Brea’s Folly, Part 1: Spending Half Its Cash Reserves to Build a Parking Structure

Showdown tomorrow at 7:00, Brea Civic Center.  Tell the Council what you think!

Showdown tomorrow at 7:00, Brea Civic Center. Tell the Council what you think!

I’ve been posting most of what I’ve had to say on the separate blog I run to cover the city where I live (which you’ll also see in all caps in our blogroll at the bottom of the right column), but today I’m moving the discussion here.  That’s because tomorrow evening there will be a major vote in which Brea’s Council is expected to approve the City’s construction of a $13 million parking structure on one of its two Downtown “Superblocks.”  (The actual estimate is $12.65 million, but the cost seems to be rising.)

I’m moving the discussion because there’s a whole lot to say.  And, because the format I chose for the other block includes all of the text on the front page, I don’t want to push everything down to where it can’t be seen.  So I’ll be writing here and linking to what I write from there.  At this point, what we’re publishing there is aimed specifically at getting people to show up and speak tomorrow (Tuesday) night, but there are lots and lots of topics that still require deep analysis and discussion.  So that’s what I’m going to do here today — one post per topic.  After the vote, I’ll lump together everything written here after this here post into one excruciatingly long post, for the sake of posterity.  Breans will want to remember what will have happened tomorrow for a long time — certainly in elections.

For this first post, I’m going to do the reverse of this above: porting over here material on this topic from the other website, to offer people here some background.  You’ll notice that most of the posts from there are shorter, designed for an audience less accustomed to long-form blogging.  Yes, it totally kills me to have to do that.  On we go!

1. Brea Taxpayer ALERT – Stop the $9M Parking Structure Ripoff!

Here it comes — as suddenly as predicted, as ridiculous as expected: it’s the $9,000,000 parking structure giveaway.

On April 15th, 2015, at 6pm, the Brea City Council will be deliberating on whether or not to spend $9M of your money to build a parking structure in the Brea Downtown.  This structure will be conveniently located right next to the properties owned by Dwight Manley, who was — coincidentally, I’m sure — the major financial contributor to two of our newest council members Cecilia Hupp and Steve Vargas.

Oh, and I hope you’re asking yourself, “Why is this meeting a “special meeting” scheduled on a Wednesday at 6pm and not on a normal council meeting day and time?” (the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 7pm).  Apparently Dwight Manley is a huge hurry to get this approved — and Mayor Marty Simonoff, who sets the agenda, days, and times of council meetings, is only too willing to oblige.

Here’s the link to the agenda for Wednesday’s [today’s!] “Special Meeting,” where the Council will be ready to act in “Potential consideration of a motion instructing staff to proceed with the project to construct the proposed Downtown Parking Structure”— or, in other words, to just go ahead and spend $9M out of the City’s $17M General Fund reserves on this project that most citizens of Brea don’t even know about:

This is a flat-out giveaway.  A boondoggle.  Even — a ripoff.  And it raises some serious questions:

1.  If Manley wants this parking structure so badly — which will make his downtown properties shoot up in value — why isn’t he paying for it himself?

2.  What else would you like to see $9M of your taxpayer dollars spent on instead of a parking structure?  Yes, parking is an issue during the peak hours on Friday and Saturday nights.  But is that the most important problem facing our city?  Is it a $9M problem?  What about paying down Brea’s unfunded pension liability?  What about more police and fire services?  What about traffic improvements?  You can surely think of 100 things better to spend $9M on than another parking structure.

3.  Is a parking structure really needed?  There is a massive parking structure at the end of Birch street that is never full!

If you think this is as much of a boondoggle as I do, make sure you let the Brea City Council know.  Email them.  Call them.  Better yet – attend the meeting on April 15 at 6pm and tell them directly!

Marty Simonoff, Mayor – 714-990-7702 –
Cecilia Hupp – 714-990-7704 –
Christine Marick – 714-990-7700 –
Glenn Parker – 714-990-7703 –
Steven Vargas – 714-990-7701 –

The math behind this deal is so sketchy that  the Staff Report recommends only that the Council “Receive staff presentation, discuss policy issues, and provide staff direction regarding any desired information needs and process for next steps to consider the parking structure.”  That’s what the professionals have to say.

Check out the Staff Report yourself at the following link:

Potential consideration of a motion instructing staff to proceed with the project to construct the proposed Downtown Parking Structure

Really?!  The parking structure would be built on a parking lot that already has 178 spaces. The structure will have 485 spaces. That’s a net gain of 307 parking spaces!  $9M for 307 more parking spaces — most of which will remain unused by far most of the time!

Do YOU think you’re ready for the City Council to vote — THIS WEDNESDAY TODAY at 6 P.M. — on whether to spend $9 million of YOUR MONEY on a parking garage that will mostly serve to increase the value of Dwight Manley’s downtown property?

I hope not.

As always, the Brean will be here watching to keep you informed on what your Brea City Council is doing.  Stay tuned.  (And if you think our logo is cluttered, just wait until you see what hundreds of more cars at peak hours will do to Brea Blvd. between Ash and Imperial!)

2. Three Painfully Long Stories on the April 15 Council Meeting

I’m not going to paste them in line here, because they are long long long.  Follow the links if you’re interested.

Brea Council Meeting on Jamming Through $9MM Parking Structure, Part 1: Audience Matters

Brea Council Meeting on Jamming Through $9MM Parking Structure, Part 2: “Blight” Caplow Must Go

Brea Council Meeting on Jamming Through $9MM Parking Structure, Part 3: “Blight” Caplow’s Hard Sell

Seriously, I know you all love my detailed City Council recaps from Anaheim, but….  (These do make for good reference material, though.)

3. Five (Plus One) Reasons Why a $9M Parking Structure is WRONG for Brea

The $9M Parking Structure the Brea City Council is considering approving is WRONG for Brea taxpayers.  Here are Five Reasons why — plus a Big Bonus one!

1.  The proposal is to spend $9,000,000 of Brea taxpayer money to build a parking structure on the existing parking lot behind the Tower Records building.  This will create a net gain of only 307 parking spots.  $9,000,000 for 307 parking spots!  What city council in their right mind would spend about half of the city’s cash reserves for 307 parking spaces?  There must be 100 other more important things for our city to spend $9,000,000 on other than 307 parking spaces.  And I can think of one big one – Brea’s unfunded pension liability!

2.  Downtown Brea doesn’t actually need more parking.  It’s designed to be a walking district.  “Walking districts” work. The north end of the Birch structure is never full.  People will park there for good food; those who won’t can use valet parking.  What Downtown does need is better signage to direct cars to the structure at the end of Birch.  This could probably be done for $9000 – which is a whole lot less than $9,000,000!

3. Extremely close parking is not a guarantee of business success.  Look at the Anaheim Packing House; look at Downtown Orange.  On the other hand, consider all of the business that have failed in the building that Dwight Manley owns at the end of Birch — which is ATTACHED TO a parking structure!  Has the Council commissioned a professional parking study recently to assess the need? No…  (I’m told that one was done many years ago — and it said that there was no parking problem in the downtown.)

4.  If the Brea Downtown Owners Association (aka Dwight Manley – he controls the majority of the seats on the board) really thinks that the lack of adjacent parking is a problem, then they should pay for it.  And they, rather than Brea’s taxpayers, should bear the risk if their predictions are wrong.

5.  Historically, redevelopment was the only real mechanism for local governments to keep their tax dollars local.  However, redevelopment law required that money be spentonly on building infrastructure.  Back in the heyday of redevelopment, when Brea had to decide between spending money on building a parking structure or sending that money back to the state, Brea chose to keep the money and earmark it for a structure.  (Pretty obvious choice, right?)  But now the stakes are different!  Redevelopment was dissolved by the state and the money is now all GONE.  This structure would now be paid for with precious general fund money – not the “use it or lose it” funny money from the redevelopment days.  Now the choices are very different:

Old Days (Redevelopment) = parking structure or give money back to state
These Days (No Redevelopment) = parking structure or pay for all of our other city services

And finally, a special bonus reason:

6.  The Slippery Slope:  If we give this $9,000,000 gift to Dwight and Blight (“Blight” being Tower Records building owner Mark Caplow who has kept his building blighted for the past 8-1/2 years), then how many other business owners in Brea are going to be coming to the City Council for a $9,000,000 handout?  We will have shown that Brea can be shaken down for subsidies for projects that businesses ought to fund.  Why should businesses continue to invest in improvements when, perhaps after spreading around a little campaign cash, the city council will do it for them?  When would it stop?

Or … would it ever stop?

The stakes are extremely high.  Please tell your City Council that the $9M parking structure they are considering approving is WRONG for Brea taxpayers.

4. June 16th at 7pm – Stop the City Council from Wasting $9 million dollars!

This is an absolute waste of taxpayer money!

Click here for the five (plus one) reasons why the parking structure is a really bad idea.

Call or email your council members and tell them to vote NO on this giveaway!

Marty Simonoff, Mayor – 714-990-7702,
Cecilia Hupp – 714-990-7704,
Christine Marick – 714-990-7700,
Glenn Parker – 714-990-7703,
Steven Vargas – 714-990-7701,

Then, PLEASE attend the council meeting this Tuesday night, June 16th at 7pm —and have your voice heard!

5. CORRECTION: It’s Not a $9M Parking Structure; It’s a $13M Parking Structure

Sadly, THE BREAN must now acknowledge an error.

The City’s Staff Report for the upcoming June 16 vote on the Parking Structure has now come in (and is publicly available at this link).  Now that people who don’t have a vested stake in selling the plan have done their estimates, it is clear that this is not a $9 million parking structure after all.

As may be seen on page 3 of the linked report from the City Manager to the City Council, it is a $12.65 million parking structure, which THE BREAN feels entitled to round off to $13 million.  (We could probably justify rounding it off to $15 million, but we won’t.)

THE BREAN deeply regrets the error.  It wasn’t THE BREAN’s error, but we still deeply, deeply regret it…

6. Where Does the Money Come From? Bev Perry’s Worst Nightmare Comes True

[In Matters from the Audience], Bev Perry wondered why the Downtown Owners weren’t paying for this if they were the ones who would most benefit. …  She was concerned over where the money might come from, especially that it would come from the Olinda landfill payments from the County for Brea’s hosting of the landfill (informatively named “fund 560″ by city staff) — saying that it would be taken from “560 over my dead body.”

Now the Staff Report is out.  On page 42 it lists potential sources of funding for what is (for now) estimated as a $12.65MM project:

  • $3,750,000 may be possible from the 2011 Redevelopment Bonds (or it may not)
  • $5,160,000 from the (560) Capital & Mitigation Improvement Fund
  • $3,481,000 from the (140) Community Benefit & Economic Development (CBED) Fund
  • $3,000,000 from the (110) General Fund Reserves – which is Brea’s “rainy day fund”
  • $0 from the Downtown Owners Group, although they say that they’ll pay for the structure’s repair and maintenance and will improve their own buildings — which, well, they own.

Brea’s cash reserves are estimated to be at $17,000,000 next year.  The 560 and 140 funds are about $8,700,000.  So, Brea has about $25,700,000 cash reserves across the three funds.  If the old redevelopment bond money isn’t released (likely), then the proposal is to spend half of Brea’s cash reserves, next week, on one parking structure that mainly benefits the property values of two big Downtown property owners.

For Bev Perry, it must add insult to injury that all three likely “yes” votes come from people who campaigned as “small government” Republicans — and that the deciding vote would come from Steve Vargas, a self-declared “populist” who loudly allies himself with the Tea Party (when he’s not casting votes on whether to enrich his biggest campaign donor.)

[Note: to be completely fair to her, Bev Perry then left this comment on the site:

When I made my comments under “Matters” one and a half months ago, I was asking questions that I was hoping would get answered during the subsequent discussion of the item. My question about why the downtown folks weren’t putting any money into the structure was answered for me as I took in all the information, talked to staff, and then talked to several of the downtown owners. The city owns the land where the parking structure will go – they pay for the structure. The downtown folks, mainly Dwight & his partner Tony, and Mark Caplow, will put their money into rehabbing buildings and building a new Improv. That’s what a partnership is all about…each doing what they can to make the whole thing a success. Bottom line – the city has a whole lot of our money already invested in the success of the downtown and surrounding areas, and it we don’t get this done, then we’re going to lose the Improv, get less than stellar tenants for the other buildings, and the downtown will go downhill. I and the citizens of this community didn’t spend a lot of time and effort getting to this point to see that happen.

I can just hear it now…”but, you changed your mind!” Nope…I asked questions with an OPEN mind and let the answers guide me to what I believe is the best outcome for everyone involved. Will the downtown owners do well from a structure being built? Yes! And we want them to as their success means that the city reaps sales tax and other revenues that we can put back into the community. That’s what I call a win-win!

As far as the cost of the structure goes, I haven’t had a chance to read the full report, but I’m sure the Council is going to question the increased costs and try to bring it down to a number that makes sense…I will be making comments to that effect in a letter to the Council after I’ve read everything (and I’m still adamantly against using the 560 Fund as there’s no nexus between what it was set aside for and this project). Unfortunately I can’t be at the meeting, but I will make sure my voice is heard. And we all need to remember that it doesn’t matter what your political affiliation may be – good common sense will help you reach what I now believe is the correct decision for our city. This is called partnering with others in the economic development of our community and I believe that building the structure is the right thing to do.

I know you won’t like my decision, but I have to speak my mind as I see fit. Next time, give me a call and we can chat about what my final position is as it may evolve as I get new information and do my homework – that’s what good decision makers do and I’m sure our Council will do.

My responses to her comment are part of what is yet to come today!]

7. A Parking Structure Would Be Great! Gutting Our Savings for It Wouldn’t!

In addition to the comments that you see posted here, THE BREAN gets (and reads) your emails.  Here’s one that we liked more than you might think, presented in three parts.
I am in FULL SUPPORT of the parking structure. And I have been downtown multiple times when I have experienced parking challenges.
We thought, based on that first paragraph, that this reader was going to disagree with us.  We’d like to see a parking structure there as well, but it’s one of many priorities for the city — not one that should drain between a third and half of our reserves.  We think that having huge events in a new hall there may not work as well as people think — you think traffic is bad NOW? — but overall we think that it’s a decent idea.
HOWEVER, tax payers nor business leasing space in the down town area should be picking up the bill. The owners of downtown should foot the bill up front.
Yes!  That’s what we’re saying!  The only guarantee we’d get from building this with public money is that the value of the owners’ property goes up.  Give them a greater share of the benefits from it, fine — but don’t put the burden on taxpayers
After a little while, we will be paying for it anyway as the owners will raise the rent and the tenants will raise their prices to offset the additional expenses.
That’s where we disagree a little.  Prices will go up if the market will bear it — but that’s always true!  If the owners and their tenants do a good job, many of us will end up spending more there — and we’ll be happy to do it!  But that market success is different from gutting everyone’s public funds to give these commercial property owners a huge boost that other commercial property owners in Brea don’t get — just because these ones donated to winning City Council candidates!
We hope that the author of this letter will come out and speak to the Council on Tuesday night.  And we hope that the rest of you will too!

8. Where are the Brea Republicans Who Should Be Defending Taxpayers?

The parking structure is basically a gift of $13 million dollars of the taxpayers money to the downtown property owners. Brea’s current reserves are $17 million dollars. Do you know how long it has taken Brea to save that much money? How much of your own money as a Brean was taxed to save that money?  How much more you are going to have to be taxed now to replace that money if it is spent on a parking structure?

And yet, some prominent Republicans – people that (I thought) were usually against higher taxes, gifts of public funds, “government picking winners and losers,” and corporate welfare – right here in Brea, support using taxpayer funds to build a Downtown parking structure.  Never mind that the Downtown owners can easily afford it.

1.  Council member Cecelia Hupp – endorsed by Republican Congressman Ed Royce in her election in 2014 – supports the $13 million dollar gift of public funds to the Downtown property owners.

2.  Bev Perry – a long time republican – supports the use of non-redevelopment taxpayer money to build the parking structure.  We’re still going to try to talk her out of it — we know she can be reasonable (and fights to protect the 560 money that will likely be tapped here) — but come on: she should know better!  She was on the Council during the Downtown redevelopment era.  She understands the difference between the “use-it-or-lose-it-to-Sacramento” redevelopment kind of money and the money that is currently on the table now to pay for the structure – the no-strings-attached, Brea-can-use-the-money-for-anything-it-wants-with-no-risk-of-losing-it kind of money.

3.  Glenn Vodhanel –  who’s told you for years that he’s a huge advocate for smaller government, stopping government waste, and was the backer of anti–government Measure’s T & U in 2012 – supports this waste of $13 million dollars of the taxpayer’s money.

Why…?  Was the money that Dwight Manley spent last year to buy Cecelia Hupp and Steve Vargas seats on the City Council really enough to make our local “small government Republicans” kneel, bow, and tremble before him?

Much of my work in Anaheim is spent working with anti-corruption, anti-handout Republicans who actually walk the walk.  These are people who take political risks to protect taxpayers.  I thought that Brea’s Republicans were like that too.  I suspect that the voters still are — just not their supposed leaders!

So: calling all REAL Brea Republicans!  Where are you?  Please help!  We need your voices on the 16th!

[Up next: A series of thoughtful and lengthy essays, which will eventually be put together into one item for easy reference in future years, when the folly of tomorrow’s vote to approve the parking structure will have become apparent to all and people will want to see who tried to stop it!] 


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)