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City OKs portion of fluid plan

Posted: August 29, 2009 10:02 p.m.
Updated: August 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

The 21-point stimulus package the Santa Clarita City Council approved four months ago includes a list of recommendations to make development easier within city limits, but that list has not been made public or finalized, city officials confirmed last week.

City Planning Commissioner Diane Trautman criticized the city's handling of the process at a City Council meeting on Tuesday.

"Nobody seems to know what else is on the 15-point list," Trautman said. "The process seems to be going by the wayside in order to get to some of the more important issues in this economic climate.

"There's just too many questions that need to be answered."

City officials have declined Signal requests for the list, which was put together by a committee of local business and development leaders, saying it has not been finalized.

In fact, the exact number of items on the list appears fluid.

"It's still a draft document that we're working on," said Jason Crawford, the city's marketing and economic development manager.

None of the members of the City Council who approved the 21-point plan in April could say for sure whether they had seen a draft of the list.

"We were given a ton of backup (material)," Councilwoman Laurie Ender said. "I don't remember that number 15 sticking out in my mind."

"I don't know. I couldn't tell you," City Councilwoman Laurene Weste said when asked if the list was included in the information she reviewed.

The document in question - point seven in the $5 million, 21-point plan approved by the council April 28 - focuses on streamlining the development process by implementing recommendations made by the Development Process Advisory Committee, according to an overview of the plan on the city's Web site.

However, a list of the recommendations is not included in the overview.

City officials say it includes steps to encourage development, such as allowing building permits to be filed online.

On Tuesday, the City Council approved a component of the list, deferring the collection of several development fees for one year.
Rather than paying development impact fees when tract maps are recorded, developers will instead be able to pay the fees when they file building permits.

The deferment is expected to serve as an incentive for development, according to an agenda report.

At the council's request, City Manager Ken Pulskamp is drafting a memorandum providing details about the committee that put together the list, Crawford said.

A senior city official said when the 21-point plan was approved by the council, "there were things in there that weren't done. This was one of them. The whole point of the 21-point plan is to make things better for businesses."

The Development Process Advisory Committee was organized about a year ago and has met about three times to hold discussions with local businesses that had been through the development process, Pulskamp said.

"Calling it ‘committees' and ‘plans' and all that might be giving it more weight than might be appropriate," he said. "It's not a formal committee."

In addition to Pulskamp, the committee includes Crawford; Robert Newman, the city's director of public works; and Paul Brotzman, director of community development.

The attendance list from the committee's Jan. 27 meeting includes: Glenn Adamick and Jim Backer of JSB Development, Jim Coffey of Jimco Electrical Construction, Jim Combs of Combs and Miguel Architecture, Coronel Alvarado of William Rose and Associates, Wayne Crawford of Santa Clarita Concrete, Dale Donohoe of Intertex, Jerry Meehan of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Craig Peters of CB Richard Ellis, Charlie Rasmussen of C.A. Rasmussen, Mike Redmond of AV Equipment Rental, William Rose of William Rose and Associates, Tim Viole of T. Viole Construction Co., Inc. and Randy Wrage of Wrage Inc.

Holly Schroeder, CEO of the Los Angeles/Ventura chapter of the Building Industry Association of Southern California, said she sat in on two meetings.

"I viewed it more as feedback to the city about what works, (and) where there are potential efficiencies that can be gained," she said.

The people who attended the meetings were selected because of their past experience with the city's development process, city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said.

"It's not a City Council-appointed committee that is held to the Brown Act," she said, referring to the state law which governs open public meetings. "This is not unlike anything we've been doing for the past 22 years."

While members of the public would not be barred from attending the meetings, she said the meetings are not widely announced.

She compared the process to past meetings city officials had with skateboarders regarding Santa Clarita's skate park.

"There's advisory committees that meet with (Pulskamp) all the time," Mayor Frank Ferry said.

Pulskamp said he does not believe the council was given a 15-item list of committee recommendations to review prior to the stimulus plan's approval.

"We need to do everything we can to assist our businesses," Councilman Bob Kellar said. "We have to let people work. There's nothing (nefarious) going on behind the scenes here."

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