May 28, 2009

Poway's Biggest Water Hogs

 Maderas Golf Course, Poway

What a refreshing sight.  Cool, lush, green grass that seems to stretch on forever and ever. Blue, sparkling water.  A forested hillside. Wait a minute....blue, sparkling water? Where did that lake come from? 

That lake happens to be part of Maderas Golf Course in Poway.  There are a total of  3 lakes at Maderas. And 5 waterfalls. And a 25 station driving range and oversize practice putting green


Have you ever wondered how much water  it takes to keep Poway's two golf courses (Stoneridge and Maderas) looking so lush? Well, until recently, I haven't, but now that we are in a "Level 2" water shortage,  and have to deal with a restricted watering schedule, I am beginning to wonder about just how much water the golf courses use.  

Stoneridge and Maderas buy 2 types of water from the city- untreated raw water and treated potable water. The raw water is delivered to the golf courses via a special just-for-them metered pipe that connects to the pipe that brings raw water to Poway.  Potable water is delivered to the golf courses via the regular city pipe system. The chart below shows how much raw and potable water the golf courses bought in  fiscal year (FY) 2007-2008.

Raw and Treated (Potable) Water Sold in Poway FY 20007-2008

Stonerige Raw                    426.06 AF
Stoneridge Potable                 5.27 AF
Maderas Raw                      206.44 AF
Maderas Potable                   12.49 AF
TOTAL     GC                       650.25 AF
Other Potable Water 
Sold in Poway                  13,383.71 AF




The total amount of water used by both golf courses in FY 2007-08 was 650.25 AF.  Just how much water is an acre foot?

An acre-foot is a common unit to measure volumes of water, typically for use in irrigation. One acre-foot is the volume of water sufficient to cover an acre of land to a depth of 1 foot (43,560 cubic feet, approximately 325,851 U.S. gallons, or approximately 1,233.48 cubic meters). On average, 1 acre-foot of water is enough to meet the demands of 4 people for a year. 


Stoneridge and Maderas Golf Courses used 650 acre feet
(= 211,884,613 gallons) during FY 2007-08, enough (on average) to meet the demands of 2600 people.  2600 people is a little more than 5% of all the people living in Poway. 

"But, but , but", you say, "the people of Poway are anything but average."
True.
And, to boot, the water data above is incomplete. Maderas actually uses about half raw/potable water and half well water. (I will explain why in a future blog) And  raw and potable water are not the total kinds of water Poway sells. They also sell reclaimed water for irrigation to users in the industrial park. 

But about 4.6% of all the water that Poway received via San Diego County Water Authority (SDWCA) and sold to Poway customers in 2007-2008 went to the golf courses. It is the water supply from SDWCA that will be cut back by 8% this year.

Stoneridge Golf Course was built in 1962, way before Poway incorporated. Maderas, on the other hand, is just celebrating their 10th year anniversary this year. We had just been through a couple of droughts when the council approved the Maderas Golf Course. It isn't as if we didn't know another one was coming. So why did the council approve of such a water-intense land use that has only limited public benefit? 


Poway will impose new rules regarding irrigation starting July 1st. Residential customers can only water on specific days of the week and for limited length of time. Even-numbered addresses are assigned Sat., Mon. and Wed; odd-numbered addresses get Sun., Tue., and Thurs. Condos, apartments and businesses get Mon., Wed., and Fri. Irrigation is limited to 10 min. per station. Violators are subject to unspecified penalties.

Golf courses can water whenever they damn well please.  And for as long as they desire. They are expected to reduce their total consumption by 8% from the amount they used from July 2006 to Jun 2007 (FY 2006-2007.) If they do not reduce, then penalties will be assessed "equivalent to the severe penalty rate charged by SDCWA."  Or so it says in the June 2, 2009 staff report. Unclear is whether the golf courses must meet their 8% reduction month-by-month or only as a yearly total. And if Poway reduces overall consumption by 8% but the golf courses exceed their allotment, will they still be subject to increased rates that could be, would be charged by SDCWA if Poway had not reduced consumption by 8% or are the golf courses off the hook in that case? 

May 24, 2009

What Goes Around Comes Around

video
In 1976, our little family (me, husband Larry, 4 1/2 yr old son and infant daughter) moved to Poway. At the time Poway was still kind of a "cowpoke"place. There were  horses and cows grazing next to Poway Rd., few shopping places (except fast food), no playgrounds, maybe 2 grocery stores and about 3 traffic lights.  It would be several years before anyone put "renown" and PUSD in the same sentence.  We moved to Poway because we found a house we could afford. 

On weekends we trekked back to San Diego to visit our favorite places: the zoo, Balboa Park, La Jolla cove, Presidio Park and Mission Bay. I've always been grateful for these wonderful places and the efforts of community minded citizens who made sure they happened.  

Although Poway was not jam packed with amenities, we found there was no shortage of concerned citizens who got involved and tried to make their community a better place. Our mailman, Kent Miller, told us all about the Poway Soccer Club. We signed up our 5 yr old. 
At our son's school, a group of parents had formed a day care for parents who wanted to volunteer in their child's classroom and had younger children that needed care. They fixed up a room and found some way to hire someone to care for the younger siblings. 

Poway had lots of groups. There used to be a bunch of wooden signs down by the entrance to town with the names of the groups on them.  Groups like the Kiwanis, Lions Club. One of those groups was responsible for the annual Easter Egg hunts our kids went to. They were at Poway Lake and the kids really had to look for the eggs hidden in the scrub. My sister-in-law was in the Jr Woman's Club and she recruited me for the annual youth day at Poway Lake. I was in charge of face painting.

As we got to know our town better, we found it did have some amenities. There was lots of open space to explore.  There was a creek. There was a library.  And although it was in a shopping center, it had special children's programs and a caring staff that got to know us well.  I still remember taking a call for my napping 2 yr old daughter from the librarian telling her that the book she requested, "Molly Mullet" was in. And how thankful I was when they called and told us that she had left behind her precious strawberry blanket one day. 

The Poway spirit was contagious.  We coached soccer for the next 13 yrs.  I volunteered in my son and daughter's classrooms. We joined (and formed) some political groups. We walked our neighborhood asking people to vote for incorporation. My husband was a member of the library committee for 8 yrs. Our kids grew up, went off to college and moved on with their own lives. But we still kept an active interest in making the community a better place, just as people had done before us.

Our neighborhood park, Starridge Park,  has always been of special importance to us. Over the years, we have had a hand in making sure the park stayed a neighborhood park and did not turn in to a sports facility. And so, even though our kids were grown, we attended the meeting when the city decided to replace the playground equipment.  And when the swings were removed and Bob Thomas said that they were not safe, we helped get a petition signed to bring back swings to Starridge Park. And we succeeded. A couple of years ago, I noticed that there was no shade by the swings, so I lobbied the council for some trees. Larry and I don't really use the park much. But we are always thrilled to see the park get used for birthday parties, family picnics, and neighborhood pick-up games. 

Yesterday, we visited Starridge Park with our granddaughter.  She tried out the baby swings. She gave them 2 thumbs up, or maybe it was 2 pajama bottomed feet up. She loved those swings.  What a sweet moment. When we were advocating for Starridge Park, we never thought about whether our efforts would  come around someday and bless us. But they did.  And we loved it. 



May 23, 2009

What's Up With All the Love for John Fitch?


h/t to HeardAroundPoway

Politicians often say the darnedest things. 
Like how they don't want to have a special election to fill a vacant council seat because they are so concerned about the financial condition of the city.

Right. 

A special election to fill the empty Poway council seat would  cost something like $250,000. Just a little more than the new directional signs around town. Just a little more than the upgraded sound system  planned for the Performing Arts Center. And a whole lot less than the millions of dollars they paid for a new city hall, when the old one wasn't that old. Heck, a special election would have cost half as much as the extra funding the city had to throw in to remodel an apartment house on Oak Knoll Rd. Apparently, democracy is not priceless.

At their special council meeting last week, the remaining four council members could not come to a consensus on who will be their our new councilperson. Don and Betty want John Fitch. Merrilee and Jim do not. So the council will meet again next Tuesday to have another look at the final four: Carl Kruse, John Fitch, Sabrina Butler and Dr Alexandra Page.  In the meantime, if you are a Poway citizen who feels like you ought to have a say about the matter, don't bother phoning or sending an email to Don. He has had it up to his eyeballs with having to read drivel from the masses.

That sparked an angry retort from Boyack.

“I could not disagree more,” Boyack said. “It’s our job to listen to the public ... I say, ‘Bring it on.’”


As I said, politicians say the darnedest things.

But what's up with all the love for John Fitch?

John Fitch was once the assistant city manager in Poway. Fitch was hired in 1981 as director of administrative services and promoted to assistant city manager in 1983. And although Poway City Manager Jim Bowersox is the one who hired John Fitch, and the two had previously worked together in La Mesa City Hall, there were strains in their working relationship. In 1996, things weren't going so well. Bowersox interviewed for and was offered a job as city manager of El Cajon. To keep him in Poway, the council had to agree to Bowersox's plan to reorganize the city manager's office and eliminate John Fitch's job. 

Fitch's options were to return to his previous position as director of administrative services, or to accept a new position that was created: Assistant City Manager-Economic Development.  It was probably a good economic move for the city because Fitch's salary could be paid out of the redevelopment pot of money instead of the general fund. And Fitch would be located in a different building. Hopefully, the physical separation would ease the tensions. 

Before Fitch accepted the new position, his attorney prepared an employment agreement.
One section described what would happen if he was fired or if he resigned.




The agreement became effective June 1, 1996.  Many people on Fitch Watch expected him to resign around Thanksgiving, but in December, the council did a strange thing. They modified the agreement so John would still get 18 months salary if he resigned within the next 90 days. This was a pretty big clue that everyone knew he was gonna be out the door by Feb 26.  John Fitch resigned on Feb 26, 1997, the last day he could resign and still get the maximum benefit. Fitch claimed he was "harassed" by city manager Jim Bowersox. Fitch was unhappy with the comments Bowersox wrote in his performance review. One of the comments said "You need to decide if you want to handle the economic development program and be a team player." (Poway News Chieftain, 3/6/97 pA14) In an interview with the Chieftain(PNC, 3/6/97 pA14) 

Bowersox said he had scheduled numerous team-building seminars over the years for his staff with a consultant, primarily to help Fitch get along with other department heads, who, at the time,reported to Fitch.

So, Fitch maybe isn't a "team player" and he has problems working with the staff. Is that the type of person who should be appointed to the vacant council seat?


While Fitch was feeling kicked around by Bowersox, he did a little kicking himself. In Oct 1996, Fitch, as rodeo chairman (he wore several hats) and pageant director Darci Sheldon, sent a letter to the reigning rodeo queen, telling her she could not represent Poway at future events and  asking her to return the "crown, chaps, clothing and other items" she had won in the pageant. (quote is from Dec 24, 1996 SDUT, p B3)

The two-page letter accused her of a series of "incidents of insubordination, gossip and personal attacks" on pageant officials, specifically Sheldon. In addition, she was accused of harassing the rodeo's junior queen and making derogatory comments about a fellow beauty queen, Miss Coors, at the 24th annual rodeo in October.

The rodeo queen was upset, felt humiliated and hired an attorney. She sued. The issue buzzed about in the newspapers for weeks.  So, it wasn't just staff that John had trouble with, it was 19- year-old rodeo queens, too.

Fitch had, and still has, a lot of ties with "the rodeo" and "horsey people" in Poway. When Creekside (our first town center) shopping center opened, John hyped it as a "western seaport village". He envisioned horse-drawn carriages carrying shoppers between Creekside and Old Poway Park.  Yep, politicians say the darnedest things. From time to time, there were other Western Village-theme park projects floating around. None of them ever came to fruition, but I'm sure John would still do one if he had the chance.

Whatever his dreams were, the reality was that John Fitch worked on shopping centers and affordable housing projects when he was asst. city manager. In order to build  Creekside shopping center, our first "town center", the city  had to clear out an old trailer park on Poway Rd.  The city had a new project built, Haley's Ranch Estates (HRE), as a place to relocate the former trailer park residents and also to meet the affordable housing requirements from redevelopment. The Poway Redevelopment Agency (PRA) signed an Owner Participation Agreement (OPA) with  Poway Land, Inc (PLI),  the developer on the project. The plan was that PLI would develop the site and have the manufactured homes built (with financial assistance from Poway) and then the PRA would buy the whole thing back. PLI was owned by one or both of the Kuebler brothers, Richard and Allan.

The original OPA was signed in June, 1989 and amended in 1991. This was the time period when John Fitch was assistant city manager and it is John Fitch who initiated the staff reports for the agenda items regarding the OPA with PLI. In other words, this project was his baby. 

The project was built, but when it came time for the Poway Redevelopment Agency to buy it back, PLI claimed what seemed like excessive amount of costs, many of which were "nearly impossible to verify" according to the Poway Redevelopement Services Department Notes, March 30, 1994.  The matter ended up in court. Poway lost and had to pay out $5.7 million (case # 701895) to the Kuebler's.  Another court case and appeals erupted over the attorney's fees. Poway had to pay out more than a million dollars on that one. Ouch! 

As asst. city manager, John Fitch complained about the Kuebler brothers and their shoddy record keeping. But after he resigned, Fitch may have begun consulting for one or both of the Kueblers. One of the Kueblers bought a prime parcel in the south Poway Industrial Park that John had his eye on for a long time. In fact, John  had the redevelopment agency work on designing a golf course/resort for the parcel while he was still working for the city.

photo and caption from North County Times, Jan 28, 1996, B-2


In January 1996, about 6 months before the city manager's office re-organization,  John Fitch and Betty Rexford unveiled one of their favorite projects: a golf course/resort to be located the southeastern edge of the city. Actually, they were planning on 2 golf courses, one would be on the south side of Scripps Poway Pkwy (SPP) and the other one would be on the north side of SPP near the Garden Road residential area. As a happy little coincidence, Fitch had a tunnel built under SPP to facilitate the  golf carts wild critters getting from one side to the other. In Feb 1996, the city hired a consultant to draw up plans for the resort and golf course (cost: $5,200). The project was called Standing Chimney Resort. 

I've noticed another thing about politicians. Besides saying the darnedest things, politicians  seem to forget a lot of stuff. Like the 7 yr drought we had in the late 80s and early 90s. Where was all the water supposed to come from for these golf courses?  

I am not sure if the golf course project is dead. The land was owned by the Pallas family for generations.  When the Industrial Park was being built, Freida Pallas hired a consultant and tried to get approval to develop her land, but she was unsuccessful.  She finally gave up and sold her land to one of the Kuebler brothers. Yep, those same Kueblers. The brothers also own other tracts of land south of Garden Road School. From what I hear, John Fitch has been doin' some consulting for the Keublers. When the owner of the parcel adjacent to the Keubler's parcel requested a zoning change, it was John Fitch who met with Merrilee Boyack and Betty Rexford to encourage them to vote for the change. The two sites, (Slough and the one owned by Keubler) were to be developed in tandem. This parcel owned by Kuebler (formerly the Pallas property) is the last big parcel in the Industrial Park. At one time Palomar College was looking at it as a possible location for a satellite campus, but the city really doesn't want the campus there (or maybe anywhere in Poway.)

If John Fitch were to be appointed as a city council member, his consulting work could create a lot of conflicts of interest. Would John Fitch be looking out for the best interest of the people of Poway or would he be using his position to get things moving for his client(s)?

I don't keep close tabs on John Fitch. I do not know how many projects he has been involved in that required city approval. There are 2 cases that I am familiar with. One was an approval for a gate on Mina de Oro.  Fitch represented a group of homeowners who lived on Mina De Oro and wanted city approval to install an electronic gate.  The intent of the gate may have been to block access for Manny Shoval, who also owns land on Mina de Oro and has some dreams for developing his land in a way that his neighbors are not too happy with.   After the gate went up on what Shoval contended was a public road, he  sued the city and the other owners.  Manny won his court case and 2 yrs after the gate went up, the courts demanded that it be removed. 

I've always wondered why the city granted approval for that gate in the first place. Shoval had documents which indicated that the road was a public road. Did the city do it just to put Shoval into extensive and costly litigation? Do we want to get the city tangled up in more litigation and neighbor squabbles? Why put John Fitch on the council?

Two of the people (Harry Rogers and Dennis Keena) who lived on Mina de Oro and John Fitch were involved in another city caper. The Juarez family owned 2 adjacents lots in the old Poway area. There was a small house on one of the lots. The Juarez's wanted to build a larger house but they were deterred by the city requesting that they do expensive engineering studies. They eventually sold the vacant lot to Harry Rogers in Sept., 2004 for $50,000.  Four months later Harry sold the lot to his neighbor Dennis Keena for $200,000 (4 times what he paid for it).  A year later, Keena wanted to build a house on the small lot, but the lot was so small he needed a variance to fit a house on the lot.  Represented by John Fitch, Keena submitted plans for a 2-story 2,172 sq ft ranch style  home and asked the city for a  variance  "to permit the garage and residence to encroach into the front, rear and side yard setbacks." The next door neighbor reviewed the plans Keena submitted.  But on the night of the variance hearing before the council, unbeknown to the neighbor, Keena showed the council plans for a different house, a 2,850 sq ft Victorian house that had a much larger profile than the ranch house. Represented by John Fitch, Keena asked the council to approve a "variance envelope" and an agreement that he could build the first house, the Victorian or another house without coming back to the council for approval, as long as the house fit within the variance envelope. This was an exception to the Poway code, which  says that if a project is later redesigned, then the applicant has to come back before the council for a new approval.  Unfortunately, the neighbor had never seen the plans for the Victorian house and was unaware of what the city had approved until it was being built.  But even then, the project was out of compliance. Construction was stopped until the council could meet and give another variance.  In the end, the council reduced the front setback from the required 40 ft to 27 ft, the side setbacks from 20 ft to 18.5 and 13.25 ft and the back setback from the  50 ft to only 21 ft.  In other words, the council gave permission to  Keena to build a house almost 30 ft closer to the neighbor's house than allowed under the code. Keena had bought the lot for $200,00 in Jan 2005. After obtaining the variance and permission to build the Victorian house, Keena sold the lot in Feb 2006, to Sean and Kendall Valenzuela for a cool $330,000.  He also sold the Valenzuela's one hell of a disgruntled neighbor. 

As Betty Rexford said, John Fitch knows the ropes. Yes he does. Maybe all too well. But I don't think we need a John Fitch as our next councilman, especially right now. We don't need more lawsuits, disgruntled residents, or insider deals. We need  council members who know that the staff's job is to serve the people of Poway; they're not your personal concierge.  May the person who is appointed be someone who is committed to serving their community first, before their own special interests. 

May 18, 2009

The More You Conserve, the More You Pay


My water bill for Jan/Feb was $136.19 for 10 units of water. Today I got my Mar/April bill. I used almost twice as much water (19 units) but I paid nowhere near twice as much. In fact, I paid only $23.49 more for the extra 9 units. On Tuesday night the Poway council will look at new water rates for the level 2 (L2) water shortage. The new blocked rates increase as water use increases. According to the proposed rates, single family customers will pay $2.64 for the first 15 units of water, $2.97 for 16-40 units, $3.30 for 41-80 units, $3.96 for 81-120 units, and $4.62 for any units over 120. But, those who use less water will still be paying more per unit of water than most of the higher consuming customers. Why? Because the fixed costs that Poway tacks on the everyone's bills disproportionately ding the low end user.

I have to pay $101.09 even if I do not use a drop of water. $22.38 of that is a "basic service water charge" that every single family user pays, whether they consume 0 units of water or over 200 units. That fee will increase to $24 during the summer. Every single family customer also pays a "basic service sewer charge" of $15.48.  In addition, customers pay a sewer consumption charge that costs more per unit of water for those who use less. 

The graph at the top of the page show what the new level 2 (L2) water rates will be with the basic service (but not the sewer consumption) fees included.  One unit of water costs $42.12 with the fixed fees included. The rate decreases rapidly and then appears to level out. But it really doesn't. Here is a closer look at the graph (click on graphs to make them larger):



Notice the little point on the graph above 81 units of water?  A person using 81 units of water gets the best bargain. They have to pay $3.57/unit. People using less than 81 units will pay a lot more for their water. Someone using only 9 units of water will pay $7.03/unit, which is almost twice as much as the person using 81 units. People using 20 units will pay $4.70/unit with the fixed charges included. 

People who use more than 81 units will see their costs/unit increase but the increases won't be as drastic as for the very low end users. Someone using 150 units of water will only have to pay $3.88/unit. Yes, some one using 150 units of water is paying a lot less per unit than the person using only 15 units ($5.27/unit). The rates still reward the water hogs.

I didn't include the sewer consumption fees in the chart or in the data, because the assigned tiers (and rates) do not necessarily correspond to current water consumption. But, If I had been able to include those numbers in the data, the rates would have been even more skewed in favor of those who consume more. 

The proposed water rates do very little to incentivize low end users to conserve water. In fact, because the fixed fees and the sewer consumption charge are such a big chunk of the low end users' bills, they are likely to be pissed off when they do conserve and find out it has almost no impact on what they have to pay. I know I have figured out that saving a few bucks a month by taking shorter and less frequent showers is not worth it when I am paying over $100 before I even use a drop of water. 

If Poway really wanted to conserve water, and make the rates more fair, they should drop the fixed fees and restructure the sewer consumption fee. Otherwise those who use less water are subsidizing those who use more water.



May 14, 2009

Time to Stock Up on Popcorn

As a proud progressive (and a liberal) Powegian, I take umbrage at Mike Wasilevich's letter to the editor in this week's Chieftain:

Never has a news story been more striking to my concern for bad city government than April 30 announcement that Don Higginson is now the mayor of Poway.

God save this little republic called Poway.

Yes, he was impressive when he first started on his political adventure, but he has turned into a progressive (liberal) and that is not good for this city.

We claim to be in the “City in the Country,” but there are factions that want to be just like San Diego. Mr. Higginson would love to accommodate the hidden government.

Three cheers for Merrilee Boyack and her vote (against making Higginson mayor.) She is what I call a real Powegian

Mike Wasilevich 
Powa
y



Geez, Mike, if you are gonna be that careless with your name calling, why not just go with "pinko commie"? I'm not entirely positive what you mean by "the hidden government", but for the record, progressives are the ones in favor of open, transparent government. And also for the record, it was a handful of local progressive Poway citizens that harangued, poked and prodded  a recalcitrant city council for the last 2 decades until the council finally agreed to televise the council meetings.  Before that, there was no verbatim, archived record of what happened at those meetings.

And if what you mean by "the hidden government", is that a lot of the city's business goes on behind closed doors, then I agree with you, Mike. It wasn't always that way in Poway. I remember Bob Emery telling developers to go "talk to the neighbors first " and then come back to the council seeking approval of their projects.  

Ha! That sure changed. When the city formed a redevelopment agency, the city became the biggest developer in town. And they don't seek no stinkin' neighborhood approval of their plans. The wheeling and dealing happens in private. Did you know that the Poway councilmembers have declined to approve an ethics ordinance requiring that they  keep a public record of who they are meeting with or what they are discussing? Usually, it isn't until a project goes before the full council for a final approval, that the public gets a look-see or a say. But, by then, it is too late. By then, the council members and the staff have already got their project shaped the way they want it, exclusive agreements are drawn up, ready to be signed, and the city manager has "briefed" all the councilmembers. Believe me, they already know where the votes are leaning, before any member of the public weighs in.

So, Mike, I am still baffled by your claim that Don is a "liberal" and that Merrilee is a "real Powegian". There are great differences between Merrilee and Don with respect to style, temperament, and religious fervor, but aren't their voting records nearly identical? Perhaps you could be a little more specific about what irks you so. And if, by some chance, you have gotten a peak behind the curtain of our "hidden government", well, I'm all ears. Just give me a few minutes to get the popcorn.




Update: (h/t to NewsFlash) for the following chart (click on chart to zoom in):

May 4, 2009

Oh, the Hypocrisy Of It All


Note: click on picture to make it larger.

On Tuesday night, the Poway city council will go through their annual ritual of designating "inappropriate" areas for second dwelling units (commonly called "granny flats") in single family zones.  The state of California encourages cities to include second dwelling units as part of their housing element.  


Second-units (i.e., in-law apartments, granny flats, or accessory apartments) provide an important source of affordable housing.  By promoting the development of second-units, a community may ease a rental housing deficit, maximize limited land resources and existing infrastructure and assist low and moderate-income homeowners with supplemental income.  Second-units can increase the property tax base and contribute to the local affordable housing stock.  Government Code Section 65852.2 (a.k.a. second-unit law) was enacted in 1982 and has been amended four times (1986, 1990, 1994 and 2002) to encourage the creation of second units while maintaining local flexibility for unique circumstances and conditions. 


The state law governing granny flats allows cities to enact an ordinance designating where the granny flats can be located and what zoning regulations (height, setbacks, etc) will apply. 


Second-unit law was created and amended within the context of providing “…a minimum of limitation…”, so localities “…may exercise the maximum degree of control over local zoning matters…” (Government Code 65800).  Chapter 1062 requires localities to consider applications for the development of second-units ministerially with the intent to create second-units and not constrain their development. 


The state allows cities to prohibit the development of granny flats only under "limited circumstances".


Under limited circumstances, a locality may prohibit the development of second-units in single- family or multifamily zones (Government Code Section 65852.2(c)).  This prohibition may only be enacted if a locality adopts formal written findings based on substantial evidence identifying the adverse impact of second-units on the public health, safety, and welfare and acknowledging such action may limit housing opportunities in the region (Section 65852.2(c)).  Prior to making findings of specific adverse impact, the agency should explore feasible alternatives to mitigate and avoid the impact. Written findings should also acknowledge efforts to adopt an ordinance consistent with the intent of second-unit law.   


Poway's ordinance does not meet the intent of the state law. Every year, Poway makes the case to limit granny flats because the city does not have "adequate water, sewer, or other municipal services for second dwelling units, or in which second dwelling units would have a significant adverse impact upon traffic flow."  The city has determined that the water/sewage system is oversubscribed and the road conditions are terrible pretty much everywhere, so it has limited second dwelling units to areas that are served by septic systems AND that are located on the far fringes of the city- north of Blue Sky, south of the industrial park, east of SR67 or west of Pomerado. 

What I find so hypocritical about Poway's stance, is that there is always enough water and sewer capacity when they want to build something. Why is it that a couple of granny flats are going to put our fragile water/sewer system over the edge, but a 3-story hotel, another big box store or a golf course, complete with ballroom and gardens are no problem at all? When Maderas golf course and clubhouse was built, it was supposed to use recycled water. But it never has. Maderas built wells and used so much water that all the neighbor's wells dried up. So the city let Maderas have a portion of the raw water that was coming to Poway. When the approval for the raw water diversion to the golf course came before the council, the staff report gave it a negative declaration, meaning it didn't have an impact on the city. Hmmmm, millions of gallons of water to a golf course have no impact at all; but using hundreds of gallons of water for granny flats would do us in? 

We are at a Level 2 water shortage right now. The city will get 8% less water. Some people have asked the city for a comprehensive building moratorium.  The city doesn't want to go there. Instead, they plan to incorporate water saving measures in new development. The city will also build new affordable housing projects that will be water efficient. Could not the city also allow granny flats that are water efficient to be built in more areas? Why can one use be mitigated, but not the other?

Poway's second excuse for limiting granny flats to the far fringes is that our roads are clogged with traffic.  The city's map shows that most roads are at a level of service (LOS) of D,E, or F. Level D is traffic that is frustratingly slow, Level E is bumper-to-bumper and Level F is beyond road rage. If traffic cannot be mitigated, the city is not supposed to approve a project. What do you think the chances are that the council will find some magic way to mitigate the traffic and approve a WalMart expansion?  How is it that bringing in hundreds of out-of-town shoppers to one destination will not affect our bad traffic, but a couple of dozen scattered granny flats will clog up the roadways?  A city planner once told my husband that he could speed up traffic  and slow it down at the same time.  As I said before, if the city wants it, they will find a way. If they don't want it, they won't. And they don't want granny flats. This annual ritual is a bunch of BS, and the state's housing authority ought to call them out for violating the intent of the law.

What is really strange, is that Poway does approve second dwelling units. Sometimes. You need a friendly plan checker, who is willing to cross out the words "Guest House" on your plans and write in "Office/Workroom". Don't worry, you can put a full bathroom with a family sized 30 gallon water heater in a guesthouse workroom in Poway. As long as the bathroom is in a workroom and not a guesthouse, it won't stress the system.  You can even build the guesthouse workroom out in your front setback if you have 3 friends on the council. Rules are for schmucks.  And to keep the riff-raff out of certain neighborhoods