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Out of Touch Council Majority in Tustin Ignores Residents

With all the news coming out of CUSD, we would be remiss in not addressing what is turning into a major issue in Tustin. Efforts by Lennar to turn unfinished condos into rental properties over the objections of hundreds of residents of Columbus Square.

Last week, more than 200 residents packed the city council meeting and 21 of the 23 speakers in the public comments came out against the proposed change. Lennar is seeking to convert condos to rentals because of the down economic conditions in OC and the city council majority, led by assembly hopeful Jerry Amante, ignored the Columbus Square residents and tabled the matter for a July meeting.

Amante’s support for a continuance on this issue is surprising given that the Tustin Planning Commission voted 5-0 to deny Lennar a continuance on this matter. Amante cites the need for more time to study the issue and we have to ask, seriously? The project was approved in 2005 and 2006, but never built and the permits actually expired. Only one of the proposed 10 buildings was completed and Lennar is asking for a permit change to allowing for rentals instead of condos. One Columbus Square resident told the Register that his biggest concern when buying in the neighborhood was whether all the homes would be owner-occupied. The potential for renters was added to the disclosure form in 2009, well after many of the residents bought their homes.

 This story in the Register captures some of what went on, but the matter kept the council meeting open late into the evening. Council members John Nielson and Deborah Gavello were ready to vote on the request by the developer, by Mayor Amante was able to convince his conservative majority to delay any decision until July after Lennar tries to gain support for the proposal at HOA meetings (these are usually poorly attended events). Lennar didn’t make it to the first such HOA meeting that was scheduled.

So, you have 200 plus people in the room, all with a clear mandate of what they want from the council. Of those speaking publicly, 21 of 23 come out against the project that was approved 5 years ago. Oh, the two who spoke in favor of the deal don’t live in the Columbus Square neighborhood. The lobbyist for the builder, with previous interactions with the council majority, also gave a presentation asking for the continuance. And Jerry Amante needs more time? He does because he has a primary coming up for Assembly and by delaying the change in the project which he’ll surely vote “yes” on, he can look Tustin voters in the eye and tell them he’s responsive to the residents even though he’s going to vote against their wishes later.

Neighbors keep asking to meet with Amante; he has time for the developers and lobbyists but they report that he hasn’t met with them yet. And Amante admitted from the dais that he has yet to meet with neighbors about this; and this guy wants to represent us in the Assembly? Just who’s side is Amante on? It sure isn’t the residents of Tustin’s Columbus Square.