Issues and Answers
Parks, Trails, and Trees
Thoughts on the issues continue to be added to our website. Keep checking back. If you have specific questions, use the contact page, and I will get back to you a.s.a.p.
Detail on these topics Is being added. Meanwhile, listen to the candidate's 30-minute interview. Click on the Podcast Microphone.
Downtown revitalization is one of my top priorities. The people of San Dimas want our downtown to be vibrant, warm, and inviting, with restaurants, shops, and things to do, all with a small-town vibe. I believe the heart of San Dimas can be a place of pride, enjoyment, relaxation, and fun. There is no need to wait any longer.
We've made some progress in the last five years, including a downtown street and sidewalk face-lift and changing the parking requirements so that downtown restaurants don't have to provide all their own parking. (What a silly requirement to begin with!) I suggested little touches that make a difference — downtown Wi-Fi, a dog water fountain, and flowers in the big pots to replace the original succulents. Still, we did not get the water feature I wanted or the types of trees that would have provided enough shade. So we have more to do, including the aforementioned shade and water feature, as well as public art, assistance to anyone who wants to do outdoor dining, more little lights, better lighting for the flag in the middle of downtown, and a directory sign that was on the original plan but was never installed.
More importantly, we have to express our long-term vision for downtown. Therefore, I propose we extend downtown westward along Bonita Avenue to Eucla with a great-looking sign or arch over Bonita that says "Downtown San Dimas". The Pioneer Square proposal for the vacant lot at Bonita and Cataract will start the westward extension. And the old packing house can become a part of the downtown vibe, preserving it and getting a small-scale project that is sensitive to the neighborhood.
Downtown should also stretch southward along San Dimas Avenue to Arrow Highway. A cool sign of some sort (probably not over the street) would entice travelers on Arrow Highway to come downtown. To take advantage of the Gold Line station, I'm proposing a small plaza next to the station with benches, public art, and trees.
We also need to finish the downtown specific plan so that property owners, city hall planners, nearby residents, and indeed all San Dimas residents know what kind of development is welcome in the downtown area.
Perhaps most important is that City Hall and the community work together enthusiastically on downtown planning. That is why I am proposing (and will bring this to the City Council if I am re-elected) a committee or team made up of a couple city staff members who are excited and on fire about small downtowns, along with members of the public, including enthusiastic residents and merchants. There is only one qualification: Everyone on this team has to believe in a downtown San Dimas that is destined for small-town greatness. We can have it — all we have to do is imagine it!
We all benefit from neighborhoods that are safe, stable, strong, and friendly. This means keeping on top of petty crime, eradicating graffiti, ensuring good streets, sidewalks, and trees, addressing problems like train noise and coyotes, and fostering a sense of community.
In addition, any proposed development or zone change must fit the neighborhood. We must protect neighborhoods from over-development, whether it is within the neighborhood or right next to it. Projects should be approved only if they fit into a cohesive forward-looking vision. Piecemeal planning is poor planning. Our tools include an overall policy vision on what we want to achieve, land-use designations on the General Plan and zoning maps, and specific standards for floor area ratio, line-of-sight, lot coverage, building height, set-backs, etc.
Suffice it to say that there is no candidate and no member of the City Council who cares more about protecting our neighborhoods. It has been that way since the first day I was on the City Council, and it has not changed since then.
Public safety is a bedrock priority. You can't focus on other Quality of Life issues unless you have top-notch public safety and good rapport between law enforcement and the community. You could say that public safety is the number one component of Quality of Life.
In San Dimas we spend about a third of our General Fund budget on public safety, around $7.5 million per year. I believe we have a good relationship with the Sheriff's Department. We support them and they support the community.
Captain Andy Berg recently reported that 2019 saw a 25% drop in serious property crimes like burglary and robbery compared to 2018. At the same time there was an increase in petty theft and theft from vehicles. We can't let down our guard, and the Sheriff's Department takes any crime very seriously.
Last year about this time we saw a spate of graffiti. Thanks to a concerted effort by the Sheriff's Department and the cooperation of great San Dimas residents, at least five individuals were arrested and are now in jail or at youth camp. In addition, it concerned me that our graffiti removal contract promised abatement in 48 hours. That's way too long! I told the City Manager that we need to remove the graffiti on the same day. We now have a new company doing the work, and they are abating graffiti the same day. They are also proactively driving around the community, removing everything from a sticker on a light pole to a full-on tagged wall.
The Gold Line
The Gold Line (soon to be re-named the "L" Line) is coming to San Dimas in 2025. We have to plan for it and welcome it.
With the right planning, vision, and determination, we can minimize problems. For example, the city has pushed back on the Gold Line’s initial, ill-conceived idea to intentionally build fewer parking spaces than are needed, which would have forced people to look for parking in nearby neighborhoods and shopping centers. We will also insist that the station have security cameras to make it safe. (To be clear, I support closed circuit cameras at the station but not throughout the downtown area.)
One of the drawbacks that we can’t prevent is the wall that will support the bridge over Bonita Avenue and Cataract Avenue — the PUC told us we had no choice. To lessen the impact, the City Council insisted that the opening in the bridge be as wide as possible with some decorative touches, which will help a little. The best thing to mitigate the bridge and wall is to make Bonita Avenue west of Cataract a vibrant extension of downtown. The Pioneer Square project at the corner of Bonita and Cataract is a great step in this direction, and preserving and re-purposing the old packing house buildings on the opposite corner will also help.
Turning to the area around the Gold Line station itself, one of my proposals is to create a small plaza on land next to the station on the east side of San Dimas Avenue. It would have benches, trees, public art, a water feature, maybe even a wide entry portal of some sort. Such an open area will make the San Dimas station special and draw people toward shops and restaurants on Bonita Avenue.
The Gold Line will be good for students, families, commuters, and good for downtown businesses. No doubt we have to prepare for it to address potential problems. But it’s coming, and on balance, it will be great for San Dimas.
We need to prevent lower income families from being priced out of San Dimas.
First, we need to avoid losing affordable housing. The City Council recently turned down (on a 3-2 vote) a proposal for a public storage facility, because it would have meant demolishing eight affordable single-family houses with no plan for replacing them.
Second, we have to figure out how to create new affordable housing. The city is currently looking at where we can allow more housing to meet our state-mandated quota of 1,000+ new housing units. Once we have that inventory in hand, we can plan for what kind of new housing to allow and where. One tool that I would use is to create a housing overlay zone on a few properties that might be good for housing, making sure that it does not negatively affect existing residential zones. One example is the area on Arrow Highway near the Gold Line station. The overlay zone would protect current uses from being forced to change, but it would allow the property owners — if they want to — to sell or develop their property for housing.
It’s important to note that new construction does not equal affordable housing. So I have proposed that we adopt an “inclusionary zoning” policy for new housing projects. Any project with more than 20 units must include 15-20% affordable units. In my proposal, I’m talking about units that are affordable for low and very low income households. Do you know who qualifies as “low income” in L.A. County? A family of four making $83,500 a year! “Very low” for a family of four is $52,200. These are the families who are struggling to afford housing in San Dimas. Inclusionary zoning is one way to help with this crisis.
In addition, we have to get over the mindset that a small apartment is a bad apartment, or a small house is a substandard house. If a project is approved on property that adjoins single-family neighborhoods, there is nothing wrong with allowing a 900 square foot single-family home on a 5,000 or 6,000 square foot lot.
These are some ideas. The bottom line is that economic diversity is a good thing, and we need to preserve economic diversity in San Dimas.
The City Council is responsible for the financial well-being of the city. We are fortunate that the entire council agrees:
You've got to have the money before you spend the money.
Because of our conservative fiscal policy, we are one of the healthiest cities in the county, financially speaking. In round numbers, our General Fund budget is around $24 million and we have reserves of about $18 million, or 75%. People ask why we don't spend our reserves, and the truth is, we do. Whether it was for the Walker House restoration, the Bonita Avenue project downtown, the Marchant Park renovation, or something smaller, like the Via Verde walking path and the contract with the new graffiti abatement company — we often use a little bit of our reserves to pay for a portion of the project. In fact, we would probably have close to 80% in reserves if we hadn't used some of that money to pay for projects that we felt were important to the community.
This brings me to the touchy subject of Measure SD, which would raise the sales tax in San Dimas from 9.5% to 10.25%. The state cap on sales tax is 10.25%, so we would be getting the last 0.75% slice. I have never wanted to have a San Dimas tax, and I was against it when the idea first came up. I looked at the numbers more closely, though, going out five and ten years, and I'm worried that we have a structural deficit, meaning that soon we will have to start using more and more of those reserves. (By the way, I think we run a tight ship, but I would like to see a detailed audit that would tell us where we could be more efficient.) To make a long story short, other county entities would like to get that last 3/4 percent, and San Dimas would not get any of it. If we get there first, that 75 cents on every $100.00 will generate $4.7 million per year, every penny of which would stay in San Dimas.