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    Redistricting; A New Mayor Pro Tem; SB 9 for Residents… Simi City Council

    By Kevin Harris

    The Simi Valley City Council tackled redistricting, chose a new Mayor Pro Tem; and began untangling SB 9 for residential property owners during Monday night’s meeting. 

    Item 4A) Public Hearing: Second Public Hearing on Redistricting; Selecting the Final Election District Boundaries

    City Consultant Kristen Parks gave the presentation, who began by clarifying that this second hearing on redistricting actually counts as the third meeting, legally, and of the required four meetings by the Fair Maps Act on the topic. Simi Valley district boundaries were first established in December, 2018. 

    Parks explained that the criteria for redistricting is a combination of federal and state law. The federal law mandates that:
    1) The districts have about equal populations to each other

    2) They comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act

    3) Make sure district boundaries do not dilute voting power of any protected class, or where race is the predominant factor

    California redistricting laws look at keeping a district geographically together; keeping “communities of interest” together (social or economic interests); and that districts do not favor or discriminate against a political party. 

    Simi Valley’s districts are currently population balanced, with a population deviation between districts at under 4 percent. Courts allow that deviation to be as high as ten percent. Members of the public may submit their ideas for district mapping by visiting the website at redistrictsimivalley.org. 

    Simi District Map

    City Council Questions

    Council Member Ruth Luevanos asked if the online and written districting maps are available in languages other than English. Parks said they are also available in Spanish, per the law. The tutorial videos to use the online versions, however, are only available in English. 

    During questioning by Mayor Pro Team Dee Dee Cavanaugh, Parks explained that the current district map complies with federal requirements, but it is unclear if it complies fully with the recently-adopted state requirements. That is one of the things that will have to be worked out in the fourth meeting, set to be held on January 24, 2022 by the city council. 

    The motion to review the existing submitted map passed unanimously. 

    Item 3A-2) Appointments: Appointment of Mayor Pro Tem

    Every December the Simi Valley City Council appoints its Mayor Pro Tem and representation of the Council, and Board Members on boards, commissions and committees. 

    Mayor Keith Mashburn started off by saying there’s been a lot of controversy about the position (of Mayor Pro Tem). “Based on my research and based on some recent decisions, I’m going to make a motion to appoint (Council Member) Mike Judge as Mayor Pro Tem,” Mashburn said to some applause from the audience. 

    Mayor Pro Tem Cavanaugh said she would not second the motion, only because Judge is running for re-election next year, and that “it’s kind of been the standard practice that we don’t have the person running for Pro Tem running for re-election that year.” She said it is so there is no appearance that running for both gives the candidate an advantage in either. 

    The Mayor responded by suggesting they make an exception, considering that there is no actual rule against a council member running for both positions, and that he truly believes Judge would be the best person for the Pro Tem position.

    Council Member Ruth Luevanos then said that she wanted to nominate herself for the Mayor Pro Tem position, also to some audience applause. She then read a prepared statement about why she believes she would be the best candidate, highlighting her sacrifice, experience and commitment to the people of Simi Valley. 

    Both motions failed for lacking a second of the motion (Council Member Litster said she refrained from seconding Luevanos’ nomination for the same reason she wouldn’t second Judge’s nomination). Leuvanos then moved to nominate Council Member Elaine Litster as Mayor Pro Tem, which was seconded by current Mayor Pro Tem Cavanaugh. 

    The council then voted, with all voting in favor of Council Member Litster’s nomination, except for Mayor Mashburn, who voted against. The council also decided to save the appointments to boards and commissions until the next meeting.  

    Council Member Elaine Litster

    Item 4C) Public Hearing: A motion to pass an urgency ordinance to establish objective design standards for developing two-unit residential developments, and to create regulations for subdividing single-family residential properties, in response to State Senate Bill SB 9. (Presented by Elizabeth Richardson, Associate Planner, Environmental Services Department).

    In a fast-paced presentation covering a complicated topic, city staff laid out the issues for the city council, though in the end some of SB 9’s details remain unresolved. Following the passage of SB 9 in September, 2021, California cities are tasked with fine tuning the law to their local standards. The law allows homeowners to subdivide a single residential lot, placing additional residential structures where before there could only be one – the idea being to promote small-scale neighborhood development. 

    SB 9 eligible properties must be

    • Located in an urbanized area
    • Located in a single family zone
    • Located outside the “Very High Fire Hazard Zone,” the “Flood Zone,” the “Fault Zone,” and the Wildlife Corridors.  
    Simi Zones

    Additionally, SB 9 eligible properties can not be income restricted affordable housing units, could not have been rented in the last three years, and no demolition over 25 percent of the structure may occur as a result of the property division. 

    Confusing things somewhat was the fact that both state provisions and locally-proposed standards were being discussed, and it was not always made clear which was which. Laws such as a resident must “intend” to live in an eligible property for at least three years after division, and further rules about set-back distances and square footage of structures… all may be state provisions. Meanwhile, issues of building being, space between buildings and a requirement for enclosed parking (garage) appear to be local standards – in some ways more stringent than state requirements. 

    Some other SB 9 regulations:

    • A split property can only be a total of two lots
    • New lots must be at least 1200 square feet
    • Each lot can not be less than 40 percent of original lot size (60% / 40% split)
    • Maximum of four structures (two on each lot)
    • Property can only be split once using SB 9
    Split Lots

    On January 24 staff will return to city council requesting an extension of the Urgency Ordinance until December, 2022. 

    Council Comments/Questions

    During Council Member Luevanos’ questioning to staff, it was explained that some properties that reside within the fire zone area might still qualify to add SB-9 housing to their property, if the building is up to date and in compliance with fire codes and regulations. There are some residential and commercial properties in Simi Valley that currently fall into that category. Luevanos also uncovered the fact that the city’s requirement for garaged parking with SB-9 additions is stricter than the state requirements. 

    Council Member Ruth Luevanos

    Council Member Litster asked if SB-9 rules take precedent over private CC&R rules at a property… say, regarding covered parking requirements or any other mandates. Staff, including the city attorney, did not know the answer, but more broadly, he said the answer, which has been hotly debated, “is unknown right now.” 

    Public Speakers (via Zoom)

    Dennis Hunter: Previously oversaw land development in L.A. County. Asked about the increased strain on sewage and water mains from the increased density with additional structures per lot. Also asked if fire department access will be affected. 

    There were two additional speakers by Zoom, both who refused to identify themselves. 

    The motion passed unanimously. 

    The next Simi Valley City Council meeting will be on Monday, January 24, 2022, at 6:00 PM. The URL to watch the meetings back and to download a meeting agenda is https://toaks.primegov.com/public/portal.

     

     

     

    Kevin Harris

    Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists, and having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also an author and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks. 


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