This week’s City Council meeting has a number of topics that will interest people.
TRAFFIC COMMITTEE (Item 13)
After months of being harassed and cajoled to put a traffic committee on the agenda, the beleaguered people of Lake Forest are finally getting their wish. Unfortunately, a deeply flawed report may not give the Council members the information they need to make an informed decision, but at least the topic is now open for discussion. (BTW – I hope to have an analysis of that report available for the meeting).
According to research conducted by the City, 11 other cities have Traffic Commissions, 4 have Traffic Committees, 2 deal with traffic inside their Planning Commissions, 1 has a Traffic Subcommittee, 1 has a Public Safety Committee that handles these issues, and 1 has an “Environmental and Transportation Commission”. IOW - 20 of the 34 cities have some formal mechanism for handling their traffic problems. Lake Forest is among the 14 who do not.
Want to know which cities join Lake Forest in not having any formal approach to handling this important problem? Here they are in alphabetical order – Aliso Viejo, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Newport Beach, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, and Villa Park.
The City’s report (available at the website) indicates that among the 11 cities with Commissions, the median staff time to service the Commissions is 30 hours per month, with a range from 11 to 92. The median staff time to service Committees is 12.5 hours, with a range from 5 to 15. The city that is most efficient for committees is Brea (5 hours per month vs. a median of 12.5) and for commissions the leaders are Garden Grove with 11 and Placentia, Laguna Niguel, and Westminster with 15 vs. a median of 33). Combining commissions and committees, more than half the cities accomplish their goals in 15 hours of staff time or less per month.
In my mind and the minds of many others, including some council members who promised to create such a committee/commission during their campaigns, our City needs a group of concerned citizens along with staff to address the many parking and traffic issues.
NEW MAYOR (Item 16)
This is the time of year when the Council switches seats, and Mayor Voigts will step down. He has presided over the worst year in our City’s history, and next week I will have a 5-part series talking about what happened in Lake Forest in 2013. Let’s hope the new Mayor has more success. Word on the street is that Councilman Nick who received the most votes in 2012 is entitled to the job, but Councilman Robinson may have the greater hunger.
NEW HOMES (Item 10)
The Council is set to approve a 430 unit apartment complex on 16.3 acres at the intersection of Alton Parkway and Rancho Parkway. It’s part of the Baker ranch project which will put 2,379 new units along the Northern border of our City, all of them within a mile or so of the new jail with Maximum Security prisoners that is planned. The developers say the apartment units will be available at “the prevailing market rate” but I’m not sure anyone knows what the prevailing rate is to live so close to a prison with maximum security inmates.
EXTEND TRAFFIC CONTRACT (Item 9)
The City is proposing to extend the contract with Hartzog and Crabill for “professional traffic engineering consulting services for the City”. The first extension grew the cost from $30,000 to $213,750 and now the City proposes a second amendment to add another $273,000. A good deal of this money goes to fund H&C’s representative Doug Anderson who is filling the gap left by the resignation of the City’s Traffic Engineering Manager in late 2012. If I understand the contract, the City is going to pay $486,750 and in return will receive 2184 hours of service. That’s over $220 per hour which seems pretty high to me, although it’s in line with the kinds of salaries the City pays right now. I’ve met Doug Anderson and he was kind enough to sit down with me and go over some of the City’s traffic issues. I found him to be informed and helpful, as are most of our staff most of the time, although I’m surprised to find out that Mr. Anderson is in fact a consultant. As described to me, and as it says on his business card, he seems to be the City’s “Traffic Engineering Manager” when in fact he is not a city employee but rather a consultant. Employee or consultant, Anderson is doing a good job and the City can benefit from his experience.
NEW COUNCIL MEMBER
This will be the first meeting for our new council member Mr. David Bass. I’m sure everyone wishes him well. The City is in dire need of someone who can look honestly at where we are, plan diligently for where we need to be, and have the courage to take us there. I sincerely hope Mr. Bass can provide this much needed resource.