Brown Gets Back to Business as Member of City Council

Photo by Mirjam Swanson / OUTLOOK
After being sworn in Tuesday, Greg Brown thanked his City Council colleagues for their confidence in him: “Hopefully, it’ll be well earned by me and we can get some things done.”

Greg Brown kept things simple after he was formally sworn in as a La Cañada Flintridge City Councilman this week.
“I really look forward to working with you and to keeping things going,” Brown said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Given this was his third time being sworn in as a councilman, Brown was certainly in familiar territory. He fills the seat that was occupied by Dave Spence, who died on May 16, just two months after beginning his seventh term on the City Council. Brown will serve a two-year term, through March 5, 2019.
The meeting Tuesday actually got a little bit ahead of itself, to the amusement of all. The first order of business was taking attendance and Brown’s name was called out first, before the formal swearing in. After several moments of silence were broken by chuckles, Brown took his seat as “present.”
He took the oath soon after.
“I just want to get to work,” he said. “Again, thanks for your confidence. Hopefully, it’ll be well earned by me and we can get some things done.”
On July 11, the four other City Council members picked Brown out of a pool of 15 applicants for Spence’s seat after interviewing each applicant at a pair of special meetings. Brown, whose two terms from 2003 to 2011 included being the 2006-07 mayor, was the only candidate with prior City Council experience.
“We look forward to your wisdom,” Councilman Jonathan Curtis said after Brown’s swearing-in.
In other business, the City Council unanimously approved two agreements with planning consulting firms to bring in outside planners to help expedite the process for approval of residents’ construction projects.
City staff will interview and select planners from Willdan Engineering and Lilley Planning Group to be available for residents and also to assist the city when needed. Should a resident wish to expedite a project, he or she would pay the hourly rate for that consultant, who will work one-on-one with that resident and take on no other work for the duration. The resident also would pay a 20% fee to the city to cover the city’s costs for coordinating with the planner.
Community Development Director Robert Stanley compared it with the Building and Safety Department’s process for expediting applications and emphasized the city would take two expedited applications per month for now.
“We don’t want to glut it with everybody asking for expedited planning processing,” Stanley said, adding this service would mainly be available for larger projects. “Then it’s not expedited anymore.”
Stanley explained this was partially in response to substantially longer processing times for applications. In 2004, it would take two to three months before an applicant came before the Planning Commission. In 2016, it took an average of nearly six months.
“We don’t know all the factors that feed into that, but we did see that increase in the time that it’s taking to process,” Stanley said.
The 2016 data, Stanley emphasized, did not filter out outlying data, such as a non-typical project that could spend at least a year in the appeal process. He also said state and local regulations have been substantially bloated in that time frame, which added time to the application process.
Brown, who said he felt as though Spence was “speaking from the grave here,” bemoaned the lengthy application process.
He hopes to collect data from future projects — whether they are expedited or not — to determine how much blame fell to the applicants or the city.

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