Sunday, June 16, 2019

[Santa Barbara County] Train Deaths in Santa Barbara County Clustered on 2 Stretches of South Coast, Grand Jury Finds

In review of 4-year period, report finds 18 of 20 deaths occurred on South Coast tracks with prevalence of homeless encampments raising risk factor

Twenty people were struck and killed by trains in Santa Barbara County between 2015 and 2018, with 18 of the deaths occuring along two stretches of South Coast railroad track, according to a new grand jury report.
The sheriff’s Coroner’s Bureau determined 11 of the deaths were suicides and nine were accidental, according to the report, which also found that 12 of the 20 victims were homeless people.
The report states that a “vast majority of fatalities” occurred in two specific areas of the 109-mile corridor through the county: between Ortega Hill in Summerland and Milpas Street in Santa Barbara, and between Patterson Avenue and Glen Annie Road in Goleta.
Union Pacific owns all the track, which Amtrak leases for passenger trains that pass through 12 times a day. Union Pacific runs an average of two freight trains through the county daily.
Ninety percent of the fatalities occurred between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., and almost all of them involved Amtrak trains, according to the report, which was released Thursday.
The number of deaths in Santa Barbara County was higher than neighboring counties overall and on a per-capita basis.
“Over the four-year period, the county had one railroad-related death per 22,000 inhabitants, Ventura County had one per 46,000 inhabitants, San Luis Obispo County had one per 57,000 inhabitants, and Kern County had one per 69,000 inhabitants,” the report states.
The high number of homeless encampments along South Coast train tracks presents a problem, the grand jury concluded.
“A reduction in pedestrian trespassing deaths, including suicides and transient/homeless deaths, can best be secured by restricting access to and providing additional security,” the report says.
The grand jury investigation found that homeless encampments are common in areas where right-of-way fencing has deteriorated and bushes and trees have grown to provide natural shelter.
“Areas where brush has been cleared and trees properly managed have very few encampments,” the report notes.
The grand jury report makes several recommendations to reduce fatalities, and responses are required from the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara, the county, the Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.
The agencies are encouraged to work with Union Pacific on implementing the recommendations, which include mending existing fences and erecting new ones; removing overgrown foliage in the right-of-way area; improving security patrols by negotiating memoranda of understanding with local law enforcement; increasing surveillance by installing video cameras to monitor pedestrian trespassing and transient/homeless encampments; and stakeholder collaboration with regular meetings.
Click here to read the full Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report on Railway Fatalities.
June 15, 2019
Noozhawk Santa Barbara
By Joshua Molina

Friday, June 14, 2019

[Lake County] Supervisors slam grand jury report, deny jury’s funding request

Special report released in March called for changes at Lampson Field airport.

LAKEPORT — The Lake County Board of Supervisors this week responded to a special report by the Lake County Civil Grand Jury and denied the grand jury’s request for money to cover over-budget expenditures.
The grand jury’s special report, entitled “How can we safely land?” was submitted March 14 in advance of the jury’s upcoming full 2018-2019 report. The report pertained exclusively to the Lampson Field Airport—Lake County’s only operating public airport—and identified areas of concern with the facility, also noting an opportunity for the county to apply for federal grant money to perform needed improvements.
A civil grand jury is made up of local residents, and is tasked with investigating the operations of the local government under which it operates, and making recommendations as to how those governments can improve. This work is referred to by the State of California as a “watchdog” function.
In Lake County, recent reports from the grand jury have been met with sharp criticism from the board of supervisors.
In 2018, District 5 Supervisor Rob Brown called the 2017-2018 grand jury report “nonsense.” On Tuesday, Brown referred to the recent special report’s title as “idiotic,” and claimed the grand jury is “taking credit for the sun coming up” by making recommendations about the Lampson Field Airport.
County Administrative Officer Carol Huchingson and supervisors Moke Simon and Bruno Sabatier joined Brown in jabbing the report’s title. “It essentially implies that it’s not safe to land at Lampson Field,” Huchingson said.
“We all get affected by the negative remarks that are put out there,” said Sabatier.
In legally required written responses to the grand jury report, the board of supervisors disagreed with every recommendation made by the grand jury. Lake County Public Works Director Scott De Leon, who also responded, disagreed with most of the jury’s findings.
The board of supervisors also denied the grand jury’s request for $5,000 in contingency funds to make up for over-budget per diem and travel costs incurred by the jury members. The entity’s total budget is roughly $65,000 annually.
In an interview with this newspaper, civil grand jury foreman Mark Rothrock suggested he was not surprised by the county’s reaction to the report.
“I understand their response,” Rothrock said. “Whether they liked it or not, I think (the report) brought attention to the airport.”
Asked whether he agreed with the county about the title of the report, Rothrock said he believed the title had had no negative effect, but had contributed toward raising awareness of the airport’s needs.
“It’s been out for a couple of months,” Rothrock said of the report, “and nobody has called us” with concerns about the title. “I’m glad it came out the way it did and I haven’t heard anything negative from the public at all,” he added.
Regarding the denial of the grand jury’s request for $5,000 to cover additional expenses incurred in the past fiscal year, Rothrock remarked that most of that money would have been used to print the final report. He noted that costs had been higher this year because much of the work done by the grand jury was “far-flung,” making travel costs rise.
June 13, 2019
Lake County Record-Bee
By Aidan Freeman

[Monterey County] The grand jury smacks Monterey County for botched and costly project

As with most reports that emanate from the Monterey County Civil Grand Jury, the one the panel dropped June 10 regarding the county’s development and somewhat disastrous implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is an exercise in blame.
But hell, so is this column: Witness my clever use of the word disastrous above.
Or witness the subhead the grand jury used: Costly Lessons from a Decade-Long Systems Enhancement Effort.
The county first began discussing an upgraded business processes system in 2007, and after several years of planning, implemented the first version of the system in 2009-2010, and an updated version in 2018.
It was about that time that County Supervisor Luis Alejo, who hadn’t been on the board during the planning phase or the implementation, but by 2018 had been there long enough to know which end is up, had some questions. Like, for example, why the cost of a financial management and software system initially estimated at $4.3 million had swelled to $27 million and counting. In the end, the grand jury reported the system had cost $37 million, approved by the Board of Supervisors, and $3.6 million on legal and consulting fees and staff time allocated to the project but not budgeted for it. As the grand jury put it, the implementations were “inefficient and unnecessarily costly,” thanks to a number of things. The implementation suffered from inconsistent management, with the project manager’s seat changing five times in less than three years. When the first version was implemented, a lack of documentation on some payroll practices resulted in employees being paid incorrectly.
And then there’s this jaw-dropper: “senior county management” (who aren’t identified in the grand jury report, but I’m pretty sure they’re referring to the county Auditor-Controller’s Office, which was in charge of the implementation) “knowingly” launched the first payroll system with overtime calculations that didn’t match contractual bargaining unit agreements. To put it in plainer language than the report, someone in charge knew the information was wrong, they used it anyway and it resulted in lawsuits, grievances, fines and financial penalties.
During the first 11 months after the payroll system launched in 2010, about 25 percent of the county’s bargaining unit employees – 1,383 in all – received paychecks that were different than prior to the implementation. The Deputy Sheriffs’ Association filed grievances against the county, as did the SEIU.
Total cost of the fees, fines and penalties resulting from those successful grievances: $378,000.
County Supervisor Jane Parker testified before the grand jury, the only supervisor who’s been on the board since the ERP project was conceived and implemented. She hasn’t read the full report yet, but her chief of staff, Kristi Markey, has; she conveyed to Parker her sense that the grand jury looked deeply into all of the issues that contributed to the problems.
“My hope is that through the report we can manage not to have this set of circumstances happen again,” Parker says.
The report doesn’t let the Board of Supervisors off the hook. Under its recommendations, when the county implements its next ERP system (in two to four years, yikes, because that’s how long this kind of software lasts) the grand jury says the supes need to hold senior county management more accountable for keeping them updated, and needs to assign ownership of the implementation to the County Administrative Officer.
Agencies and elected officials normally issue a response to a grand jury report some time after the initial report drops. Elected officials such as the auditor have 60 days to respond, while the county has 90 days.
County auditor/controller Rupa Shah, the elected official responsible for, among other things, providing budget control and financial services to the county, declined to comment because she is still reviewing the report. Her eventual written response will probably be worth the wait.
June 13, 2019
Monterey County Weekly
By Mary Duan

[Santa Barbara County] Grand Jury Reviews Railroad Fatalities

The Santa Barbara County Civil Grand Jury received a request to investigate railroad deaths.
During a four year period from 2015 to 2018, twenty railroad related fatal accidents occurred along the 109-mile Santa Barbara County railroad corridor. The jury found the vast majority of railroad fatalities occurred in two relatively small stretches of track from Ortega Hill to Milpas Street in the City of Santa Barbara and from Patterson Ave to Glen Annie Road in Goleta.
Ninety-five percent of fatalities were a result from pedestrian trespassing on the right-of-way owned by Union Pacific Railroad and operated by both Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak.
The Jury identified the high rates of "suicide by train" and deaths of homeless/transient persons as significant. The Jury focused efforts on these high fatality zones and developed six recommendations that could enhance railroad safety in Santa Barbara County.
June 13, 2019
Santa Barbara Edhat
Source: Santa Barbara County Grand Jury

Thursday, June 13, 2019

[Orange County] Grand Huntington Beach landfill outrage spurs school officials to address health concerns

Dust from cleanup of a landfill rouse concerns for students at nearby Edison High School

Blog note: this article references a 2012 grand jury report. Some grand jury reports have long shelf lives.
Chastised by parents upset with fumes from a toxic landfill cleanup wafting across the intersection to Huntington Beach’s Edison High School, Superintendent Clint Harwick said after Tuesday’s board meeting that he’ll pursue on-campus air monitoring and consider shutting down summer activities at the school.
The response comes five days after outrage at a meeting attended by 300 neighbors resulted in work at the Ascon landfill being halted indefinitely by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, which is overseeing the cleanup. The agency said work at the former oil-field waste dump would not continue until new steps were taken to control dust and fumes leaving the site.
But even with work stopped, neighbors have complained of ongoing chemical odors.
And while the toxic substances agency has reported just three minor instances of excessive dust or toxins from 648 tests this year, parents speaking at Tuesday’s Huntington Beach Union High School board meeting repeatedly cited student headaches, breathing issues, nausea and other illnesses that coincided with the start of the cleanup in Februrary.
Parents presented a list of requests to the school board, including air purifiers for every classroom, on-campus air monitoring and no summer school or summer athletics at the school.
“We’ll definitely look into that,” Harwick said afterward of shutting down summer activities. Summer school is scheduled to begin Tuesday.
“We have a short period of time to look at information to make that decision,” he said
District spokeswoman Cheryl McKenzie said Wednesday that Harwick had been in meetings that day to discuss bringing independent contractors on campus to monitor the air and help determine if there’s cause to shut down summer activities.
Historical health worries
The landfill, located a half mile from the ocean at the intersection of Magnolia Street and Hamilton Avenue, was privately operated from 1938 to 1984. A 2012 county grand jury report noted that toxic substances in the dump included chromic acid, sulfuric acid, aluminum slag, fuel oils and styrene.
Signs on the fence surrounding the 38-acre site warn of lead, arsenic and nickel.
Several preliminary cleanups — and attempted cleanups — have taken place over the years as officials have tried to minimize the long-term environmental and health hazards at the site. The final cleanup plan, which will remove part of the toxic waste and seal the remainder in the center of the site, was approved in 2015 and is scheduled for completion next year.
Health concerns have cropped up in the community periodically, but several studies have failed to connect the toxic site with illnesses in the area.
The 2012 grand jury discussed the issue with county public health officers.
“They basically summarized the results of their investigations as statistically negative with regard to a link between the dump and reported neighborhood illnesses,” the grand jury report said. It then noted, “Clearly, statistical reports have not quieted the fears of some residents who continue to believe there is a link between health issues and the dump site.”
Tuesday’s school board testimony underlined that sentiment. Mariya Sheldon’s discussion of the health of her daughter, an Edison student, over the past five months was one of many anecdotal examples.
“She has come home numerous times due to unbearable migraines, unexplained and unresolved sinus issues, dizziness, stomach aches and nausea,” Sheldon said. “Our new culprit is unexplained joint pain, swelling and bruising. Numerous blood tests have found no cause to these symptoms. I believe I have an explanation: the unsafe and careless remediation efforts at Ascon.”
Meanwhile, some neighbors have pointed to specific incidents of cancer in the area and expressed worries that the landfill is responsible.
USC medical professor Thomas Mack in 2011 examined the incidence of childhood stem-cell cancer in the area. Of the 85 instances in the county over a 20-year period, there were no instances in north Huntington Beach while eight occurred in the southern half of the city, where the landfill is located. But none of those eight were within a half mile of the dump and the numbers were within the margin of variation due to chance, he found.
In 2006, UC Irvine medical researchers Hoda Anton-Culver and Thomas Taylor examined statewide cancer data to compare the areas adjacent to the landfill to that of the general population.
“We did not find any excess risk of cancers, given the best estimates of the size, ages, gender and race/ethnic mix of the community, and time of observation,” Taylor said via email Tuesday.
Failure to communicate
Two school board members on Tuesday said they’d been unaware of the parents’ concerns and complained that the city of Huntington Beach had left the school district out of the loop about developments related to the landfill.
“I don’t doubt the furor over us not knowing about this, but the city hasn’t been helpful,” said trustee Susan Henry.
But parents upset with the lack of communication by the district weren’t buying that excuse, noting longstanding issues at the landfill and recent calls from concerned parents to Edison High School.
“We’re upset that no steps were taken were taken to protect our students,” said Ceeson Baker, who’s son attends the school. “You have an obligation to protect our children.”
Assistant Superintendent Owen Crosby said he spoke with the toxic substances agency Monday, and that the district would now be getting regular updates from both the agency and the city.
In an email, Huntington Beach Mayor Erik Peterson did not directly respond to school trustees’ criticism but did say that all involved agencies needed to communicate better with the public.
Meanwhile, some neighbors and parents are wondering why citizen outrage has been necessary to win recent pledges of action by the toxic substances agency and school district.
“I don’t know why the burden of this is falling on the community,” parent Tara Barton told the school board Tuesday.
June 12, 2019
The Orange County Register
By Martin Wisckol

[San Diego County] Grand Jury Report Finds County Foster Care Staff Overworked, Allegations of Abuse

A grand jury report released Wednesday found multiple gaps in institutional safety and training in the Child Welfare Services division of San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency.
The grand jury reviewed the workloads of social workers in the CWS division, as well as how CWS workers are trained to provide support and care to foster children and parents. The panel also looked into the effects of the state’s Continuum of Care Reform Act, which required regional foster care systems to increase support for foster families and improve outcomes for foster youth.
The grand jury found that most social workers are overworked and often spend as much or more time on administrative work than interacting with foster children and families, resulting in poor communication and coordination. CWS staff and foster parents also lack the proper training to offer trauma-informed care or support for victims of human trafficking, according to the report.
The grand jury launched the study after the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last July on a lawsuit alleging multiple instances of abuse of foster children over a seven-year period.
Through interviews with county officials and a review of current CWS practices, the grand jury received reports that nearly one-third of foster children were abused in some way in their foster homes. In addition, roughly 20% of all calls to the county’s child abuse hotline were from foster youth.
“Even though foster families have 12 hours of initial training including an orientation and eight hours of continuing education/year, the grand jury believes increased training in trauma and parent education will decrease maltreatment in (the Resource Family Approval program) and kinship care,” the report says.
The grand jury issued nearly 10 recommendations to the county to improve the foster care system and ensure the safety of foster youth, including an annual study of abuse and mistreatment and a dedicated oversight board to investigate cases of abuse in foster homes.
Currently, cases of abuse in the county’s foster youth system are handled by a group of protective service workers and records clerks. Those workers coordinate with local law enforcement to investigate abuse and mistreatment allegations.
The panel also recommended that the county study both current workloads for its social workers and overall turnover rates to improve recruitment and retention efforts. The study should also focus on how to increase interaction between social workers, foster youth and their foster families, according to the grand jury.’
June 12, 2019
Times of San Diego
By Debbie L. Sklar

[Tuolumne County] No decision yet on economic development director

Blog note: another follow-up article on a 2018 grand jury report.
The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors did not make a decision on Tuesday about hiring an economic development director.
All five elected supervisors gathered at 2 p.m. in the board’s chambers and took public comments before going into a private closed session to interview finalists for the job.
They returned from the closed session later Tuesday for an open public meeting about fire protection services, but announced there was no action taken earlier with regard to the economic development director position.
California law allows governing bodies to exclude the public from meetings under certain circumstances, such as personnel matters, property sale negotiations and pending lawsuits.
The law also requires them to publicly report any action taken in a closed session that affects the employment status of a public employee.
County Counsel Sarah Carrillo, the board’s chief legal advisor, said she couldn’t confirm when a final decision about the position would be announced.
Martin Blake, a 40-year county resident who lives in Columbia, addressed the board before it went into closed session and asked whether the new director’s contract would include a clause about oversight.
Blake referenced reports that Larry Cope, former chief executive officer of the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority, operated with little oversight in the 10 years he worked for the agency.
“Even the president of the United States has to face voters once every four years,” Blake said.
The TCEDA was a joint powers authority formed by the county in partnership with the City of Sonora, which made it a separate entity from both governments legally speaking.
Oversight of the TCEDA was provided by a governing board that consisted of two county supervisors, two city council members, and three private individuals from the business community.
A Grand Jury report released in June last year stated the TCEDA’s structure as a joint powers authority allowed it to operate with different policies than the city and county, which contributed to the concerns about oversight and accountability.
Carrillo said the contract for the new position will use the standard template for county employees that includes specific provisions regarding oversight, including performance evaluations conducted by the Board of Supervisors at least once a year.
Although the board will select the person to appoint, Carrillo noted that the county administrator will manage the day-to-day operations of the new director.
“So there will be significant oversight,” she said.
There were five candidates who applied for the position and met the minimum qualifications, but one dropped out of the running before being interviewed.
Local business leaders and county officials were scheduled to interview the final four candidates on Monday and recommend the top two for the board to consider.
County Administrator Tracie Riggs said in an interview last week that one of the applicants who met the minimum qualifications was a local person.
The board created the new permanent position in May after unsuccessfully attempting to find someone who would do the job on a temporary basis for up to three months.
The annual base salary for the position will start at $99,382 per year and top out at $121,306, which doesn’t include health or retirement benefits.
There hasn’t been a dedicated program for economic development in the county since Cope left as the head of the TCEDA in March.
Cope’s contract was terminated after the board and city unanimously voted to shut down the TCEDA on Feb. 19 in the face of public pressure that stemmed from the findings of last year’s Grand Jury report.
Prior to leaving, Cope was receiving an annual base salary of $163,625. He was initially hired at $93,594 per year in 2009.
Cope began working last week as economic development director for the city of Hawarden, located in a rural part of northwest Iowa along the border with South Dakota.
Cope will be paid an annual salary of $65,000, Hawarden City Administrator Mike DeBruin said in an email.
Cope will not receive any benefits beyond what’s offered to all other employees of the city, which includes vacation time, sick leave and holiday pay.
Hawarden city employees do not receive any allowances for cars, cell phones, Internet, or other perks, DeBruin said.
While working for the TCEDA, Cope was receiving — on top of his base salary — $500 per month for use of his personal vehicle and $200 per month for cell phone and Internet service.
DeBruin said city of Hawarden employees also don’t receive severance packages, though Cope’s contract with the TCEDA entitled him to six months of his salary if it was terminated prematurely.
Cope received more than $120,000 upon leaving the TCEDA, which included $81,816 in severance pay and just shy of $40,000 for unused vacation time.
The city of Hawarden looked at 23 candidates for the economic development director and selected Cope because of his background and experience in the field, DeBruin said.
“We wanted a person who was knowledgeable and well versed in economic development,” DeBruin said. “We are hopeful that Mr. Cope will be able to assist our businesses with retention, to assist our downtown with innovative ideas to make business owners flourish in our downtown, add business to our industrial park, and to create programs for new housing in our community.”
DeBruin declined to comment on whether anything about Cope’s tenure in Tuolumne County came up during the interview process, nor give his personal thoughts on the matter.
DeBruin said he read news articles about the situation with the TCEDA and spoke with people in Tuolumne County and Sonora who had “many great things to say about Mr. Cope and their experience with him there.”
“I have not read anything in the articles about Mr. Cope doing anything illegal. The one resounding thing I did read from the Grand Jury report was the lack of oversight,” DeBruin said. “I believe we can provide the oversight necessary and work with Mr. Cope to bring positive results to Hawarden.”
June 11, 2019
The Union Democrat
By Alex MacLean

[Santa Barbara County] Grand Jury Investigation Finds Continuing Contraband Problem at Santa Barbara Main Jail

Report recommends more specific training for officers to conduct pat-downs, purchasing full body scanners to screen inmates and visitors

A Santa Barbara County Grand Jury investigation determined contraband in the Main Jail has remained a problem for the Sheriff’s Department for more than a decade and has led to inmate overdoses over the years, according to the group's report released this week.
The investigation was conducted to determine how well the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office (SBSO) prevents contraband from entering the Main Jail facility at 4436 Calle Real near Santa Barbara. 
Contraband includes cell phones, money, cigarette lighters, matches, tobacco, drugs and alcohol, and weapons such as knives and guns.
The Grand Jury was prompted to investigate contraband “in large part by its belief that many arrestees who enter or re-enter the jail are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. This disturbing situation creates a built-in, captive marketplace for persons who are more than willing for a variety of motives to serve the drug addictive needs of many in the jail population,” according to the report.
A Main Jail inmate died from a heroin overdose in November 2009, presumably from drugs he got inside the facility since he was booked into jail two weeks before he died, according to the report. 
“Although there does not appear to have been a drug overdose death in custody since then, the continued introduction and presence of dangerous substances in the Jail, despite ongoing preventative efforts to control it, poses a constant risk of a fatal repetition,” the Grand Jury concluded. 
Two non-fatal drug overdoses were reported in January 2019, and both inmates were hospitalized for multiple days. One inmate had ingested LSD and ecstasy, and the other had taken prescription medications phenobarbital and Klonopin, a potentially fatal mixture, the report said.
According to SBSO data, there were 214 drug related incidents in 2018 in which controlled dangerous substances or alcohol were found in the Main Jail or attempted to be brought into the Main Jail.  
In August 2018, $15,000 to $20,000 worth of heroin, methamphetamines and prescription medications were found on an inmate’s person.
“While there are many possible reasons for the contraband we are seeing, it is most likely connected to the epidemic national opioid addiction problem, as well as the on-going local methamphetamine problem,” sheriff's spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said. 
Contraband is found on inmates’ persons where it cannot be easily detected, around the jail facility’s perimeter, and mailed to inmates. Most contraband has been found through unannounced cell searches, odor detection, information provided by other inmates, and screening mail items sent to inmates, according to the report.
The Grand Jury previously investigated the contraband issue in 2009 and in response to that report, the Sheriff's Department conducted hundreds of inmate and cell searches.
Yet a decade later, the the contraband problem has remained the same, according to the 2019 report.
To address the large volume of contraband items found in the Main Jail, the Grand Jury report recommends that officers be trained to pat-down arrestees more effectively at jail intake, and that the department purchase another drug detection dog and full body scanners to screen incoming inmates and visitors.
The Main Jail currently does not have any full body scanners and there is one drug sniffing dog, Krypto, who is used periodically at the Main Jail to detect contraband, the Grand Jury found.  
SBSO has 60 days to respond to the report and its recommendations.
The Sheriff’s Office is still studying the recommendations from the Grand Jury and will submit a formal response to the Presiding Judge of the Santa Barbara Superior Court by Aug. 6, Hoover said. 
Hoover said contraband is an issue for many correctional facilities, and said inmates will continue to “thwart” SBSO’s efforts to detect drugs coming into the Main Jail.
The investigation consisted of multiple interviews with senior Sheriff’s Department custody officials who monitor the daily efforts to prevent contraband from entering the jail facilities, and a review of SBSO statistics. 
The Grand Jury also released a report this week on its investigation into the death of a Main Jail inmate who suffered from multiple chronic medical conditions and died at Cottage Hospital in March 2018.
The inmate died from natural causes and no further action was required, the report determined. 
June 11, 2019
By Maura Fox

Tuolumne County Grand Jury Reviews Juvenile Hall And GCSD

Sonora, CA — The Tuolumne County Grand Jury continues to release more sections of its 2019 report.
We reported earlier that the group was highly critical of the oversight of the Tuolumne County Economic Development Authority, and later addressed safety and staffing concerns at the Tuolumne County Jail.
The latest sections deal with the Tuolumne County Juvenile Hall and the Groveland Community Services District. Related to the juvenile detention center, it argues that the facility is saving the county money in the long term by reducing youth recidivism from 49-percent to 19-percent. It also praises the the investment of the local volunteer community.
Regarding the Groveland Community Services District, it found the district is financially stressed, there is not enough staffing, the high cost of fire and park services is not sustainable, wastewater issues are not being properly addressed, and representatives have been confrontational with ratepayers. It also voices concerns about the ability of the General Manager to serve in the lead role, while he also still represents various other water districts.
June 11, 2019
By B.J. Hansen

[Monterey County] Application filed for new hotel project at Tin Cannery

Blog note: this article references a grand jury report.
PACIFIC GROVE — An application to construct a hotel and commercial space in the troubled American Tin Cannery building was submitted Friday to the city of Pacific Grove.
Debra Geiler, the head of entitlements for EI Segundo-based Comstock Properties, confirmed Friday that her company has filed an application and is in the initial stages of a development plan after striking a lease agreement with the Cannery Row Co., the owners of the building at 125 Ocean View Blvd.
Geiler said they worked with Ted Balestreri, chief executive of Cannery Row Co., for the past eight or nine months to hammer out a long-term lease agreement. Comstock determined that the site was underutilized and ideal for investment.
The Tin Cannery is currently home to roughly 20 small retail shops, far from its capacity.
Mike Zimmerman, chief operations officer for Cannery Row Co., said there is no better place in Pacific Grove to put in a hotel.
“This is going to be great for Pacific Grove,” Zimmerman said. “It will give PG one of the finest hotels in Northern California and provide great financial benefits for the city of Pacific Grove for years to come.”
Geiler said having a new hotel at the location will contribute to the Cannery Row community and help create an important entryway and identity for Pacific Grove. There will be opportunities to partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Hopkins Marine Station to incorporate the “Monterey Peninsula charm,” she said.
“The design will incorporate the existing building,” Geiler said. “The plan will also have 20,000 square feet of retail, very similar to the San Francisco Ferry Building.”
The project is in its infancy and will take roughly nine to 12 months to finish the designs, answer questions from planning staff and the public meeting process to be completed, Geiler said, adding that the company has been in “lockstep” with the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District and has confirmed that it has more than enough entitlements for the project.
“All told it will likely be 18 months before there’s any activity on the actual building,” she said.
An earlier 160-room hotel project dubbed “Project Bella” came apart at the seams after launching in 2015 by developers Domaine Hospitality Partners. In February 2017 the permit for that project expired leaving the city of Pacific Grove in the lurch for more than $100,000 worth of expenses only partially recovered from the developers, according to a Civil Grand Jury report issued in July of last year.
Up to the point of failure, the project had cost nearly $250,000 plus the cost of a $31,000 investigation. Domaine Hospitality reimbursed the city roughly $180,000 of that.
Pacific Grove was the subject of severe criticism in the Grand Jury report, accusing it of moving ahead “without proper due diligence,” the report read.
June 10, 2019
Monterey Herald
By Dennis L. Taylor