Whittier Council Candidates’ Claims, Rated from True to False

Whittier Council Candidates’ Claims, Rated from True to False

Last week, Sustainable City News fact-checked statements by mayoral contenders in the first three candidate forums. This week, we fact-check statements made in four candidate forums by Whittierites running for City Council in Districts 1 and 3.

On business growth and retention, District 3 incumbent Cathy Warner claimed during the Chamber of Commerce forum at 83:15, “During the last six months of 2019 we have a net number of 94 new businesses in Whittier, and during the past four years we have a net number of 400 new businesses in Whittier.” She repeated this claim in the League of Women Voters forum at 87:26. District 1 Candidate Andrew Roble addressed the same subject in the League of Women Voters Forum at 84:00 “You see all the small businesses that we’re losing. We need to promote these small businesses.”

The Net New Businesses spreadsheet provided by the city, based on business license information appears to list a total of 931 businesses with start dates between January 1, 2016 and December 31 2016. Of these, 214 licenses expired between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2019, and 55 expired between July 1 and December 31, 2019. 

If this is the correct interpretation, more information is needed to verify Warner’s numbers. It does confirm that a number of businesses have closed during the last 4 years. 

At the League of Women Voters / AAUW forum, candidates were asked their positions on Measure W. While all shared their positions, several explained their reasons:

Jessica Martinez (District 1) League of Women Voters at 90:32 “Measure W is one of those things where if we don’t take that .75 percentage of tax what will eventually happen is that our lovely Los Angeles County will take it because they never turned down an opportunity to say yes to another increase of any kind of tax. So thank you we should take it first before they do.” 

Andrew Roble (District 1) agreed, saying at 92:21, “Like we all know, the county will take this money regardless. It’s now or it’s later.” at 92:36, “It’s (Measure W) not only for the small things, it’s … I noticed a fire truck down the other day. One of our rigs was down. This would help provide public safety to not only our police but our fire, so I will be supporting Measure W.” 

Cathy Warner (District 3) explained at 93:50, “The state has a law that your sales tax cannot be any greater than 10.50%, so obviously we have .75 that we can go to and utilize if the voters support that. And yes I support Measure W. We have a structural deficit that we have at this point in time would have been a lot worse had the council in the early 2000s not set aside money when CalPERS told us they were super funded, and we didn’t need to pay them. And it’s true that if we don’t pass the sales tax at this point in time, other local agencies such as the AQMD, the county, or any other agency that might get their measure on the ballot first can place a measure on the ballot for the City of Whittier, and if that measure is then voted yes, that sales tax money that would have come here will go to that agency.” 

According to Whittier City Manager Brian Saeki, the statewide cap on sales tax is 10.25%. One a local city’s total sales taxes reach that mark, sales taxes cannot be increased under current state law. If Los Angeles County were to vote for another tax increase, Whittier’s sales taxes would remain at 10.25%, while sales taxes would increase in parts of L.A. County that were not yet paying 10.25%. Whittier should still be able to receive the benefits of those taxes paid in other parts of the county, but this question has not been tested. So, for example, if another county-wide special purpose tax (like Measure H for homelessness services) were to pass, but the new tax could not be collected from Whittier, due to Whittier’s sales taxes already being at 10.25. In that event, would Whittier be able to seek funds from this new tax that we don’t pay? According to Saeki, that question has not come up yet. If it were to come up under current state law, we can’t be sure what would happen. But as of now, we have no reason to believe Whittier would be disadvantaged in any way by not contributing to future sales tax increases by the county or other local agencies. 

We rate the candidates’ statements that Whittier would be protected by state law from further sales tax increases true. Warner’s statement of the statewide cap was off by .25%

City Manager Saeki also confirmed that Whittier does not have its own fire department, but contracts with L.A. County Fire Department at a set yearly rate. 

We rated Roble’s statement implying that the city would be responsible for fixing a fire truck broken down in Whittier mostly false because such repairs would be covered under the set annual contract fee Whittier pays to the county for fire services.

We address additional statements by candidate and district:

More from District 1 candidates

Jessica Martinez spoke three times about climate change in the Cleaner Greener forum. At 24:02, she said, “The whole climate change thing is really not necessarily due to certain people’s … well let’s just say this: There is a study that suggests or states that climate changes have to do more with the sun’s orbit rather than anything we as human beings do.” 

Martinez continued at 38:02 “I believe that we shouldn’t sacrifice the way that we live, our standard of living, on certain popular facts that have come into vogue. I think that we have to observe those things with a level and a measure of common sense, not jumping on the junk science bandwagon. … I feel that many of these plans and sustainability projects that are coming into California are not actually from California. They’re from the Paris Accords and so forth that our Sacramento politicians have adopted and have inflicted on the rest of California.”

And Martinez gave a more complete statement in the Cleaner Greener Part 2 at 19:22: “Do I believe [climate change] exists? Yes. What do I believe the cause of climate change is? So once again I’m going to refer you, and you can do your own research of course on this, but an astrophysicist, and this is published on the NASA Earth Observatory, Milutin Milankovich. He’s an astrophysicist and he talks about how climate change is due to solar orbit so just as we didn’t cause the mini ice age to happen in the 1500s, we are not responsible for the climate change that is happening now.”

Martinez appears to be referring to an article on Paleoclimatology on the NASA Earth Observatory website, which does indeed discuss scientific work Milutin Milankovich published in 1930. The fact-checking websites AFP Fact Check and Snopes both trace this misconception of Milankovich’s work to an August 28, 2019 broadcast where radio personality Hal Turner, later picked up by the publication Natural News. Thes sources claimed that a biographical sketch of Milankovitch NASA published in 2000 prove climate change is caused by variations in the earth’s orbit, and not by other causes. In fact, NASA’s more comprehensive article on the causes of climate change attributes it to greenhouse gasses, not changes in the sun. 

We rate Martinez’ claim false.

Maggie Moe League of Women Voters at 97:24 “There was a developer who came to the City of Whittier on the … corner of Five Points and Whittier Blvd, and he was willing to give a few homes for low income families, that the City of Whittier said no. ‘We don’t do those type of things.’” This story was related by Whittier mayoral candidate Louis Reyes at the Housing and Homelessness Candidate Forum. Sustainable City contacted Reyes, who said this conversation had taken place while he was working on contract for a developer. Because he gained this information while working for a client, additional information could not be made publicly available.

More from District 3 candidates 

During the Chamber forum, Alex Moisa said at 108:42, “If anybody wants to do work on their house and it’s over 50 years old, you’re gonna get the Historical Resource Commission, you’re gonna get a layer of bureaucracy that’s gonna bring about $2,500 or $3,000 extra dollars to the table.”

Whittier’s Historic Resources Commission reviews applications for Certificates of Appropriateness applications for proposed remodels, additions or new development in a Historic District and for homes listed as landmarks under the authority of Whittier Municipal Code Chapter 2.50. Also, not every home more than 50 years old is located in a historic district or scheduled as a historic landmark. In May of last year, the City Council agreed to waive fees for Certificates of Appropriateness, applications for landmark status, and Mills Act applications when applied for voluntarily by the homeowner. There may be some costs if a homeowner hires someone to prepare an application for a Certificate Appropriateness, but no city fees at this time. Taking the application to the Historic Resource Commission, which only meets once a month, will also increase the length of time required for permitting. 

We rate Moisa’s statement mostly false.

Yasmin Ferrada League of Women Voters at 100:23  “We were promised affordable housing development at The Groves. We see 750 units are planning on going up and none of them are affordable housing.” The promise came from Third District incumbent Cathy Warner, who said in an interview for Sustainable City News, “There will be lots of affordable housing units in the upcoming Nelles project.” Today (February 14, 2020), Whittier’s Director of Community Development, Conal McNamara told Sustainable City News, “As of this date, there are no affordable units, for sale or rental, planned for The Groves.” 

We rate Ferrada’s statement true.

At 97:35 of the Chamber forum, Cathy Warner stated, “We lost our car dealerships, but [constituents have] been very, very pleased that those properties have been repurposed. An example of success is The Gables on Whittier Blvd. that was a former car dealer and that was developed into condominiums. And did you know that there are several affordable units within The Gables? But you probably don’t know which units are the affordable units because that has not been made known to the general public. However, when The Gables were built, there were special loans available to folks of low income that could purchase those units.” At the League of Women Voters forum at 110:46, Warner said, “Right now in the City of Whittier we have 276 very low income units at Whittier Towers, William Penn Manor, and the Hoover Hotel at The Seasons. We have 20 low income units at Mosaic Gardens, and we also have 33 affordable units at both The Gables and at Guilford Court.”

The units reserved for low-income seniors at the William Penn Manor and Seasons at the Hoover are verified on the city’s AB 987 list, and the units at Whittier Lutheran Tower are listed on a separate city report. LINC Housing’s website gives information about Mosaic Gardens, Whittier’s only rental units for low-income families. Some units in The Gables have been sold under the Whittier Housing Authority’s Affordable Home Ownership Program (AHOP). By comparing the tables on page 2 of the AHOP with the HUD FY2019 Income Limits Summary for Los Angeles County, households at the very top of the low income tier (described in the AHOP as moderate income, for example, $77,500-$83,150 for a family of 4) are eligible for this program. Guilford Court has 9 affordable condos, sold under the same program. 
Although only a very small number of low-income households can qualify for the “affordable” home ownership program, we rate Warner’s statements true.

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