Blogs

Judge Rules Against Motion for Injunction In FP-5 Case

Published April 5th, 2019

FP-5 Special Tax One Step Closer to Appearing on November 2019 Property Tax Bill.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

In a written decision, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Donald Alvarez allowed the County of San Bernardino to move forward with its plans to exact the additional tax associated with the expansion of Fire Prevention Zone Five (FP-5).

In October 2018, the County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to expand FP-5. The expansion added all 19,073 square miles of unincorporated county land to the fire zone and came with a special tax of $157.26 per year with a likely increase of 3% every year. The resulting $26.9 million tax windfall was to cover, in part, County Fire’s projected $29 million budget deficit.

The county’s argument for imposing this additional burden almost entirely on unincorporated residents is a curious one. The county maintains the unincorporated areas are not paying their fair share for fire services. Unincorporated landowners, along with citizens of Grand Terrace, Twenty Nine Palms and Yucca Valley see it differently. Since 2015 County Fire has gone on an acquisition spree. Via annexations approved by San Bernardino’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), County Fire added a projected $47.3M to its budget requirements by taking additional emergency service responsibilities in the county. 90% of that funding was planned to fund operations in Upland and San Bernardino City. In consequence, staffing for County Fire increased markedly in the Valley Region and administrative functions while it decreased in the Desert and Mountain Regions. Citizens in these unincorporated areas rightly question why they are forced to support this arrangement.

Owners of undeveloped land are particularly galled by the additional tax. Cal-Fire, a state agency, has primary firefighting responsibility on undeveloped land in the state. Why are they required to contribute extra to the county coffers when County Fire is not primarily responsible to fight a fire on their land?

The Red Brennan Group, an organization established to further fair and efficient government, partnered with a coalition of landowners and civic organization to challenge the FP-5 expansion in court. The coalition contends the county, among other illegalities, violated Article XIIIC of the California’s Constitution.

“No local government may impose, extend, or increase any special tax unless and until that tax is submitted to the electorate and approved by a two-thirds vote.”

In an attempt to suspend collection of the tax, The Red Brennan Group’s legal team submitted a motion for preliminary injunction with the intent to halt the tax while the lawsuit progressed. Judge Alvarez denied the motion based on a multi-part legal test.

Judge Alvarez was bound by an overly broad decision of California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals. In Sunset Beach v. Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission the court upheld a 133 acre “island annexation” of Sunset Beach into the surrounding city of Huntington Beach. The county’s approach in the FP-5 expansion is an extreme test of the Sunset Beach case. The county proposes using a Fire Zone originally established to cover 5.6 square miles around the small desert community of Helendale to “swallow” 19,073 unincorporated square miles of the county. While Judge Alvarez noted the difference is “significant” he wrote that the Plantiffs fail to “…adequately explain why Sunset Beach, with its strong and broad language … is inapplicable here.”

A second factor the judge considered is the so-called “pay first, litigate later” clause in the constitution. Essentially, this clause requires payment of the tax prior to a party bringing suit against the government organization levying that tax.

The third factor Judge Alvarez considered was, essentially, a technicality. The Plaintiffs failed to complete a “reverse validation” action. In layman’s terms, Plaintiffs must inform the public they are suing a public agency within 60 days of the action. Missing this step, according to California Code, means the “…public agency’s action is forever immune from attack ‘whether it is legally valid or not.’” The court did, however, offer a lifeline. Tom Murphy (760) 810-5830 tmurphy@redbrennan.org 2 Judge Alvarez wrote “…it is possible for Plaintiffs to circumvent this requirement upon a showing of ‘good cause.’”

In a perplexing move, Judge Alvarez brushed over the Plaintiffs equal protection claim. Numerous unincorporated residents contacted The Red Brennan Group and expressed dismay over the county’s so-called protest procedure. Many claimed they never received the protest notification letter while others indicated the letter so closely resembled junk mail they may have discarded it. Significantly, the notification letter did not include the needed protest form. Recipients were required to locate a form either by navigating to a webpage or “Dialing 211.” Although the Plaintiffs claimed this shoddy process violated the equal protection guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, Jude Alvarez’s opinion only mentioned the claim in passing.

A ruling favorable to The Red Brennan Group’s request would have forced the county to table collection of the additional tax as the underlying case grinds its way through the court system. With the denial of the motion, the tax remains slated to appear on the November 2019 property tax bill of affected county residents.

Tom Murphy, spokesman for the organization, stated “This ruling is by no means the final word on FP-5. While this is a disappointing result, it is a skirmish in the larger legal battle. The heart of our coalition’s concern is – will elected leadership of the county, together with the justice system, allow the county’s bureaucracy to run roughshod over the constitutional rights of its citizens? Constituents should send a clear message to the county supervisors. The board’s 3-2 decision in favor of FP-5 expansion was dead wrong, the people are taking note and county leadership should reverse course.”

Murphy went on “The intent of California voters via Proposition 13, 218, and 26 is crystal clear. For the past 41 years the people of this state have reiterated their right to control their own pocketbooks. The county bureaucracy clearly has something on its mind other than common-sense governance. If our household budget is in the red, what do we do? We tighten our belts, cut back on unnecessary items, identify effective economies. Not so at the county. County departments, particularly County Fire, come to the table and simply ask for more – and the elected officials hand it over. According to the State Controller’s website, county property tax revenue increased 21% between 2010 and 2017. Why did County Fire’s budget request increase 40% over the same period? Rather than insisting the bureaucracy control its spending, county elected officials go along with a scheme clearly designed by a member of the apparatchik to circumvent the California Constitution and the voter’s expressed will.”

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For further information contact: Tom Murphy The Red Brennan Group tmurphy@redbrennan.org (760) 810-5830 Additional detail and legal filings are located at https://redbrennan.org/fire-prevention-zone-five-expansion/

Announcement: Victorville Workshop on Homeless Issues Jan. 29th

Published January 25th, 2019

The Homeless issue in the City of Victorville impacts all it citizens, businesses, and professionals such as the High Desert real estate community. It impacts what people see and the perception that they have. It impacts investment dollars entering the community. It impacts homebuyers looking to locate to our region. I STRONGLY urge you to take the time and to attend. A few of us in the commercial brokerage industry cannot change what has occurred. We, as an industry, can do great things together. Mr. Donald P. Brown President of Lee and Associates and I have confirmed our attendance. If you have any questions feel free to call my cell during normal hours at 760-954-4567. (Click the link below for more detailed info on the meeting)

Agenda for Special City Council Meeting - Workshop on Homeless Issues


Tuesday, January 29, 2019 at 3:00 PM
Victorville City Hall
Conference Room D
14343 Civic Dr
Victorville CA 92392

Sincerely,

Joseph W. Brady, CCIM, SIOR
President, The Bradco Companies
Lic #00773589

jbrady@thebradcocompanies.com

Joseph W. Brady, Inc., dba The Bradco Companies is a State of California Licensed Broker DRE No. 01057618

57th Edition of The Bradco High Desert Report

Published July 10th, 2018

Joseph W. Brady, Inc., dba The Bradco Companies is pleased to present the latest edition of The Bradco High Desert Report. This report is the only economic overview of its kind. We analyze the High Desert economy, property values, politics and policies that directly impact our residents and business owners. Additionally, we look at infrastructure, transportation, water, and air quality. We do everything we can to make the High Desert a great place to live, work, and play.

This one of the longest editions we have published! Click here to download your pdf version of the 57th Edition of The Bradco High Desert Report.

Tapestry Project Will Help Address Housing Crisis in California

Published June 26th, 2018

By Joseph W. Brady, CCIM, SIOR

The Tapestry project is a major housing development that will help address the housing crisis in California. This large development will build more than +/-15,000 units. Click here to download the pdf and read more about this project.

Russ Blewett was Among the High Desert's Greatest Leaders Ever

Published June 18th, 2018

During the 30 years that I have been a resident and a businessman within the High Desert region, I have met, worked with, coerced, discussed, and challenged, many of our current and former High Desert leaders.

As we pay our respects to a leader like Mr. Russ Blewett, we always seem to recognize the enormous accomplishments of the individual and promise ourselves that his or her example will help change our lives for the better.

Today, we take measure of this man’s countless accomplishments and have an opportunity to reflect on the great things that Mr. Blewett taught us, in making the High Desert a better place to live, work and play.

In the mid-990′s I served with Mr. Blewett on the Executive Leadership Team of the Building Industry Association Baldy View Chapter. This organization is a part of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the California Building Industry Association Industries (CBIA), and the Building Industry Association of Southern California (BIASC). Mr. Blewett served as president of the organization, having been preceded by some incredible individuals. You had to be a true leader to be considered to be president of the Building Industry Association Baldy View Chapter.

During the nearly 25 years that I really knew Mr. Blewett, we agreed on many business and political issues, and we disagreed on a few. He had his views, I had my views. What I always found when I listened to what Mr. Blewett had to say (even when we disagreed), is that I would learn something. While he was never short of an opinion, he was absolutely committed, he was passionate, he wanted to hear other points of view, but he never wavered from his convictions, nor his final decisions.

One thing for certain, a conversation with Russ Blewitt required you to be at the “top of your game”.

When we lose people like Mr. Blewett, we lose not only leaders and history, but also the convictions that had been at the center of many of the issues during the past three decades. From the closing of George Air Force Base to the creation of economic development initiatives to the Regional Waste Water Plant, to crime, unemployment, or high welfare rates, you name it, whatever you needed to count on somebody to participate, attend, be active, or voice their concerns, you could absolutely count on Mr. Blewett.

That was the respect that I had for Mr. Blewett and I think that is why so many people in the High Desert had such high respect for him. And Mr. Blewett gave respect in return. He had high expectations, everyone could make themselves better individuals and better leaders.

So, in tribute to Russ (I regret being out of the area on the day of his memorial), I want to thank you for what you taught me, and I want to thank you for your convictions. I want to thank you for the many conversations that we had, whether we agreed or disagreed.

I want to thank you for always making the City of Hesperia your top concern and I want to thank you for always being committed to the betterment of the rest of the High Desert, recognizing that whatever happened in one city had an impact on all of the others.

I want to thank you for not being selfish and for always being there at any time and any place when someone needed to hear a strong opinion. Thank you for not being afraid of giving strong opinions; thank you for listening and not being afraid of individuals with strong opinions.

Quite candidly, I enjoy strong and passionate people because they make great leaders. Mr. Russ Blewitt was one of many greatest leaders to ever live, work, or play in the High Desert region.

Farewell, Russ, until we see each other again.

Joseph W. Brady is president of the Bradco Companies and a member of the Victor Valley College Board of Trustees.

 

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