Cecilia Flores beats Lucille Kring’s Planning Commission, and a Charter School Goes Down!

Flores, Kring. Winner & loser.

“Wait, WHAT??” you spit out, along with half your soda. “LUCILLE KRING is chairing the Planning Commission, in 2023? That shaky octogenarian Cabal OG who, during her 16 years on Council, voted lockstep with Kris Murray and then later with Harry Sidhu? The one who celebrated the police killing of a Latino suspect with the words, ‘Saved us the cost of a trial!’? The lady who joked to Jason Young, after giving a buck to a homeless black guy, ‘What does he want, money for a bus back to Africa?’ The one who told so many lies to so many people when running for Council in 2012, to get Mayor Tait’s endorsement, that the OC GOP would never again back her, to which she responded, ‘Well, at least none of that stuff was on my campaign literature!’? The Councilwoman who gleefully announced, when Tom was termed out, that ‘We aren’t the City of Kindness anymore’? That pintsized packmule unburdened by conscience or scruple? How is SHE chairing the Planning Commission, in 2023?

Good story there! In 2020 when the voters of District 1 chose the well-funded Jose Diaz, whom nobody knew, he also didn’t know anybody else, including anybody in his own district who he thought could be a Planning Commissioner, so somebody told him to pick LUCILLE, from District 4! And so he did, and now Lucille is chair of the Commission, where it may as well still be 2014, or 2019!

But that’s not really what I want to write about, I am here to tell a NICE STORY, the story of a good decision our new Council made on Sept 12, in which they nearly-unanimously overturned an awful 5-2 Planning Commission decision that would’ve really screwed a nice middle-class neighborhood for the benefit of a profitable charter school corporation. It was refreshing and startling to see our (mostly SOAR-funded) Council act in the common-sense interest of regular residents instead of big money. The Voice of OC got carried away with the giddy subtitle “A New Anaheim? We’d like to think it could be a sign of changing times, though it could be a one-time mirage. But for now let’s celebrate a rare good decision!

A Peaceful Neighborhood in East Anaheim

So, there’s this nice peaceful middle-class neighborhood in District 5, over by where Wagner and Rio Vista meet, next to the Anaheim Coves Trails and the adjoining Santa Ana River. And one exception to the peacefulness is that thousands of cars a day drive fast up and down Rio Vista and Wagner because it’s their special shortcut. And on the corner of those two streets, for decades, has been a church – it was a Calvary Chapel for a long time, and more recently they changed their name to the Cove Church. They have big services on Sundays but apart from that they haven’t been much of a nuisance.

In 1976, the Planning Commission rejected a private school in that location with 140 students because it would “substantially increase the noise and other impacts.” Then again, in 1982, the Planning Commission rejected another private school there with 300 students because it’d be “detrimental to the peace, health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of the City of Anaheim.” Now, same location, Scholarship Prep wants to put a school there with 480 students, and PC says NO PROBLEMO. But I’m getting ahead of my skis here…

Cecilia Flores, a former Santa Ana code enforcement officer, union organizer, former Anaheim Planning Commissioner in the 80’s herself (and a member of my Anaheim Democrats Club!) has lived in the neighborhood for 33 years, on Marjan St. right behind the Cove Church – it’s literally her back yard! And when the Cove Church pastor wanted to sell the property, and got an offer he couldn’t refuse from a profitable, rapidly-expanding Charter School Chain named Scholarship Prep, Cecilia became the lead neighborhood organizer against that deal.

She got over 100 signatures against the project from angry neighbors, on two petitions, both of which were lost by the City after she turned them in. But I’m not gonna bore you with all the details of her long successful fight, this story is to celebrate the Council’s sensible decision, and to ask what the hell the Planning Commission was thinking – this should have been a no-brainer, just given the traffic, safety, and noise.



It’s a Charter School Chain!

At the July Planning Commission meeting, LuisAndres Perez, one of the two commissioners to oppose the project, told his colleagues AND the audience that, “This has nothing to do with it being a charter school – whether or not we like charter schools should have no bearing on our decision, this is about [zoning, impact on neighborhood, etc.]” And that was true or shoulda been. But a lot of people weren’t listening to LuisAndres, didn’t get the LuisAndres Memo, including the majority of his PC colleagues, some of whom seemed to vote for the bad project precisely because they love them some Charter Schools. But again I’m getting ahead of myself…

Can I condense today’s Charter School debate into one digestible paragraph? Well I’m off to a bad start, let me try again:

Very few people are against all Charter Schools; most of us are “Charter School Moderates,” accepting that many Charters fulfill important needs unaddressed in a locality, and those ones work hand in hand with the local public school boards – there are a couple of those in Anaheim. But many on the far right are “Charter School Zealots” who back ANY AND ALL Charters, no matter how incompetent, unnecessary, and nakedly profit-driven they may be. The Zealots’ motivation is twofold – an ideological War Against Public Education (each Charter bleeds resources from the local public schools) AND the vast profits to be had which flash into dollar signs in their eyes. Examples of Charter School Zealots are the OC Board of Education and some of our more controversial local school boards like the ones in Orange and Yorba Linda, Anaheim uber-lobbyist Curt Pringle (right), and apparently Councilman Jose Diaz and the majority of our Planning Commission.

Scholarship Prep itself, founded by former Democratic state senator and controversial Charter School Zealot Gloria Romero* (left – *UPDATE: SEE VERY BOTTOM OF STORY!), is a very profitable and growing chain that actually doesn’t have such a bad record educationally. But the fact that they’re aware their proposed East Anaheim branch, already in close proximity to three public schools, doesn’t fulfill any local needs, was betrayed by the fact they bypassed the Anaheim Elementary School District to get their approval from the extremist OCBOE. For this reason, some members of our local education establishment spoke against them. (If Scholarship Prep came back wanting a more appropriate location in Anaheim, AND worked with the school board, most of us would have no problem.)

From the beginning last year, Scholarship Prep sold themselves ideologically to the neighborhood as a Charter School, hammering on their magical word “CHOICE.” They first knocked on the local doors, asking each resident how they felt about CHARTER SCHOOLS – and if someone responded intelligently / ambivalently as Cecilia did, they were not invited to the neighborhood meetings about the project. The positive letters sent to PC from local residents (and there weren’t that many) were mostly form letters obviously provided by Scholarship Prep, with the telltale word “CHOICE” featured in bold. Charter ASTROTURF!

Scholarship Prep (SP) filled the PC hearing with parents and students from other SP branches, obviously not from Anaheim, all sporting Scholarship Prep t-shirts. This filled PC chairwoman Kring’s small heart with joy – Kring who is a board member of Palm Lane Charter School – and she enthused, “I love those shirts, you should’ve brought me one and I would’ve worn it!” So much for PC objectivity. Also letting their Charter-Zealot flags fly were commissioners Amelia Castro and Michelle Lieberman, longtime SOAR and AnaheI’m First leaders.

Just about the only LOCAL, NEIGHBORHOOD commenter who spoke in favor of Scholarship Prep at the Sept 12 Council appeal was Jeanette Saldivar, a longtime Charter School activist who only identified herself by her first name, and who likes to pretend she doesn’t speak English so she can have the translator repeat all her ravings about “CHOICE” until she says “I also speak English by the way.” I had long arguments with her on this blog ten years ago when she was fighting against Jose Moreno to make Palm Lane a charter.

JUST SAYING, it was SCHOLARSHIP PREP who made this an argument about CHARTER SCHOOLS per se.

Even the one Councilmember who backed Scholarship Prep on Sept 12, the severely mentally limited Jose Diaz of District 1, tipped his hand a few times, like when he said, “I know why the school board people are against it, they want to have a MONOPOLY on education. That what I think.” Except, never having an easy time with the English language, he repeatedly referred to charter schools as “CHAPTER SCHOOLS.”

Just as when he voted against all the immigrant-owned small businesses of Sunkist Plaza in my appeal two years ago, the District 1 Councilman prided himself on not visiting the site or meeting with the appellants, apparently believing that showed his “independence.” As stubborn as he is dumb, he repeatedly moved to APPROVE THE PROJECT, even though it was obvious nobody was gonna give him a second. And he also said way too many dumb things to resist ridiculing.

In his one attempt at a constructive suggestion, Diaz asked why the school couldn’t be surrounded by TEN-FOOT WALLS to allay the neighborhood’s noise concerns. Staff had to tell Jose that the walls couldn’t be higher than eight feet, and even that wouldn’t change the noise much. But does that really seem like a good thing to Jose Diaz, for 480 kids to have to learn and play behind ten-foot prison walls blocking out sun and sky, like some Cuban concentration camp?

He called the neighbors “NIMBYs” because they “say they don’t mind Chapter Schools somewhere else but they don’t want a Chapter School in their back yard. That make them a NIMBY. That what I think.” Sure, the word “NIMBY” is usually used as a criticism, but there are LOTS of things a person is entitled to not want in their back yard. The only time “NIMBY” is a legit criticism is when the overall community really NEEDS that thing, in that particular location. But the community does NOT need a new charter school in that location. Duh.

He claimed that “ALL the concerns of the neighborhood have been ADDRESSED” by the applicant. No, the concerns were not “addressed,” rather, the applicant had lame RESPONSES to each of those concerns, because of course they did. For example, the applicant repeatedly compared the planned 480 students to the hundreds of churchgoers that currently go there on Sunday mornings. This was almost too lame for anyone to bother arguing with – but, um, duh, Sunday mornings is NOT the same thing as 6 hours 5-7 days a week.

Word on the street is that Jose will not be seeking re-election next year, but will be moving to Florida, where he will no doubt fit in much better in a community of right-wing Cuban expatriates, and maybe he’ll know some people. Then, hopefully, District 1 can have a Councilperson who will take the items they vote on SERIOUSLY, even when they’re not in their own back yard. And that person can finally replace Lucille Kring with a better Planning Commissioner who’s actually from West Anaheim.


Scofflaw Lobbyists!

It was PERFECT that the Sept. 12 appeal came, by coincidence, at the same meeting where Council discussed strengthening our LOBBYING ordinance – an ordinance that has been “honored in the breach” by most of Anaheim’s powerful lobbyists. Meaning, they laugh at it. You’ll see why it was perfect, in a moment.

One trauma we’ve been through, with Council appeals of bad Planning Commission decisions, was the Sunkist Plaza debacle in June 2021. The very unpopular proposal from an LA speculator to replace the legendary Jagerhaus and six small immigrant-owned businesses with a giant carwash and 24-hour 7-11 may not have passed PC as it did, and then passed through Council, until the applicant got the great idea to hire Jeff Flint (right), probably Anaheim’s most omnipotent lobbyist at the time, and ALSO the guy with the office down the hall from the Chamber of Commerce who coordinated all the PACs that elect the majority of the Councilmembers. Council did whatever Jeff Flint told them, period, full-stop. And it was game over for Sunkist Plaza.

Scholarship Prep had their OWN lobbyist – Jill Wallace (left) of the Casala Group – let’s call her the “Scholarship PERP” – who, in the grand tradition of Pringle and Flint, flouted Anaheim’s till-now toothless lobbying ordinance. Well, WE had firebrand Georgia Price from the Hills, a retired librarian who did thorough research on the Scholarship Perp’s lobbying for Scholarship Prep.

Jill Wallace had been working for this project (for the developer Red Hook Capital technically) for about a YEAR before finally registering HER NAME, and nothing else, on our lobbyist registry, just before the July PC meeting. She’d clearly met with staff and Planning Commissioners during that year while reporting nothing, but we can’t tell with whom or when.

She hosted the first (charter-school-supporter-packed) “neighborhood meeting” OVER A YEAR AGO. When Cecilia put together her OWN neighborhood meeting Jill invited herself, lying that she was on the board of some “nonprofit.” Then she tried to TAKE OVER that meeting until Cecilia asked her to leave.

Other documents Georgia was able to provide the council include a LETTER FROM LAST YEAR from the developer asking any concerned residents to direct their questions to Jill. Letters from Jill to friendly residents trying to get THEM to write letters to the Planning Commission, providing a sample letter which too many of them slavishly copied. Jill darkly and falsely threatening that if Scholarship Prep doesn’t go thru, the neighborhood would be stuck with “low income housing” there instead. Jill was working HARD on this project, and getting paid by the developer, for a full year before EVER filing as a lobbyist with the city.

At the VERY END of the Council meeting – after midnight – long after the project was defeated (and probably almost nobody saw it, but) stalwart Councilman Carlos Leon reminded the City Attorney, “We have documentation here of a lawbreaking lobbyist, just wanted to make sure…” and Fabela responded, “We’re on it.” We’ll see.

We have a lot more details of Jill Wallace’s checkered past in Santa Ana and Newport Beach which we won’t get into now. We just want to say, if Jill Wallace wants to lobby in Anaheim, SHE’S GOTTA FOLLOW THE RULES NOW!

Enjoy the great Georgia Price at 7:07:20 (YouTube coming soon.)


The Deus ex Machina: IDDPMI

When Cecilia and I arrived early at the Council meeting, there was a mob of speakers in matching t-shirts, which worried Cecilia at first because it was so like the PC meeting with the Scholarship Prep t-shirts, except many more. But the t-shirts did not say “Scholarship Prep,” they all had the mysterious letters IDDPMI and a cross, and all THESE people were Spanish-speaking Latinos.

It turned out they were all from the Iglesia De Dios Pentecostal-MI-something, a congregation that’s been renting the Cove Church for years, and now wants to buy it themselves. So they were ON OUR SIDE, against Scholarship Prep! And they are really nice people.

It’s true that it was not the Council’s concern that night whether someone else wanted to buy the property, or even if they were able to, but they did provide a nice illustration that THERE ARE ACCEPTABLE OPTIONS for that property, and soon the new catchphrase was “LET THE CHURCH STAY A CHURCH!”

And I plead guilty to sorta demagoguing them at the end of MY speech, leading them in a bunch of “GOD IS GOOD! ALL THE TIME!” chants, to rapturous cheers and applause – I felt like a megachurch pastor!

Council Does the Right Thing!

But look at the time! – I just wanted to write a nice piece celebrating a good decision by the Council, one that prioritizes residents over deep-pocketed developers with lobbyists. It is something we are totally not used to seeing, and we hope to see it more. Some of us still have little pink marks on our skin, two weeks later, from pinching ourselves to make sure we weren’t dreaming.

Councilman Steve Faessel abstained, saying he lived too close to the project, and he DOES live really close. But did he really have to abstain? Or was the choice between voting against his neighbors and voting against a Charter School that difficult of a dilemma for him? I don’t know, not important.

All the five other Councilmembers – even the two Natalies and Norma – actually visited the site and voted with the residents, for all the right, commonsense reasons. I think it’s worth mentioning that three of them – Ashleigh and the two Natalies – actually voted against their own Commissioners (Grant Henninger, Amelia Castro & Michelle Lieberman) which is pretty rare. Perhaps we need a new Planning Commission?

And on that note I will hand this over to the sagacious and encyclopedic Marc Herbert. READ MARC if you care about the Planning Commission and the planning process in Anaheim! You won’t be sorry! He’s a lot smarter and nicer than me. This is the e-mail he sent to Council right BEFORE the Sept. 12 appeal…


“The Anaheim Planning Process is Broken.”

by Marc Herbert, AnaheimGrease.Com

Mayor and Council Members-

The City Council owes an answer to the issues raised by this development to the residents in the  adjoining neighborhood as well as to the rest of Anaheim residents before making a decision on the proposal.

They remain unanswered because Anaheim’s Planning Process is broken. Just over a few blocks in District 5 at the corner of Ball and Sunkist and one will see the results of this dysfunctional process. For 41 years the Jagerhaus German Restaurant, and several other family run businesses, prospered. Now, 2 years after the Council approved a 24-hour 7-Eleven gas station and carwash, the buildings remain vacant and the lot surrounded by a chainlink fence.

Though the old Council has been been voted out, and a new Council voted in, the Planning Process remains broken.  In the eyes of Anaheim residents this is how the Planning Process looks in the Cove Church project:

1.   April  2022-  The home of Cecilia Flores on S. Marjan borders the Cove Church property.  One day she was asked at her door what her thoughts were on charter schools.  She expressed some reservations before the brief survey was concluded.  A neighbor a few days later asked whether she was going to the neighborhood meeting. This was the first Cecilia had heard of such a meeting.  She ended up having to invite herself.  In this case, a community screening process preceded the community outreach meeting. I am not questioning the right of the applicant to screen community outreach meetings.  I am questioning the intention and validity of their community outreach efforts.

2.  Summer 2023-  Cecilia Flores collected over 100 signatures in her neighborhood on a petition protesting the Charter School development. She collected 13 additional names on a second petition and again turned it in at City Hall. Both petitions were lost at City Hall. Both failed to be included in the public record or discussed at the July 17, 2023 Planning Commission Hearing.

3.   Planning Hearing July 17, 2023-  Thomas Gorham, City Contract Planner, made the 10 min. presentation of the Planning Commission Report.  The report was 286 pages long with 12 attachments:
a.)  Staff Report………………..……………………..11pages.
b.)  Conditional Use Permit Draft (1 attachment)….16 pages.
c.)   Applicant’s submissions (10 attachments)…….223 pages.
d.)  Public Comments (1 attachment)……………….36 pages.

Anaheim’s Staff Report included none of their own traffic, parking, noise, or environmental reports.  The city’s Staff Report listed the the site, described the proposal, and gave its conclusion. Anaheim conducted no independent surveys of the neighborhood.  Anaheim completed no in-depth independent analyses. In this proposal, Anaheim trusted the applicant but did not verify.

I’m not questioning the right of Scholarship Prep to spend what they wanted to gain approval for their proposal.  I do question the fairness of the process when the developer’s submissions made up 78% of the Planning Commission’s report. The developer submitted 223 of the 286 pages. Among the companies contributing to Scholarship Prep’s presentation:
a.) California Costal Works       d.) Veneklasen Associates
b.) Studio W. Architects             e.) Red Hook Partners
c. ) Urban Crossroads

4.  Planning Hearing July 17, 2023- Commissioner Michelle Lieberman questioned why Cecilia Flores’s 100-signature petition was not in the Staff Report. There was no record of it being received at City Hall. Although Commissioner Lieberman saw the petition herself during a visit to the site the week before, she failed to follow up. The lack of concern or even curiosity for the missing petition made it clear how much the Planning Commission valued the views of the community.

5.  Planning Hearing July 17, 2023-  The Hearing was 2 hours. Public Comments were 1 hour.  15 minutes of technical difficulties arose and several speakers could not be heard.  25% of the public comments were not heard.  The lead community activist opposing the project, Cecilia Flores, was one of the missing voices. The Planning Commission made no effort to delay the proceedings while searching for a solution. Though the public’s comments were not audible to those attending in person nor to those attending online, the public’s comments continued. This time the broken state of the Planning Commission was on public display. Switching microphones solved the immediate problem.  Solving the larger dysfunction of the Planning Commission and Process won’t be so easy. Recognizing the problem is the first step.

6.  Planning Hearing July 17, 2023-  The Planning Commission and City Staff failed to address the reasons given by the 1976 and 1982 Councils when similar proposals were denied.  Again they listed the issues, but failed to conduct independent studies and analyses.  The previous neighborhood problems posed by placing a school on this site remain: “traffic, noise, health, safety, peace, and the general welfare of the neighborhood”.  What had changed was the size of the proposed maximum enrollment for the current development.  In 1976, the maximum was 140.  In 1982, the maximum increased to 300.  Today, the maximum has grown to 480.  The width, configuration, and capacity of the streets fronting the property, Wagner and Rio Vista, have not increased since 1976.  Below are 2 excerpts from the 1976 and 1982 City Council decisions:

In 1976 a proposal for a private school with a maximum enrollment of 140 was denied:  “That testimony was presented that the existing use of the property has been detrimental to the adjacent single-family
residential properties and that the proposed expansion of the use would substantially increase the noise and other impacts.

In 1982 a proposal for a private school with a maximum enrollment of 300 was denied:  “…that traffic generated by the proposed use will impose an undue burden upon the streets and highways designed and improved to carry  he traffic in the area; and that the granting of the proposed use will be detrimental to the peace, health, safety and general welfare of the citizens of the City of Anaheim.”

7.    Planning Hearing July 17, 2023-    Relying on the analysis of a study paid for by the applicant can lead to false conclusions.  In Attachment #9 of the Traffic Impact Analysis the applicant submitted 2 traffic projections for 2025: 1 including the school proposal and 1 without. The month in 2025 selected for the projections was not disclosed.

If the month selected in the 2024/2025 school year is prior to September, the 2025 traffic projection is based on the school’s opening maximum student enrollment of 220.  This enrollment is 55% less than what the maximum student enrollment will be in the 2028-2029 school year.  There are no traffic projections for the 2028-2029 school year when Scholarship Prep first reaches its maximum student enrollment of 480.

If the selection in the 2024/2025 school year is a month following September, the 2025 traffic projection is based on the 2025/2026 school year, the maximum enrollment  would be 320 students. This is 33% less than what the traffic impact to the neighborhood will be in 2028-2029 when the school reaches its maximum enrollment of 480.

Again I am not questioning the right of the applicant to submit their own traffic impact reports.  Nor am I questioning their intent.  The fairness of the Planning Process where an applicant’s report goes unexamined and untested by the city staff is the question. Is this the normal procedure in Anaheim’s Planning Process? Did this happen in the Jagerhaus case? Is this due to a lack of funding? Is there a plan to address this problem? If not, when does the Council plan to address the systemic problems in the Planning Process?

8.   City Council Meeting August 15, 2023-  Orange County Water District(OCWD) Executive Director of Water Quality and Technical Resources, Jason Dadakis, gave a general overview and report.  He closed in saying (OCWD) is “developing trail connectivity along the Santa Ana River(SAR) to Anaheim Coves Trail at Burris Basin.” The memo of understanding (mou) on this “should be ready soon”. “City will also work with Orange County Flood Control, United States Army Corps of Engineers.”

This ‘trail connectivity” includes:
a.)  Building a park along the Santa Ana River from Orangewood to Ball Road. This was funded in Feb. 2023 with a $5 million federal grant.
b.)  The 100 acre OC Vibe development between Katella and Ball Road. It will include 1,500 new homes and a 100-acre entertainment district along the River Trail.
c.) US Army Corp of Engineers is designing a plan with OCWD to fill Burris Basin for recreational and storage.  Burris Basin is on the Cove Trail across from the Scholarship Prep site.

The Cove Trail is already quite popular.  Starting at 6:30am parking along Rio Vista fills up and spills over into the neighborhood.  The Staff Report and Planning Commission failed to study the overlapping demands of the early morning users of the Cove Trail with the parking and traffic demands of parents dropping their children off for pre-school breakfast and classes. A couple public comments  touched on this at the Planning Hearing.

The applicant, City Staff, and the Planning Commission all failed to examine how future projects would impact the ongoing issues of “traffic, noise, health, safety, peace, and the general welfare of the neighborhood” which were first noted in the 1976 and 1982 City Councils. The applicant, City Staff, and the Planning Commission all failed to mention that the Burris Basin project Memo of Understanding “should be ready soon”.  Has the boat already left the dock on this project?  A planning process where a proposal of this size remains under the radar is broken. Anaheim’s Planning Process is such a system. With the Planning Commission, City Staff, City Council, and Mayor remaining silent on this project, the problem appears to be systemic and/or cultural.

9.    Planning Hearing July 17, 2023-   The Staff Report included and agreed with a noise study (Attachment #7 ) submitted by the applicant. No independent noise study was conducted.  Again I am not questioning the right of the applicant to submit their own study and analysis.

The questions are directed to  the Planning Process: What is Anaheim’s noise policy?  In this particular case, when did the policy change from the one  the 1976 and 1982 Council’s operated under? What has changed causing the Planning Commission to overturn 2 separate Council decisions to deny 2 similar, but smaller school proposals in 1976 and 1982, for the same site in the same neighborhood. If times have changed, and noise isn’t viewed as the problem it once was, then why has the construction of the Platinum Triangle Fire Station#12 been delayed for over a year due to the noise issue?

On Sept. 29, 2022 Angel Owner Arte Moreno’s attorney wrote:
“”Landlord (Anaheim) has violated Tenant’s right to peaceable and quiet enjoyment of the Baseball Stadium and Parking Area by, on August 9, 2022, approving a Design-Build Agreement with Soltek-ECC for the design and construction of a fire station that is proposed to be located in the Parking Area and which is proposed to be constructed during the Term of the Lease.”

In this case, the Angels were complaining about potential excessive noise on game days.  At most, including playoff games, they would be facing the noise issue on 100 days. This is half the number of days the neighbors of the Scholarship Prep school will be facing. Including summer school, Scholarship Prep will be open over 200 days.  This doesn’t take into the consideration the frequency and length of the noise incidents. And it doesn’t include number of noise incidents generated during special night events.  In the case of the Angels the noise issue continues to outweigh the issue of public safety. The year delay in building Fire Station#12  continues.

What is Anaheim’s noise policy today?  Are there  2?  One for large interests like the Angels and one for residents? As long as Anaheim continues to have 2 conflicting  noise policies the planning process will remain broken.

[Vern here: This is where you should spit out the REST of your soda Arte Moreno is preventing us from having a necessary Fire Station on one corner of our property that he’s leasing out for next-to-nothing, because he says it might make TOO MUCH NOISE DURING ONE OF HIS BALL GAMES.]

10.   Planning Hearing July 17, 2023-  Traffic, parking and noise were the 3 most common issues raised at the Hearing.  In each case the applicant outlined the steps they had taken to reduce these problems. In each case the applicant promised to monitor these problems after the school opens.  If the problems persisted they promised meetings every 6 months for up to 5 years to address them.  The Planning Commission’s concerns were satisfied.

If the problems persist, meetings are required but penalties aren’t assessed. After a year of planning, the best the developer could come up with was the posting of a few signs, the installation of some raised delineators in the median, and a couple people stationed in front with two-way radios. The outlook for future remedies doesn’t look much better.  If there were better answers wouldn’t they be initiated now?  As for a tech based solution to arrive for? Our chances would be better in hoping for a tech based improvement to the results from keeping our fingers crossed.

11.   I’m not questioning the right of the city staff and Planning Commission to rely on the studies and promised remedies of the developer.  The Council’s record in defending its residents’ interests when they conflict with private interests the Planning Process is the question. Managing programs, setting policies, and holding them accountable have not been strengths demonstrated by Anaheim in the past decade.

The JL Group’s Corruption Report provided the example of Visit Anaheim.  Visit Anaheim was founded 12 years ago and was required to file an annual audit. 12 years later the city is still waiting to receive the first audit. The Council is still struggling to find a majority to order one.  The inability of the Council to follow through on written agreements like this, raises questions about their ability to monitor and hold accountable unwritten non-binding agreements with Scholarship Prep.

Until the Planning Commission and the Council demonstrate the ability to monitor and hold accountable developers, the Planning Commission and Process will remain broken.

12.  August 31, 2023-  Neighborhood resident, Megan Harbert, filed a public records request for lobbying information connected with this proposal at the City Clerk’s office.  On Friday September 1, 2023 at 5:01pm the City Clerk’s office emailed their response: “We are exercising our right to an additional fourteen (14) days to respond to your Public Records Act request. This extension is provided by Government Code §7922.535(b).”   The Planning Hearing is September 12th, three days before the records request deadline.

The question isn’t whether the public records are secure with the City Clerk’s office.  The question is how accessible the public records are to the citizens of Anaheim. Currently they are not.  This is not a sign of a functioning Planning Process.  It is a another sign that the Planning  Process is broken.

13.  Planning Commission website September 1, 2023-  There are no video records of Planning Commission Meetings.  There are only audio records.

The July 17, 2023 Planning Meeting was held in the Council Chambers which is equipped for video. There is no video of the meeting.  There was no way to see the power point presentations when listening to the meeting from home. There was no way for journalists to see the power point presentations when covering the meeting online.  The Planning Commission and Process are broken.

14.  The decision to buy a home is most likely the largest investment most people will make. People who purchased their homes in this neighborhood  after 1982 made their decision with the understanding that the neighborhood was zoned for low density single family homes. Now they are faced with losing thousands of dollars in value in their homes in order to fulfill the interests of a private commercial developer.  If the Planning Commission and Process were working there would be attempts to balance the 2 conflicting interests.  So far there have been none. There have been no attempts to reach a compromise. This is sign of a broken Planning Commission and Process.

15.   With 50 square miles inside Anaheim’s borders, there must be another more suitable site for a school.  OC Vibe or the Platinum Triangle should be considered.   Both are large areas with a growing number of residential units. The OC Vibe is approved for 1,500 new units and the Platinum Triangle is approved for 5,000 to 6,000 new units to go along with the existing 10,000 units. Both areas are short of schools.

Just because the current Planning Commission and Process are up and running doesn’t mean they aren’t broken.  An unbalanced Planning Process, where one side has better access to the Process than the other, is a broken Planning Process.  Until the Planning Commission and Process are repaired, the residents of the Cove Church neighborhood cannot obtain a fair hearing.

The residents of this neighborhood are asking for no more than a fair hearing.  The Council cannot deliver this while the Planning Process remains broken.  Until the Planning Process is repaired, this proposal must be denied.  Assist Scholarship Prep in finding a new home in the city.  And get to work fixing this broken Planning Process.

Marc Herbert

*UPDATE 10/4 – I heard from Gloria Romero

Former State Senator and Charter School enthusiast Gloria Romero texted me; in fact she sent more texts than I could read on my phone, and I asked her to e-mail me instead, which she hasn’t yet. Apparently she is a friend of our commenter Mike Tardif.

Her first text to me was “This is former Senator Gloria Romero. I’d like to speak to you regarding your recent column. I left Scholarship Prep a few years ago after filing a claim for gender / sex discrimination. The matter was resolved. I was not part of their failed plan to open the Anaheim school. I can provide more info and ask that you correct the record. Thanks.”

Well, as far as I can tell there’s not much to correct as I referred to her as “a founder” of the company which she doesn’t deny. But this-here is my correction. She also says she WROTE A BOOK that helps explain the discrimination she experienced. And she wants me not to just add this bit, but “to correct and replace my column.” HA! This piece is not about Gloria Romero. I will add these paragraphs to comments as well.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.