Local Business

Fullerton City Council Notes: March 21 Meeting

Fullerton Loves Food Honored
Fullerton Loves Food members received commendation at the March 21 City Council meeting for their efforts to help local restaurants during the pandemic. This grassroots endevour that started on FaceBook has helped many restaurants stay in business by working with owners to “cash mob” them with customers. Those honored were Tim Johnson, Sarah Erdogan Harmon, Kari Thune, Dave Smits, and Hannah Nossaman.

Outdoor Live Music to be Discussed at Planning commission

by David Nuñez

Fullerton residents can still look forward to listening to live music despite the City Council clarifying that outdoor live music is illegal during March 21 city council meeting.

After an hour long discussion and public comment that had residents calling for live music to be allowed because it attracts people downtown and creates a vibrant atmosphere. While one resident asked for tighter regulations that will give those living near downtown clear quiet hours for sleeping.

Leaders in the previous council brought an amendment to a vote in November of 2020 but the item was pulled and continued with no follow up. Since the changes were never completed enforcing the current noise standards is difficult.

“What is important to note is that [what we have] is incomplete,” said Sunayana Thomas, Director of Community and Economic Development, during a noise regulations and standards study session presentation, ”Because what we have today is obsolete, in a sense that its unenforceable and unrealistic noise levels of standard operations [for businesses].”

Mayor Fred Jung asked for clarification on the permission for live music since he has noticed there are currently restaurants with pleasant live music operating at a low noise level compared to other restaurants that have loud music heard on their patio. “Are we just cherry-picking who we are enforcing, or are we not enforcing at all?” Jung said.

Council member Ahmad Zahra asked, “Is live music permitted downtown?”

Thomas said they have active code enforcement cases but did not name any restaurants specifically and that live music outdoors is not allowed per the current municipal code.

“Any entertainers outside of the establishment is not permitted,” Thomas said.

The existing noise code allows for a maximum decibel level of 55 city-wide, which is equivalent to a quiet urban area during the daytime or a large business office with activity during operation. The proposed 2020 amendment would have brought the maximum level for downtown up to 80 decibels, which is equal to a diesel truck at 50 feet. Since the maximum noise level is so low, enforcement is nearly impossible because enforcing the existing code would overwhelm the system. Guillermina Torrico, Code Enforcement Manager, said that is why they are looking for direction regarding noise standards and regulations.

A line of public speakers showed up to show support for permitting live music in the downtown area. One of those was Jinan Montecristo, owner of Les Amis Restaurant, who called live music a “win, win, win” for customers, business owners and the city.

Echoing Montecristo’s sentiments was Edmund Velasco, president of the Orange County Musicians Union, who said live music has a positive economic effect on the city but understands there should be a limit on the noise level and artists should be aware of that when performing. “We are very mindful [of the noise level], and we try to be as responsible as we can. That’s why we are professionals,” Velasco said.

“I want the council to consider the times this noise ordnance should take place,” said Z.J Hahn, a long-time resident and artist. “Music should be turned off at 10 pm so we can sleep and not come on until 7 am.”

The council directed the staff to focus on a city-wide noise code that will allow for a live music component so people who are doing a public benefit by providing live music don’t have to operate in the shadows.

“Let’s have a very clear ordnance that makes sense to everyone,” Jung said.

“I’ll look forward to seeing something like that going to the Planning Commission.”

Presentation by OC Power Authority

Council member Ahmad Zahra said that he was disappointed that this was not an agenized item that the council could make decisions, give direction, or for the public to even provide input on.

“I think rebuilding public trust starts with allowing them to be part of the conversation,” Zahra said, “My question is, why hasn’t this been done since its inception? I have had so much trouble trying to get information. How can the public trust moving forward that you would be able to provide information in a transparent process?”

“We put together quarterly reports for all of our member agencies and will do that regularly. So I’m here before you on a quarterly report, the first quarter, to present on the progress of OCPA and answer any questions,” Moska said.

“Several audits cite similar transparency issues and issues with contracts as well as management issues. So again, the question is, Why is it that only now are you doing something about it,” Zahra asked, “It’s been two years.”

“So there have been four different audits and reports that have been done of OCPA, and the most recent state audit was the most comprehensive one, and it was just released two weeks ago. The board of directors recently approved addressing every single [audit recommendation], and we are an agency that has existed for a very short period. We’ve identified every recommendation concerning governance transparency, contracting, and ensuring that we’re addressing that. We’re adopting best practices,” Moska said. “We’ve only been serving residential customers since October of 2022.”

Zahra asked to agendize the item to look at withdrawal options and how that affects residents. Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Whitaker seconded the motion to agendize the item.

Council member Nick Dunlap said, “My understanding from the original discussion was that we would agendize the potential to exit from OCPA and the impact it would have on Fullerton if we were to exit.”

Council member Dr. Shana Charles asked about actual drill-down data on Fullerton residents. What percentage of residents have opted out, and what percentage have opted for each level? She directed Moska to bring back firm cost estimates, pros and cons, cost-effectiveness analysis, how much it costs Fullerton residents, and what they are achieving through those costs in terms of implementation of green energy. And to have the opt-out numbers.

Whitaker agreed with Zahra and Dunlap and added, “A lack of information leads people to assume the worst, and that includes a number of people who are your customers right now in the city of Fullerton, so it’s incumbent on you to make that information widely and easily available.”

Advanced Resources LLC temporary staff agency

Request approval of $125,000 for a change order to Advanced Resource LLC for temporary staffing support, mainly for the equipment and maintenance division. The city has six mechanic positions budgeted. However, four are currently vacant. The city has attempted recruiting for these vacancies several times with no success. So, instead of continuing the field recruitment, staff contacted Advanced Resource LLC to procure temporary staffing support. This change order provides enough resources to take the city through the end of the fiscal year.

It was passed unanimously.

2022 Water Rate Progress Report

Part of the increase in our water rates was to replace the aging infrastructure. The last water rate study was done before COVID, a lot of things have changed construction-wise and specifically construction costs. The next fiscal year, it is anticipated that the city will not meet the nine-mile water main replacement goal due to other needs in our infrastructure and the extraordinary increase in construction costs. A new water master plan will take about 12 months. And a new water rate study will take an additional 12 months after that.

Fullerton Pooch Park Relocation project

Mayor Pro Tem Whitaker motioned to reject the bid and remand the item back to Parks and Rec. Dunlap seconded the motion.

Motion was passed unanimously.

American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (HOME-ARP)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HOME Investment Partnerships – American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (HOME-ARP) has allocated $1,954,345 in funding to the City. The City must submit a HOME- ARP Allocation Plan to HUD by March 31, 2023. As part of this grant there are four qualifying populations: homeless, at risk of homelessness, fleeing and attempting to flee domestic violence (dating violence and sexual assault), and populations where assisted would prevent homelessness or provide assistance to greatest risk of housing and instability. Funds will also be allocated to rental assistance, security deposit payments, utility payments as part of the rental assistance, or deposit payments as part of the rental assistance. Fullerton has approximately 202 unsheltered homeless individuals and 70 in shelters. Council member Zahra moved the item and Council member Dunlap seconded.

Passed unanimously.