Do you remember a fellow named Mark McLoughlin? His name popped up this week as a possible candidate to replace Ceci Iglesias on the SAUSD School Board. But that appointment appears set to go to former Santa Ana Planning Commissioner Bruce Bauer, who could make history as the SAUSD’s first openly gay School Board Member.
McLoughlin currently serves on the Santa Ana Planning Commission. He previously served on the Rancho Santiago Community College Board of Trustees and he lives in the Floral Park Neighborhood. He runs a golf sporting goods company according to his bio.
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McLoughlin has been involved in local boards and civic affairs for some time, as you can gather. So one might think that he would be very careful, particularly in his role as the Chairman of the Santa Ana Planning Commission, as to how he goes about his business. As a Commissioner it is vital that he serve all members of the public in a fair and nonjudgmental manner.
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It seems however that McLoughlin has allowed himself to become personally embroiled in the simmering debate about the proposed high-quality apartment development at 2525 N. Main St.
The key question to consider is whether or not McLoughlin has what one might term a “personal interest” in this project. The California Fair Political Practices Act and the California Political Reform Act state that officials and employees should avoid making or participate in making decisions in which they have a significant personal interest, even if that interest is not a financial one.
McLoughlin has consistently opposed the 2525 N. Main St. project – even when he did not have all the pertinent information.
While there are a cadre of neighbors in the Park Santiago Neighborhood Association who oppose the project there are also many area residents who have written letters in support of this project.
Furthermore the City of Santa Ana’s Planning Agency recommended the project – after the project’s EIR (Environmental Impact Report) showed that the project would not have a negative impact on the community and would in fact generate more than $3.5 million dollars in badly-needed annual tax revenues for the City of Santa Ana. The developer has also offered to spend over $1.5 million to improve the badly dilapidated Santiago Park.
We have also heard that other Santa Ana Planning Commissioners believe that McLoughlin has violated the Brown act repeatedly, most recently before the recent Planning Commission hearing started, when he lobbied to all of the commissioners that the matter of voting on the project needed to be kicked down the road because he allegedly needed time to review the EIR. Why didn’t he do that beforehand? The Planning Agency had even produced a nice summary of the EIR! The project hearing ended up getting delayed for more than six weeks.
It is also vital that City Commissioners allow everyone the same amount of time when they are addressing a Commission on a public matter. However McLoughlin allowed opponents of the project to talk at times for up to six minutes but he was curt and cut off any supporter’s time to under 2 minutes. In any city hearing, public speakers are allowed up to 3 minutes to speak up, but McLoughlin set aside the rules and did as he pleased. That certainly does not appear to be due process.
McLoughlin has also allegedly spoken to all the other members of the Santa Ana Planning Commission about the project, expressing his dislike for the project, which is a huge mistake – and another violation of the Brown Act. As a City Commissioner he is only allowed to speak to up to two fellow Commissioners on any project, at any given time.
Word on the street is that McLoughlin has also refused to meet with anyone from the development team to be informed about the project firsthand. it is eminently clear that McLoughlin has in fact made up his mind prior to receiving all of the information on the project, which flies in the face of his commitment to be a fair-minded Commissioner. Planning Commissioners are required to impartially review a project – not make up their mind a year before it comes before them!
In fact the job of the Planning Commission is to simply “recommend” to the Santa Ana City Council development projects that they support. They are not a legislative body.
McLoughlin has however been seen about town quite often in the company of Dale Helvig, the leader of the opposition to the development in question. Remarkably, there are many reports that the two of them have met often over the last year to discuss strategy on how to trip up or slow down the project.
McLoughlin also has friends and family that live in the affected Park Santiago Neighborhood and he is attempting to do them a favor by staying in opposition. He lives in close proximity to 2525, about 1500 feet via the trail that runs along Santiago Creek. This proximity might in fact be a reason for recusal.
McLoughlin’s plan appears to be to delay and delay the project with the hope that the developer will tire of these games and walk away. But the project already has a glowing recommendation of approval from City staff that is trained to assess these projects. And at this point it is very likely that our new City Council will approve this project – in order to bring badly needed quality housing to our city while also filling up our tax coffers with income our city simply cannot reject at this point.
At the end of the day McLoughlin appears to be pandering to a small faction of seniors in Park Santiago because the City has moved to ward-specific City Council elections. He must think that he has a shot in two years to take down City Councilman Jose Solorio and win his seat in the next election. That seems an impossibility however as Solorio’s Ward 3 has become increasingly diverse over the past few years and many of the older white residents are currently selling their homes, packing up, and leaving Santa Ana.
We hear that the developer has met with some high-powered attorneys and he is prepared to file suit against McLoughlin personally if he is foolish enough to vote on a project while he appears to have a most serious set of conflicts with.
Is McLoughlin also putting the City of Santa Ana in financial peril by disallowing the applicant developer’s rights to due process?