Council Meeting Date: June 15, 2022
Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/user/TownOfAtherton/featured
Details of each item can be found via the links to Staff Reports within the narrative.
The City Council met for the May Meeting on Wednesday, June 15 at 6 pm via Hybrid - (Zoom and In-Person) pursuant to the Governor's Executive Order. Following the Roll Call the Council began moving through the Agenda beginning with Presentations. The Council introduced and swore in new Atherton Police Officer Bobby Magami. Following presentations, the Council moved to Public Comments. The Mayor advised that Item No. 17 related to the Housing Element would be heard by the Council prior to the Public Hearings. This Report will note the item in the Agenda during its regular order but it was heard out of order at the meeting.
Following Public Comments and a Report out of Closed Session, the Council moved to the City Manager's Report (~6:05 pm). The City Manager's Report is typically prepared monthly as part of the City Council's Regular Agenda. In addition to current reports from the City Manager, it typically includes departmental updates on the various happenings around Town such as reports from Administration, Community Services, Planning, Police, and Public Works. Council made comments related to the Housing Element schedule, City Council Subcommittee Reports, and the Police Activity Report.
Following the City Manager's Report, the Council moved to the Consent Agenda consisting of Items 7 through 10 (~6:10 pm). Items on the Consent Agenda are considered routine in nature and are generally considered in one motion and adopted by a single vote of the Council. Included in this month's Consent Agenda were bills and claims, minutes, Certification of the Continuing COVID-19 Emergency and acceptance of work for the lighting in Holbrook Palmer Park. Staff removed the minutes of May 18 and May 24 for further edits and will return them to the Council for consideration in July. With that removal, the Council approved all remaining items on the Consent Agenda.
Next was Public Hearings.
Public Hearings are typically held for Ordinances, Budget Adoption, Fee Adoption, and Land Use approvals. There were five (5) Public Hearings on the June Agenda.
Item No. 11, Public Hearing for Vacation of a Portion of Madrone Road (~7:20 pm). Following a staff report, the Council conducted the Public Hearing providing opportunity for public comment by the applicant and other parties. Upon close of the Public Hearing the Council discussed the proposed vacation asking clarifying questions related to current and future use of the space as well as the disposition of the space upon vacation by the Town. Following discussion, the Council adopted the required Resolutions to vacate a portion of Madrone Road.
Item No. 12, Public Hearing for Appeal of a Planning Commission decision to deny a Variance at 25 Isabella Drive for a fence/wall to exceed 6' in height and a retaining wall to be located less than 5 feet from the property line (~7:29 pm). Following a staff report, the Council conducted the Public Hearing providing opportunity for public comment by the applicant and other parties. The Council asked questions of the applicant and other parties related to height of the wall, size of the retaining wall, available planting area(s), timing of permits, timing of grading, permits obtained or not obtained, communication between property owners, surveys to neighbors, and design. Upon close of the Public Hearing the Council discussed the various issues related to the project and potential solutions involving Town permitting or applications and negotiated agreements between the property owners. Following discussion, the Council continued the Variance Hearing to the September 21 Regular Meeting of the City Council and directed the property owners to meet and confer in the intervening time to attempt to work out a mutually agreeable solution.
Item No. 13, Public Hearing to Introduce Ordinance Amendments related to Landscape Screening under Chapter 17.50 of the Atherton Municipal Code (~8:48 pm). Following a staff report, the Council conducted the Public Hearing providing opportunity for public comment. Upon close of the Public Hearing the Council discussed issues related to tree size and screening of accessory dwelling units. Following discussion, the Council introduced the Ordinance, as amended, to provide flexibility for the Town Arborist to work with property owners on tree size requirements.
Item No. 14, Public Hearing to Introduce Ordinance approving a Policy for the Use and Acquisition of Military Equipment under AB 481, Law Enforcement (~9:10 pm). Following a staff report, the Council conducted the Public Hearing providing opportunity for public comment. Upon close of the Public Hearing, the Council discussed application of the policy. Following discussion, the Council introduced the Ordinance.
Item No. 15, Public Hearing to Adopt the FY 2022/23 Budget, Salary and Benefit Resolutions, GANN Limit, and Fee Resolution (~9:12 pm). Following a staff report, the Council conducted the Public Hearing providing opportunity for public comment. Upon close of the Public Hearing, the Council congratulated staff on a well prepared Budget. The Council also discussed amendments to the Fee Schedule to remove the fee for Solar Permits and made amendments to the fees for Park facility use. Following discussion, the Council removed the fee for solar permits and directed that the Park fees be amended as follows:
|Main House (M-F)||$125||$200|
|Main House (S&S)||$350||$450|
|Jennings Pavilion (Friday Day/M-Th)||$250||$400|
|Jennings Pavilion (Friday Night/S&S)||$750||$1,000|
|Day Use 13-25||$100||$150|
|Day Use 26-50||$175||$300|
Next up was the Regular Agenda (~9:15 pm).
Item No. 16, Consideration of and Appointments To Various Town Committees and Planning Commission. Following a staff report and public comment, the Council discussed the various appointments and vacancies. The Council discussed the status of the Rail Committee as a Town Committee. Following discussion, the Council appointed all applicants to the various committees selecting particular terms for the Environmental Committee appointments and selecting the incumbent for reappointment to the Rail Committee. The Council directed that the Rail Committee discuss the possibility of a change in status to a Designated Group versus a formal Town Committee at their next Rail Committee meeting and report back to the City Council.
Item No. 17, Discussion of Community Feedback Regarding Housing Element Updates (~6:12 pm). (This item was heard earlier in the meeting than as noted on the Agenda) Staff provided the Council with an overview of the current status of the Housing Element and noted that after several public meetings and strategy sessions, the City Council authorized the release of the current Draft Housing Element for its 30-day public comment period. Staff advised that while the element is out for public comment, it should not be amended. Staff noted that all public comment received in writing via email or otherwise has been recorded as part of the public record for this process - even comments received prior to the initiation of the 30-day comment period. Staff noted that the public comment period will conclude on July 11 and the City Council must consider public comments received over the course of 10-business days before making a recommendation on a Draft Housing Element to submit to the State’s Housing and Community Development Department. Staff advised that during the 30-day public comment period, there is the item on the June 15 Agenda as well as a Planning Commission Hearing on June 23. Both meetings are intended for public comment only - by the Council, Commission and general public. On July 20, the Council will hold another public meeting to review public comments received. At that meeting, it is anticipated that staff may make some corrective recommendations to the Draft Element as well as the Council itself can make changes. One of the recommended changes that staff will recommend on July 20 will be removal of 290 Polhemus as a potential overlay zone candidate. Provided the Council does not make material additions to the housing strategies, the Council will hold another Special Meeting at the end of July to submit the draft element to the State. If there are material additions, the Town will have to further extend the delay in submittal through another 30-day public comment period and 10-business day review.
Policy and Land Use strategies in the Housing Element to meet the State Mandate of 348 Housing Units at the 4 disparate income categories over the 8-year cycle are detailed in the Housing Element itself and include land use strategies that focus on Accessory Dwelling Unit production, SB 9 lot splits, development of vacant land, development of school and faculty housing at schools and Bear Gulch. In addition, the land use strategies include the use of strategic Overlay Zones for identified properties that allow for opportunity of higher density development but don’t require it or alter the underlying single-family zoning. These overlay zones would have higher and more defined land use controls than are provided under SB 9 and even the Town’s underlying single-family zoning, to the point of being similar to very restrictive design review addressing height, setbacks, parking and other aesthetics. Those development standards have yet to be developed.
None of the housing strategies included in the Draft Housing Element are set in stone, they are all draft strategies designed as a plan to meet the State’s mandate that have been set out for public review and comment. Staff anticipates that review of the Housing Element will be an interactive process with the State before the Town eventually receives approval from the State of a compliant Housing Element. That process could take months or even a year or more to complete. Staff advised that it is important that the Town respond proactively and obtain a compliant Housing Element as jurisdictions face significant exposure to liability for non-compliant housing elements. Courts may impose fines of up to $100,000 per month; but worse, courts may also revoke a local government’s land use and planning authority relegating such control to the State without regard to local general plan guidance. Staff advised that jurisdictions in Southern California are about 15 months ahead of northern California in the State’s process for the 6th Housing Cycle so we will have some indication of the seriousness of the State with respect to imposing penalties and compliance measures. As of today, of the 124 jurisdictions in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, only 8 have been found in compliance and the remainder continue in the interactive HCD review and approval process. At this time, while there may be timing compliance measures imposed and other minor compliance requirements, to my knowledge there have not yet been monetary or land use penalties imposed. That said, this level of pressure and exhausting engagement by the State in the 6th Cycle process is, to use an unfortunate word, unprecedented. The California Attorney General has already called out communities that attempt to flaunt the mandates.
Following the staff presentation the Council discussed issues related to the draft Housing Element including, but not limited to, the Town's process in selection of housing strategies, challenges faced by the Town, available sites, public engagement, other community experiences, accessory dwelling units, overlay zones, aggregation of property, school sites, faculty housing, emergency service worker housing, funding needs, and overall perspectives on the State's role and housing production. The Council also took public comment from the public. Members of the public addressed the Town's General Plan, specific property overlays, other housing opportunities, General Plan Land Use Committee, traffic, pedestrian and bicyclist safety, crime, and public engagement.
Item No. 18, City Manager Performance Evaluation and Approval of Amended to City Manager Employment Agreement (~9:25 pm). Following a staff report and public comment, the City Attorney read the proposed amendments for the record. Following discussion, the Council approved the amendments as presented.
Item No. 19, City Attorney Performance Evaluation and Approval of Amendment to Legal Services Agreement (~9:28 pm). Following a staff report and public comment, the City Manager read the proposed amendments for the record. Following discussion, the Council approved the amendments as presented.
Having cleared the entire Agenda, at approximately 9:30 pm, that as they say - was a wrap!
The next meeting of the City Council will be a Study Session on July 6 at 4 pm. At this time there are no scheduled items for the meeting and the meeting may be cancelled. If cancelled, a Notice of Cancellation will be posted.
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