Santa Paula Council: Windfalls, Shortfalls and Mysteries

By Sheryl Hamlin

On the day after the 2018 mid-term elections, it was back to business-as-usual for the Santa Paula City council with new and old projects on the agenda, some with financial windfalls to the city while others incomplete.


$650,000 Sale of Property

Community Development Director, James Mason, presented item #21, the sale of city property located at 600 South Palm Avenue to Berchtold Equipment Company, a 108 year old, third generation, family owned company who had been searching eight years for Ventura County property.

Although the property contains 13.05 acres, much of it is unbuildable because of its proximity to the airport and the Santa Clara River. Only about 2.4 acres allow vertical buildings. In the open space, the company plans equipment displays.

Director Mason summarized the benefits in the slide below. Additionally, the business will be a draw for other related businesses, he said.

The council approved the $650,000 sale with a modification proposed by Mayor Gherardi that funds be put into the reserve account. City Manager Rock clarified that this is the unrestricted General Fund reserve.

East Area 1 Buildout

Lennar Homes is in escrow to buy Tract 5986 (48 units), Tract 5988 (55 units), and Tract 5992 (16 units). KB Home is in escrow to buy Tract 5987 (61 units). Item #18 on the agenda was the approval of the final tract map for these homes. There was no discussion. However, this item could yield fees in 2019 and sales in late 2019.


Item #22 was a detailed report by MKN about the chloride issue in the waste water treatment facility, now called Water Recycling Facility (WRF). The Regional Water Quality Control Board has approved a compliance schedule. The first phase is the analysis of the options.

The WRF is operating under a Cease and Desist Order (CDO), which requires that by
February 1, 2019, the City shall submit an infrastructure design for recycled water use
pipelines and pump stations to the LARWQCB for review.

The consultant has identified potential users for recycled water, but these require much expensive trenching for purple pipes and, in some cases, crossing the river. Furthermore, there is not a high volume of potential users of the recycled water. The urban uses can be satisfied by the proposed WRF fill station which was presented previously. The MKN consultant said the plan is “all conceptual” at this point.

This means that after launching the plant in 2010 and then buying it in 2015 from under the PERC/Alinda DBOF, the city still has no solution for the chlorides nor a potential cost. There was no discussion about an on-site RO plant.

East Area 1 Regional Sports Park

Item #23 requested approval to use staff time and resources to apply for $8.5 million in grants from Prop 68, which was passed in June 2018. This is an all-or-nothing submittal based on a point system.

Mayor Gherardi reminded that there is no Prop 68 money for operating the park and suggested the council follow up with her 501(c)3 plan for fund raising. A Park District is also an option where all property owners are taxed to operate the park. However, the State of California wants the parks to be free, said Mayor Gherardi.

Council Member Crosswhite said that the city must state how the park will be maintained over 30 years, according to the grant documentation. She also asked about the $5 million for the Civic Center. The big issue, she said, is the council engagement during the proposal process.

Initially City Manager Rock appeared to say that once the grant process was approved, then the staff would take it from there, but he backtracked significantly saying that once the architect has the plans, then staff would bring these back for approval.

City Manager Rock also said there is possibility of a $3 million Federal Grant. He also said that 90% of the operational costs will be borne by fees, which conflicts with Ed Mount’s previous report suggesting only $300,000 in fees would be projected and also conflicts with the State’s desire for the park to be free to the public.

This project is clearly in a conceptual stage with no options for the case in which grant funding is not obtained.

Community Choice Aggregation (Energy)

The Lancaster CCA which the city previously voted to join is analyzing the city’s usage to create a plan. The plan, once complete, locks in the city’s position for a 2020 start date.

Ms. Boswell explained that Edison’s charges include delivery and generation. With the CCA in place, Edison will only charge for delivery. Her charts show that there will be excess revenue returned to the city, but there was no discussion about Edison’s ability to raise fees for delivery nor its ability to raise the exit fee called Power Chart Indifference Adjustment (PCIA). Read here about the lobbying now. The big item was the $615,000 startup cost payable in 2019. There was no discussion about how this fee would be paid.


The following projects could only be called mysteries, because there is no financial data or any project description. Their appearance on the agenda is the public’s only evidence of their existence.

New Police and Public Works Facility (Closed Session Agenda)

Having been discussed previously. City Manager has found properties and is negotiating. The properties are 270 Quail Court, 1574 Lemonwood and 1590 Lemonwood.

There has been no discussion about the funds to be used for such a project. Such funds could include more bond sales (more city debt), a Public Safety parcel tax or more grants. Nor was there mention about repurposing the existing facility. No plans have been given to the public for the grand scheme as yet.

Homeless Shelter

Item # 7 City Manager Report included the following. There was no discussion about this item.

Source: City Manager Staff Report

Selection of Vacant Council Seat

With Rick Araiza’s election to a four-year term, the two year term of Martin Hernandez is once again vacant. Item #24 on the agenda attempted to address this selection.

It was agreed that on December 5th at the next regularly scheduled council meeting, the existing council would turn over the council to the newly elected council who would then consider the issue of appointment.

So, the mystery continues.

To watch the entire meeting and download the materials, click here.

For more information on author click sherylhamlin dot com

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