SB City Council Signals It Will Explore Imposing CUP On County Welfare Building

The San Bernardino City Council this week gave the first sign that it is prepared to test whether developer Scott Beard was bluffing when he threatened to initiate  legal action against the city if any effort is made  to obstruct the completion and occupation of a county welfare office at the intersection of Little Mountain Drive and 27th Street.
The county resolved, in December 2017,  to have Beard build that facility, to accommodate an office of its transitional assistance department.  Eleven months later, after former San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis lost his November 2018 bid for reelection, the city rushed the approval for building the 38,150 -square foot project through by having it considered not by the city’s planning commission in a highly public setting, but rather before the city’s more obscure design and environmental review committee during a hearing held at an hour of the day when members of the public were not likely to participate. The approval came during the last leg of Davis’s tenure in office. Beard had been a major donor to Davis’s campaigns. In considering the project, its nature was misrepresented as a human resources (personnel) office rather than a human services (welfare) office. When residents of the Muscupiabe residential neighborhood that surrounds the site learned, well after the project had been approved, that the building in question would be one that served hundreds of welfare recipient clients per day, they objected to the project as one that was incompatible with their living environment.
Former City Attorney James Penman recommended to the council in August that it slap Beard with a stop work order on the project while legal issues relating to the validity of the project approval were
examined. Current Deputy City Attorney Sonia Carvalho recommended against that, saying instead the city could insist on subjecting Beard’s tenant – the county – to the process of obtaining a conditional use permit for the welfare office before the building could be occupied.  Beard informed the city at that point that if it took any action whatsoever that interfered with the project, he would sue the city.
For nearly two months, city officials have been reluctant to engage with Beard or any of the Muscupiabe neighborhood residents on the matter, or take any action that might trigger the lawsuit Beard had threatened.
Further, City Manager Teri Ledoux is engaged in a host of dealings and negotiations with the county over other issues and projects and proposals, leaving her loathe to challenge the county with regard to the welfare building or to subject the county to a conditional use permit process on a project it is already committed toward seeing completed.
While Councilwoman Sandra Ibarra, in whose Ward 2 the project is located, and Councilman Henry Nickel, whose District 5 borders the project property, have been animated about what they and the Muscupiabe neighborhood residents feel was a flawed process in which political favoritism was shown and the city’s regulatory corners were cut, the remaining five members of the council and Mayor John Valdivia have been less sympathetic toward those protesting the project, feeling objecting to development in the city is not advisable.
During the city council’s closed session prior to its public meeting Wednesday night, however, the council took up the issue of the welfare building project. It instructed the city attorney to explore the implications of imposing on the county a requirement that it obtain a conditional use permit to operate the transitional assistance office at that location, and what range of conditions can be imposed on the completed building and its occupants. Valdivia and council members Fred Shorett and Jim Mulvihill, the members of the council most dismissive of the Muscupiabe neighborhood residents’ concerns, were not in attendance at the meeting.
The council did not immediately inform the public of the action it had taken behind closed doors, but had Carvalho do so after Councilman Ted Sanchez suggest that disclosure be made when Muscupiabe residents during the meeting’s public comment period registered criticism of the city’s inaction on the matter.

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