Hemet City surplus land not for sale, city council says

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A proposition to sell Hemet city’s surplus land in conformance with a new state law saying any city surplus land sold for new homes must allow some of those homes to be “affordable housing” died in a split 2-2 council vote at the Tuesday, Sept. 8, city council meeting.

The city staff prepared a listing of all surplus city owned land to the current four-member council and a request for a council resolution declaring that land as “surplus land” in conformance with the California Surplus Land Act, California Government Code Section 54220 as amended Jan. 1, 2020.

Councilmember Michael Perciful objected to the state making another mandate to California cities through the Surplus Land Act amendment. Councilmember Karlee Meyer asked if it would prohibit the city from selling the surplus land to anyone other than developers or if the city wanted to use it for local public special events in the future. The council was told it might, once it went on the market and legitimate offers were made by a housing developer.

The staff shared a report about the Surplus Land Acts amendment.

“The Surplus Land Act requires all local agencies to prioritize affordable housing, as well as parks and open space, when disposing of surplus land. New legislation, which took effect Jan. 1, 2020, requires that before a local agency take any action to dispose of land, the land must be declared either ‘surplus land’ or ‘exempt surplus land,’ as supported by written findings. This new law was part of an effort by the state to make the extensive inventory of local agency property held for future use available for development as affordable housing,” according to the staff report. “The new law also declares that holding property for the purpose of future industrial, commercial or retail development is no longer considered a public use. Additionally, California Government Code section 54221(b)(1) requires that the land be declared “surplus land” or “exempt surplus land” before a local agency may take any action to dispose of it consistent with an agency’s policies or procedures.”

If the city did declare its surplus land up for sale it would have to comply with the amendment with its sale restrictions in place, according to the report.

A motion to approve the resolution with a second was made, but the 2-2 vote in the current four-person council effectively killed the motion. The vote could come up again, however, in another resolution during a full five-member council meeting. Former city councilmember Bonnie Wright’s seat remains vacant following her resignation in August. Her District 4 seat on the council will be filled after the Nov. 3 general election when one of three candidates are voted into office.

In its consent calendar, the council accepted $1,051,667 from the CARES Act funding program to reimburse the city for its costs in implementing the various activities in the community mandated by federal, state and county medical officials in combating the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic among other actions.

The council approved a license agreement with the Riverside County Transportation Commission allowing the Destination Coffee Bar on Harvard Street in downtown Hemet to expand their outdoor eating area in an area behind the bistro that is designated for a future railway tie. The coffee bar owner said she would comply with all city codes and health department mandates during the coronavirus pandemic.

The council adopted a resolution to approve the Application for Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program Grant Funds totaling $1.9 million that, if approved and accepted by the city, will be used for the development and construction of a skate park facility at Gibbel Park.

The skate park development has been before the council, led by Wright for several years, and has received citizens’ and skateboarders’ approval for the park in public meetings and inquiries. Skate Plaza Task Force Committee consisting of local residents, business owners and staff was formed to gather community input about developing a skate park project.

The city contracted with Stantec Consulting to perform a feasibility study to further engage the community in determining the need and priorities and potential funding required for construction of a skate park project.

If the city does receive the funding, it can still accept it or deny it for that purpose when it is offered.

The council, in a 3-1 vote, also approved a resolution awarding a contract in the amount of $68,500 to New Line Skateparks Inc. for the final design of Gibbel Park Skate Plaza. Meyer cast the only “no” vote.

The agenda information for Sept. 8 city council meeting may be found on the city’s https://hemetca.civicweb.net/Portal.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.