Friday, April 13, 2007

Comments From John Stinson

Posted below are the comments presented to Councilwoman Janice Hahn's Community Advisory Committee (CAC) during the "comments portion" of the meeting of Thursday April 12, 2007.

The speaker was Mr. John Stinson. Along with his position as a member of the Governing Board of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council, Mr. Stinson is also involved in the R Neighborhoods Are 1 movement.

As I stand here, I would like to remind you to keep your eyes on the ball. This whole process is all about zoning and trying to change it to increase profits for the developer.

Don't be distracted by bogus conclusions drawn from a flawed and self serving poll or cries of the need for middle and low income housing (the is none at Ponte Vista) or senior housing (only 1 in 6 people in the poll thought it important.) It wasn't even a hot topic of discussion before Bob Bisno came to town. Besides, senior housing starting with the age of 55 seems artificially low. What, 55 is now the new 65? or 75? People are living and working longer. Few are retiring at 55. Some are even starting new families.

More importantly, you are not on this committee to compromise, you are here to do what's best for San Pedro and surrounding communities, not what's best for Bob Bisno or even Janice Hahn.

What's best, in the minds of many, is the current zoning. R-1. It is there for a reason - to keep the demands on infrastructure from being overburdened as well as maintain the community character (I mean, what's wrong with a detached dwelling with two cats in the yard and having a garage with a workshop?)

You just need to look to our neighbor, Torrance to see what can happen when development starts to overload infrastructure. They had a little more than 2400 housing units built in 16 years at locations throughout the city. The recent article in the Daily Breeze points out that traffic and increased infrastructure demands are starting to take their toll. The Ponte Vista project proposes 2300 in one spot. That would seem to be a recipe for disaster in the short and the long run.

The other point is the attempt by Bob Bisno to marginalize the people committed to maintaining the R-1 zoning. He says they are a small group, but they are loud.

Wrong, Bob. We are not small.

Coastal and Northwest San Pedro NC's voted to support keeping the current R-1 zoning at the site starting in December 2005. The two councils represent over 50,000 stakeholders. That's not small and is certainly larger than the 6,596 people who signed up at the free lunches, BBQ's, investment seminars or senior fairs put on by Bob Bisno (basically, if you're on the guest list you support 2300 units at Ponte Vista) or the people who are desperate for an access road for Mary Star, or for Little League fields or for a new LAUSD High School just to be built somewhere else.

The Neighborhood Councils are only committed to one thing: to keep the density down by keeping the Ponte Vista site zoned R-1.

There may be those who counter that the elected boards of Neighborhood Councils are irrelevant and don't really represent the people in their area. If you follow that logic, then you go down a slippery slope where any elected councilman or woman, mayor, supervisor, governor, assemblyman, senator, congressman or president doesn't really represent the people.

But you know, they all do. That's why they were elected and that is their sole job. They may not represent everybody's view in the area, but they do represent the majority's. So, in this case, the majority has spoken: R-1.

And in addition to Neighborhood Councils, there is Rneighborhoodsare1. In a letter by Tom Field that appeared in More San Pedro, it was recently labeled as an anonymous minuscule group that basically represents only themselves and is not a grassroots organization.

Wrong, Tom.

Rneighborhoodsare1 is a movement now with over 4,000 people (and growing), that have signed on in support of R-1 zoning at Ponte Vista.

On March 23rd, the first 3,000+ names were handed over to Janice Hahn and (hopefully) to this committee. They are real people and include names you all will recognize like John and Muriel Olguin or Neil Kleiner, for instance.

They live in San Pedro and the surrounding communities of Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates, Rolling Hills, Lomita, Harbor City, Wilmington and beyond. They are people who are friends and family of people living in these communities and think this idea of 2300 housing units or anything more than R-1 at Ponte Vista is, frankly, insanity.

So I urge all of you to put on your thinking hats and do the right thing for San Pedro and surrounding communities – don't compromise - keep the density down – keep the zoning R-1. It is that simple.

John continues to try to persuade me to call for only R1 zoning at Ponte Vista now and in the future. I continue to try to persuade John that there may be a compromise that might work for everybody.

Whether you believe there is any real support for a separate Senior Housing section at Ponte Vista or not, there are truly some seniors who are very interested in having a new home, still in San Pedro. It might be 400 seniors, it might be 700 seniors, I don't know the real number. It is true that the need for separate senior housing was rarely, if ever, brought up in our community prior to Bob coming to town. If San Pedro is to remain with its European influences, then families should continue to stick together and multiple generations live in close proximity to each other. It seems we didn't need any discussion about where our elders may want to live, until housing prices shot through the roof.

I can certainly understand every argument for keeping Ponte Vista with its current zoning format. But I also feel if we offer seniors a new housing opportunity and reap all the mitigation that type of housing must bring to the area, then I feel a portion of the Ponte Vista site should be set aside for a separate Senior Housing section, and the rest of the residential building area be left for single-family, detached homes.

R Neighborhoods Are 1 is still the best organized group opposed to Bob's current plans. While I do not need to agree with everything they stand for, I agree with so much of their ideas that I feel I can assist the group, now really a movement, in helping find the best possible outcome for OUR community.


tom said...

No, I beg to differ. Signatures on a petition do not qualify as part of an organization. They are people who signed something when it was presented with it. Are you trying to claim that 4,000 people attend your meetings, and set your agendas and goals?

If so, you should all get together and wite a how-to book because you would make millions.

But most likely, it is just more delusional thinking.

M Richards said...

Howdy Tom,

So I think by your writing, the 6,596 folks who signed the petitions supporting Bob's plans should not count as well. I can live with that.

I do think that whoever chooses to sign a petition for whatever reason is making themselves a tiny part of a larger movement or vision. When we sign petitions to get legislation onto a ballot to become a proposition, I think those of us who do sign those petitions feel we are helping to make a difference or change something for the better.

Just think of all the folks who signed the petitions to get Proposition 13 onto the ballot so many years ago. If they hadn't done that, perhaps our property taxes would be through the roof by now.

4,000 people don't set the agenda for any meeting of the new group, but it would also be very foolish to accept as fact that 6,596 petition signers to Bob's project had anything really to do with his current plans. He even wrote that he would use "10-15 senior community leaders" to help him establish what should be built at Ponte Vista.
Bob is even now organizing another focus group of potential buyers to suggest what should be included at Ponte Vista.

There is absolutely no documented proof presented to the CAC that anyone other than members of Bob Bisno's business organizations had anything really to do with the formulation of his current plans. he claims he used many folks in the community, but I haven't seen any documentation to back that up.

If you need organizations to back up numbers, then please consider that members of at least two neighborhood councils elected folks to represent them as a board of directors. Those two boards voted against Bob's current plans. Those two organizations represent some 25,000 households each, all in San Pedro. I don't even need to count the Harbor City N.C. whose board of directors also voted against Bob and his current plans.

Tom, whether 4,000 folks will ever meet together in fact, is not a real point. 4,000 folks have written their names demanding that Ponte Vista remain with its current zoning. 6,596 folks have signed petitions in support of Bob's current plans. Bob even claims that 10,340 people support his plans.

I sign petitions when I was presented them and I agreed with what was being proposed. I have not signed petitions when I do not agree with what is written on the petition, you know that. I haven't and will not sign the R1 petition, but I do think more folks who sign that petition are much more informed that the folks who sign petitions when someone asks them:
"Would you sign a petition for affordable housing in San Pedro?"
Or: "Would you sign a petition for affordable senior housing in San Pedro?"

Everyone in the solidarity movement in Poland didn't all meet at one time and look at the history they made.

All of the "Bobsupporters" don't ever meet together, either.

R Neighborhoods Are 1 will certainly not meet together just because you feel it isn't a real "organization". Tom, just look around. Be ready to see evidence that the group is more organized than you give it credit for.

You do not know enough of the facts to make an accurate assessment of both Bob's organization or R Neighborhoods Are 1. You haven't introduced yourself to me at any CAC meeting and I have been to all of them.

I still appreciate you willingness for compromise and I hope that we can find ways to get both ends of the spectrum closer together.

tom said...

On the counting petionion signers as "part of the organization" I think we can agree. In my opinion, those inecharge, the steering commettee if you will for the R-1 group, and the various Advisory Committees for Bisno are the vocal active leaders. These are the people who really count and will help pushe their agendas along. The rest are followers.

I have also been to all the CAC metings. I have chosen to stay in the backgound for since I don't feel the need to be in the middle of a firestorm. Once we reach some type of resolution or agreement between the graoups, I will come up and shake you and and intorduce myself. Is this okay woth you? I hope you see how muchI am trying to induce an atmospher where we can at least talk about what everyone wants. I think then is when we can begin to work out a compromise.


M Richards said...

So Tom,
What did you think of the turnout of the folks wearing the R Neighborhoods Are 1 buttons at last Thursday's meeting?

That show was done on about 18 hours notice and half of those folks were only part of the steering committee.

I hope you too got a laugh from Linda "Bob Bisno is going to save San Pedro" D'Ambrosi. I am sorry if I was part of the disruption of the meeting, but I simply couldn't not laugh as hard as I did.

Many folks are becoming more familiar at the meetings.

Unfortunately, it is beginning to look like Bob will not take any recommendations of the CAC to heart, other than public roads through some of his site. Bob is under no obligation to use any recommendation from the CAC, as we all know. He seems to have chosen the specific plan route and the use of community groups to speed through the processes as fast as possible. Some folks may think the CAC is a time consuming endeavor for Bob, but using public forums as part of the specific plan process means he gets to take "cuts" in line with the Planning Department and have folks in that group working exclusively on his project.

Tom, had you been at Albertson's today, you would have witnessed something I found quite remarkable. I never thought I would see three petition gatherers gather so many signatures at one time. I didn't participate fully in the gathering because of my position concerning compromise, but I was there to lend support to the group and offer any answers to questions that came up that the gatherers didn't know the real, true answers to.

Perhaps the farther gatherers go from the Ponte Vista area, the harder it might be to gather signatures, but the three folks who stood by the doors had two boards each and they kept going from one person to another. Of course we all engaged in discussions and tried our very best to provide the honest truth, whichis something the Bisno gatherers can't seem to do. I know this because I have been approached by several of them.

I think by the end of spring, there will be enough signatures on R1 petitions to be able to show them to Janice Hahn and let her know that many of those names equal possible votes for her or votes for her opponent, depending which side she ends up taking, when all is said and done.

We should continue to demand compromise of some kind for the project. My compromise is fairly firm now although I may be pursuaded to look at some R1.5 single-family detached zoning, along with a nice Senior Housing section and definitely some R1 zoned lots. I'm moving away from a set group of numbers for now.

Let's wait and see what Bob thinks of whatever recommendations the CAC finally makes, if they ever get to making any.

I also think this project is too important to speed through the processes. Whatever is built on the site will change the area. We should work as hard as we can to find the best results and not let any calendar or financial institution dictate how soon construction should begin.

tom said...

John Stinson makes some moving and emotional arguments for his position. Unfortunately his basic premise is flawed and therefore his entire line of reasoning likewise is flawed and of no value.

The first mistake is characterizing the CAC as a public policy-making body. This is completely incorrect and does not speak to the facts. The CAC works for Councilwoman Hahn, and her alone. She formed it. She invited members to join. She asked neighboring communities to send representatives. BUT THE PURPOSE OF THE CAC IS SOLELY TO ADVISE COUNCILWOMAN HAHN. They do not have responsibility to anyone else. Neither are they doing anything about zoning. They do not have that power. They are strictly set up to provide advice, which means compromise as a part of the process. Period. The end. Councilwoman Hahn may take their recommendations and use them as she sees fit.

So, John, you are completely off-base in your assertion that the CAC is not supposed to compromise. If you do not want to see Ponte Vista built, sign a petition, write a letter, do whatever it is you feel you need to do to communicate to Councilwoman Hahn that you disagree. Just don't get up in front of the CAC and present false arguments for them to not do their jobs.

And as to your argument that R-1 is there for a reason is so without merit or basis in reason as to be laughable. The zoning is there as a relic so old that no one can even remember when or why it was put there. How about producing some written, recorded documentation of your claims? You can't, because it's all guesswork. The records are so bad that for some of the other navy property that was sold they new owner can't even find out what the zoning is. So for you to claim it was put there with purpose and forethought is a complete joke. Come on, John, who did you think you would fool with that line?

The constant stream of comments and criticisms by those hoping to sway the CAC toward "zero growth" is misplaced. And the members of the CAC will have abrogated their responsibilities if they allow themselves to be swayed. The proper venue for those who wish to have their opinion heard is the Council Office, NOT the CAC. On this subject you will see that R Neighborhoods Are 1 has a double standard. If they really believed the CAC was the place that held the ultimate authority for what happens at Ponte Vista, why didn't they submit their petitions to them? But, of course, they did not do this. They submitted the petitions directly to the Council Office. The appearance of various numbers of their supporters in front of the CAC to make comments is merely obstructionist and inflammatory.

If you will recall, the first "public" meeting ONE member of the pro-Ponte Vista group got up and said, "We want to respect your time, so I am speaking for all these people." and then she had them stand up. But the anti-Ponte Vista people got up one after another to say the same thing, taken from the same script. So before there is more criticism (from John Greenwood, or anyone else) about pro-Ponte Vista people talking about whichever their particular attractive feature might be, just remember, the zero-growther's are the one's who would not respect anyone's time and started this entire thing. What did you expect Bisno to do, lie down and let everyone walk over his project? Of course he has to make certain supporters ofthe project know of meetings and that they are allowed to come and voice their opinion. This is still after all, still America and people have the right to voice their opinions. If you care to remember, Doug Epperhart was a champion of these open meetings in the beginning. He warned that if the meetings started being closed it would mean deals were being cut. So that door only swings one way? Sorry, but perhaps you need to re-examine the meaning of "open meeting". Put succinctly it means you have to listen to people you don't agree with in addition to the people whose position you like. Them's the rules for a free society, heh.

To John Greenwood I say, if you are going to have rules, apply them to everyone equally. And to Victor Griego, if John can't do it, then you should because that is what a moderator is supposed to do. Both of you need to grow a pair.

To certain members of the CAC, you are forgetting who you work for. Your job was to go to work for Janice Hahn and help craft a Specific Plan. Instead you have brought your own personal baggage and prejudices, pre-conceived (although uniformed) ideas and illogical nostalgia for things which are gone forever. You have already decided what outcome you want and you will be immovable in your positions. It seems you can't be bothered with doing some research, or reading. Instead you rely on mis-interpreted numbers regurgitated to you by people who have their own private agenda. They will move from subject to subject, from traffic, to schools, to air quality, whatever, in order to keep you off balance and in an attempt to make you think something is wrong. They will smear Bisno, and Councilwoman Hahn, and the Planning Department, barely staying this side of an accusation of collusion. All in an effort to further their personal agenda. And some of you have fallen for it. In effect your short-sightedness and intractability will hamstring the entire CAC process ensuring that good ideas never make it into the final Specific Plan. Congratulations.

tom said...

Sorry, need to correct a typo. Last paragraph, third sentence should read "(although uninformed)"

M Richards said...

To tom and everyone else,

I have an idea, if you want to comment on something and need some fact-checking before you post your comments, why don't you ask me if the information you want to post as "facts" are true before you post them?

I promise to keep all inquiries between myself and the person who need facts checked and I won't let anyone have a "head's up" about what may be coming.

I would gladly do this for supporters, opponents, and even those of what who want compromise, concerning anything Ponte Vista.

I have resources that can answer just about any question currently being brought forth concerning any discussion about Ponte Vista.

Here is an example:

The site now designated as Ponte Vista at San Pedro was annexed to the City of Los Angeles in 1980 using Ordinance number 154-525.

The zoning established during the annexation process gave the current site a zoning of R1-1XL.
R1 means one single-family, residential dwelling on a lot of at least 5,000 square feet.
1XL means that a dwelling in on an R1 lot of this type may have up to two stories and have a maximum height of 30 feet.

I remember Rachel Viramontes speaking on behalf of all the supporters at the meeting Tom remembers. My take, as a sitting member of the CAC at the time was that I would have appreciated listening from more supporters so I could hear more mixes of reasonings for supporting the project. Little did I know at that time that what Rachel commented on would eventually become a kind of mantra just about every supporter used during the subsequent meetings. I still haven't hear enough different reasons many supporters have for supporting the project.

I must debate Tom's characterization that all opponents same the same things at every meeting. I oppose Bob's current plans and I don't think I repeated what many opponents have said during the comment periods. I will try to vary my comments to bring out more issues why I oppose 2,300 condos being built on 61.53 acres.

The CAC was formed to make recommendations.

I think the CAC was also formed to assist Bob in getting his processes through more quickly, by seeming to use independent public opinion to participate as representatives of the community for the purposes designated for use in creating a specific plan.

I also think the CAC was formed to not only advise Janice Hahn, but also to take the flak off of her, no matter what the CAC finally recommends, if they end up recommending anything.

All CAC members knew what they were getting into when they agreed to be "scapegoats" for Janice Hahn, but thought that this project was so improtant to OUR community that they (we) could not stand by and do nothing. Being a member of a neighborhood council doesn't work for those of us in R.P.V. and we are too close to the site not to get involved and try to have some input into the discussions.

Folks, I've got to tell you, most of you are somewhat misinformed about many of the aspects surrounding the Ponte Vista project. It is not your fault, though, because you have been misinformed by Bob and his gang and you also may have received some poor information from some opponents of Bob's who only think they know enough facts.

Case in point. There is absolutely nowhere in any document where Bob would be allowed to build "500" homes in an all market-rate, R1-1XL development. He gets up to 429 units without a "bonus density" and he could get up to 536 units if he built some qualifying units.

Tom, even though you claim you come to every meeting, and I believe you do, I feel your attack on "certain members of the CAC" is not fair and bordering on disrespectful, IMHO.
All of them are struggling with something they have never done before. Even Gerry Gaines has stated that the CAC is a unique experience for him and something he doesn't normally see happening in the City of L.A.
For the first months they were dealing with major attempts by Bob and his group to control every aspect of what the CAC was going to be told, what their responsibilities were, and how the meetings should be conducted. Just about every one of the meetings in the first months had presentations from somebody involved in supporting the project and little time was allowed for independent analysis of the project.

The members of the CAC worked very hard, early on to learn as much as they could about the project and how it might impact our community. On November 2, 2006, and after only having several meetings, the CAC and the public was presented with the DEIR. Do you have a copy of it, Tom? Learning about the project from presentations widely siding with Bob's proposals and also having to digest the DEIR, ane all the while, having to deal with increasing public questioning of the DEIR was no easy set of tasks for the CAC.

The CAC and the Neighborhood Councils were the only groups really questioning many of the facts and statistics purported to be true in the DEIR, which many people learned by reading the DEIR and finding real facts in the real world, and dealing with how much of the DEIR differs with what is really happening in our area.

Now the CAC is dealing with trying to come up with recommendations. I have witnessed what I believe to be an effort on the part of city planners to keep the CAC from recommending single-family housing at Ponte Vista. I also now feel that Victor was brought back and instructed to have all the work of the CAC done as soon as possible and probably by June at the latest.

I feel the CAC's "job" is too important to rush. Whatever if built at Ponte Vista will certainly change the face of the area for generations. I don't care how much time it takes or how long folks have to wait, nobody should force anybody to hurry the processes along. Once whatever is built is built, we are all stuck with it.

It is true that some members of the CAC might very strong opinions that differ from what supporters want and even what folks like Tom and me are looking for. Some of those members feel they represent constituents who are firmly demanding no change to the current zoning on the site. Those members probably feel if they don't fight for what the folks they represent want, they will have failed in their true assignment while being a member of the CAC. I would have hoped, Tom, that you would have scolded members of the CAC who sit, listen, and make little if any comments during the meetings. I would think those members are not as informed as the more vocal members of the CAC are.

Some "personal agendas" of some members of the CAC are more representative agendas for the folks they feel they truly represent. I certainly cannot imagine more than a few residents of Rolling Hills Riviera would want any zoning changes at Ponte Vista. Not only will some of their front doors be the closest single-family homes to anything built at Ponte Vista, but they are also in a separate city from the city where Ponte Vista sits. They already have to deal with having an LAUSD school in the their City of Rancho Palos Verdes.

Some residents of R.P.V. do call for compromise, but there are probably not many of us.