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December 9, 2008

DHS Planning Commission - Marijuana No - Art Si

Marijuana Again

The first matter of substance on the Planning Commission agenda tonight was medical marijuana zoning. It came back because at the previous meeting of the Planning Commission only 4 commissioners were present and the vote to prohibit medical marijuana coops and collectives came up tied, 2 to 2. Seems there's something in the rules or the law that requires the Planning Commission to decide one way or another on a zoning matter.

Commissioner Gerardi had Attorney Davtyan re-read the summary of the two provisions. During that long reading I'm pretty sure I heard that one rule for coops and collectives would be that no food consumption would be allowed on the premises at all. None. This would seem to require any staff to leave and go elsewhere for lunch. I'm not sure of the point of that provision, but there it was.

In response to a question from Chairman Gerardi, Attorney Davtyan said that the supremacy of federal over state law was "unresolved." And this from a lawyer. I'm sure there are numerous court decisions establishing the supremacy of federal law over state law where there is a conflict. I refer Ms. Davtyan to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution:

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

Now, maybe she meant that we have yet to see that landmark court decision that would either blow away legal medical marijuana in all states or rule that the federal government can't regulate marijuana. But that is a far cry from saying that the issue of the supremacy of federal law over state law is unresolved.

Commissioner Gerardi said that he felt that at the current time Desert Hot Springs was not in the positon to handle the additional stress that would come from allowing a medical marijuana coop or collective in the city.

Commissioner King moved to approve the resolution that would ban medical marijuan coops and collectives in the city. The motion passed 3-2 with Commissioners Stewart and Aguilar dissenting.

Housing Element [of the General Plan]

This item was to be continued to the next meeting of the Planning Commission. Commissioner Aguilar expressed concern that this is so overdue that the city is not in compliance and worried it might mean a loss of some funds. It turns out that the delay is simply that we are waiting for certification of our Housing Element from "HCD" which I am going to guess is California Department of Housing and Community Development. They are currently backlogged. Assistant City Manager Rudy Acosta and the always helpful Fred Bell (BIA executive director) explained that there is substantially greater risk to proceeding without the certification than to simply being tardy. So we wait on Sacramento.

Art In Public Places

This was back before the Planning Commission, you will recall, because the City Council had received additional relevant information and wanted the Planning Commission to consider it. None of the many people who showed up at that City Council meeting to speak in favor of the 1% rate were at the Commission meeting tonight, even though this would be the meeting where the rate was set.

Rudy Acosta summarized the process the current proposal had gone through, summarized the additional information that staff had presented at the City Council meeting, and laid out all the items that could be up for changes: the rate, the threshold level, differences between residential and commercial, and exempting some small number of residential units. Commissioner King interrupted Mr. Acosta to make it very clear that he (Mr. King) had never asked for projections. Never. Why this might be so critical, I was never able to determine. Commissioner King also asserted that "200,000 is not the same as 100,000." I think if he had asked for a show of hands he would have gotten unanimous agreement from all those present.

Fred Bell, the Building Industry Association executive director, rose to comment that other cities apply a higher rate for AIPP to commercial buildings than residential because cities need residential rooftops to attract retail, which provides the sales tax that the city lives on. He said Desert Hot Springs needs more residential units to bring in more retail.

Anthony Cuca, a 6-month resident of Desert Hot Springs, also got up to comment. His main point, if I understood him correctly, was that the city should not be allowing developers to count the value of some pretty waterfall at the front gate to their development as public art. He said developers should pay into the art fund and the city should buy art to place in public areas.

Commissioner King read his remarks, which he supplied in printed form. And, since it was good enough for Hank Hohenstein, it must be good enough for Gabriel King, so here they are:

12/09/08
Commissioner Gabriel King's Art Program Comments

The debate here today, if there is even going to be one, is the adequate funding of art. Two competing interests come into play.

The dominate interest is a well known special interest group that wants to de-fund our arts program as much as we allow them to. The Building Industry Association has the right to that position and to lobby hard for it. For the record, I strongly disagree with their tactics.

The other interest in this debate is the local citizens we represent through election and then by appointment. We are their only community representatives. We are their only voice. They don't have the tool of paid lobbyists or the promise of future campaign contributions to affect the vote. They pretty much just have us only to represent their interests. And they have long suffered without any funding for art whatsoever while the rest of the valley cities have enjoyed an abundance of art for years and even decades. You can see and feel the difference Just by driving other valley communities and then ours.

In my heart, I know we can create a city with art that we all can be very proud of. That dream will not come by setting policy under the constant color of threat of lawsuits if we do not rule their special interest way. Honest debate cannot be had with the constant stream of special interest misinformation that has been put forth as the truth in what has been an effective effort to oppose an adequately funding art program.

Unfortunately, it is very apparent to me that city staff has taken up the cause of those that do not support a properly funded art program. It seems that staff does not want a straightforward honest examination of the art issue. I put forth these following clear facts to support my statements.

It is a fact that the staff recommendations are in line with building industry position. These recommendations will leave us with an art program in name only. It seems that staff has no desire to fully examine this issue beyond what supports the Building Industry position.

Fact Number One; There will be very little or no art funding provided by new home construction if council approves staff recommendations of ½% coupled with a $200,000 exemption. We have little commercial development and very few home building structure costs that will reach the $200,000. mark.

Facts Number Two; I directly asked the city manager and staff verbally and through many emails for copies of art programs from cities with the same economic demographic as our city. The same demographics would include California cities with the same incomes, same percentage retail base, with little commercial and industrial. Basically mostly bedroom communities like ours. Staff has refused to provide any of the requested information what so ever.

I asked staff for this refused information to confirm my own discovery of the 1% standard with no exemptions for most cities like ours. I also asked staff for this information to confirm for the record to the council that our original Planning Commission recommendations were correct. Since staff did not provide this requested information, council will not have this information in the record to confirm our vote as correct and fair.

A suspicious person would say that staff did not provide this information because it does not fit what staff/BIA wants. I will give them the benefit of the doubt and say they simply have not done their job to provide information to this commission as requested for reasons unknown.

A notion has been forwarded by staff and others that the commission did not look at the rest of the valley cities. That is nonsense. Again I have studied most of those ordinances at great length. The commission had the benefit of that information discussed at length.

I reiterate; my independent research of other cities with the same demographics as ours, as in little Retail/Industrial/Commercial, shows art rates at the 1% range and no (or small) exemptions, not the ½% range with a $200,000 exemption as being proposed by BIA/staff. Our commission's original recommendation for 1% and $100,000 exemption was correct. Even our original recommendation is still less art funding than most cities like ours. Therefore our original recommendation is reasonable and more than fair. BIA/staff new recommendations are as close to zero funding of art as you can get.

Palm Desert's art program, for example, requires ½% but it offers no exclusion for developer homes The Palm Desert art funding mix provides the same revenue the original commission proposal will provide. It funds art with close to equal amounts.

What staff is recommending will effectively be 0% funding. That will leave us to rely on other sources instead, like taxing the people if we want art. Remember, unlike Palm Desert, we don't have a lucrative retail, commercial and industrial base to provide general funding for art.

Desert Hot Springs taxpayers alone should not be left to carry this burden anymore They have been forced to supplement the profits of the Building Industry for way too many years. Our city frankly has the look of a city that has had its resources used up for maintaining the profit center of builders without requiring the builders to give anything back to the community for their profit taking. Too many years of builder "dine and dash" was allowed.

The city council sent our art recommendation back to this commission because they did not like our original recommendation. They said we did an incomplete study. Again, that is nonsense.

The council has the right to override the planning commission recommendation So the obvious question is: why didn't they do just that? Why didn't they Just simply approve what they want and be done with it? The answer seems obvious. They want this commission to take the political heat and modify the ordinance to one of the council's liking.

Anyone that knows me knows I am not swayed by political heat when it comes to making the right decision. What is not fair to this commission is to; 1) Be told it did not do its job properly when it did and 2) To be forced to take the heat a couple years down the road for doing the special interest bidding when the public discovers and asks, why is there still no art in our city when we have a art program in name? If our commission accepts these new staff recommendations, recommendations that do not fund our art program, years down the road this commission will be looked upon us as not representing the best interest of all the people.

I am proud of my fellow commissioners for passing a fully funded art program. It does my heart good to see the kind of detailed, diligent research that this commission has conducted. The commission received six months of public input and the input of the city attorney. Our recommendation on an art in public places ordinance was not unthinking. It was crafted with proper consideration. It was Grafted to fund the art needs of the city while being fair to everyone.

My vote will be to send BACK to the council our ORIGINAL recommendation.

Commissioner King emphasized a couple of times that his Palm Desert rates were based on what was actually on the Palm Desert city website, so I went to find that to compare it with the information DHS city staff had provided to see if there was some significant difference. Here is how DHS city staff summarized the Palm Desert rate in the background information for the November 18 City Council meeting:

.25% of bpv - 2+ units (same tract & owner)
.5% of bpv - commercial development

And this is what I found on the Palm Desert city website:

  • All individual residential units whose building valuation permit is in excess of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) which is assessed an amount equal to one quarter of one percent (1/4%) for that portion in excess of one hundred thousand dollars.
  • All other residential development, including two or more single-family dwellings being built concurrently in the same tract by the same owner or contractor which is assessed an amount equal to one quarter of one percent (1/4%) of the total building valuation.
  • All commercial development which is assessed an amount equal to one half of one percent (1/2%) of the total building valuation, excluding land acquisition and off-site improvement costs.

The only difference I can see is that the city staff description did not mention the special provisions for a single family residence ($100,000 exemption).

Commissioner Stewart expressed his concern about unfunded maintenance expenses, saying he prefers a system similar to that suggested by Mr. Cuca, so that some of the money could be used for maintenance.

Commissioner Gustafson said he understood why the City Council sent the AIPP proposal back to the Planning Commission. He proposed a $50,000 threshold figure, but got no support from the other commissioners for that.

Commissioner Aguilar said he felt that the Planning Commission had been reprimanded by the City Council in returning the proposal for further consideration.

City Manager Daniels asked to speak and explained that when the original 1% proposal came across his desk his first thought was that the Planning Commission could not be serious. He said that the ½% rate would generate approximately $33 million over the next 20 to 25 years. At the next City Council meeting there will be consideration of a proposal for public art at the two major entrances to the city.

Commissioner King said he had received no response from city staff to his requests. CM Daniels interrupted him (almost heatedly) saying that Commissioner King knew that statement was not true. But before they could really get into it, Chairman Gerardi cut them off saying they would have to resolve their differences privately. The two agreed to go out for a drink afterwards.

City Councilmember Al Schmidt rose to make a comment. He said the Commissioners should not take offense if they are overruled by the City Council. He said the comments about fear of taking "political heat" were not nice and that the City Council had returned the proposal so that the Commissioners could consider the new information provided. He said he did take offense at Commissioner King's statement "What is not fair to this commission is to;... To be forced to take the heat a couple years down the road for doing the special interest bidding when the public discovers and asks, why is there still no art in our city when we have a art program in name?" Mr. Schmidt asked Mr. King to reread that comment verbatim, which Mr. King did not do. Chairman Gerardi assured Councilmember Schmidt that it would be in the meeting record. It's also here on Ron's Log.

Several of the Commissioners took offense that the proposal had been returned to them. I'm a little mystified by this. In most political jurisdictions, legislative bodies and public commissions love to have stuff come to them. It's their meat and potatoes. It's what gives those people power, prestige or influence. The alternative would have been for the City Council to take the new information and craft a new set of rates and thresholds themselves and approve it with no Planning Commission input whatsoever. I'm sure if they had done that, the Planning Commissioners would have have had no problem in accusing the City Council of usurping the Planning Commission's responsibilities. I had the impression the City Council was trying to empower the Planning Commission, not reprimand it. Stuff coming out of the Planning Commission should be so dazzlingly brilliant that the City Council would be ashamed to meddle with it. But if the Planning Commissioners want to approve stuff that is just close enough to get by, then they can expect more meddling from City Council.

As I have said before, there was clear evidence tonight that several Commissioners either had not read the AIPP proposal, or had not grasped it when they did read it. Commissioner King said that the Commission had studied the ordinances of other Coachella Valley cities "at great length" and that proposed AIPP ordinance for DHS was "crafted with proper consideration." And yet Commissioner King and other Commissioners refer to "exemptions" of $100,000 and $200,000. There is no such exemption in this ordinance, as City Manager Daniels pointed out at that November 18 City Council meeting. Those are threshold figures. Any project larger than the threshold figures pays a fee based on the full value of the project. One Commissioner asked for this point to be clarified during tonight's discussion.

The threshold, if any, is not very material because it applies to the value of an entire project, not each individual residence. This seems to be a point that escaped every Commissioner, as they asked what is the median price of a new home built in Desert Hot Springs today. It hardly matters, since the AIPP fee would apply only on projects with 3 or more homes. It's just barely possible, but pretty unlikely that someone could build three homes with a TOTAL value of less than $200,000. All real projects have far more than three homes in them, and the value will certainly exceed $200,000. The only real value to the threhold is it spares the city the bookkeeping expense of dealing with penny ante situations. A $200,000 project at a rate of 1% gives us only $2,000 for art.

Here are the relevant bits from the AIPP proposal:

"Building Valuation" means the value of the building or other construction project based on the Building Official's estimate of the development project valuation, computed using the latest building valuation data as set forth in International Conference of Building Officials, unless in the opinion of the Building Official, a different valuation is appropriate for particular projects.

"Development Project" means all physical changes and improvements needed to complete a new residential, commercial, industrial or public building development. Such physical changes shall include the construction of new structures and buildings, expansion, remodeling or tenant improvement of any existing building or structure.

Commissioner King said "We have little commercial development ... that will reach the $200,000 mark." In the table provided at the City Council meeting there were 11 commercial projects over the last four years with a value greater than $200,000. There were 4 with a value between $100,000 and $200,000.

My advice to Commissioners and Councilmembers (again) is to read and understand proposals that you are voting on. You're not Senators, after all. And that advice goes for Fred Bell, too. He leaned over and asked me two or three questions, managing to do so just as someone was making a motion or a vote was being taken. He also indicated an ignorance of the existence of Ron's Log. The bastard! So I told him that the AIPP ordinance would be used to hire an art commissioner at a salary of about $150,000 whose job it would be to decide if any proposed development was pretty enough to be built in our fair city, and that everybody was in agreement that Dean Gray would be a shoo-in for the job.

Finally, Commissioner Gustafson proposed a rate of ½% on residential projects (of 3 units or more) and ¾% on commercial and industrial projects, with no threshold whatsoever. So, in theory, we could have some small commercial development of little value paying a small fee that will hardly be worth the cost of the paperwork.

That motion passed 3-1-1 with Commissioners King, Gustafson and Gerardi voting in favor. Commissioner Stewart abstained.

Commissioner King in his remarks said he had "asked the city manager and staff verbally and through many emails for copies of art programs from cities with the same economic demographic as our city." He said "Staff has refused to provide any of the requested information what so ever."

I asked Commissioner King to send me a copy of that refusal, if he had it available. He sent me information showing that on November 19 he asked Rudy Acosta for this information:

The cities with the same demographics should include the same or similar house hold incomes, cost of living indexes, and regional environmental similarities including percentage of bedroom community ratio to retail, percentage of professional and service workers and incomes similar to ours. Said information should be included in the spread sheet.

Also, please include all cities from southern California area including the entire Coachella Valley art programs with the same demographic information (for comparison). The spread sheet should also include all the city names, the art fees, the exemptions, the fee structure, percentages of retail/commercial to residential make up and relevant demographic comments. The spread sheet should also include (from each city) how much art money was brought in each of the past 3 years, and what percentage from retail, industrial and residential sources. Also provide the art money collected value as a percentile of the average household income for all 3 years, percentile of retail dollars spent in that particular city, and the percentile of average home values. Please provide a full copy of the ordinance particulars to each city so the commissioners can verify.

After some back and forth clarification, Mr. Acosta said "Staff will do its best to obtain the information requested." Commissioner King thanked him and said he knows the city is understaffed and he would accept his best effort. Commissioner King said there had been no further communication between him and Mr. Acosta after November 19.

It hardly sounds like a refusal to me, but I should think one or the other of them would have initiated contact since November 19 to clarify if any further information would be forthcoming.

I also asked Commissioner King the names of some of the cities he had found that have demographics similar to Desert Hot Springs and are collecting a 1% AIPP fee. He's gonna get back to me on that. I just want to find out who's got our demographics, AIPP or not.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | December 9, 2008 at 11:47 PM

Comments

When you characterize someone's commentary as "rancor" you are not heaping praise on them but rather demeaning or belittling their commentary and thus using a pejorative. I'm sure Mr. King thought his commentary was reasoned and well presented. You apparently do not. While I frankly don't find fault in your assessment and I don't have a problem with you identifying his comments as "rancor". We simply disagree on whether or not "rancor" is a pejorative.

Posted by: russ at Nov 27, 2012 6:29:32 PM

Perhaps the word rancor could be used pejoratively! Semantics...

Posted by: Jeff at Nov 27, 2012 6:13:17 PM

I'm not making any definitions up. What in the definition of "rancor' makes you think its use is belittling?

Posted by: Ron's Log at Nov 27, 2012 5:34:51 PM

Ron,

You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to make up your own definition. I stand by the definitions in the dictionary.

Posted by: russ at Nov 27, 2012 5:20:33 PM

To russ martin: I know you were giving the definition of "rancor." That's why I said you were defining the wrong word. We know what rancor means, but do you know what pejorative means?

"Rancor" does not disparage or belittle. It's a straightforward word that describes the behavior. Using the example I did before, if I had called Commissioner King's behavior a "hissy-fit," that would clearly be pejorative, because it's belittling. But describing rancor as rancor, or anger as anger, or fighting as fighting is not belittling. It's simply saying what the thing is. "Temper tantrum" is pejorative. "Hysteria" is pejorative.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Nov 27, 2012 5:13:40 PM

Ron,
I was not defining the word pejorative. I was defining the word "rancor" so, no Ron, I had the right word. "Rancor" as I defined the word previously, would most certainly be pejorative by "making things worse" and be "disparaging; belittling". Your original comment was that the word "rancor" was not pejorative...it is, you are wrong.

Posted by: russ at Nov 27, 2012 4:36:30 PM

Russell Betts may have intended in his earlier comment to say that the BIA was lobbying against AIPP, but he never said that. Never mentioned the BIA or Fred Bell. So that's irrelevant to my criticism of his earlier comment.

Now Mr. Betts acknowledges that Gabriel King accepted a changed percentage in the AIPP. In his earlier comment he said Commissioner King "stood his ground." Mr. Betts appears to be acknowledging his error.

He is wrong about the exemptions. I covered that quite well in my write-ups. There was no exemption proposed or approved. There are threshold amounts. The threshold finally approved by the City Council is $100,000 - but there is no exemption. The AIPP in-lieu fee is calculated on the full value of the project. 0.75% of $99,999 is only $750. I'm unaware of any commercial or industrial projects in the last four years that were under $100,000. But if there was such a project then the application of the threshold figure would mean the city did not get as much as $750 from it.

The only proposal for paying the fee later in the process was by Al Schmidt and that went no where, so hardly worth any discussion.

I don't portray his motives as revisionism. I don't know what his motives are. But what he was doing was revisionism. Going back and rewriting history and attributing all credit for the good parts to Gabriel King alone. And that's not how it happened. See my earlier comment where I point out his numerous errors of fact. AIPP was approved with the votes of three Planning Commissioners and four City Council members. Those people, along with city staff, are the ones who deserve credit for it.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Nov 27, 2012 3:08:29 PM

To russ martin: you've got the right dictionary, but the wrong word. "Pejorative" is defined as "1. Tending to make or become worse. 2. Disparaging; belittling."

Posted by: Ron's Log at Nov 27, 2012 2:40:05 PM

Ron,
During the debate over AIPP the Building Industry Association was not sitting passively as a proposal was moving forward that would require funding for AIPP through the imposition of new building fees. Fred Bell who at the time represented the BIA was a strong and respected advocate for his industry. He was definitely pressing his position.

You are to be credited for your extensive reporting on commission and council meetings but what you miss is a lot of lobbying and wrangling that takes place on issues like AIPP before they are ever brought before the public at meeting. Just like Fred was pushing his position, others were pressing the other side well in advance of any public meetings.

Involving money as it did, the AIPP was one of the more intensive efforts by both sides. One side wanted fees low and the other wanted fees to provide significant funding for art.

Where you point to singular nuances of the debate you seem to miss the larger picture. Yes, Gabriel accepted a changed percentage. But the quick math on that alternate proposal showed it still provided significant funding, in other words, a win.

Throughout the process there were several points of contention.

There was building valuation that would determine when payment under AIPP would apply. The first proposal was for an assessment on residential housing with a threshold that exempted the first $200,000. With most newly constructed homes in the city under that valuation, little AIPP funding would have been produced. That was opposed and the number moved to an exemption of the first $100,000 of valuation.

There was discussion of the percentage of fee. One proposal was to apply one percent after the first $100,000 of valuation. When a proposal was made to eliminate the $100,000 exemption and go with a lower percentage but applied to the first dollar of valuation, it was accepted. Again, it was a win.

There was also a lesser debate over when payment of the AIPP fee would be due. Should it be at issuance of the building permit or on certificate of occupancy? Payment at certificate of occupancy is much later in the building process. It does free up cash flow for developers but it carries a risk for those seeking art funding.

In the case of a stalled development project, for example projects like the Village at Mission Lakes, having the fee payable at certificate of occupancy could delay AIPP funding for years. Had the Village fallen under AIPP the city would still be waiting for AIPP payment. You are correct Al Schmidt pushed for collection at certificate of occupancy. He did not prevail.

As for my motives that you portray as revisionism, I don’t see it that way. I see an effort four years ago that turned into an obvious victory for art in our city. As I wrote to Jeff in this same thread, that victory provides not only the funding we see today but an important perspective on future issues. It is worth the effort, time and energy to push positions that will advance our city.

As always, thanks for this space and the fine work you do on this website.

Best Regards,
Russ

Posted by: Russell Betts at Nov 27, 2012 11:35:34 AM

Ron,

Not to be too nit-picky but the word "rancor" is pejorative...."continuing and bitter hate or ill will; deep spite or malice".
But maybe I need a new dictionary.

Posted by: russ at Nov 27, 2012 10:41:05 AM

Putting on my boots, picking up my shovel...

A healthy debate over whether a rate should be 1% or 0.5% is one thing, but just making up stuff is quite another. Gabriel King made stuff up and four years later Russell Betts, making a point of NOT studying the history, comes along and writes a fairy tale about how he wishes things had gone.

Now he says his point was to praise healthy debate, but that point seems to be missing from his earlier comment.

BTW, "rancor" is not a pejorative. "Hissy-fit" would be a pejorative, but "rancor" is just a staid, accurate description that you might hear come from an attorney's mouth.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Nov 27, 2012 6:32:25 AM

Jeff,
I was reading Ron's Log and came across the post from December 2008 and reflected on the debate at the time, how it turned out and the resulting art funding we have today. It was an intensive effort and I was taking a moment to point out how it all turned out.

More than that, though, it is instructive to look back sometimes and see how a past debate has shaped our present world. We get a good perspective after time has passed, time becoming the objective barometer. It is why we study history.

Also, the next time there is an intensive debate over an issue it provides perspective that a healthy debate is a good thing. Thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis get us to a good place. Too often opposing views are mischaracterized with the pejorative of being called rancor. As we can see in the results of the 2008 debate over AIPP, a spirited debate, especially on really important issues, is the best approach.
Russ

Posted by: Russell Betts at Nov 26, 2012 9:22:53 AM

I'm puzzled, and some would say that this is easy for me! Russ, why are you now bringing up your points 4 years after the events took place?

Posted by: Jeff at Nov 26, 2012 7:26:51 AM

What is the motive behind Russell Betts's attempt at revisionism? Here is my report on the October 14, 2008, Planning Commission meeting where they approved Art In Public Places. The ordinance came to this meeting written for a 1% rate for AIPP. Commissioner King wanted 1.5%, but it stayed at 1%. It was approved 4-0-1 with Commissioner Stewart abstaining.

Here's my write up of the November 18, 2008, City Council meeting. It was at this meeting that staff produced, for the first time, a comparison of AIPP rates in other valley cities. Commissioner King claimed that the Planning Commission had compared the rates of all other valley cities already, but they had, in fact, not. They had only discussed Palm Desert's rates.

Councilmember Baker moved to approved the ordinance unchanged from that approved by the Planning Commission, with the extra provision that the Planning Commission review the ordinance in light of the information on the chart of rates in other cities. Attorney Duran advised that if the Planning Commission made no change, then the City Council could give the ordinance final approval at the second reading, as usual, but that if they made any changes, a new first reading would be required. Mr. Baker's motion got only two votes, his and that of Councilmember Betts.

Then Mayor Pro Tem Matas moved to return the ordinance to the Planning Commission with no specific instructions. That motion was approved 4-1 with Mr. Betts voting against.

Here is the next Planning Commission meeting, December 9, 2008, at which they took another look at AIPP. Some Commissioners were miffed that the item had been returned to them with additional information. They discussed the threshold, which had been $100,000. A project valued under $100,000 would pay nothing. A project valued at more than $100,000 would pay 1% on the full value. Commissioner Gustafson moved to revise the rates to 0.5% on residential projects of 3 units or more and 0.75% on commercial projects, with no threshold at all. This motion was approved 3-1-1. Commissioners King, Gustafson and Gerardi voted for it. Commissioner Stewart abstained. Commissioner Aguilar voted against - he was one who felt the City Council had reprimanded the Commission by returning the AIPP for reconsideration.

The hot point in that Planning Commission meeting, however, were written comments delivered by Commissioner King. In those comments he said:

The city council sent our art recommendation back to this commission because they did not like our original recommendation. They said we did an incomplete study. Again, that is nonsense.

The council has the right to override the planning commission recommendation So the obvious question is: why didn't they do just that? Why didn't they Just simply approve what they want and be done with it? The answer seems obvious. They want this commission to take the political heat and modify the ordinance to one of the council's liking.

Anyone that knows me knows I am not swayed by political heat when it comes to making the right decision. What is not fair to this commission is to; 1) Be told it did not do its job properly when it did and 2) To be forced to take the heat a couple years down the road for doing the special interest bidding when the public discovers and asks, why is there still no art in our city when we have a art program in name? If our commission accepts these new staff recommendations, recommendations that do not fund our art program, years down the road this commission will be looked upon us as not representing the best interest of all the people.

I am proud of my fellow commissioners for passing a fully funded art program. It does my heart good to see the kind of detailed, diligent research that this commission has conducted. The commission received six months of public input and the input of the city attorney. Our recommendation on an art in public places ordinance was not unthinking. It was crafted with proper consideration. It was Grafted to fund the art needs of the city while being fair to everyone.

My vote will be to send BACK to the council our ORIGINAL recommendation.

The information that the Planning Commission had on hand for its original approval of the AIPP ordinance was, in fact, incomplete. They did not have the rates from other valley cities. As I said in my original write-up, I don't understand why Planning Commissioners are miffed when the City Council does NOT override them, but in fact, asks them for their findings based on additional information. I am sure that the City Council overriding the Planning Commission would create a much more significant brouhaha than the imagined bruised egos that resulted from the Council's action in this case. And, as we have seen, Commissioner King voted for the revised ordinance.

Mr. King also said he asked staff "to confirm my own discovery of the 1% standard with no exemptions for most cities like ours."

On November 19, 2008, (the day after the City Council voted to send the ordinance back to the planning Commission) Mr. King had asked then-Assistant City Manager Rudy Acosta for a list of cities with demographics similar to Desert Hot Springs. "The cities with the same demographics should include the same or similar house hold incomes, cost of living indexes, and regional environmental similarities including percentage of bedroom community ratio to retail, percentage of professional and service workers and incomes similar to ours. Said information should be included in the spread sheet." Mr. King never got this information and said city staff "refused" to supply it to him. The important point, though, is that Mr. King's request confirms that the Planning Commission did not have this information and their consideration of the proposed ordinance was, therefore, possibly incomplete.

At that December Planning Commission meeting I asked Mr. King for a list of those cities with demographics similar to DHS. He could not, at that time, recall the name of a single city on that list, but said he would provide the list for me. He has never provided that list to me, and I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb to assert that he just made that up.

Here's the December 16, 2008, City Council meeting where they discussed removing Commissioner King. Councilmember Schmidt said that Mr. King's comments at the December 9 Planning Commission meeting "impugned the integrity of the council and caused embarrassment." He said Mr. King implied the City Council was cowardly. Councilmember Baker said Mr. King implied the City Council was on the take. Mr. Baker also said he did not want to remove Mr. King, but that he did want Councilmember Betts to have a one-on-one conversation with the commissioner. Mayor Parks said she thought the matter should be discussed. Mayor Pro Tem Matas said that he considered the matter resolved already. Councilmember Betts said that Commissioner King was not eloquent and had been unclear and misunderstood. Finally the City Council voted 4-1 to keep Mr. King on the Planning Commission. Mr. Schmidt was the dissenting vote.

Finally, on January 6, 2009, the revised AIPP came to the City Council. Mayor Pro Tem Matas clarified that he did not vote to return the original ordinance to the Planning Commission to spank them, but to be sure that the commission is well involved in the city. Councilmember Baker moved to approve the revised ordinance, adding back in the $100,000 threshold on "remodeling or tenant improvement" of commercial and industrial property. It was seconded by Councilmember Betts and approved 4-1, with Mr. Schmidt voting against. He said his vote against was due solely to the timing of when the AIPP in-lieu fee was due.

Now, four years later, Mr. Betts comes along to say that "Some were mystified." An unidentified "some." No names. I don't recall anyone being "mystified" back in 2008. They were either of the opinion that it was done to punish the Planning Commission or to make sure that the Planning Commission stood behind its fully informed decision. But "mystified?" I don't know who those people were.

"The claim was that it was returned because the council did not like the commission's recommendation and wanted a watered down AIPP program." Ah, passive voice. The favored refuge of the writer who does not want to take responsibility for what he says. Who made this claim? Mr. Betts will not say. It was not stated in the City Council meeting. Surely if any City Council member wanted a "watered down" ordinance, they would have said so, or offered specific guidelines to the Planning Commission to do so. But Mr. Betts says some unnamed party made that claim. He was the only one I recorded as using the phrase "watered down" back during that discussion four years ago, so maybe he is the party who makes that claim.

"In that 2008 debate, former Commissioner Gabriel King stood his ground," Mr. Betts writes. No, he did not. He said he would only vote for the 1% rate as approved earlier, but in the end he voted for 0.5% and 0.75% rates.

"The changed recommendation the commission was asked to provide was to gut the funding mechanisms in the AIPP program," Mr. Betts writes. No it wasn't No such recommendation was made by the City Council. Of course, he's written this in the passive voice again, so maybe somebody else asked for this, but we don't know who they are. Fred Bell wanted it gutted, but he didn't ask for that; he simply made unclear public comments.

"Gabriel took heat for his position. Al Schmidt and Karl Baker attempted to remove him for the commission over it." Wrong again. Karl Baker voted against removing Gabriel King. His role was only to provide the second vote to put it on the agenda.

"While others pushed hard for the present funding formulas, myself included, we can thank Gabriel King who did not back down during the planning commission debate over AIPP." Wrong and wrong. Gabriel King did back down and did agree with the lower rates that are in effect today.

"Gabriel's efforts in 2008 on the AIPP program brought about the program we are enjoying in 2012. He did a great job for this city as a planning commissioner and especially so at the commission meeting where he fought for a meaningful AIPP program." This is that DHS thing, again, where one sole person is praised for some success or is laden with all of the responsibility for a failure. Everything done in the city government is the result of participation by numbers of city staff, the five members of the City Council, and, often, the members of Commissioner. All five members of the Planning Commission were involved in coming to the ordinance that we have today and it was approved by a vote of three: King, Gustafson and Gerardi. The difference between the efforts of Commissioner King and Commissioners Gustafson and Gerardi is that Mr. King managed to do it with rancor and embarrass the city.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Nov 25, 2012 8:26:48 PM

Ron,
Some were mystified that a recommendation by the planning commission to the city council on the AIPP program was returned to the commission for further review. The claim was that it was returned because the council did not like the commission's recommendation and wanted a watered down AIPP program.

In that 2008 debate, former Commissioner Gabriel King stood his ground. He said the council did not want to take the heat for changing the planning commission recommendation and wanted the commission to send it an AIPP program that was more to its liking.

The changed recommendation the commission was asked to provide was to gut the funding mechanisms in the AIPP program. It would have been a program in name only. The proposed funding percentages would have produced significantly less funding for the AIPP program..

Gabriel took heat for his position. Al Schmidt and Karl Baker attempted to remove him for the commission over it.
Gabriel stood his ground. And it was his argument that convinced a majority of the planning commission to send to the city council - a second time - an AIPP program that was funded.

Today we have $40,000 sitting in the AIPP account. That amount will grow. The AIPP is being used to place sculptures in the city for the first time. More art will come. While others pushed hard for the present funding formulas, myself included, we can thank Gabriel King who did not back down during the planning commission debate over AIPP.

Gabriel's efforts in 2008 on the AIPP program brought about the program we are enjoying in 2012. He did a great job for this city as a planning commissioner and especially so at the commission meeting where he fought for a meaningful AIPP program.

As always, thanks for the opportunity to comment and for all the effort you put into this website.

Best Regards,
Russell Betts

Posted by: Russell Betts at Nov 25, 2012 10:46:29 AM

Clearly, my sarcasm needs to be more heavy-handed.

Posted by: Ron's Log at Dec 12, 2008 1:26:28 PM

Found your blog Ron and thank you for the compliment...

Fred:)

Posted by: fred bell at Dec 12, 2008 11:01:32 AM

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