Claremont Insider: Where Are They Now?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Where Are They Now?

A reader wrote in to say that another refugee from the administration of former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard is in the news. Oliver Chi, former Assistant to the City Manager in Claremont was last week tabbed as the city of Rosemead's acting City Manager. This move came after Rosemead's manager, Andy Lazzaretto, was placed on administrative leave for undisclosed reasons, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

Chi, you may recall, was one of the Claremont city staffers responsible for the failed 2006 Parks and Pasture Assessment District, which was supposed to pay for the purchase of Johnson's Pasture. The Parks and Pasture measure, which was pushed by the Claremont 400 and the local League of Women Voters, lost 56% to 44% in a vote by Claremont property owners.

The assessment lost primarily because the city tried to use the assessment to pay for city park maintenance on top of the open space purchase. It also lost because many commercial and residential property owners are still mad over the city's other assessment, the Landscaping and Lighting District, which was enacted in the early 1990's as a stopgap measure to help the city balance its then-large budget deficit. That "stopgap" is still in force after all these years (more on that tomorrow).

The city and the Claremont 400 pursued the parks assessment even though they were warned that the property owners would not support it, and Oliver Chi was in many ways the 400's pointman on the issue. Like many of Southard administration's actions (the $675,000 paid to Village West developers this year and the $17.5 million Palmer Canyon Fire lawsuit settlement), Chi's work on the assessment left some lasting impacts.

In gearing up to buy Johnson's Pasture, the city commissioned an appraisal for the property that set its value at $12 million. After the assessment loss, a coalition of groups that had worked on the assessment campaign came together with people who had opposed the assessment and successfully passed Measure S, a bond measure dedicated strictly to the Johnson's Pasture purchase. Measure S passed in November, 2006, with 72 percent of the vote.

Unfortunately, the city is stuck was stuck with the old appraisal, done while Oliver Chi was working on the issue. The state of California, whose grant money the city needs for the purchase of other open space, audited the appraisal and determined it overvalued the land by $500,000. The state was going to withhold additional money the city is counting on to use for the Johnson's Pasture purchase if the city used the old apprasial. The state's rationale is that they can participate in the purchase only if it is for a fair market value.

Consequently, the purchase is being held up in limbo because the original agreement with the landowners was for $12 million, and now the city is using the state's lower figure of $11.5 million for the Johnson's Pasture land. The owners have refused to budge from the original, erroneous appraisal. The city, on the other hand, is obligated to use the lower figure in order to qualify for state grants, not only for this purchase, but for any future open space purchases.

As we've said before, Southard, and we suppose now Chi, are gifts that keep on giving.