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West U council to Reilly: No, no and no on parking, variances, legal bill reimbursement

February 9, 2016 By:Charlotte Aguilar

City Council

According to City Attorney Alan Petrov's opinion, West U's policy which allows parking across sidewalks at older, corner residential lots, does not violate state and federal law. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

By Charlotte Aguilar

West U Councilmember Brennan Reilly swung for the fences three times at Monday night’s City Council meeting – and went 0-for-3.

He couldn’t muster support:

  • In his efforts to repeal the city’s sidewalk parking policy for corner lots,
  • For studying whether the city’s standards for variances are too strict, and
  • For his move to see whether the legal expenses incurred by himself and others involved in a recent ethics investigation by the District Attorney’s Office could be reimbursed by the city.

Noticeable at council meetings is how it appears that Reilly, who was elected last year as part of a slate, can no longer count on the consistent support or votes of his former cohorts — Mardi Turner, Burt Ballanfant and Bob Kelly.

In his first at-bat Monday, Reilly clearly didn’t like the opinion he’d sought from City Attorney Alan Petrov about whether West University is violating state parking law and federal disabilities standards by allowing parking across sidewalks on some corner properties that have limited alternatives.

Petrov told council the policy withstands scrutiny but that the city could be required to “adjust” the policy at certain locations, if American With Disabilities Act (ADA) issues were brought forth.

Reilly, who has a young daughter permanently confined to a wheelchair, admits that the sidewalk parking issue is a personal one to him. Still, he changed directions, challenging the validity of the 2004 policy because it had never been formally approved by City Council, calling it “purely a creation of our city staff.”

In addition to being unfazed by Petrov’s ruling, Reilly was unmoved by Public Works Director Dave Beach’s report that 591 of 1,012 corner residences — 58 percent — now meet standards that create parking on the property. Of the 421 not in compliance, 158 are considered “old stock” housing that Beach and City Manager Chris Peifer indicated would likely be redeveloped over time and required to meet newer standards.

Acknowledging sidewalks are “a very emotional issue,” Mayor Pro Tem Kelly backed both the legal opinion and report. “There’s no reason for us to jump off the cliff,” he said. “I see the numbers diminishing, and it’s only going to go down over time.”

Mayor Susan Sample agreed and added that citing sidewalk parkers on corner lots would be “opening a Pandora’s box of other problems,” such as increased car break-ins.

After Reilly asked councilmembers to affirm the policy, Turner declined, saying she didn’t “need to vote to validate” what is already in place.

Striking out in his attempt to get council backing on anything that would change West U’s enforcement, Reilly seemed to threaten that the issue wasn’t dead, saying he expected “a move” by those with ADA enforcement concerns to seek revocation of West U’s policy.

“We haven’t had the uprising in the last 12 years” since the policy was approved, Sample said dismissively, ending the discussion.

Reilly was up to bat on the second major issue of the evening, as well — fence height restrictions and what he said were “fairly extraordinary” standards for granting variances.

At issue was a sculpture attached to the top of a fence at 3304 Sunset Blvd. in defiance of a Building Standards Commission rejection of a height restriction variance request by the homeowners. Building Official Clay Chew said instead of meeting the 8-foot limit, the sculpture puts the fence at around 12 feet in height.

The property owner was fined $500 for the violation, although the city could have issued a citation every day since the sculpture was mounted, and Chew revealed that the owner is now working with his office to explore other options – such as mounting it on a separate structure – that would put the sculpture in compliance.

Still, continuing his pattern of ignoring experts’ opinions, Reilly glossed over BSC Chairman Steve Brown’s suggestion that instead of changing variance requirements, the council might consider creating special exceptions to the Building Code, offering the BSC “more flexibility.”

Some at the council table were troubled that what Turner called a “flagrant” defiance of the BSC’s ruling was being used as a reason to examine a major code change.

Sample called it “not a great way to legislate.”

Reilly’s motion to have the BSC review and make recommendations about the variance requirements died when it didn’t receive a second.

The councilmember’s request for a future discussion of reimbursement for legal fees he said he incurred when the District Attorney’s Office investigated his potential involvement in Open Meetings violations received no support, either.

In fact, said Turner, “we were told we were not going to be reimbursed.”

In other action, the council approved a request for an additional $25,000 appropriation from the Tree Trust Fund in anticipation of higher-than-estimated costs for the annual tree planting program that is to take place this month.

According to City Attorney Alan Petrov's opinion, West U's policy which allows parking across sidewalks at older, corner residential lots, does not violate state and federal law. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

According to City Attorney Alan Petrov’s opinion, West U’s policy which allows parking across sidewalks at older, corner residential lots, does not violate state and federal law. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

Building officials told City Council the homeowner who placed this sculpture atop a fence in 3300 block of Sunset Boulevard in defiance of a Building Standards Commission ruling is now working with the city to create an installation that complies with city code requirements. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

Building officials told City Council the homeowner who placed this sculpture atop a fence in 3300 block of Sunset Boulevard in defiance of a Building Standards Commission ruling is now working with the city to create an installation that complies with city code requirements. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

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5 Responses to “West U council to Reilly: No, no and no on parking, variances, legal bill reimbursement”

  1. Steven Segal Says:

    I am a little confused. Is the “exception” discussed in the article above limited to corner lots? Are there any situations in which Code Enforcement and West University Place Police Officers are directed to issue citations for a vehicle parked on and blocking a sidewalk not involving a corner lot? If so, what are those situations-please identify law/rules and the directive. If not, have our sidewalks become additional “driveway/parking lots?
    I hope someone at the City will respond to this question at this website to clarify the matters for readers.

    • Jim Shields Says:

      Steven, I share your confusion – however in my neighbor this is not an issue.

      But here is an issue that perhaps you can shed some light on since I think it happened under your watch.

      This issue is narrow streets and this affects all of us. I have friends on Fordham who live in some danger because fire trucks can not get thru when cars are parked on both sides of the street. I think the same is true of the 3700 block of Rice.

      The problem of narrow street seems so obvious. Did the city over ride standards for new street construction?

      • Anonymous Says:

        I also believe this leadership should provide clarification of the rules. I could not get down my own street when 2 garbage vehicles blocked the street! We have a parking and traffic problem in WUP. The Zoning Board wants to spend $30,000. of your tax money to do yet ANOTHER traffic study. Really?!!! Stop wasting tax resources! Why can’t the Board members request the previous study? Any idiot can see when traffic is at its peak. Do we need to spend $30,000. of our tax money to study this again? It is legal to park on the street. If the homes surrounding town center don’t like it, too bad. Do what I do, when I am expecting visitors, I park MY car on the street to allow my visitors a parking place in my driveway. If you need more space, plan ahead but don’t expect taxpayers to pay $30,000. to study this problem. Again, it is LEGAL to park on the street in WUP! Stop wasting tax money!

  2. Disgusted voter Says:

    So that’s it? City Council has no intention of ever enforcing parking lots that prohibit parking on the sidewalk. They’re using this tiny corner lot issue as a way out. Disgusting. Brennan Reilly shot from the hip and missed. He never should have brought up corner lots. He should have forced council to put up or shut up on parking enforcement – say publicly, we are not enforcing parking laws. Then the Justice Department could come here and take the council to school – you don’t make life even tougher for handicapped people.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I’m not clear why you are attacking Brannon Reilly. He may not always hit the mark, but at least he tries to do right by the taxpayers, which is more than I can say for the rest of the leadership in WUP. Clearly, this city does not support the disabled. You only need to look at the library to see this. the Metro Lift bus parks at the curb, then the unfortunate disabled must be in the street, struggling to find a way to get to the sidewalk from the street. God help these people if it is raining! I understand Brannon doesn’t want to take his disabled daughter in the street if a car is blocking the sidewalk path. This is why we need new leadership. We need people in office who are compassionate, not just ignore the disabled. As for car break-ins, a citizen was robbed at gunpoint in her garage not long ago. There are similar incidents. Just look online! It is known that this leadership punishes some citizens, but not others. Who gets a ticket, who doesn’t? It depends who is favored (or maybe who has the most money). Why is the city staff creating policy? Are the law makers asleep at the wheel, letting others drive? When the budget process workshop was going on, this council & mayor, with the exception of Brannon Reilly, refused to consider an alternate budget. Now Dave Beach asked and was granted more money. The approved budget was the “gold standard”. Is he incapable of staying within an approved budget? This leadership readily granted him a huge amount of money to manage a program in effect during the time the budget was reviewed. I will vote for new leadership next time! Perhaps we need leadership who can stay within the “gold standard” budget they voted on? Citizens in this community need to show up at the local meetings to voice their concerns! Our tax money is being mismanaged. We are paying more for services, but getting less. If you attended these meetings, you would know this fact.

    The height restriction variance was valid. Everyone agreed, but refused to allow it. How stupid is that! Steve Brown, the BSC Chairman, practically begged the mayor and city council to help him by modifying the archaic code. They were not interested in leading in this issue. Again, I won’t be voting for anyone on this council. Mounting the heavy sculpture on a less stable structure, behind the stable structure, made to safely support this sculpture, is unsafe at best! Is the city liable if someone is injured or killed if the second support suggested by the city fails? I think it is not a great way to legislate by not supporting the city board member chairman when he clearly ask for support! He knows the current restrictions are not fair! When he ask for “more flexibility”, he didn’t ask for a major code change, he is asking for a little latitude.
    The final issue, the violation of the Open Meetings violations, is a bill I believe should not be paid by the taxpayers. What is the violation they were accused of doing? This “transparent” council doesn’t provide much information about details. Is it a violation for the board members to e-mail each other instead of open discussions with the public involved? Is it a violation for city council to make decisions before they are elected? Is it a violation for citizens to be denied services without due process? Is it a violation staff tell board members NOT to share information with the public? You decide.

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