Tue. Mar 5th, 2024
Mark McLoughlin and Dale Helvig

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.

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.

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?

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

28 thoughts on “Has the Chairman of the Planning Commission become a liability to the City of Santa Ana?”
    1. Slander only applies to the spoken word. As political speech is protected by the First Amendment we are not worried about libel either. Plus the truth is its own defense.

  1. The byline that this is Santa Ana’s “Top News Blog” is a joke. Never even heard of this site and it’s hardly a fair and balanced article. More like a slanted piece written by an entity with its own interest in development.

  2. Interesting read. He should be able to hang around and speak to who he wants as long as it does not impact his position on the planning commission. If it does, he should recuse himself from that discussion item and the vote. I presume he can still do this and should if it is an issue. Him living that close and having family so close to the project may be the bigger conflict of interest since he may be personally vested in the result and the process. As the Chairman of that commission, hopefully he allows equal access and speaking time to those who are in favor of the project and those opposed- this would seem the professional thing to do. I suppose the Brown Act violations are for the lawyers to hash out, but those rules are their for a reason.

    1. Art Pedroza is the editor of this blog. I don’t personally know if he has any connection to the developer but find it odd that people that think anyone who may be in favor of the project must have a connection to the developer. I suppose this may be part of why people are sometimes afraid to speak up.

      Maybe some think that the benefits could outweigh the negatives after they review it. Lower traffic compared to an office building that can be built the now. $6 million for low income housing that we need to help those who cannot afford the housing in that area of town. $1 million for park improvements and security for the neighborhood. Additional tax base which will provide needed city funds. High income earners coming to the city. Some good changes from when it started (reduced capacity, increased parking, increased setbacks, changing of the exit location, reduced height in the back). Compare those positives with some possible visual distraction especially knowing that the site will not remain vacant.

      Now hopefully it will pass and the city will do good things with the money coming in and we have some great people join us in our city in a few years.

        1. Good thing that I am not seeking credibility in your eyes. Many people use anonymity to protect themselves and their family. This is a highly divisive topic and unfortunately one that if you have an opposing opinion it is not taken very neighborly.

          Although, my inclination is that it is not so much who says what but what they say that you may disagree with.

  3. It Is a shame no one addresses the fact that the Park Santiago community is not against development of the site. The disagreement is about the size and density.
    As for grey hairs, our community is a mix of all ages who know the benefits of community involvement.

    The City of Santa Ana is in line with the State requirements for housing, in fact they are ahead of almost all other cities in that respect. No mention has been made of the development starting this summer, directly across Memory Lane. There will be 727 units, a mix of town homes and apartments.

    The Project proposes the development of a residential project on an approximately 12.127-acre Site, on the south side of Town and Country Road, east of Lawson Way. The General Plan land use designation for the Site is Urban Mixed Use (UMIX), 30-60 du/acre. The zoning designation is Urban Mixed Use (UMU). The Project Site is currently developed with seven two-story commercial buildings currently used as offices. The Project proposes the construction of 727 residential units as a combination of apartments and townhome units.

    Please note the density on a site twice the size of 2525 N. Main. 2525 wants 84 units per acre, which is just too dense.

    1. Good points. I hope you are right Deborah and that people simply want a smaller multi family complex. If the people who I perceive are against the project (those who show up at meetings with the yellow shirts on) truly are not against development and instead just against size and density, I question the “no rezoning, no apartments” type slogans, the “no apartments” shirts, and the form letter from the NSAPA stating “no rezoning, no apartments” and that the site remain zoned professional “regardless of any future design changes proposed”. 

      Those statements seem to imply that people who say those things, wear those shirts, and support NSAPA public narrative appear to not want residential development of the site yet alone would support smaller and less dense apartments which both would require a rezone, general plan amendment, and obviously allow apartments. Fortunately, there are many in Santa Ana who truly do support the project.

      If there are many who like Deborah are ok with apartments for that site but with changes to density and size, I might suggest that those residents speak their minds about supporting apartments with simply reduced density. And, maybe leave the no apartment shirts at home as it would not support that narrative (by all means wear them if it supports your views though). Actually,  everyone who has feelings on the project, either in support or opposing, should let our city know their thoughts as it will only make a better project and overall city. Park Santiago is a great area to live and will remain that way in the future as it is about the neighbors and not the buildings.

          1. “Fortunately, there are many in Santa Ana who truly do support the project.” That is a crap statement without evidence. And compared to those who oppose the development as designed is way off base – “crap.”

          2. The evidence for the many who support the project is in the comments to the planning commission meetings. Is it as many who were opposed? Absolutely not! But, there were many who spoke in favor of the project. The evidence is in the record- you certainly can look it up if it is important. i heard that there were quite a few who spoke last night, obviously not convincingly enough to sway the votes though. There were many more who spoke in opposition it seems too…there can be many on both sides. So, although it is your opinion as to determine if it is crap or not, the fact is that many do support the project- just not in comparison to those from Park Santiago and other areas who spoke in against it.

  4. If anybody on the Planning Commission has a conflict, it would be David Benavides. The developer for 2525 n main st has given thousands of dollars to Benavides’ non-profit Kidworks. While Benavides is on the Planning Commission, don’t expect this to be the last time somebody wanting a project to get approved will just “donate” to Kidworks.

  5. I have been to many of the Planning meetings and heard the neighborhood folks say they would acquiesce to a much lower density for this project. Of course we would prefer no zoning change and no General Plan change.

    The architect for the project designs cookie cutter buildings that all look the same. Just look them up and see what they have done recently. No character whatsoever.

    The enormous amount of building of new units within 0.5 miles of the neighborhood is astonishing and that coupled with the Hampton Inn being built just down the street, the 727 units being built off Memory Lane, and the demolition of the Carpool Lane off Main should negate another hugely dense project on our literal doorstep.

    The quest for the almighty dollar is going to be the undoing of the quality of life for all of us.
    Unchecked building of multifamily units in the City of Santa Ana ruined many neighborhoods,
    It is not unreasonable to want to maintain the neighborhood quality which is rapidly vanishing statewide.

  6. Art, last year you wrote, “The entrance to this massive apartment complex will be on Edgewood. It is already very difficult to get into the neighborhood on Edgewood, particularly at rush hour. This will be a nightmare for residents.”. What changed your mind about this project?

      1. The development EIR failed to pass the Planning Commission – will the developer appeal the decision to the Council – or will they modify their proposal and resubmit?

  7. “The Planning Commission voted 4-2 against the EIR, General Plan Amendment, Developers Agreement and the Amendment Application for Specific Development. They also recorded a 4-2 vote denying the project. This is a team success for all Santa Ana neighborhoods.”

    So Mr. Editor – do you think the developer will appeal the PC decision to the City Council – or will he revise & re-submit?

  8. The EIR didn’t change Mr. Pedroza’s mind as the EIR was issued in August and review completed in September. At the October Planning Commission meeting he said, “Developer knew what he was buying when he paid $17M. He knew that property was not zoned for a mega huge apartment complex that’s going to ruin our neighborhood.” You can hear this on the Santa Ana website video for Oct. 22. What changed was most likely a money transfer.

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