Mayor’s Health Scare Will Not Delay Upland General Plan Update Vote

Upland Mayor Ray Musser this week underwent a triple bypass procedure, but it is anticipated that he will have recovered sufficiently to preside over the September 14 city council meeting.
Musser underwent the operation just six days before the city council is set to vote on accepting the current draft of Upland’s general plan update. The general plan, which is described as a blueprint for the city’s future growth and development and the maintenance of ongoing zoning restrictions, was last comprehensively updated in Upland in 1992.
There has been considerable controversy over the general plan update in Upland over the last six months. As drafted, it envisions significant upratings in the intensity of land use, particularly residential densities which range as high as 55 units to an acre in certain areas of the city, and it lays out restrictions on design, landscaping and other choices traditionally left up to individual landowners. At least three waves of protest over it have buffeted the city, corresponding with public hearings on the update held over the last four months.
The update effort began in 2008 and languished for more than six years, during which five sessions or forums to obtain public input on future land use questions were held. But the effort accelerated sharply beginning in March, basically under the direction and guidance of Upland Community Services Director Jeff Zwack.
Scores of residents have lodged personal protests with the city council and planning commission over the changes envisioned in the city’s approach to development. The plan is viewed with skepticism by many others who have not made public statements against it but have gone on record by signing a letter that was widely circulated calling upon the city to rethink the process and not approve the update as drafted. In just two weeks earlier this year, 562 Upland residents affixed their signatures to that letter.
The update has garnered support from some quarters of the community, particularly developers, builders and real estate investors, who support it because its allowance of high density development would translate into a higher profit return on residential projects in the city. The plan’s favor with the development community has only increased the fervor of some already against it.
Meanwhile, the city council appears to be following the lead of the planning commission, which has in nearly all respects accepted the update as drafted by city staff – in particular Zwack – and an outside consulting firm, which was paid over $1 million for that work.
Some city residents this summer expressed disappointment and dismay with the council and Mayor Musser in particular because of their perceived blasé attitude toward the intensification of density inherent in the plan. Musser is a member of SANBAG – San Bernardino Associated Governments – which doubles as the county’s regional planning and transportation agency, as well as of SCAG – Southern California Association of Governments – a regional planning agency. His participation with these large scale planning agencies has exposed him to certain so-called progressive principles of urban planning now in vogue, such as the concept of “Smart Growth,” which provides for consolidating urban resources into smaller areas and increasing density and placing retail, service, entertainment and recreational amenities within walking distance of residential zones, while discouraging the use of automobiles and promoting the heavier use of public transportation.
Musser’s acceptance of the layering of Smart Growth elements into the general plan update has triggered a negative reaction among some Upland residents, who see the update as part of a strategy to move the city away from its traditional status as a bedroom community known as “The City of Gracious Living.” Accordingly, a showdown between those protesting the general plan update and Musser and the rest of the council was anticipated at the meeting at which the council was to consider approving it.
With his recent sojourn under the knife, questions have emerged as to the advisability of exposing Musser to a hostile crowd, just six days after three of his coronary arteries have been rebuilt. It was therefore thought that the consideration of the general plan update might be postponed beyond the September 11 date. On Thursday, however, Upland City Manager Rod Butler told the Sentinel that the consideration of the update and the council’s vote will go ahead.
“The mayor did have bypass surgery on Tuesday,” Butler said. “He is back at his home here in Upland and recovering. I can’t go into any more detail since it is medically related. I will let him decide on how much information about that he wants to release.”
As to the discussion and vote scheduled for Monday, Butler said, “It is his intention to participate as much as he can during the council meeting on Monday night. Whether he can participate fully or not, the general plan will go forward. The city’s intent is to have the item heard. Whether the mayor can fully participate or not obviously depends on how his recovery goes over the next couple of days. How well he is doing will govern how much he gets involved and participates in the meeting on Monday.”

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