Self-storage Facilities, Carwashes and Bullies.

Last Night’s Escondido City Council’s meeting was not without its surprises, however, Items 4 and 5, short-form rent reviews for increases in the rent of rent-controlled mobile homes in two parks went as expected—the increases granted.

This in spite of the valiant attempt by the resident’s representative in the Casa De Amigos Park, Meryl Burke. She pointed out a few problems with the amenities, and untrimmed pine trees that were creating messes. Many of the affected residents were living on a fixed income, Social Security, and the $23 increase was a significant increase for them.

After the council discussion, in which Councilwoman Olga Diaz pointed out that unless 50% of the residents of rent-controlled homes showed up at the council meeting to complain, the council was pretty-much obligated to approve the short-form increase. Burke was given another chance to speak and noted that since many of the affected residents were elderly and disabled, getting 50% to the meeting would never happen.

Diaz inquired of staff about the senior rental subsidy that the city offered and was informed that since the loss of redevelopment money, all the funds for the subsidies was being used by seniors already accessing the funds. Diaz also noted that some park owners offered their own assistance to such seniors, and the park’s manager nodded his head—but whether the owner will offer such assistance is an open question. At previous meetings, Diaz has argued that the residents should be allowed to submit written statements rather than having to be physically present at the meetings, but her arguments were lost on her colleagues.

I was sort-of half paying attention during the staff presentation of Item 8: Amendments to the Escondido Zoning Code, …to limit self-storage facilities and maximize the city’s ability to exercise discretionary review of self-storage facility applications. Basically, this makes it necessary for any new storage facility to obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) which demonstrates that it will economically benefit the city. At the present time there are 17 self-storage facilities in Escondido, and three that are approved to be built. It seems to have finally occurred to the city staff and council that these facilities do not provide much sales tax, property tax, or employment to the city. Mayor Sam Abed was praising the wisdom of the item, when he said something that totally grabbed my waning attention. He said that even though it was generally argued that the free market was the best solution, the free market does “not work”. In fact, he almost yelled that last bit. Will be nice to remind him of that statement.

Item 9 was pretty-much the same as Item 8, except it addressed car washes rather that storage units. The Council had made news two weeks ago when it placed a moratorium on the building of car washes. As J. Harry Jones pointed out in his article, a proposed car wash on Broadway had reached the point of almost being approved when the moratorium was passed. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-carwash-moratorium-20180503-story.html  After the staff had completed their presentation, the developer of that proposed carwash, Neil Capin, pointed out that the property he wants to build on has sat vacant for ten years, and argued the city would receive benefit from his project if the council would grandfather his approval.

Councilman John Masson asked staff how much more would be required from Capin if his project was not grandfathered. He was told it would need more review, and would require a CUP. Councilman Ed Gallo said he had visited the area again, and noted that in the immediate area there were car dealerships and a parking lot, and, in his view, the car was would dress up the area a bit.

Diaz was explaining that she felt the city should be fair, and that Capin’s project should be grandfathered in, or, at least, he shouldn’t have to pay the additional fees, when she was interrupted by Abed. Abed insisted that the council was only discussing the item, not discussing a particular project and that Diaz was out of order. Diaz objected. They appealed to City Attorney Michael McGuinness who said that the “chair” (Abed) did have a right to direct the discussion.  Diaz said to Abed, “you can interrupt me, got it.”

Then Masson also said he felt it was wrong not to grandfather Capin’s project, and was also interrupted by Abed (although not as quickly as Abed had interrupted Diaz.) Masson was undermining what the council had decided two weeks ago, Abed insisted. Masson said that the council could take any action they wanted. Abed repeated his undermining claim. Abed then went on to insist that the carwash proposed by Capin was right in the middle of downtown, and the council should consider the noise and traffic it would produce, etc., etc.

Councilman Mike Morasco tried to calm thing a bit, by asking City Manager Jeff Epp if there was some way they could require Capin to do a bit more to screen the noise and improve the looks of the project without making him go through the CUP process. Epp and McGuiness both said that the only thing the council could do for Capin would be to grandfather his project.

An obviously riled Abed said he had never seen this before, the council was completely undoing what they had agreed to, two weeks before.

Diaz asked if it would be possible to delay the date the zoning change was implemented, providing a time gap that would allow Capin’s project to finish the previous approval process. No, she was told, in a rather lengthy explanation.

Abed again insisted they were defeating their goal, and neighboring businesses would have to deal with the noise and traffic. Diaz noted that Abed had once approved a carwash in a residential area, where neighbors would have to put up with the noise and the traffic. Well, that was different, Abed claimed. To grandfather in Capin’s carwash would contradict their vote two weeks earlier.

Diaz asked McGuiness if their moratorium decision committed the Council to stop all unapproved car wash project. McGuiness said no.

Diaz moved to approve Item 9, while grandfathering in Capin’s project. The motion passed, “Abed and Morasco voting no.”

This argument points out another similarity of Abed to Trump. They both are bullies. They both want complete loyalty from their staff. It wasn’t until after McGuiness was sure of some support by the other council members, he had the courage to say something he knew Abed wouldn’t want to hear—that the moratorium did not mean Capin’s project could not be excepted.

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