April 17, 2023 — Visalia City Council

Documented by Jackie Schuster

Here’s what you need to know

  • The Visalia City Council approved the proposed HUD NSP1 and 2023 Annual Action Plan, 2022 Action Plan Amendment, and 2021 Action Plan Amendment including the HOME-ARP Allocation Plan Amendment for HUD, CDBG, HOME and HOME-ARP activities and projects.
  • The council authorized city staff to apply for $15 million more in funding for the Majestic Project, even with the mayor and some members of the public voicing their opposition. 
  • Council members recognized April 19 as Arbor Day in Visalia.

Follow-up questions

  • Why, other than “for consistency,” is Mayor Poochigan against more funding for the Majestic Project?

Visalia City Council Members 

Liz Wynn, District One

Vice Mayor Brett Taylor, District Two

Mayor Brian Poochigan, District Three

Emmanuel Hernandez Soto, District Four 

Steve Nelsen, District Five

The Scene

The Visalia City Council meeting started at 7:01 p.m. All council members besides Taylor were present. 

Actions/Discussions/Public comment 

  • Soto recognized the Visalia National Junior Basketball 8th Grade All Stars with a plaque for winning the National Tournament Champions. One of their coaches, Adam Tavarez, presented all eight of the players who were in attendance at the meeting. 
  • Wynn presented the proclamation to recognize April 19 as Arbor Day in Visalia, urging all Visalia citizens to protect the environment. 
  • Public Comment
    • Kathy Falconer was there to recognize Earth Day. Visalia is hosting many events for kids throughout the month, culminating in a party on April 29
    • Falconer also wanted to honor Dorothy Osak, who was a part of the Visalia Economic Alliance and recently died. As a tribute, Falconer gave Osak an honorary environmental hero award. 
    • Steve Pendleton also honored Osak. He said that he is part of the Green Party of Tulare County, which has decided to support one of her chosen charities, the Quaker Oaks Farm, with $215 in Osak’s memory. He said she was a “real hero” for the environment in Visalia.
    • Madrigal Garcia, the current president of Unitarian Universalists of Visalia, wanted to thank the Environmental Alliance for their recognition of Osak. She said she was very active in the Unitarian Universalists of Visalia congregation and was strong in her various beliefs. Garcia said Osak was recognized as a role model by many and made their congregation more conscious of their individual environmental efforts. 
    • Maria Guillèn presented a poem she wrote in her honor. 
    • Gayle Simmons also recognized Osak as an honorary environmental hero and presented the award to Osak’s husband on behalf of the Visalia Environmental Alliance. She said that Osak was always happy to volunteer and advocate for others. 
    • Bill Osak, Osak’s husband, said that his wife was actively involved in about 15 organizations related to environmental issues. Osak said the city should take less superficial environmental actions and instead take a more aggressive approach, keeping citizens involved in their efforts. 
    • Laura Duarte was back again to discuss the issues she and her neighbors are having with the nearby businesses and how Dutch Bros and Ono Barbeque continue to negatively affect their quality of life. She brought a visual aide to show what the disruptions look like from their homes. She said her and her neighbors’ homes appear to be part of a food court, and there is no neighborhood preservation. 
    • One of her neighbors, Stephen Tootle, said that this restaurant project was approved without environmental review. He said there was no traffic or noise study done because “they” withheld the name of who was doing the project to purposefully evade those studies and the council allowed that to happen. Tootle said the building owners did not install the wall where they initially said they would or install the landscaping they said they would. The buildings have been there for three years now, which he said was long enough to evaluate whether or not this project was creating a nuisance for neighbors. Tootle said the city council has the power to instruct staff to revoke the conditional use permit with the owners and should do so. He said he and his neighbors are willing to talk to anyone, as they have been told before that this problem was being fixed but when they went to a mediator over this issue, the city attorneys told them they are allowed to break city rules. 
  • Consent Calendar
    • Nelsen pulled item two
    • Poochigan pulled item 12
    • Nelsen motioned to approve all other items on the consent calendar. Wynn seconded the motion, which passed 4-0, with Council Member Taylor absent. 
  • Item 2, requesting authorization to file a notice of completion for the roof repair project at Fire Station 55.
    • Nelsen said after reading the staff report, he wanted to know what had been done so that this situation didn’t happen again. 
    • A city staff member said that they had the manufacturer come out and do his own inspection, in addition to an inspection done by a city inspector, to make sure that the construction looked correct based on the manufacturer’s requirements. They also did a double layer of the final coating, which is what protects the material. 
    • Nelsen moved to authorize staff to file the notice of completion for the project. Soto seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
  • Item 12, authorizing city staff to apply for Homekey Round 3.0 in an amount of up to $15 million for the development and operation of the Majestic Project.
    • Poochigan said he wants to be consistent, so he does not want to vote on this now.
    • Gwen Schrank, a Visalia resident, encouraged the council to vote no on this. She said she agrees that more funding is needed for “what is happening” but that the Majestic Project is already receiving a lot of funding and there are other projects that the city can fund. She mentioned her organization, Schrank’s Clubhouse, which is now about to open four homes with thirty-four beds, with no city help or funding. Schrank said the city could do more to help Schrank’s Clubhouse.
    • Rosalinda Alexander, a Visalia resident, said she has spoken about this project before and that the “homeless problem” exceeds what the city can extend finances to. She said that as soon as the city started funding projects like this she noticed an immediate change in downtown Visalia and she now feels unsafe there as a woman. Alexander said that this is a mental health and spiritual issue that can’t be fixed with more houses, but with our hearts.
    • Nelsen made the motion to authorize staff to proceed with applying for more funding, and Wynn seconded. The motion passed 3-1 with Poochigan voting against it.
  • Regular item one, conduct a second public hearing to approve and adopt the 2023 Annual Action Plan, 2022 Action Plan Amendment, and 2021 Action Plan Amendment including the HOME-ARP Allocation Plan Amendment for HUD, CDBG, HOME, and HOME-ARP activities and projects.
    • Margie Perez gave the presentation for the amendments to the plan. She said that as the public comment period ends today, the second public hearing and adoption has to be tonight. She quickly ran through the CDBG proposed funding, which totals $1,256,755, and the proposed HOME funding, which totals $1,338,976. Perez then ran through the 2022 CDBG proposed amendment, which totals $3,217,645 after the amended adjustments.
    • With no public comments at the hearing, Nelsen motioned to adopt all of the proposed plans and amendments, authorize the city manager to enter all contracts mentioned in the action plans and authorize the city manager to submit the action plans to HUD. Soto seconded, and the motion passed unanimously.
  • Regular item two, conduct a second public hearing to approve and adopt the proposed HUD NSP1 Substantial Amendment to provide an estimated $120,000 for the funding of the Northwest 5th Project
    • Perez presented this amendment for the NSP1 grant usage. This grant is being used as secondary funding for the Northwest 5th Avenue Project, which Self-Help Enterprise is currently running with HOME funds. She said the additional funding is necessary due to the high costs of the housing market. 
    • With no public comment, Nelsen motioned to adopt the amendment, authorize the city manager to enter all contracts mentioned in the amendment and authorize the city manager to submit the amendment to HUD. Soto seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

With no closed session report, the meeting adjourned at 7:55 p.m. The next city council meeting will be held on May 1 at 7:00 p.m.

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