Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

What’s on America’s Mind Wednesday at 6:30 PM

Topics include a conversation about the Modesto Chamber of Commerce “Pathways to Growth,” The Planning Commission,

Français : Radio Contact 104.9 FM

Français : Radio Contact 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mayor Marsh’s Town Hall meeting, the TIN CUP ordinance and what it means to you, The Board of Supervisors meeting, Modesto City Council stories, the Salida annexation, these and more so tune in at 6:30 PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.


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The call-in number is (347)215-9414


Latino Community Roundtable Presents the Chambers “Pathways to Growth”

The Latino Community Roundtable is holding a meeting Thursday May 8, at MJC Campus West in the Mary Stuart Rogers


A montage I (Valente Q.C.) made with pictures ...

A montage I (Valente Q.C.) made with pictures that I took for the Infobox in the Modesto, California Article. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Building located at 2201 Blue Gum from 11:30-1:30.  It’s too late to purchase the catered lunch but seats will be provided to hear the Modesto Chamber of Commerce’s vision of the future called “Pathways to Growth” for Modesto and the surrounding communities.


Come and meet the Chamber’s lobbyists, Cecil Russell, Craig Lewis, and Steve Madison.


Remember the Chamber’s Motto: The best crops for farmland are driveways.


Formula for the TIN CUP Limits…Divide by Six and then Double It

By Emerson Drake

Recently, an Ordinance change passed several committee hearings and is being sent to the City Council  requesting a

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was taken by me on January 14, 2010 in Modesto, California I hereby relinquish all rights to this photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

new, lower  level of $1,000 campaign donation limit or  TIN CUP for Council races.  In 2005 when the Council decided to raise the limit from $1,000 to $3,000 the council races were city wide. On November 7th of 2007 the voters of Modesto approved breaking Modesto into six council districts.

Since the $3,000 limit was thought more than sufficient for races encompassing the entire city, dividing the 3,000 by 6 would make $500 a reasonable limit. But the thinking was to double the amount to $1,000  and no reasonable person should have a problem.  But we’re talking about politicians who are already in office.  The higher amount of $3,000 obviously benefits incumbents who, it could be argued,  have more influence to offer donors than first time candidates. What should be crystal clear to everyone?  The lower the campaign donation limits, the less influence special interest groups have on our politicians.

It’s about leveling the playing field

The suggested changes don’t stop anyone from donating whatever amounts they choose.  The only stipulation would be that the elected officials  would have to recuse themselves (not be involved in conversations or voting) on any item brought forward by someone who donated more than $1000.   This should be satisfactory to everyone.   We’ve discussed the amounts raised by candidates  and detailed how even large amounts ($37,000 by Cogdill) can be raised without exceeding the $1,000 mark from any donor.

The influence Modesto politicians have on county politics is tremendous.  Modesto’s population equals all of the other cities in Stanislaus County combined.  We are, unfortunately, the city whose council is most likely to ignore the wishes of the people, as was demonstrated by the Council regarding Denny Jackman’s RUL proposal.  Councilman Lopez declared the 65,974 votes received by measures A-E against extending the sewer trunk lines were because of what he termed “voter fatigue” instead of the obvious message sent by voters against SPRAWL.

I encourage anyone, regardless of where you live, to express yourselves in emails to the Mayor and Council and in letters to the editor. Letters@modbee.com, mayor@modestogov.com,  jgunderson@modestogov.com, dgeer@modestogov.com, dlopez@modestogov.com,  jmuratore@modestogov.com,  sburnside@modestogov.com and dcogdill@modestogov.cov

Everyone CAN make a difference, all you have to do is try.  The following is just a suggestion.  Speak from your heart.

Subject line: Level the Playing Field

Body:  I support the lower TIN CUP levels that were recommended by the Committee.

Letters to the editor require your name, address, and phone number.

Is the Proposed WOODGLEN Project Right for Modesto?

May 6, 2013

ghost subdivision

ghost subdivision (Photo credit: reallyboring)May 6, 2013

City of Modesto Planning Commission
(Sandra Lucas, Ted Brandvoid, Patricia Gillum, Chris Tyler, Steve Carter, Dennis Smith,
Marshall Riddle)
1010 10th Street, Modesto, CA
RE: STUDY SESSION for “Woodglen” development by Fitzpatrick Homes;
Requiring annexation of 72 acres of County Agricultural land to build
353 single family homes, 180 units of multi-family housing.
Dear City of Modesto Planning Commission Members,
As a public resident who lives in the unincorporated area of Modesto, nearby the
proposed site of the project (Bangs/Carver/Pelandale/Tully Road), this project would
involve the conversion (destruction of) agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes is
quite large, and would definitely cause several negative impacts for the surrounding area
and the city overall.
Before you approve any such development to proceed further, or give the developer
approval to present such an annexation to LAFCO for consideration, I would ask that
answers to the following concerns should be provided to the public:
1. The residential building of 533 homes in one project, to be built in 2013/2014 while the
recession is still, and is expected to continue in force for the next 5 years (for our area),
which Modesto is effected by still a high 20% unemployment rate, with no promise of
employer/s migration to our area, this excessive residential project is an example of
“urban sprawl” that is not sustainable in the next year or two years, and will further cause
economic damage to existing property owner’s equity and property values.
2. The 683 page “EIR Draft Document” does NOT provide support or mitigation actions
to justify to go forward with this project.
The entire report must be read in its entirety by anyone making decisions on this project.
Some concerns in regards to the content of this document include:
Several “Potentially Significant” negative impacts if this large residential
development were approved. Some, but not all, citations include:
Destruction of AG Land
“the proposed project site has historically been used for agricultural purposes and
is currently cultivated alfalfa and almonds.” (Almond crops are one of Stanislaus
County’s top crop categories and directly responsible to maintaining our
TO: Stanislaus County Planning Commission, May 6, 2013 public letter, RE: STUDY
SESSION for “Woodglen” development by Fitzpatrick Homes, Page 2 of 5.
Rebuttal: The AG Element of the General Plan’s main goals are to protect
agricultural land – our #1 industry.
Air Quality and Transportation
“Implementation of the proposed project would result in pollutant emissions being
released into the atmosphere.”
“Implementation of the proposed Woodglen Specific Plan project will exacerbate
existing conditions at one intersection operating below the City’s minimum LOS
D with the addition of projected traffic and result in levels of service dropping
from LOS C to LOS E at one additional intersection.”
“Significant and unavoidable” transportation negative impacts will result from:
“Implementation of the proposed Woodglen Specific Plan project would result in
an incremental increase in delay that exceeds the daily thresholds at intersections
where LOS D is already exceeded.”
“Implementation of the proposed Woodglen Specific Plan project would result in
level of service dropping to an unacceptable level on one roadway segment and an
increase in volume-to-capacity ratio above the incremental threshold on two
roadway segments under near-term conditions.”
Rebuttal: This residential project is TOO BIG for the proposed area, and will
cause air pollution from 533 OR MORE resident automobiles owned by residents
trying to navigate out of the neighborhood. Modesto’s air quality is already at a
serious and extreme levels (caused by automobile emissions).
The project will also cause significant negative traffic slowdowns, hurting
existing residents who normally travel on the major streets of Standiford, Bangs,
Tully, Synder, Carver, and Prescott – to get home, to work, or for other needs.
This project does not meet greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction mandates under SB
375. Road widening or additional road lanes encouraging more cars does not
reduce GHG.
Who would actually pay for any road widening or additional lanes? I hope
taxpayer money would not be spent, nor would transportation improvement grant
funds be spent.
Any transportation costs should be paid by the developer!
TO: Stanislaus County Planning Commission, May 6, 2013 public letter, RE: STUDY SESSION for “Woodglen” development by Fitzpatrick Homes, Page 3 of 5.
The further destruction of farmland would most likely be involved just to accommodate the multiple road improvements required. What other farmland owners will be personally harmed by any eminent domain land takeovers?
Excessive Noise and Dust
The construction period which would last for several months to a year, two years, ??? would cause harm to nearby residents and such dust would travel and pollute the air to a larger surrounding diameter where more residents live, causing unknown and possible serious (lung) health effects.
Water Quality
Of serious concern is, “Implementation of the proposed Woodglen Specific Plan would increase the amount of impervious surface on the project site and the amount of urban runoff. In addition, construction activity could contribute to short-term discharges of waste and accelerated soil erosion and siltation. These things could degrade surface water quality.”
Rebuttal: The protection of surface water quality is an important human and agricultural need. Contaminated water will reach crops in which humans consume. Contaminated water is known to cause serious health issues, which include cancer (means eventual death).
“Implementation of the proposed project would expose people and structures to future ground shaking. The presence of sandy soils and groundwater creates the potential for unstable soil conditions and liquefaction. Furthermore, construction on the project site could contribute to soil erosion.”
Rebuttal: No development, or one that may serve a city’s future plans, should ever jeopardize the personal or property safety, or economic protection of surrounding property of existing owners and residents. Ground shaking and liquefaction of the ground is a serious situation and can cause economic and personal harm to residents in an undetermined radius surrounding the site. This area’s sandy soil presents very sensitive construction issues. Unknown earth damage could extend well beyond the site and is not warranted to support this project’s size. (The entire community of nearby Del Rio could be affected as it is also built on sandy soil due to its location to the Stanislaus River). There are no “mitigation” measures that are justifiable or can prevent harm to residents.
“Implementation of the proposed project would increase demand for police services in association with new residential development.”
TO: Stanislaus County Planning Commission, May 6, 2013 public letter, RE: STUDY SESSION for “Woodglen” development by Fitzpatrick Homes, Page 4 of 5.
Rebuttal: The City of Modesto and Stanislaus County are severely underserved with providing Modesto’s 206,000+ residents with proper police protection at large. Only twelve (12) patrol officers to date are out on patrol at any given time in the entire city. (Quote from Police Chief Ballantine on March 4, 2013). Only six (6) county patrol officers to date are out providing police services in the unincorporated areas of Stanislaus County. (Quote from Mayor Marsh in a Modesto Bee article dated May 5, 2013).
Until there are significant increases in city and county police patrols offering police protection and services at large, this development cannot go forward, adding another 533 units (with 1000+ more persons) to protect. Previous, existing, and new general plan policies state that NO new developments will go forward until proper public services are available.
What is meant by “the project includes development of an “infrastructure financing plan” ? What is being developed, when, and by whom? How much money? How realistic is achieving this? Who pays what, who gets what?
3. How is this 533 residential home development consistent with the General Plan and Land Use and Zoning?
Is this large project accepted by StanCOG to meet it’s “future growth and development” of a “sustainable city” under SB 375?
4. Are any of these homes or multi-unit buildings going to satisfy RHNA affordable housing numbers under the 2009-2014 Revised Housing Element Update?
If so, how many units will be set aside?
5. Are any of these homes or units going to be purchased by HCD or other government agencies with NSP or Housing Block funds, offering either subsidized rental housing or property sales to low income persons? If so, how many homes and units?
6. With Modesto experiencing insufficient water resources to date for its residents and farmers, (a variety of problematic issues) – where will the water needs for this project’s residents come from? Which agency would provide water and from what sources?
Will this additional water need cause any rate increases or supply loss to existing residents of Modesto or Stanislaus County unincorporated residents?
Existing legislation does NOT allow any future growth until adequate public services (such as water) are available.
7. How will the City of Modesto Police Department or the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department provide sufficient police protection at large to an increased population of 533
TO: Stanislaus County Planning Commission, May 6, 2013 public letter, RE: STUDY SESSION for “Woodglen” development by Fitzpatrick Homes, Page 5 of 5.
homes (which reasonably amounts to at least 1000 total persons (2 per household or the project as a whole), when existing police protection is at very severe levels (12 officers on patrol for a population of 206,000 approximately, (city services) and 6 officers for the unincorporated town areas (population unknown)?
The City or County currently is NOT paying for reasonable levels of protection at large for Modesto or Stanislaus County!
Existing legislation does NOT allow any future growth until adequate public services (such as police protection) are available.
I urge you to NOT vote in approval of this huge residential project at this time, which has has NO realistic “sustainability” or “demand” in our area at this time, or in the near future. This excessive project will cause multiple issues of serious harm to existing land owners and existing residents. Mitigated proposals hurt residents and would cause cumulative negative impacts to the city’s residents. Proper public service levels do not exist to warrant the project to stain existing services to the public.
D. Minighini
Modesto unincorporated resident
City of Modesto “2012 crime statistics” presented to City Council Safety & Communities Committee/Council Workshop Meeting on March 4, 2013
“Re-Alignment” Update web article, May 3, 2013, re: more releases into communities
The Woodglen EIR Report: http://www.modestogov.com/ced/pdf/planning/projects/woodglen/Woodglen%20SP%20DEIR_FINAL.pdf


What’s On America’s Mind Wednesday at 6:30 PM

Topics include are developers taking over the City Council, RUL and what it means to you, the Salida MAC meeting

Radio RED 104.9 FM

Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

Supervisor Monteith’s obstructionism Ad Mitigation, the General Plan Amendment process, these and more so tune in at 6:30 PM Wednesday and find out the things you really  need to know.

104.9 FM Modesto our Flag Ship station



Council Comments from the Residential Urban Limit Meeting

By Emerson Drake

At Tuesday’s 4/23/13 Modesto City Council meeting regarding Denny Jackman’s Residential Urban Limits or RUL, we

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was taken by me on January 14, 2010 in Modesto, California I hereby relinquish all rights to this photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

listened to new talking points being aired by the Chamber of Commerce and Building Industry Association through their close friends/mouthpieces on the council.

Denny’s RUL  recommends boundaries beyond which no residential development under 10 dwelling units per acre could occur without a majority public vote.  A very much similar version of RUL had been presented to the Economic Development Committee last year but was temporarily shelved due to upcoming elections. I believe what Denny expected was a reasoned conversation regarding farmland preservation. Unfortunately Lobbyist Cecil Russell’s response was a personal attack on Mr. Jackman instead of a conversation about RUL.

Council comments were even more interesting.  Several members of the public at the meeting pointed to the five Measure “M” votes  (the five were about sewer extensions after annexation) as the people having spoken about NOT wanting uncontrolled growth or  “Sprawl.”  The public rejected these votes by 60.05, 61.66, 63.66, 64.7, and 69.78 percent.  Councilman Dave Lopez decided to try and undermine five Measure “M” votes with spin.  He made the claim “voter fatigue set in.”   His comment was attempting to invalidate 65,974 votes.  The “spin” he was basing his comments on was the fact the voters turned down what he termed “easy money” for the general fund when they could have at least voted for the Hetch/Hetchy Measure “C” which included the car dealerships on North McHenry Avenue.  He specifically sited their use of Modesto’s water and sewer.

While he suggests this  invalidates the five measures the public voted on,  I believe he’s reaching.  Doesn’t this match up almost exactly with the Council’s decision to allow Beard Industrial Tract a  “deal” to avoid paying Modesto utility user fees for the very same services (water, sewer, electricity) they wanted to charge the car dealerships?  It’s all about the utility tax any business building in the Tract would have been required to pay.  This “special arrangement” he wasn’t willing to give the dealerships will cost Modesto Taxpayers MILLIONS of Dollars every… single… year after the businesses move in.

So if  the five decisions by the voters area are a case of voter fatigue,  was the Beard decision voter fatigue or a payout to special interests by the council ?  Charging the car dealerships is good while charging Beard is bad?  Councilman Lopez, no matter how hard you try you can’t have it both ways because we’ll call you on it.

Councilwoman Burnside has been on a roll herself.  At the March 26th  meeting she gave the council the credit for Modesto being one of the “most dense cities in California.”  She cited a figure of 8.8 people per acre. While our math suggests the figure is closer to 7.9 per acre, in this case it just doesn’t matter.  Her 8.8 puts Modesto somewhere around 108th in density of  California cities.  We would be 8th in a list of cities starting with the letter “M.”  Maybe that’s what she meant.

She also said “it cracks me up when people say” smart growth, your smart and my smart may be completely different” she went on to say, so that’s very subjective. There needs to be responsible growth in the manner in where we are building. As dense as we are I think we can do it through the General Plan, not through Ag Mitigation.”

Ranking at 108 and not being among the most dense, I believe shows many things are subjective and if this is an example of their reasoning we had better utilize Ag Mitigation through the ballot box rather than trust our council to do the right thing.

The good Councilwoman’s other remarks, “I don’t believe in leadership by ballot box.  I believe that’s why we were elected.”  She also said “I despise the individuals that stand up here and say I represent the people like farmers aren’t people “, and “I’d like to know where all of those lobbyist are, I haven’t seen any.”

Lets look at her first two comments. Her district encompasses about 34,000 people and has about forty farmers. The farmers she’s really discussing are about the 6 who would like to sell their farms to home builders because that’s the only people RUL would affect.  What she’s actually saying is she wants to provide taxpayer assistance so a few farmers and her developer friends in the Chamber of Commerce can make lots of money while leaving us taxpayers to pay the bills.  Taxpayer assistance?  Yes, conservatively speaking for every acre of homes that are built the taxpayer is on the hook for between $3,000 to $5,000 yearly for services. That’s right year after year, after year, $3-5,000 dollars just so her friends can be wealthy.  Taxpayer’s  paying  developers welfare money.

Councilman Cogdill’s comments covered a wide rages of topics.  He suggested in the last twenty years councils had planned effectively.  He said “Village I was planned responsibly.” I’m not a big proponent of urban limits or ballot box planning.” And “You don’t have to scratch a farmer very deep to find a developer.”

As Mayor Marsh later commented, Village I as originally designed was a marvel but by the time the council back then was on their eight change amendment it was no longer recognizable. It’s also understandable for these politicians to be resentful of ballot box measures.  It’s obvious the people of Modesto no longer trust their elected politicians to follow the will of their constituents  and because of past and current history who can blame them.

I encourage everyone to go online and listen to the council debates and see for themselves what is going on in the Modesto City Council. Here is the link to the city agenda and meeting archive. Click on the video of the week you want to see and while it’s loading you can choose the agenda item you want to watch discussed by clicking on it. The video will advance to approximate  location. http://ci.modesto.ca.us/ccl/agendas/

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