Council reverses, gives OK to apartments

WESTMINSTER Mayor Tri Ta (File photo).

By Jim Tortolano

After a rowdy and loud public hearing, the Westminster City Council on Wednesday night reversed a decision from two weeks ago and voted 3-2 to approve a controversial apartment complex.

Mayor Tri Ta, Vice Mayor Tyler Diep and Councilmember Kimberly Ho supported the proposal to build a 24-unit project in the 13800 block of Milton Avenue on a 1.01-acre site. The council had voted 3-2 on Sept. 5 against the development; it was Ho’s switch that made the difference.

Ho defended her change by referring to the fact that while the city zoning allowed only 18 units on the site, state law allowed a developer to get a high-density bonus of additional apartments if some were rented to tenants at low- or very-low income rates.

“I don’t like the law,” she said, but argued that the city had to follow the law. Diep supported that by saying that if the city turned down the proposal, “we’re going to lose in court.”

The vote took place toward the end of a meeting that lasted nearly three and one-half hours. Part of the delay was that Ta didn’t arrive until over an hour after council convened.

Another complication was that residents at the meeting opposed to the project called on Diep to recuse himself from the vote because he had received a political contribution from developers Christopher Albers Sr. and Jr. Diep is the Republican nominee for the 72nd Assembly District.

While the city attorney said that the receipt of a contribution did not constitute a “disqualifying” financial conflict of interest, some in the audience complained that it created a “perception” of possible corruption.

There were actually two votes on the matter. Since the council voted previously to reject the project, what came before it on Wednesday was approval of a resolution outlining why they had opposed it. Diep abstained, but the resulting 2-2 vote meant the motion to approve the resolution failed.

The developers had made some changes from their original proposal, reducing the plan from 25 to 24 units, increasing available parking and making some changes in traffic circulation.

What followed was a contentious public hearing in which residents of that area voiced their opposition based on concerns about traffic, parking, sewage and other environmental issues.

A city traffic official and a police traffic officer told the council that their study of the area showed there was adequate parking nearby, and no serious traffic problems. But council members Rice and Contreras rebutted that. “You can’t say how many cars will come in after this is built,” Contreras said and Rice suggested that some of the rental units might have five residents with seven or so cars.

Ta struggled to keep members of the audience – most of which were in opposition – in check as some people shouted out remarks while the council was discussing the issue or when other people were speaking at the podium.

The next regular meeting of the city council is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 10.

3 replies »

  1. It is hard to raise taxes in cities like Westminster and Garden Grove. The choice of additional housing adds revenue to the cities and lets people live in the places they like.

  2. But this is putting our Public Health, Environment and Public Safety at risk for big money and investors to manipulate or exiting neighborhoods into “cash cows” for their own greed… many of whom do not live in the city and who could give a crap about us.

  3. And Here’s the Follow-Up:

    Tyler Diep has a long history of cronyism and pay-to-play politics in Westminster.

    Tyler Diep most recently accepted campaign contributions from a Developer (Christopher Albers) who’s high-density residential redevelopment project was strongly opposed by
    residents as well as council members Margie Rice and Sergio Contreras due traffic issues. This project was awaiting final approval by the Westminster City Council and the
    Voting was held in September. Before the vote it was learned Christopher Albers (developer) had contributed $4,400 to Diep’s campaign.

    When asked by members of the community to recurse himself from voting on the matter, Tyler refused and voted to approve the project.
    (Source: City Council Video Recording 9/5/2018. Agenda Item 4.1 Case 2017-80)

    After the vote carried, the developer then contributed yet another $4,400 to Diep’s campaign, for a total of $8,800. (Source: votesmart.org)

    Tyler Diep has a long history of cronyism and pay-to-play politics in Westminster.

    -Jodi L Boyd
    Westminster, CA

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