City Council Takes Steps to License Sidewalk Vendors

The La Cañada Flintridge City Council has introduced an ordinance to require a permit and business license for sidewalk vendors, among other requirements, and also separately mulled the revenue implications of a program in which LCF can grant tax breaks to owners of historic properties to help them pay for upkeep.
The decision on vendors at last week’s council meeting arises from Senate Bill 946, which is set to become law on Jan. 1. That bill defines what a sidewalk vendor is and distinguishes between stationary and roaming sidewalk vendors, among other rules, according to a council report.
The California Legislature has “preempted local governments from prohibiting sidewalk vendors within its own jurisdiction, and further, has limited the scope of local regulation of sidewalk vendors,” according to the report.
Councilman Jonathan Curtis said SB 946 hurts local cities.
“I’ll be blunt in that I’m very disappointed with the Senate and the state of California to pass a law like this,” Curtis said.
LCF City Attorney Mark Steres said he doubted there would be an influx of vendors on Jan. 1.
“But you may see some,” he said. “You may see some popping up here and there.”
Steres added the law does not regulate food trucks and is aimed at pushcart stand displays, peddle carts, non-motorized carts or an individual vendor.
Under the LCF ordinance, fines for not having a permit are as much as $250 and penalties for violating terms of the permit begin at $100. Vendors must conduct business where there is a sidewalk; in a residential zone, the vendor must be roaming and cannot be stationary.
The council is expected to hold a second reading and vote on the ordinance at its next meeting on Dec. 4.

MILLS ACT DECISION DELAYED

Meanwhile, the council decided to delay a Mills Act-related decision for another day.
In 2012, LCF’s Mills Act program was created to enable the city to enter into contracts with qualifying owners of private historic properties, according to the report. The program was established by ordinance under the authority of a state law. Owners agree to restore, maintain and rehabilitate their properties, according to the Secretary of the Interior’s standards; the program offers a “considerable” reduction in property tax in exchange for an owner’s maintaining the historical character of the property, according to the agenda report.
Mills Act contracts are 10-year agreements that automatically renew every year, as required by state law.
The council has approved six additional Mills Act contracts since 2015, and those combined with previously approved agreements — 16 in all — have resulted in $15,668 in total property tax breaks, officials stated.
In 2018, the city has received five Mills Act applications — helping to prompt last week’s discussion. According to city staff, the new applications would push the total to $23,672 worth of property tax breaks, putting the city $3,672 over the limit.
Even if the city stopped accepting applications for the Mills Act program, it would exceed the $20,000 limit because the 10-year contracts renew automatically, according to the agenda report.
Susan Koleda, the city’s director of community development, asked the City Council for direction in determining criteria to slow the increase in property tax breaks but maintain the quality of the historic houses.
“Obviously, the goal is for homeowners to voluntarily maintain historic properties,” Koleda said. “One of the concerns is we have no criteria for what is a historic house.”
She recommended possibly folding the Mills Act program into a future historic preservation ordinance that is scheduled to have “draft language” in 2019.
Other suggestions from staff included raising the tax-break cap to $30,000, limiting the number of applicants each year and requiring more comprehensive maintenance on the property.
Mayor Terry Walker said the reason the Mills Act program was begun was to encourage people to maintain and keep their historic homes. She said the lack of a historic preservation ordinance made it difficult to make a decision.
“It’s hard to keep that goal in mind when we don’t have that historic ordinance yet,” Walker said.
Councilman Michael Davitt said that the council and the city recognize the importance of the Mills Act to protect LCF’s historical resources and that he believed the future preservation ordinance and the act should be “married together.”
Councilman Leonard Pieroni added that a limit on the number of applicants or a more comprehensive work program might also help.
Ultimately, the City Council decided to give direction to staff to have a historic preservation subcommittee take a closer look at the various options.
Since the council didn’t make a decision, the five 2018 applicants could maintain their application or withdraw it and get their deposit back, said City Manager Mark Alexander.

MOBILE BILLBOARDS

The council voted to adopt a second reading of an ordinance to prohibit mobile billboards in public rights-of-way.
The ordinance does not regulate vehicles that have messaging in the form of a decal or painting. It regulates vehicles that include a sign, board or device.
“The main distinction are those vehicles that have something affixed to the vehicle as opposed to something that has something wrapped,” Alexander said.

CRIME DOWN IN OCTOBER

L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Christopher Blasnek said crime in LCF was down in October.
There were no homicides, rapes or robberies in October, Blasnek said.
“Robberies are down 75% from last year,” he said.
Blasnek added there was one alleged aggravated assault, involving a domestic violence dispute and a woman’s arrest, and two residential burglaries.

NEW COMMISSIONER

Kati Rubinyi was voted in by the City Council as the new public works and traffic commissioner after J. Clyde Hemphill resigned due to health reasons.
“They were all excellent candidates,” said Walker of the 11 people who applied for the position. “It was a difficult decision.”

INTERIM CITY ATTORNEY

Adrian Guerra, a partner in the law firm Aleshire & Wynder who has served as an assistant city attorney for LCF, was appointed interim city attorney at the meeting. He will start on Jan. 1.
Guerra will take over for Steres, who announced he will retire on Dec. 31. Steres is also a partner at Aleshire & Wynder.

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