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Can’t We All Just Get Along: Politics as usual in Yorba Linda

Posted by Brenda McCune on January 23, 2014

I hate to quote Rodney King, but it just fits. There are too many important races coming up this year and too much at stake to not take an early look at alignments, tactics and issues.

In my little town of Yorba Linda, we have the usual onslaught, yes, already, of Republican on Republican verbal violence. It makes no sense, and literally everyone loses in such a battle. There is a movement afoot, to recall two council members. There is no allegation of abuse of power, of violation of law, of conflict of interest, sexual or moral misconduct, the gist of this movement is that they did not keep their campaign promises.

Really. Shocking. Whether they did or didn’t, just shocking that such an allegation would arise.

One of the Council Members targeted in the recall is up for re-election in NOVEMBER. Mark my words, the candidates and their supporters who are behind this, will run in November beating the drum of how they are the “real” fiscal conservatives. Please consider the cost of this recall effort. Even if it goes nowhere, the city staff still must count and review the signatures obtained and the application paperwork.

Recalls should be reserved for serious and egregious conduct, not just because you don’t like who’s in office. That is precisely the situation with this one, as well as the last unsuccessful recall effort (that would be the ‘other’ side who tried that last cycle) The current recall literature is couched in terms of high versus low density zoning. This is a perennial issue in Yorba Linda which has existed as a very contentious one for more than two decades.

News Flash: Nobody wants HIGH Density zoning. The proverbial, NOT IN MY BACKYARD attitude prevails. The best spin doctors on this issue, many years ago, used the term, “low income” housing. Which is confusing and lead people to have images of a Harlem style development, also formally known as Section 8 housing. Higher density does not mean Section 8 housing.

The one true statement that appears in the literature from both sides is that it is gonna happen. The part that is not true, is each side attributing ‘fault’ to the other. The real villain in the scenario is Sacramento. The state mandates that the city have some land available for building homes that are “affordable”. Last time I checked that was the theory of housing for a family of four with an income of about $40,000 per year. We can’t be sure where the Sacramento brain trust came up with such an imaginary family, but I can assure you, regardless of what they build in Yorba Linda, it is not likely to be affordable for that family under any circumstances. The theory though, requires that the “density”, or the number of homes per acre, must be raised to more homes per acre than Yorba Linda has had historically, in order to satisfy this State mandate.

If Yorba Linda does not in some way comply, there will be litigation. State of California vs. Yorba Linda, is not a case that I want to see filed anywhere. It is likely to be very costly and the bottom line is, Yorba Linda loses. I suppose there is a tangential argument (Translation of tangential: Ridiculous and unsuccessful) that we Yorba Lindans have a proprietary and constitutional right to all have low density zoning, anywhere and everywhere in our town because that is what we bargained for when we moved in here and paid all this money for our lovely homes.

This has been tried before. The U.S. Supreme Court block busting cases, Kraemer, and it’s progeny, basically said what we all already know, our constitutional rights all have limits. All of them, even the ones related to ownership of property. Keeping people out on the basis on economic impediments is likely to go as well as keeping people out on the basis of race. Likely result of the litigation is the California law will be upheld and Yorba Linda will foot the bill for the whole fiasco. The city’s law firm, and the numerous law clerks who would work on the case would be imminently pleased to have learned so much about constitutional and municipal zoning laws, at our expense. So, if you think High Density will have a negative impact on your property taxes, just wait till City Hall gets our lawyers involved with litigation with the State and see what happens to our city’s otherwise bright financial future.

The city’s coffers are not the piggy bank of politicians to take up and take on ridiculous issues for the purposes of keeping their names in the paper. Look around residents, it has become the status quo. Everytime you see a Yorba Linda politician in the paper or on the news it is usually NOT about an issue that has a close nexus to something that is in the best interests of the city.

Everybody in the race this year is likely to be Republican. Everybody in the race this year is going to be waving the flag of being a “Fiscal Conservative”. PLEASE PAY ATTENTION to the spin, here because in general they are all SAYING THE SAME THING.

We don’t want HIGH Density, but we DON’T want litigation either. We must walk this fine line between getting what we want and placating big brother. Anyone who is telling you something different, anyone who is blaming the other guys and saying it is THEIR fault and THEY broke promises, and I can give you the proverbial “chicken in every pot” (or a half acre for everyone in the case of Yorba Linda), well they are just not being truthful with you.

The bloodsport of politics in the city of Yorba Linda is likely to be as ugly as any year prior. Be informed, tell the people standing in front of your grocery store that you are informed and that there presence is decreasing your property value as much as anything.

The only thing to be gained by any of this posturing is to ruin some candidates and get attention for other candidates. We as citizens encourage this by tolerating and ignoring it. These ugly and contentious races have kept away good candidates and very much work to minimize public participation of those who fear retribution. I don’t know about you, but my intent is to be aware and not support the negativity and histrionic shenanigans of these people. We should all make that known to the candidates as they announce their candidacy in the coming weeks.

9 Responses to “Can’t We All Just Get Along: Politics as usual in Yorba Linda”

  1. Greg Diamond said

    “The real villain in the scenario is Sacramento.”

    Can you explain what is not merely “misguided,” but downright villainous, about wanting cities to have a certain proportion of affordable housing? What’s your theory about where service workers, etc., should sleep?

    • Ed Rakochy said

      The problem Greg is that, although cities are required to allocate and zone for affordable housing under State Affordable Housing law, there is no requirement of inclusionary zoning for the affordable housing to be built. So, most developers build market-rate housing that’s not affordable. In my opinion, it’s a bunch of do-gooder Democrat legislation that makes us Republicans wealthy. Secondly, redevelopment agencies in CA were killed by the legislature and Brown in 2011, so there’s no way to fund the affordable housing through tax increment. Redevelopment agencies are required to pay off their bond debt and close up shop ASAP.

      To really answer your question, I don’t think government should be in the real estate business and subsidize housing so a certain income bracket can afford to live in a city. I’m really tired of hearing all the rhetoric from affordable housing advocates that say it’s for the teachers, policeman and fireman in our community. Trust me. The teachers, policeman and fireman who live in Yorba Linda don’t need affordable housing. As for service workers or any workers, they can commute from wherever they need to commute, like we all have to commute. I work in LA a lot. I’d love to live in West LA and the Southbay where I work, but I live in Yorba Linda because it’s a great place to live and I can afford it. I don’t think it’s right for the cities of LA, Manhattan Beach or Torrance to subsidize me so I have a shorter commute.

  2. Ed Rakochy said

    Hi Brenda. It was nice running in to you at Subway the other day. I don’t know about you, but I love their turkey-avocado sandwich. At least we can agree on two things, we both like Subway and both agree that the real villain in the affordable housing debacle is Sacramento. I will add, and you may not agree, that the Building Industry Association (BIA) is also the two-headed monster inside this issue. Why?

    The BIA plays both sides of the fence in the affordable housing argument. First, they didn’t stop AB 1233 in 2005, which required that cities allocate affordable housing sites based on their Regional Housing Needs Assessment(RHNA) numbers and that cities rezone these sites for high-density, multi-family housing in their Housing Elements. Mandating higher density zoning creates higher profits for multi-family developers.

    Then, just this year, the BIA opposed and defeated AB 1229 which would have authorized inclusionary zoning that requires affordable units be a part of high-density, multi-family projects. Let’s face it. Requiring affordable housing cuts in to the profit margins of developers, because they profit more by selling at market rate.

    I get it. Developers are people too and they have property rights. They should be allowed to make money and this certainly is a way to make money. But, the losers in this do-gooder, State-mandated, social agenda that makes money are California cities, like Yorba Linda.

    As for your lawsuits argument, let me just say that Section 68653 of the State Affordable Housing Statutes allows a city to reduce the residential density if it makes written evidence that the reduction is consistent with the adopted general plan, including the housing element and that the remaining sites identified in the housing element are adequate to accommodate the city’s share of the regional housing need.

    Yorba Linda’s share of the regional housing need dropped from 2039 to 669 for the 2014 Housing Element and City staff identified that Yorba Linda has a density buffer or bonus of 623 units. Sure looks like Yorba Linda meets the statutory requirements to lower the densities on some sites. I’m not an attorney, but the City has an attorney and the Council could ask him to do that by drafting a density reduction measure that would be consistent with Section 68653.

    Oh wait. Councilmen, Lindsey, Young and Hernandez won’t amend the Housing Element and Measure I and they continue to hide behind a weak litigation argument that is supported by no evidence other than words uttered by the attorneys who represent the developers of the high-density sites in Yorba Linda. And, as far as property rights are concerned, California courts have ruled that downzoning is not a taking, because a lower density does not remove ALL economic viability of a property.

    I wonder if all of this has more to do with big fat campaign contributions that Mayor Young is expecting from the BIA for his 55th District State Assembly campaign. That remains to be seen when the campaign financial statements are filed at the end of this month. I’ll have my copies the next time you see me at Subway.

  3. Greg, I don’t understand your point. Without “affordable” housing, the service workers need to”sleep” in another city, are you saying it is “villainous” for the state to require some of what they consider “fairness” in access to housing in every city for (theoretically) every income bracket?

    Ed, a “taking” is not the issue I was getting at. The Kraemer case that I mentioned is a block busting case in which there were covenants between owners to only sell to white purchasers, which was held to be an unenforceable contract in that it would impugn the integrity of courts to enforce such a reprehensible agreement. This is the analogy I was making. I hadn’t even considered the issue of any of this being a “taking”, but I suppose if you asked any of the few remaining owners of large parcels of property in Yorba Linda, they would disagree with you in principal on what is or isn’t depriving them of the free use of their property.

    ….and asking Rutan and Tucker to draft a “density reduction measure”, is not in anyway something I would recommend. I think this whole issue has been fueled by hysteria, and as a Litigatory myself, I do not see the threat of litigation as supported by “no evidence”. On the contrary, please feel free to look into what Anaheim has stumbled into with the $2 million dollar problem that the apparent leadership of a naive and inexperienced Councilwoman Kris Murray lead them into. Litigation by committee never goes well, and “drafting” some proposal to obtain an exception is just an end run around it, eventually leading to the same place. Never invite Sacramento to come poking around in your backyard. That would be my approach. Taking them on, seems to be where the vociferous and always powerful minority in Yorba Linda is leading us, but it ends in a bad place. Check back with me in about 5 years while this battle is still raging on and I will happily say I told you so.

    I had not considered the BIA but I do know of their existence and their political self interests are no secret. I have no knowledge of Craig Young’s involvement with them and have never been interested in closely reviewing the candidates financial statements, usually their alignments are easy enough to figure out. However, I think far too much has been made of Craig Young’s assembly campaign, which in spite of an impressive list of endorsements, is not going anywhere in my humble opinion. Just based upon what I know about the other candidates and their coffers, not to mention the noise of this ugly recall in his own city, I see no future for that campaign. I like Craig very much, and he hasn’t asked my opinion, but if he did that is what I would tell him. Get out now.

    That having been said, I am again, wishing that the vociferous political activists in our city would once in a great while stop and consider the far reaching ramifications of their actions. Without Craig, our potential replacements in the state assembly are a representative from Los Angeles County, or San Bernardino county. I am not enthusiastic about any of these three candidates, but the recall effort has likely blown up Craig’s chances, so now we are stuck with potentially a couple of terms with someone from a county and vicinity whose interests and views are quite different than ours, OR with these three Republicans in the race, potentially, a democrat from our district. That scenario poses not only a huge problem for our city BUT for the ENTIRE state of California as the GOP fights to win back even a SIMPLE MINORITY. Sad really, all sad.

    Who do you think is going to carry that Rutan and Tucker drafted exception to the rule then? Not likely gonna get one of these two to get enthused about a Yorba Linda specific issue. SO even if we spend the legal fees to get something drafted, it dies in Sacramento, especially with the current Super Majority. Money and legal fees wasted.

    I can only assume much of this is fueled by the future prospects of Nancy Rikel, which I also think is immensely sad. Rather than supporting a worthwile effort that promotes a good for all result and fiscal conservatism on a grander scale, it looks like a power grab from an ambitious politician. I hate to keep brow beating the ladies in Anaheim, but par for the course, Lucille Kring, whose run for mayor will likely land a Democrat in that seat.

    I’m just trying to find some hope for the cause of reasonableness, which is less government in EVERY branch, and the only way to do that is to tone down the rhetoric, work toward viable solutions and not pie-in-the-sky alternatives, and work to have as many true conservatives elected in every office.

    I didn’t want this to be such a huge philosophical discussion, but I feel like there is an enormous opportunity this election cycle, and we are missing it at every turn, and this is a perfect example. The trees continue to obfuscate the forest for most people while we get mired down by politicians with personal aspirations, and our petty and local self interests.

    • Ed Rakochy said

      Brenda,

      I reviewed the Kraemer Supreme Court case. I’m not an attorney and although I agree that it’s a landmark case, I believe it has no connection to downzoning high-density sites in Yorba Linda, because that downzoning would not be related to any restrictive covenant that bars people based on their race. Secondly, Section 65008 of the the Affordable Housing statues specifically prohibits any form of discrimination. So, a smart attorney that writes an amendment to Measure I to downzone high-density sites would not want to violate State or Federal statues or case law.

      It’s also presumptive to conclude that lawsuits would occur when an amendment hasn’t even been drafted. There are three Council people (Lindsey, Young & Hernandez) who won’t even ask the City Attorney to draft an amendment. Like I said the other night at the City Council meeting, you can’t draw any conclusions about lawsuits, because there’s no amendment that discusses what sites are being downzoned and to what densities those sites are being reduced.

      The City has a bonus of 623 units in the current housing cycle. It would appear to me that we could reduce the densities on just two of the 30 dwelling unit per acre (dua) sites (Prospect & Lakebed) to either 20 or 10 dua. That would be a respective reduction of just 100 or 200 units and still leave Yorba Linda with a bonus of 523 or 423 units for future housing elements. A smart private attorney (voter sponsored measure) or city attorney (city sponsored measure) could draft an amendment to Measure I to do just that and be consistent with State Affordable Housing law. The problem is Misters Lindsey, Young and Hernandez will not do that. They wouldn’t even vote for a 45-day moratorium to just look at all the options. Moratoriums are only temporary. They are not permanent.

      I think a 45-day moratorium was pretty reasonable, especially since the proposed moratorium only dealt with projects whose entitlements were not approved. It would not have touched projects like Brandywine Homes across from the Nixon Library that were already approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council.

      So, I too am hoping for some reasonableness from Councilmen Lindsey, Young and Hernandez, but as of this writing, I’ve seen zilch.

  4. Greg Gillaspy said

    This recall is nothing more than a Ed Rakochy marketing tool to get YLRR candidates elected. This is what he did before and he will do it again. Ed instructed the recall workers not to gather signatures during the Ryan recall, We don’t need them this is nothing more than a marketing tool. Are the voters going to fall for this kind of trick again?

    • edrakochy said

      Greg,

      This recall is very real. We began collecting signatures on January 16 and will continue until we collect 10,000. We are at designated locations throughout the City. Look for our signs. I welcome you to drop by and sign.

  5. Great article Brenda; well reasoned and equitable. Unfortunately this project, while it may or may not be built is being used by Ed and Nancy to put YLRRR or (God help us all- YLCR candidates on council. I understand our lakebed neighbors’ concerns, we had to fight Rakochy’s crowd and their attempts to put a massive horse stabling boondoggle upwind of hundreds of new homes. Those of us in Vista Del Verde have grown accustomed to the contempt of Rikel and the YLRRR, and now that we actually have honest representation in Council, the liars are out in force to try to get the honest men thrown out. I have news for you, the only reason Schwing and Anderson didn’t vote for this is that they knew there were already three votes, and they could have plausible deniability.

    • edrakochy said

      Cliff, Cliff, Cliff, Where have you been? I don’t see you at Council meetings or even Subway. At least I had a cordial meeting with Brenda there. And, by the way, you’re not being very cordial. I’m not using the high-density issue as political capital. Like most Yorba Linda residents, I don’t like high-density, just like you don’t want an equestrian center a 1/2 mile from your house. Secondly, I believe those on our City Council (all of them) who ran on a low-density platform should be held accountable for their campaign promises. If you think that’s using someone, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion and we’ll let God sort it out.

      If you attended a Council meeting lately, you would know that it’s not a question of the Lakebed and Prospect Ave. high-density projects being built or not, because the zoning has already been approved by the voters. The only thing the Council has the authority over is a Design Review and a Conditional Use Permit. So, the developers can build at densities as high as 30 dwelling units per acre on the high-density, multi-family housing sites. Sure, the Council could deny the Design Review or Conditional Use Permit, but the developers will be back with another project with a different design that pulls a few units out of their 159-unit project. What needs to change is the zoning and your buddies Young, Lindsey and Hernandez won’t allow the voters to change that, because they won’t put a measure on the ballot that would allow us to reduce those densities, nor would they do a 45-day moratorium on high-density development that would have allowed the voters some time to put a density reduction measure on the ballot.

      I don’t think you know that one of those high-density sites is not far from you, just like the equestrian center at the Tank Farm. There is a 5-acre high-denstiy site on Bastanchury Road between Lakeview and Plumosa that is zoned for 30 dwelling units per acre. And, there is a 4-acre site that is 10 dwelling units per acre at the corner of Lakeview and Bastanchury. Do the math. The developers will be coming, because the zoning is approved and they get fast-track approval according to State law. It makes the entitlement process much easier and less expensive for the developers. So, you may not have to worry about horses, but you sure will have to deal with the consequences of high-density housing right down the road from ya.

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