Imagine having to use your own mini projector at a public hearing.
That’s exactly what happened recently in Yorba Linda, where residents were forced to show their PowerPoint testimony on the wall of the City Council chambers.
Yorba Linda city government has devolved into a free-for-all of “make it up as you go when you don’t want to hear what the public has to say in a public hearing.” If it wasn’t such an appalling display of government censorship, it could have been funny. No one could see the PowerPoints because of the bright lights and small display but the residents would not be silenced.
The breach of public trust began when the contentious agenda item was not described like all of the other items on the agenda thereby hiding it from searches. It continued when residents were denied access to taxpayer funded city equipment to make a series of presentations, timed to be within the allotted limits per speaker, at the Yorba Linda Planning Commission. This has been allowed at Yorba Linda City Council meetings before – despite the supposed threat of resident’s infecting the city system with a virus.
Apparently, the only virus running amok is developer influence-za.
Though residents met the deadline for submission, it appears planning staff did not like what they saw when they reviewed the material. At the meeting, the Deputy City Attorney declared that it was against city policy to allow the PowerPoints. Interestingly, no one could find that policy disclosed on the agenda or on the city’s website. It seems that was unsearchable too.
What’s the fuss?
The Planning Commission was asked to take the first step toward allowing a road through existing city parkland to provide access to a private development. Displaying city documents, letters, maps, and laws, residents were attempting to point out why the staff’s recommendation was just plain wrong.
Had the Planning Commission seen the presentation clearly, it would have shown that this park was deemed permanent open space and that roads are not an allowed use in open space per Yorba Linda’s own Municipal Code. The Municipal Code must be consistent with the city’s General Plan.
It would have shown that the city itself considers the land parkland (not “vacant land” as described by city staff). They would have seen that the city agreed to disclosures to homebuyers thirty five years ago which described it as parkland “in perpetuity.”
Residents’ well researched understanding and documentation of the interrelatedness of the Municipal Code, the General Plan and Zoning Map was beyond the grasp of most commissioners.
Lacking fundamental understanding and lacking foundational information, the commission bulldozed their way into a 4-1 vote by finding the new road consistent with the City General Plan even though the finding is inconsistent with the Municipal Code. Details. Pesky details. They took the first step to allow a private developer to use public parkland for a massive road to a huge private development. Remember this parkland is owned by each and every resident in Yorba Linda. These Yorba Linda Planning Commissioners voted to screw each and every one of their fellow Yorba Linda residents to benefit an out of state developer.
Tell me how this is okay. Does Yorba Linda teach a planning class in “How to Enact Bad Faith in Government 101” or maybe it is “How To Ignore The Law Without Really Trying?”
Thank goodness the many residents who came to the meeting took their citizenship responsibilities seriously and would not let their First Amendment Rights be trampled without a fight.
Claire Schlotterbeck is a longtime Orange County environmental activist and serves as executive director of Hills for Everyone.
Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Publisher Norberto Santana at firstname.lastname@example.org.