During the discussion around parolee housing at the 3/5/19 City Council meeting, Mayor Catalano twice brought up court cases to support her position. She characterized these as dispositive to our situation, without mentioning the cases by name. When Council Member Wan questioned her on these matters, she balked, stating that she wasn’t interested in discussing the merits of these cases.
But discussing the merits is a critical step in making a risk based determination on what the best course of action is. Being unwilling to discuss the merits of the fact pattern upon which she is basing her rationale robs the public of the opportunity to understand the arguments being advanced. In fact, it doesn’t present an argument at all.
Raising the specter of litigation as a way to deflect engaging in discussion on the merits is a scare tactic. But as we saw when the most restrictive buffer distance leapfrogged from 300′, to 500′, to 1000′, the goal posts keep moving. Mayor Catalano characterizes a ban as legally indefensible in her latest column in the Pioneer. But because she refuses to discuss the merits of this matter, it’s difficult to determine what she bases that conclusion on. In fact, the Hesperia matter that Mayor Catalano likes to bring up is dissimilar to our fact pattern in a number of ways. But this deflection and misleading characterization does a disservice to our residents.
The city attorney did say during the meeting that the Hesperia matter was similar. But this is the same city attorney who kept moving the maximum legally defensible buffer zone, from 300’, to 500’, to 1,000’. This is the same city attorney who in her role as the City Attorney for the City of Lafayette, recommended that a citizen referendum should be determined invalid. Later, after litigation, the California Court of Appeals determined that this was in error and that the city improperly interfered with the referendum process. The city then agreed to pay $650K as a result of acting on that poor recommendation.
In previous discussion on the matter, the city attorney has stated that this would actually be a matter of first impression. That means it hasn’t been adjudicated in a court – there is no precedent to rely on. It seems we should question the quality of the legal advice the city is getting.
In reality, it is likely Clayton already has a de-facto ban on these types of businesses. Because Oakhurst sells alcohol, the current buffer distance would be triggered around its premises and would cover all of the targeted areas for parolee housing businesses. But when Council member Wan requested that the matter be investigated further, Mayor Catalano demurred, uninterested in finding out if there already was the ban that she thinks is indefensible.