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Santa Ana Planning Commission Overreaches Its Authority

Santa Ana (December 13, 2011 from Forbes Article) Credit: David Liu/iStockphotok
Santa Ana (December 13, 2011 from Forbes Article) Credit: David Liu/iStockphotok

The city of Santa Ana, like most cities in OC, has a planning commission.  And the responsibilities of a planning commission are pretty basic. The Santa Ana City Charter states that the Planning Commission’s job is:  “Lead advisory body in the determination of what uses may be made of property in the city and what form and shape the community will take in the future; periodically reviews the City’s General Plan and evaluates individual proposals to make sure that they fit with the plan which the community has adopted; annually reviews the city’s capital improvement program solely for consistency with the General Plan.

Advises the City Council on the adoption of zoning regulations, annexation issues, and property subdivision; considers applications for conditional use permits and variances and provides guidance on the interpretation of the Uniform Codes for building construction.”

Lately, some members of the Santa Ana Planning Commission are acting almost like they are on the City Council, seeking to act in a manner beyond their authority and scope.  Their latest measure was to retroactively pass rulings about commissioners providing written reports when they discuss agenized items with interested third parties, which Planning Commissioners already verbally do at their meetings.  The reports are simple: date, time, who and comment on what was discussed.  Most commissioners will listen to a concern about an item if the third party can’t attend the meeting, and the disclosures or verbal reports are a means of documenting the interaction.

Problem is, it is unconstitutional to retroactively target an individual with an application of a law and this ruling targeted two members of the planning commission. By a 5-2 vote, the majority of the Planning Commission modified the Commission’s bylaws to require written disclosures in addition to verbal disclosures that the Planning Commissioners already make, and included a measure to apply the law retroactively. The majority blew past staff concerns over the legality of the portion of the ruling on retroactivity along with provisions to allow Commissioners to censure each other, to pass it.  The measure the majority of the planning commissioners passed is unconstitutional.

The Planning Commission lacks the political and lawful authoritative power to censure anyone (see their duties above).  In the staff report about the by-law changes, the City Attorney expressed concerns with the legality of the language related to the retroactive application and the attempt of the Planning Commission to have power of censure over other commissioners.   The City Charter dictates how the Planning Commissioners are appointed and removed.  So there people are clearly overreaching their responsibilities.

Bruce Bauer, a lawyer appointed to the Planning Commission by Council member Angie Amezcua who presumably knows something about the law, was on the hot seat in the inaccurate post on New Santa Ana.  Probably for calling out the two Commissioners who would prefer to violate the U.S. Constitution to advance a petty political agenda on a city commission.  Commissioner Bauer called the illegal retroactive application as an “ex post facto” violation.  Commissioner Phil Bacerra, who has vast experience in the planning field, also voted against the language that would have applied the by-law changes retroactively and against the added censure language.

Two of the commissioners leading this charge to change the commission’s by-laws are Eric Alderete and Sean Mill – both of whom are failed City Council candidates acting out their fantasies of how it could have been if they had only not lost their campaigns to be Council members.

Alderete lost to Council member Angie Amezcua despite outspending her and outcampaigning her, so the sting of facing Bauer has to still be fresh.  Shouldn’t Alderete, an attorney who spends most of his time in the Bay Area, know what “ex post facto”?  Mill is rumored to be eyeing Sal Tinajero’s Ward 6 council seat in 2018, when Tinajero is termed out.  So are both of them using this Planning Commission term to overplay their responsibilities for the next election cycle; Alderete can run in 2016 and Mill two years later.  If Alderete and Mill won’t follow the U.S. Constitution and use their positions to carry out petty vendettas, how can voters expect them to lawfully follow the Santa Ana City Charter?

While on the subject of transparency, I invite readers to pull a copy of Mill’s and Alderete’s Form 700 disclosure forms which are largely empty. What is missing is the declaration of income from their primary jobs. This isn’t required UNLESS their employer has business in the city. Sean Mill works for a local title company and has worked in the Title industry for some time; realtors in Santa Ana are routinely pitched for their title business by Mill. If Mill wants to sign an affidavit that his company does not have business in Santa Ana under threat of perjury, he ought to disclose his information on his form 700 in the interests of transparency.

For that matter, Bauer and Bacerra pushed a motion earlier this month to ban all communications with developers regarding agenized items in favor of having it all in public. Mill and Alderete voted against it.

Alderete is an in-house Attorney for U.S. Bank; can Alderete prove his employer has no business interests or contracts within city limits. If not, why the office for US Bank on Grand Avenue? I find it even harder to believe his employer is not a loan holder on any properties in the city. If these guys are such champions of transparency, why do they bend over backwards to hide their business dealings.

I have several friends who have served on Santa Ana city commissions over the years who have always listed their employer because they were informed by the City Attorney and by a third party attorney it was best to put it due to the potential for business within the city limits.

You have to wonder what these two are trying to hide? Who are they to demand transparency when they are clearly not transparent themselves?


  1. Mike Tardif Mike Tardif July 30, 2014

    Since when do SA appointed commissions get to make up their own bylaws?

  2. Sal Mendez Sal Mendez July 30, 2014

    I can only assume that you are speaking of commissioner Phil Bracerra unwillingness to disclose his “lobbying/influence peddling” practices in and around the Depot project.

    This is highly politically charged. I would welcome you to visit Santa Ana, the area and talk to the residents and business owners effected.

    I don’t see anything wrong with asking a planning commissioner, with authority to approve/deny MILLION DOLLAR projects to disclose these conversations. But, the bigger question is why don’t Amezcua and Benavides ask their appointees to come clean……

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | July 31, 2014

      Actually Bacerra and Bauer wanted to do away with all such communication with developers to have them in the open in public and that was voted down by Eric and Sean. Bauer and Bacerra do disclose all such communication verbally at meetings. The forms are the time-waster. Why is it that Sean or Eric refuse to disclose their employment on their forms? And if we’re on the subject of lobbying/influence peddling, I invite any Santa Ana realtor “approached” by Sean Mill to disclose his business pitches for their title referrals all while reminding people he’s in the catbird seat at City Hall

  3. Henry Gattis Henry Gattis July 31, 2014

    Sal Mendez? Is this the latest imaginary friend of a certain Park Santiago resident?

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | July 31, 2014

      welcome back Henry; how was Wonderland with the rest of your imaginary friends?

      • santiago lofts santiago lofts July 31, 2014

        I think most people just want HONEST and transparent representation.

        I paid a lot to live here. Maybe not as much as Villa Park, Orange or Irvine. But I deserve the honest government I was sold when I invested.

        • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | August 1, 2014

          Bauer and Bacerra report every interaction the commission needs to know about verbally; their disclosure forms are far more detailed that those of Mill and Alderete. The city council needs to reign in Mill and Alderete for overreaching their authority

      • Henry Gattis Henry Gattis July 31, 2014

        Going great Dan! Robert Darley, David Vazquez, John McRickinidge, and Ken Lays Not Dead all say hi. Now we gotta go back to the mind of the Park Santiago resident.

        • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski August 1, 2014

          You forgot Nameless and Carpetbagger; looks like Greg Diamond is ready to out their identities. Caropetbagger left a very inappropriate comment about Diamond’s stepdaughter on a Navel Gazing post last week; no class whatsoever.

  4. junior junior July 31, 2014

    That’s rich!! Henry Gattis talking about imaginary people – ha!

  5. junior junior July 31, 2014

    Dan C says:
    “The measure the majority of the planning commissioners passed is unconstitutional.”

    I believe you are correct Dan, retro-activity in a matter like this is unconstitutional.

    Planning Commissioners, and all SA City appointed officials, are sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. Those commission members who voted for retro-activity have broken their pledge to uphold The Constitution.

  6. just a name just a name August 1, 2014

    Henry. Don’t forget DKMFAN, Joe Hill, Jubal, Skallywag, SA VOTER, Dickman’s Dad and of course Fred Ex.

  7. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | August 1, 2014

    Jubal’s identity is known and so is Swallywag, but I agree with Diamond here — want to stay anonymous, don’t throw bombs. If you want to throw bombs, man up.

  8. Frank Verlas Frank Verlas August 1, 2014

    I looked the the offensive message you mention. To be fair it appears to be a reply to Facebook message Diamond sent out seeking Five hundred dollars (obstensibly to rescue the child). Oddly, Greg offered up 10 years of lawn mowing (with a weird indentured servitude gist).
    The post went on to blame the US Government for Greg’s daughter abandoning her three year old in an poverty stricken island.
    So it seems to me the “classiness” is appropriate given Diamonds plea.
    Here’s a clue:
    If you need $500. That bad. Take it from savings. Don’t blame others for your choices.
    As for the moron that posts this stuff……well we have a nation of A-Holes. Get over it.

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | August 1, 2014

      Apples and Oranges; Diamond’s family dynamic has nothing to do with that of the Acevedo family. And the comment on OC Weekly did not offer the additional details. Not speaking out about the A-holes, as you so put it, means its OK for them to do unrelated attacks on a person’s family. Its uncalled for. If you want to talk smack, do it and attach your name to it.

    • OCDEM OCDEM August 8, 2014

      What? Greg Diamond needs money? Now there’s a surprise!

Comments are closed.