County Notes (Dec. 13, 2017)

The Board of Supervisors breezed through the Tuesday December 5 consent calendar auto-approving the generous auto allowance for a couple of Health and Human Service Director Ann Molgaard’s female management buddies and the two extra hours of paid home inventory leave for all County employees without a peep of curiousity or objection. The Board also retroactively approved a doubling of the Air Quality District’s outside legal fees from $50k to $100k without explanation (other than “it was unanticipated”) and gave another $70k to Redwood Quality Management Company for items already in their contract without explanation. They also approved the conversion of an Agricultural Commissioner’s office position into a County Pot Czar.

Then the Supes rambled pointlessly at length about what was agendized as just the appointment process for members of the “Measure B Committee” (i.e., the Mental Health Facilities Oversight Committee). Instead the Supes ventured into details like needs assessments (no mention of cost), and committee agendas, and minutes and videos and “bylaws,” and staffing and budgeting and on and on – all things the Committee can handle on their own just fine.

As an indicator of how irrelevant the Board has become in recent months, we offer the following verbatim excerpts, first a remark by First Distrct Supervisor Carre Brown followed by a reaction from Supervisor/Board Chair John McCowen:

Brown: “I have a comment that doesn't really have to do with the recovery but, Can we stop calling it the Masonite site? [Laughs.] It's been long gone for a very long time. I propose we call it the Rafa’s Place or Mr. Liberty's industrial site. [Laughs.] And that might put a big smile on Ross's [Liberty’s] face.”

McCowen: “Well I think the official owner is Friends of Liberty LLC. Maybe Mr. Dunnicliff can confirm that. Does that sound right?”

Steve Dunnicliff (Deputy CEO): “That's correct.”

Brown: “But anyway. Masonite came here the same year I was born so that was a long time ago but they haven't been here for at least 15 years now, so —”

McCowen: “Well and I think it could be noted too that Mr. Liberty has made his property available as a staging area.”

Brown: “Yes, yes.”

McCowen: “Without expecting or asking for any kind of compensation, just to help with the recovery efforts.”

Brown: “Right.”

* * *

McCowen, who seems to have fallen deeply in love with CEO Carmel Angelo: “Many of you know that our CEO Carmel Angelo recently received an Award of Excellence, I believe it was, from the California State Association of County Executives.”

Angelo: “Distinguished Service Award, Chairman McCowen, thank you.”

McCowen: “And all of the above would apply. And this was in recognition of her leadership prior to the fire disaster occurring. Her response to the fire emergency and the recovery effort exemplifies why she is deserving of the award. I wanted to mention one more thing, there was also a meeting Friday in Sacramento convened by the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, the California State Association of Counties, it was for executives, elected officials and department heads of nine counties affected by the fire emergencies we had this year. There were 15 state agencies and federal agencies present. There were presentations on housing, debris, watershed protection, economic recovery — pretty much every issue you would expect to be associated with this. It was the first in a number of meetings. Mendocino County was well represented not only by CEO Angelo and several members of the board of supervisors, but also our recovery director [Tammy Moss Chandler] and several department heads and key staff.”

Why did they all need to go on the taxpayer’s dime? Just for the recognition? McCowen didn’t say.

McCowen: “Then CEO Angelo, a comment on your award for that meeting. Let me tell you that Carmel Angelo is well-known by the people in Sacramento that we need to be dealing with to get things done.”

[Supervisor Brown giggles.]

[Applause bursts out in the Board Chambers.]

[More laughing.]

Angelo: “Well, thank you. It is an honor and a privilege to work for Mendocino County and as well it is a privilege for me to be able to come in every day and not only do the work of the CEO, but the disaster and it couldn't have been without this board, and all the dedication of this board, and really the hard, hard work of the staff for this board to know and the public to know that we never had to direct staff to do anything, they showed up and they did it and they worked 15- 20 hour days without any directive. They did it because they have heart. So thank you very much.”

* * *

Considering that government at all levels is a daily version of the above unchallenged and indefensible spending, shameless ass kissing and general giggling fatuity, is it really surprising that Trump is President?

* * *

Toward the end of Tuesday’s Board meeting, First District Supervisor Carre Brown interrupted supervisor Dan Hamburg's Supervisors Report about the County’s Solid Waste Management Authority formerly run by Master (Wife) Recycler Mike Sweeney, now being run by a younger, more energetic new hire — Hamburg just called him "Robert" — from the State’s giant Sacramento trash bureaucracy. Ms. Brown made the following rather disjointed observation:

“Question: When Mr. Sweeney was with MSWMA — one year — I haven't seen it since — artificial Christmas trees? They had a collection? For them? Recycling? For giving to people? I haven't seen it since he left. So could you find out about it? Because ’tis the season!”

Hamburg said he would, but immediately went back to his irrelevant recycling report, so he probably won’t.

Offsetting that odd remark somewhat, Supervisor and Board Chair John McCowen commented about the recent passage of Measure B which is supposed to fund new mental health treatment facilities and training: “There is no question in my mind that the County will benefit tremendously by having local mental health facilities because when we have people sitting in jail or sitting in the emergency room waiting for placement in a facility where they can get appropriate treatment, those other facilities can pick and choose who they will accept and who they will not. Because they have a difficult history sometimes, we are not able to place some of the sickest people, and they wind up back out on the street. I'm aware of a very mentally disturbed young person that that just happened to. If we have a local facility the odds will be a lot better that those folks will actually get treatment.”

* * *

A pending Class K Ordinance update to bring Class K into compliance with current state building codes would nearly eliminate Class K as a separate residential (“dwelling”) building category in Mendocino County making housing more expensive (and maybe safer). Class K outbuildings would still exist as an option.

The only Agenda Item for Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 of the Board of Supervisors Public Health, Safety, and Resources Committee: 1a. Discussion and Possible Direction to Staff Regarding Revisions to the Limited Density Rural Dwelling (Class K) Ordinance

The items recommended for revision to the Limited density rural Dwelling (Class K) Ordinance are as follows:

1. An automatic fire sprinkler system shall be required in all new Single Family Residences (SFR).

2. A new SFR shall be limited to 2,000 square feet of habitable space.

3. Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) requirements shall be required for all new SFR's.

4. A perimeter foundation, as required by the California Building Code (CBC), shall be required under all SFR's, and all accessory structures greater than one story in height.

5. A minimum parcel size of five (5) acres shall be required for any structure.A completed draft document will be available after the Public Health and Safety Committee has reviewed and approved, or amended the recommendations.

* * *

Casey O’Neill, Vice-Chair of the California [Pot] Growers Association submitted a Public Comment in which he objected to most of the proposed Class K Ordinance revisions on ground of substantial added expense.

This Memo is in regards to the Mendocino Class K Ordinance, Chapter 18.23 Regulations for Limited Density Rural Dwellings.

We would like to start by wholeheartedly supporting the list of Findings that made possible the original “Class K” ordinance. It is amazing, that though these regulations were passed in 1981, the Findings (and thus the need for these types of permits) still ring true in remarkable fashion.

We would also like to take this time to oppose the changes that have been proposed to the ordinance. Automatic Sprinklers and Perimeter foundations are extremely expensive and should not be considered necessary for owner-built buildings. The square footage limit is a random selection of size and should not be pursued. Nor should Wildland Interface Requirements or Minimum Parcel Sizes. The entire purpose of this program is to create a functional pathway for citizens to permit their structures in rural parts of the county.

In brief paraphrase of the Findings in the ordinance; the county citizens still believe there is a need for Limited Density Rural Dwellings. We remain a rural county with fairly moderate/temperate climate, and our rough terrain is still a barrier that creates a certain degree of isolation. It can be difficult to get supplies and professionals onsite in the far-flung reaches of the county. There is still a continuing and severe housing shortage; the General Plan is expected to reflect the needs of county citizens to find housing available, and Class K presents an appropriate opportunity to facilitate these needs.

Written in 1981, the ordinance recognized the complexity of the Uniform Building Codes, noting that they “may be beyond the understanding of many owner-builders and home owners.” The complexity of building codes has increased in the intervening decades, meaning that the Findings from 1981 ring true even more-so today. The rural areas of the county are hugely reliant on the Class K program, if permits are applied for at all. There are some problems with the way that the existing program is being applied, on which we are pleased to have the opportunity to comment below:

Foundations: The Class K Ordinance is very clear in its authorization of post/pier and other types of foundations. The Building Department’s current insistence on either Perimeter foundations or full sign-off from a licensed engineer does not follow the intent of the law. It is adding thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars to the cost of permits under the Class K Program. We strongly oppose the suggested revision to require perimeter foundation, and ask that the Building Dept be instructed specifically to allow post and pier foundations.

Fire Sprinklers: Requirements of automatic fire sprinklers do not work well with the reality of off-grid, rural Mendocino County. It is important that we not create regulations that discourage or prevent people from living in the rural areas of the county.

Wildland Urban Interface Requirements: It is good for the county to provide information to people about fire resistant building materials. However, for structures already in existence, there should not be a requirement for expensive retrofitting to include these materials.

Minimum Parcel Size: We question the need for a minimum parcel size restriction on these types of dwellings. Given the acute housing crises in Mendocino County, we should be facilitating more living space, not putting up roadblocks.

Square Footage: It does not seem necessary to limit the square footage of these types of dwellings. What is the reasoning behind this suggestion?

Composting Toilets: Given the need for saving water in our environment, along with significant cost savings and potential for better land-use through reduced human waste contamination, it is important that the County look at revising code regarding Composting Toilets. It is time to rethink the full septic requirement in favor of policies that support sound environmental compliance in cost-effective manners. There is often not enough water to go around; the county should rethink septic regulations.

Process: The Class K Ordinance was written in the spirit of working with the community to create a workable permitting process for owner-built structures. In the eyes of many in the community, this spirit of goodwill has largely been abandoned by the current Building Department, which is requiring onerous processes of applicants, increasing the overall time and cost of the permit. The proposed revisions to the regulations are direct evidence of current regulatory creep in this program.

Results: People are having a hard time negotiating the process because the County Building Dept is operating as though Class K permits should live up to the full standards of the Uniform Building Codes, when this is very clearly not the intent of the regulations. Because of this, there are many people who would like to apply for permits but who feel afraid to do so for fear of not being able to accomplish the process due to over-zealous application by Building Dept officials.

Accessory Structures: Class K is unclear about the potential for using accessory structures for business endeavors. It should be clarified that hoophouses, greenhouses, drying sheds and other accessory structures are acceptable under either Ag-Exempt or Class K categories.

It is important that regulations be written to foster the spirit of compliance. Creating rules that people are not able to follow is self-defeating. The Class K Ordinance represents a sensible approach and should be used to invigorate our local communities, economies and sustain the environment through fostering discussion of good land-use practices. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

–Casey O’Neill, HappyDay Farms, Vice-Chair California Growers Association, Acting Chair Mendocino County Growers Alliance

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