Yesterday we looked at the possibility of Lake Forest starting to activate the non-profit foundation that has been sitting on the shelf for half a decade. Today we’ll look at 2 more items on tonight’s agenda.
RENEWING CITY HALL LEASE (Item #9)
In case you weren’t aware, Lake Forest is one of only two cities in Orange County that doesn’t have its own civic center - the other one is Yorba Linda. Even little cities like Rancho, Laguna Hills, and Aliso Viejo have their own civic centers. The City currently pays $106,000 per month, $76,007 of which is rent and $29,993 is our contribution to the common area maintenance of the building. For 23 years the City has had a goal of establishing our own civic center, but it’s one of a host of amenities the City has gone without (others include a dog park, local animal shelter, senior center, community garden, etc.). For the past 10 years the City has been planning to move to a 12 acre site previously owned by IRWD, and the City claims to be “making good progress” toward that end, and resolving unspecified “issues” between a host of agencies. The bottom line is that we have no immediate plans to build our own civic center, so the lease on the rental has to be extended. Because of the anticipated opening of the Sports Park, the City will move some Recreation staff and programs to that location, freeing up space, vacating the second floor, and allowing us to reduce the rent by $26,377 per month. The new lease is for 4 more years, so apparently the City isn’t hopeful that the “issues” it seeks to “resolve” will be resolved soon.
BROOKFIELD HOMES (Item #10)
When I saw that Brookfield had made another payment to Scott Voigt’s campaign committee in December 2013, I was puzzled. Brookfield, Trumark, and their associates had already spent nearly $100,000 getting Voigts, Robinson, and Nick elected and the troika had given the developers what they wanted, even though the City staff, Planning Commission, and the vast majority of the people were opposed to the projects. Why was Brookfield continuing to pay? Campaign contributions tend to go with the quid pro quo, appearing before a business wants something, and disappearing after they get it. I couldn’t figure out why Brookfield was continuing to support Voigts. Was it his winning personality, or did they have some future plan and was this the down payment?
My question was answered when I looked at Tuesday’s agenda. Brookfield needs another favor from the Council, and that explains, in my mind, the additional contribution to Voigts. If you recall, Brookfield got the OK from the Council in July 2013 to build 147 condos in the Auto Centre mall, but in the process of proceeding with their plans, they ran into the Foothill Business Association (FBA), and now Brookfield must add retaining walls along Bake and Portola Parkways as well as along Auto Center Drive and also remove some existing mature trees. This won’t change the number of units, or the use of tandem parking, nor anything else, but it will substantially change the appearance of the project. Not only will mature trees be removed, but new retaining walls as high as 14.4 feet will be installed.What I don’t understand is why this plan change is being brought before the Council and not the Planning Commission, nor is there anything in the Staff report which explains this. By all appearances, this seems to be the type of issue that the Planning Commission should deal with, and using valuable Council time seems questionable, especially when we have a Council which is not known for using their time very well. Could it be that having primed the pump, Brookfield is more comfortable going back to the men they helped put in office and asking for this one last favor?