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Questions about city mediation

Howie Muir
Monday June 17, 2002

To the Editor: 


After corresponding with the city manager on the subject of ethical lapses at the Planning Department with respect to the staff report prepared for the Council’s May 7 public hearing on the project proposed for 2517 Sacramento Street, I seem to have arrived at an impasse. 

The city manager has indicated that reasonable people can arrive at differing conclusions based on the same facts. I agree, but in this case the people involved either did not share the same facts or the facts were distorted so as to reflect partial truths or were simply misrepresented altogether, thereby skewing a reasoned outcome. Given the common direction toward which these distortions and misrepresentations drew, the facts and figures were apparently intended to accomplish a particular result: the approval of the proposed project. I believe that the evidence for the assertions I have made is strong, meriting an examination of the circumstances and the facts so as to ascertain what did, in fact, transpire. 

I am disappointed that the city manager has not found these allegations worth further consideration. I am alarmed that the mediation to which his May 31 letter pointed as an example of the City Council’s concern "to effectively listen to and accommodate differing perspectives" was abruptly terminated without warning to the parties or even the mediator, mid-process. This event raises further concerns about the ethical and professional conduct of the planning staff with respect to the mediation process and the manner in which its progress was reported to the council. 

The city manager’s May 31 letter excused the rapidity of council action by explaining that "the time line for review of this project by both the Zoning Adjustments Board and City Council was accelerated by the State of California’s schedule for tax credits," which is absolutely incorrect, as the appellant had provided clear evidence from the state that the due date for tax credits was July 16, 2002, leaving adequate time for resolving the issues raised by the appeal. The city manager’s letter continued, acknowledging that "this hampered the City’s ability to have as full a community discussion as we would like"—I should say so. The community would have appreciated a proper and equitable mediation process, rather than one unexpectedly amputated. It is not at all clear that staff reported to council candidly on May 28. 




Howie Muir