

The Cypress City Council will hold a public hearing Monday to consider adding up to 40 additional horse race dates a year at the Los Alamitos Race Course.

In addition to regular races on Friday through Sunday, 51 weeks a year, the course holds 20 thoroughbred horse races between July and December. The proposal being considered Monday would add 11 new race dates next month and 29 other race dates throughout the year.

The race course, which has seen attendance decline in recent years, finished an expansion of its track from five-eighths of a mile to a full mile in January, according to the Orange County Register. 

In May, the council also approved the construction of 234 new horse stalls on the property.

Los Alamitos Race Course is located on Cerritos Avenue between Lexington and Walker, and is bordered by residential homes, two churches, businesses and retail stores.

According to the city’s parking study, peak attendance is expected on Saturdays with a demand of 2,857 parking spaces. The property currently has a capacity of 4,750 spaces.

The city council is also moving forward with a contract for design and engineering services for a bike lane project along Cerritos Avenue. The project, funded in part through a grant from the Orange County Transportation Authority or OCTA, will construct separated and striped bike lanes on Cerritos Avenue between Denni Street and Walker Street. 

Monday’s meeting begins at 7 pm. Read the full agenda here. 

4. Westminster To Join Cities In Imposing Water Restrictions

Westminster officials are set to declare a Level I drought at their meeting Wednesday night, joining cities around the state in enforcing restrictions on water use in response to mandatory regulations passed in July by the state Water Resources Control Board.

In 2009, the city passed an ordinance with permanent restrictions aimed at water conservation, including limits on watering during the day and prohibitions on washing down paved surfaces. The council’s action this week will activate rules under that ordinance for a Level I drought.

In addition to existing restrictions, under a Level I drought residents are limited to watering four days a week, based on a city schedule. During the winter months, November through March, watering will be limited to two days a week.

Although staff will focus on education and outreach, residents can be fined for failing to comply after the first two violations. Third or fourth violations could cost up to $150. Residents who rack up a fifth or any subsequent violations could be fined $250 or have their water service limited or discontinued if they don’t comply, according to the agenda report. 

The council will also consider a resolution in support of HR 4254, the federal Vietnam Human Rights Sanctions Act, which would impose financial and travel sanctions on individuals complicit in human rights violations against Vietnamese nationals.

The city of Garden Grove passed a symbolic resolution supporting the bill earlier this month. 

Wednesday’s public meeting begins at 7 p.m. Read the full agenda here.

5. Garden Grove May Rezone Historic Main Street for Tattoo Parlor

Garden Grove officials Tuesday will consider rezoning its one block long historic Main Street to allow a tattoo art studio and gallery.

Efforts by applicant Kurtis Gibson to open Black Umbrella Art Studio have faced opposition from some business owners on Main Street, who say tattoo art doesn’t fit with the family-friendly culture of the small business district.

In May, the Main Street Commission voted 3-1 against the rezoning, while the Planning Commission voted in June to recommend its approval.

No backup reports for the agenda were posted online as of Saturday afternoon. The agenda, however, is available for viewing online.

Tuesday’s meeting begins at 6:30 pm.

6. Stanton To Look At Regulating Bike Parking

Stanton city officials are considering developing rules on bicycle parking on sidewalks and other public spaces.

City staff have reported bikes chained to poles along public sidewalks, blocking access for pedestrians and people in wheelchairs. Since the city doesn’t have a lot of bike commuters the issue is not “significant,” according to the agenda report.

Existing law already allows the city to impound bikes that block public sidewalks. The council could, however, decide to adopt a more extensive ordinance to regulate bike parking citywide and target certain problem areas.

The city council will discuss the issue at its regular Tuesday meeting at 6:30 p.m. Read the full agenda and reports here.

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