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

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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