Tonight - Planning Commission Looks at Even More New Homes

Dr. Jim Gardner
Dr. Jim Gardner

There are two main topics on the agenda Thursday tonight – more new homes and more remedial training.



Baker Homes is asking to squeeze 250 more homes into a 30 acre plot next to the Sports Park, thus adding to the traffic problems in the City, and the overcrowding which is already present in the Foothill Ranch and Portola schools. Bear in mind that the 4,500+ new homes being built in this area haven’t even begun to be occupied yet, so that the present problems are only going to get worse. How can the City justify adding fuel to the fire? Come tonight and see.



At their last meeting on March 13, the PC set aside the largest part of their short meeting time for a discussion of “Planning Commission Legal Basics”. From the title I thought this was going to be a discussion of the “legal basis” of the Planning Commission (PC). As you may recall, Commissioners Hamilton and Fuentes maintain that the PC can only do what the Council tells them to do or what staff put in front of them. Thus, they consistently refuse to do any forward planning, despite the enormous number of issues facing the City. Instead, they react to problems put in front of them, without doing any proactive planning. When residents bring up the idea of a Traffic Committee or a Parking Study Group, the PC says “no” – they have no authority. When residents ask what the plans are for all the vacant space left in the City (e.g., the 10 acres near El Toro and the RR tracks, the 5 acres near Whispering Hills), they get back blank stares. Without forward planning, the City is doomed to deal with each issue on a piece meal basis.

There is ample basis for the PC to investigate any area they consider to be relevant to the City’s physical wellbeing, without the Council authorizing them and without the staff’s OK. My hope was that this would have been the issue on the PC’s agenda, but according to the City’s Assistant City Attorney, Mal Richardson, the purpose of the discussion was to make the PC “look good”. Most of his comments were about how to run a meeting. If you think that’s a waste of time for an empowered Commission, you’d be right. But in this case, most of the new members to the Commission had never been to a Commission meeting, or a Council meeting, so their understanding of how a meeting should be conducted was limited. Of course this raises the obvious question of why the Council would appoint people to a commission who needed remedial training. Indeed, Richardson used a multi-media presentation with cartoon characters, something any special ed. teacher would have been proud of, and he managed to keep the interest of most of the Commission members, except Fuentes who, at one point, became so bored her behavior caused Richardson to stop and comment.

At the conclusion of Richardson’s 30 minute slide show, everyone said how helpful it had been. No one asked what the main planning issues were facing the City. No one asked if the PC had the legal authority to initiate their own studies of problems they identified. But everyone enjoyed the cartoons.

Tonight at the PC they have another presentation – “Planning 101”. According to the agenda Mal Richardson will be back with another “overview”, this time “of the applications, permits and entitlements frequently reviewed by the PC and the basic legal issues associated with each…” Will this be the discussion we’re waiting for? Will it be the discussion that lets the PC work in a proactive manner to tackle all the challenging problems facing the City? Or will it be another slide show with cartoons? Come and see. Maybe they’ll serve popcorn?


Want to read more about the Planning Commission. Check out my new article on the Voice of OC.

Click Here

Reminder - Tonight's meeting starts at 7 pm


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Bob Holtzclaw March 27, 2014 at 01:55 PM
My question is why do we have a PC if they feel they can't make decisions contrary to the City Council. If this is just a body to take the heat off the City Council for political favors then abolish the PC. As far as proposing building another 250 more new homes in the area I think the city should look into Obamacare to see if it covers mental health issues. I've already experienced grid lock on Portola Pkwy between Bake and Market Pl and the 2,400 homes at Baker Ranch haven't even been occupied yet. I also would like to know what kind of a sweet deal the SVUSD and their board made with the developers not to build another school in an area that presently can't accommodate any new students. If your buying a new home in the Foothill area I strongly suggest you call the SVUSD and find out how far your child will be bused.
Jim Gardner March 27, 2014 at 02:48 PM
Good suggestion Bob. Baker Ranch advertises - "The community will be primarily served by Foothill Ranch Elementary School, Serrano Intermediate School and El Toro High School, which are all close to Baker Ranch homeowners." I guess it depends on what you call "close". Bear in mind that the Council signed a sweetheart deal with Brookfield so that Brookfield kids have first shot at Foothill Ranch. This is the very same sweetheart deal that Scott Voigts denied existed.
Bob Holtzclaw March 27, 2014 at 06:54 PM
Jim, if we still have room for 250 new homes in Foothill maybe 6 archers of that land should be a dog park. Holtzclaw's dog park sounds good (just kidding).
Jim Gardner March 27, 2014 at 07:22 PM
I suspect that if a study were done it would show that with the lifting of the recession, and the addition of 4,700+ new homes, the Foothill Portola area can easily support 30 more acres of commercial space. I also think that being opposite the Sports Park will bring lots of traffic to that area, another plus for leaving it commercial and not converting. In addition, right down the street in MV, they are also adding hundreds of homes just south of El Toro.
Jim Gardner March 28, 2014 at 10:25 AM
Follow-up. This was basically an introductory meeting in which the Baker family told everyone how much they've done for the City and presented a very tentative plan. They have already engaged companies to prepare reports and start the process with the City. 4 residents spoke in opposition to the project. I'll have a complete report next week. Bottom line - this project is moving forward


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