Pensions before streets – business as usual in Chico California

3 Dec

The Finance Committee meeting I attended Wednesday (11/29/17) also included a discussion of “street urbanization fees.” The city of Chico supposedly requires developers to provide or pay for new curbs and gutters in existing neighborhoods whenever they build a new subdivision.

About 10 years ago the city approved a new subdivision in my neighborhood – in a former neighbor’s back yard – and despite the protests of our neighbors, gave the builder “variances” to just about everything in the city code. The result was seven houses where there was really only room for three or four. There is a constant turnover of residents and they all  bring lots of cars. A few days ago we noticed a giant moving van out on the street in front of the subdivision – there is absolutely no place to park a vehicle like that on their own street. In fact, there is no place for garbage trucks to turn around, they have to back out.

This was before the city even discussed “variable rates” for developers – see how they do what they want.

But no improvements were made on our main street, which has become a “feeder” or “through” street for all these little subdivisions that sprung up in Grandma’s back yard over the course of several building booms and busts.

Builder Chris Giampoli, who does a lot of CHIP housing, does not feel he should have to make those improvements when he shoves five CHIP houses into an existing neighborhood. Well, we’re not talking about the entire street, we’re just talking about curbing and guttering the feeder street where his new street breaks in. Giampoli opined that if the feeder is already crapped out, that’s from existing residents, and developers shouldn’t have to pay for bringing the street up to “current standards.”

What Giampoli and his friend Dan Gonzalez are suggesting through their “variable rates” ploy, is that existing residents subsidize their for-profit development business. Giampoli was one of five developers, along with Tom DiGiovanni, who got the permits for Gonzalez’ project at Meriam Park,  named in a lawsuit threatened by CalTrans, over subdivisions being built without fees being collected for the improvements recently made to highways 99 and 32.  According to Mark Sorensen, those developers have never paid fees toward those highway widenings, which their projects necessitated.  So beat it Chris, you been getting a free ride for too long there buddy. You couldn’t survive in the free market, like your dad did, cause you cut corners and build subsidized crap. Dan Gonzalez isn’t going to be able to sell Meriam Park without government hand-outs, and he knows it. These people expect the taxpayers to support them.

Let’s face it – developers bring people to our town, they use our neighborhoods – our town! –  to attract buyers, they should have to invest money into our neighborhoods.  We existing residents already pay for that service, it’s called “property taxes.” Our prop taxes are split 45 – 55 by the county and city,  the city of Chico gets roughly half our property taxes. What they do with it? Cause they sure as hell have not been spending my property taxes on my street.

I took this picture of my street on the way home from the meeting.

So we’ve got developers paying fees, and residents paying property taxes – why do our streets look like this?

This is the “pedestrian right-of-way” down my street. Every now and then I look in that pothole, make sure there isn’t an old lady or a jogger with a stroller stuck down in there…

The entire street is becoming broken up and the asphalt has separated from the ground – you can hear it rumbling under your tires like old pottery as you pass over.

In Chico, as all of California, the government has been pouring the gas tax and other revenues that were supposed to be used to fix streets and roads into their pensions. At last Wednesday’s meeting, City of Chico finance mangler Scott Dowell said 15 percent of the “street and urbanization fees” collected from developers goes to “indirect costs” which he identified as “CalPERS.”  At the mention of CalPERS there were audible groans around the room, including committee members and $taff. Nobody wants to talk about CalPERS costs down there.

Sean Morgan complained the explanation “didn’t help.”  

City works employee Brendan Ottoboni said that if developers weren’t willing – in fact, I believe they have been threatening a lawsuit, given the little remarks made about letters being sent and meetings being had – Ottoboni says existing streets that are not “feeders” or do not have new projects built on them will be taken off the projects list.  Staffer Steve said they are still working with a list of projects identified in 2009, but never funded. A specific section of Rio Lindo, which Sean Morgan opined is “one of the worst streets in town,” has been removed from the list.

At this point local builder Bill Webb asked a pertinent question – “how do I get my street on the projects list…” Staffer Steve said, “of 14 projects identified in 2009 as FUNDED, 9 have been taken off the list…” for lack of funding.  “We’ve had a lot of requests for projects…” but the city only fixes streets “where there will be problems due to higher traffic” generated by new subdivisions. 

So here we are on my street, where the “current level of service” is, as one woman sitting near me described, “just crap.” My street is a very heavily used through street, new houses have been built every few lots over the last 20 years, and here’s the level of service we get from the city of Chico.

Every now and then a crew comes through and fills potholes with “slobbers” – asphalt left over from jobs in newer neighborhoods. We got that from the guy who was running the crew one day.

Here’s what a patch job like that looks like within a week.

The asphalt they plopped in this old pothole took off on somebody’s tire.

The meeting ended with arguing, it was hard to hear what motion was made and passed. I believe they voted unanimously to “send the urbanization fees to council as described…” Chris Giampoli asked Brendan Ottoboni what would happen if the “urbanization fee” wasn’t approved by council, and Ottoboni answered “our road maintenance will continue to be unfunded.” He added, “new development…new growth…they use existing roads too…they don’t pay for them currently…”

To which Giampoli responded nastily, “people will continue to complain.” I’m not sure which people he’s talking about, but I’m feeling the beginnings of another lawsuit from the development community, one way or the other. We’ll see.  Years ago, Bill Webb’s dad and uncle and a few other developers sued the city for $500,000 in fees that had not been used for what they’d been collected, and won. 

Mark Sorensen, always politically incorrect, called the discussion a “Mexican stand-off.” So, that’s what we’ve got – a stand-off between the  city and the development community, with the good citizens standing right in the crossfire. 

POST SCRIPT:  Here’s an item from yesterday’s paper:

Apparently we have an Americans with Disabilities Act Citizen Committee – mentioned in this report:

a year ago, which extensively details our ADA deficiencies and how far behind we are complying with a law passed in 1990. 

I don’t know anything about this “committee” or how it was established, whether the Brown Act applies or what. I’ll have to snoop into it.



5 Responses to “Pensions before streets – business as usual in Chico California”

  1. bob December 3, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    Let’s face it, the roads are going to be a problem the rest of our lives. And it’s not just the roads. It’s everything that requires up keep. The huge amounts of unfunded liabilities, particularly the pensions and the system being so corrupt guarantee this.

    Already the powers that be are preparing us for the fact that the roads will remain a problem. Just look at the lamestream media. Little is telling us we are unrealistic if we expect that all the roads will be maintained. That is absurd. He and others have said the only way some of the roads will be fixed is through tax increases. I am sure he and his paper will not endorse repeal of the recent tax increases.

    And I bet when it becomes clear these recent tax increases will at very best fix a very small portion of the roads, old Stephanie what’s her name and her partners in crime will be back to demanding a sales tax increase. (And even if a small portion of the roads get fixed with these new tax increases they will let them go to hell again, guarantee it.)

    All that will do is encourage the local politicians and bureaucrats to siphon off even more of the existing road money to pensions.

  2. bob December 3, 2017 at 5:54 pm #

    And remember, Orme, Presson and other bureaucrats got raises this year.

    In the private sector if there isn’t enough money to get the job done then there sure as hell is not money to hand out raises.

    But in government there isn’t enough money to fix the roads but always plenty of money for raises for bureaucrats.

    • Juanita Sumner December 4, 2017 at 4:06 am #

      What we have here is the essence of corruption. It’s like that old story – Emperor Has No Clothes.

      OMG – put some pants on Debbie!

  3. bob December 4, 2017 at 6:46 pm #

    How on earth is this little city going to be able to afford to comply with the ADA when they can’t even maintain the roads or anything else? ADA will just have to get to the back of the line. After all, pensions and raises for bureaucrats come first, always.

    And from that article is this:

    The city’s annual audit has been released, and it has included no reported deficiencies for the second year in a row.

    The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, or CAFR, was completed by public accounting firm Vavrinek, Trine, Day and Co. The firm also found no management issues or material weaknesses.

    Tuesday, the council will consider extending the contract with Vavrinek, Trine, Day and Co. for another two years.

    What a joke. How much you want to bet the council will extend that contract?

    • Juanita Sumner December 5, 2017 at 7:35 am #

      A done deal.

      that reminds me – our German cousin who visited us earlier this year says he is a “bean counter” – a state auditor. He says he just shows up, no notice ahead, and asks to see the books. Wow, do we even have such auditors? All the public agencies I’ve watched have hired their own auditors. That seems completely ridiculous to me.

      I didn’t have the nerve to tell Cuz, agencies are also allowed to keep two sets of books! There’s a movement to make that illegal, but I don’t know where it’s at.

      Our former finance director Jennifer Hennessy was allowed to hire the guy who evaluated her performance for the city! Wow! He recommended a $14,000 raise! Sounds like she got what we paid for!

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