By Andie King
A nearly five-hour Villa Park City Council meeting kicked off with the news that the city would not be suing the Orange Unified School District over parking issues associated with two of its campuses.
The council discussed the potential lawsuit during a closed session prior to the public meeting. The recommendation that the city sue OUSD was made by Villa Park’s Law Enforcement Advisory Committee in response to citizen complaints about parking problems around Serrano and Cerra Villa Schools. The committee, comprised of resident law enforcement professionals Vince Rossini and Jay Wasserman, Neighborhood Watch representative Wayne Silzel, Lt. Rob Gunzel, Councilmen Bill Nelson and Bob Collacott, among others, advised the city to file an inverse condemnation claim against OUSD, citing harm to residents of Villa Park. The harm was OUSD parents parking on local streets when they dropped off and picked up their children from school.
Mayor Diana Fascenelli was clearly outraged that the law enforcement advisory committee had exceeded the parameters of its purpose, and rebuked the members for not attending OUSD board meetings or attempting to speak with OUSD trustees to discuss the matter before jumping to legal action. She requested the minutes from the committee meeting when the lawsuit came up, but staff said there were none. She asked who attended that meeting; no one seemed to know. Apparently, Fascenelli had asked the same questions at the closed session, not received answers, and was compelled to ask committee chairman Rossini during the public meeting. Rossini acknowledged that the committee serves at the pleasure of the council.
With the lawsuit issue put to rest, the council and roomful of residents prepared to debate the city’s plan to restripe Serrano to alleviate school traffic problems and the temporary “Parking by Permit Only” restrictions on Featherhill, Dodson and Mountain View Circle, to curb school-related parking on those streets.
A great deal of time and angst could have been saved, and residents could have gone home much earlier, had Councilman Nelson revealed that a previously unknown (to city staff and council) policy found in the 2011 master plan required that residents receive a notice 14 days in advance of a vote applicable to their property. The “permit only” parking signs fall in that category. Legal counsel ruled that the council could not vote on the permit parking issue at that time because residents had not been given appropriate notice.
The ruling brought into question the validity of council’s earlier vote on the restriping of Serrano – another attempt to alleviate school traffic. The proposal to restripe Serrano from Featherhill Drive to Santiago, eliminating the bike lane by Serrano Elementary and Cerro Villa Middle School, and adding an additional lane for through traffic, brought forth a number of speakers during the public comment session. The item had been continued from the contentious April meeting to give Councilman Rick Barnett time to talk with OUSD Superintendent Mike Christensen about the traffic/parking burden the two schools placed on Villa Park.
Barnett reported that 20 to 30 parking spaces have been opened at Serrano, but OUSD cannot give up athletic fields at Cerro Villa to add more parking. OUSD could, perhaps, find funds to help with restriping costs on Serrano. The costs, however, are “more than a bucket of paint,” estimated at $25,000 to sandblast the existing striping, slurry and properly restripe the street.
The council voted to approve the plan to add a third lane, with the direction to keep as much parking as possible, and use signage rather than paint to limit parking during school drop-off and pick-up times.
During the public comment sessions regarding the restriping and parking agenda items, resident Howard Kirschner twice went to the podium to ask what the city council had done to reach out to OUSD trustees. The answers: Barnett spoke with Supt. Christensen; Fascenelli had spoken with Trustee Kathy Moffat on two occasions; Nelson emailed Moffat, but had not received a response.
Despite the on-going discussions regarding Orange Unified schools in Villa Park, the last two meetings of the City/Schools Advisory Committee have been cancelled. That committee is chaired by Councilman Nelson, with Bob Collacott as vice-chair, and includes Supt. Christensen, Trustee Moffat, and representatives from each of the four schools in Villa Park as members.
Fascenelli stepped up, and will attempt to arrange a public meeting between the city council and the OUSD Board.
It’s the little things
Villa Park City Council meetings are always held on the fourth Thursday of every month; the June meeting is slated for the 23. Bill Nelson and Bob Collacott, however, made plans to attend an optional League of California Cities event in Monterey on June 24, and asked that the meeting be rescheduled. The other council members pointed out that the meeting should be of greater importance, but that, if travel was necessary, they could “attend” from their hotel room via telephone, as others have done in the past. Nelson flatly refused to attend electronically, even though he had put forth the motion that city money be used to purchase laptops and pay for Wifi for councilmembers.
The vote: 2-2, Barnett abstained; the meeting date was not changed. The council then agreed, 5-0, to reimburse each councilperson up to $1,000 for a laptop/tablet, so agendas and accompanying materials could be sent electronically, saving reams of paper and hours of staff time.