Matthew Alexander

California City Community Development Director Matthew Alexander speaks during the Aug. 6 Planning Commission meeting.

CALIFORNIA CITY — Amending the California City Municipal Code regarding updates to the city’s General Plan was the main action item on the Aug. 6 agenda. Directors also held public meetings on Community Development Department goals, priorities and draft Planning Commission budget for fiscal year 2019-20 and two director’s decisions regarding a cannabis growing operation and drive through coffee shop and dairy.

Community Development Director Matthew Alexander said that staff only recently discovered that current city code sets a limit of no more than three amendments per year to the general plan. California law, however, sets the limit at four and it was noted that the city has already amended the General Plan three times this year.

“This is relatively simple resolution we have for you,” said Alexander.

Section 9-1.107 of the general plan states: No mandatory element of the general plan shall be amended more frequently than three (3) times during calendar year unless the proposed amendment is requested and necessary for a single development of residential units, at least 215% of which will be occupied by or available to persons and families of low or moderate income.

“Staff is at a loss at understanding the logic of restricting California City to only three GPA’s per year,” said Alexander. “Incidentally, it is impossible for any more than 100% of any residential unit to be occupied by persons or families of low or moderate income. Therefore, the 215% is considered a typo.

Considering the interest in new development within the City requiring certain rezonings and General Plan Amendments,  it is recommended that the number of GPA’s permitted per year be increased to four.”

Planning Commission Chairman Jim Creighton requested adding verbiage regarding a schedule for plan amendments.

“What I’d like to have added into it at the end is further General Plan amendments will be scheduled for City Council during the first monthly meeting in January, April, July, October,” he said. “If you have firm hard scheduled times that the City Council is going to act on a GPA that makes it better for the developers to plan ahead, they know when it’s going to hit the books.”

During public comment DJ Twohig of Big West Corp said he agreed with Creighton’s recommendation and referenced a report prepared for council by Big West and Kevin Maevers of Arivitas Strategies that was previously presented to the commission March 7.

“We propose also including a table of contents a calendar, similar that there be four times a year, cut off times or be natural periods of times for this to go,” he said. “Folks that have properties in the city that they have a desire to bring up a project forward could come to this planning commission with a project, possibly get it approved, and then subsequent meetings and go to the council. We also brought testimony, or I would say some testimony here over a period of months, that some of the projects that come forward maybe aren’t projects. Maybe they’re just lines on a map for some change for a sales program.”

Twohig said the concern is that projects could become delayed because other projects that are not as viable are being considered.

“The consequence of having all these GPAs, where you have no utilities, is that you have all these GPAs – that have been approved or pushed forward by this planning commission – that are not going to the council because we’ve already had too many (amendments),” he said.

Creighton said he agreed with some of Twohig’s comments.

“What we did this calendar year was ridiculous,” said. “We used up our three chances at GPA without regard to what was going to happen in our city. For that, I’ll take some blame.”

He disputed the notion that considering all requests was slowing down the process.

“It doesn’t matter if you got one or 1,000. A zone change or whatever needs to be done on a GPA, they’re all going to go in at same time,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to the state how many we put in the GPA. I know you would like us to prioritize projects, and I just don’t think that needs to happen here because of the fact that we can put in as many GPAs as we want one under one (amendment).

I’m trying to accommodate – or, I think, the entire commission is trying to accommodate – the developers as a whole, or landowners as a whole. If they want to do is one zone change, regardless of what utilities to may be near their property. I think they have a right to do it, and it should be amended at the same time as a project that has all utilities.”

Responding to a question by Keith Middleton, Alexander said the proposed amendment probably wouldn’t take effect until after the first City Council meeting in November.

Commissioner Richard Macedonio also said perceived viability of a project should not determine its priority.

“I understand what DJ saying, but I don’t think that you should be prioritized because the piece of property you have has infrastructure,” he said. “I mean, look at the property out there off of Cal City Boulevard, that the guy’s drilling a well. There wasn’t any water there, it was down 200 feet or something. So if we were going the way you feel, we never would have done a zone change on that. I think it has to be fair and equitable to everybody who’s in the game of owning property.”

The resolution was approved unanimously, with Commissioner Ron Hogan absent.

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