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Council considers regulating sidewalk vendors, toughening Mills Act requirements

Council considers regulating sidewalk vendors, toughening Mills Act requirements
Street vendors selling goods in Los Angeles in 2017. The La Cañada Flintridge City Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday that regulates mobile and stationary vending. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Sidewalk vendors may be protected by a new state law, but in La Cañada Flintridge such sellers will likely have to adhere to strict guidelines, after the City Council introduced on Tuesday an ordinance regulating mobile and stationary vending.

The panel also engaged in a lengthy discussion on potentially revising the city’s requirements for admission into the Mills Act program — which offers homeowners tax breaks in exchange for a commitment to rehabilitate or restore historic properties — after learning the city stands to lose too much in foregone property taxes.

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In their last regular meeting before the Thanksgiving break, the City Council considered Senate Bill 946, which preempts local governments from banning sidewalk vendors and limits the scope of restrictions against them. The new law takes effect Jan. 1.

“The one, big overarching restriction from the state Legislature is that any local regulation must be directly related to objective health, safety or welfare concerns,” City Atty. Mark Steres told the council.

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The proposed ordinance requires vendors to obtain a vending permit and business license and prohibits them from selling in residential areas outside solicitation hours (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.), operating on streets without sidewalks and doing business with vehicles.

They may also not sell within 500 feet of the city’s farmers market or any other city event for which a temporary use permit has been issued or where official concessionaires are selling goods. Administrative fines of $100 will be issued for a first offense, with $200 for a second offense and $500 for each subsequent penalty.

Councilman Jon Curtis said the bill — introduced by then-state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who was just elected California’s insurance commissioner — unnecessarily interferes with local control.

“I’m disappointed with the Senate and the state of California for passing a law like this,” he said.

In their discussion on the Mills Act program, council members weighed the quandary of encouraging homeowners to maintain potentially historic properties without the city’s taking too big a hit on property tax breaks awarded to those residents.

The discussion comes as the city continues to draft a historic preservation ordinance that’s been in the works for at least three years and won’t likely be ready for review until mid-2019.

Principal planer Emily Stadnicki said tax breaks average at around 50% savings, with some nearing 85% for homes enrolled in the 10-year program. La Cañada currently caps the annual limit of foregone taxes at $20,000. Unless the council agrees to increase that limit, the Planning Department will have to turn away the five homeowners who applied this year.

Stadnicki put forth other potential options, including limiting the number of applications each year or requiring homeowners to submit more robust work program schedules in a more competitive process.

Mayor Terry Walker said since the applicants have already missed the cutoff for receiving a Fiscal Year 2018-19 tax break, she’d rather wait to see the historic preservation ordinance and how the Mills Act fits into that. Councilman Mike Davitt and Mayor Pro Tem Len Pieroni said limiting the number of applicants or requiring a greater work program might help.

“There’s got to be a trade-off,” Davitt said. “We’re losing revenue and homeowners are getting a benefit, so they’ve got to put something into it.”

Ultimately council members agreed to put the options before the city’s Historic Preservation Subcommittee for a determination. The five Mills Act applicants can either withdraw their submissions for a refund or continue to be considered for a future tax cycle under potentially revised considerations.

Burglar nabbed by blunder linked to LCF crimes

In a presentation on October crime statistics, Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Chris Blasnek said a man arrested Oct. 10 by the Glendale Police Department, after strawberries he ate and discarded during a residential burglary provided DNA evidence, has been linked to three burglaries in La Cañada and two in La Crescenta.

Michael Ramirez Arriaga, 23, of Los Angeles broke into a home on the 1400 block of Hacienda Drive Aug. 9 and stole a 2015 Hyundai Elantra and a 65-inch flat screen television while homeowners slept. A sheriff’s search warrant executed last month in Boyle Heights led to the recovery of several stolen items.

Blasnek said Arriaga is also connected to a July 6 incident, in which he entered the unlocked garage on the 4700 block of Angeles Crest Highway, and the Oct. 5 theft of a backpack from an unlocked horse trailer on the 1600 block of Alta Park Lane as well as two crimes that occurred on La Crescenta’s Ridgepine Drive.

“One person can do a lot of damage in the city,” the captain said. “And he was coming all the way from Boyle Heights to do it.”

Council seeks report on Edison improvements

Noting the amount of ongoing resident complaints about power outages, Councilman Jon Curtis asked for a status report on local infrastructure upgrades made by Southern California Edison since a city-hired consultant’s evaluation of the utility in 2017 identified several areas for improvement.

City Manager Mark Alexander said he talked to the city’s Edison liaison about speaking at a future meeting and would ask consultant firm PMCM to join that discussion. Councilman Greg Brown said he’d like the council to direct citizens on how and where to submit service complaints for maximum response.

Guerra appointed interim city attorney

The City Council has appointed La Cañada Assistant City Atty. Adrian Guerra to serve as city attorney on an interim basis while officials seek a replacement for City Atty. Mark Steres, who plans to retire at the end of the year.

Guerra and Steres both work for the law firm Aleshire & Wynder, which serves the city under a $10,000 monthly retainer, plus incidentals for general practice work, and was paid $338,862 in Fiscal Year 2017-18. Guerra’s interim position will begin Jan. 1.

New Public Works and Traffic Commissioner named

Also Tuesday, council members appointed La Cañada resident Kati Rubinyi to fill an unscheduled vacancy on the city’s Public Works and Traffic Commission, left by retiring Commissioner Clyde Hemphill.

Rubinyi was among 11 candidates considered for the seat, which expires May 31, 2019. At that time, there will be 18 vacancies across all city commissions and committees, eight of which mark final terms for sitting commissioners.

“There will be lots of opportunity, so I do hope we see those people back again,” Mayor Walker said of the candidates.

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