California Crown assessment fee increase will support landscaping and maintenance

Residents of Signal Hill’s California Crown neighborhood approved an increase in assessment fees to cover expenses that will enhance the conditions of landscaping and maintenance within the district’s boundaries.

The California Crown was established in 1992 and is the only assessment district in Signal Hill. The City is responsible for landscaping and maintenance in the area, funded by neighborhood homeowners who pay an assessment fee—a tax in addition to regular property taxes levied to property owners to pay for special projects.

The increase in property desirability and value due to the upkeep of the surrounding trees, landscaped trails and hardscape is considered a “special benefit,” which is the basis of the assessment fee.

According to Public Works Director Thomas Bekele, the property tax will create a reserve totaling $105,400 over a five-year term to address the aging infrastructure landscape and other maintenance throughout the neighborhood in the fiscal year 2022-23.

The City will use the reserve account for fence repair, plant removal, sprinkler drainage issues and general cleanup, said Bekele.

Annually, the City Council will determine the operations and maintenance budgeting needs for the district and determine the assessment fee, which the property owners must vote to approve by a majority.

The majority vote announced on Tuesday was “yes” (26) to adopt the assessment fee increase to create a reserve, reclassify lots to remove or add to the assessment plan and exclude Signal Hill Petroleum (SHP) from the assessment.

The “no” vote (17) would have delivered a second public hearing held by the council on June 28 to adopt a revised report that would have seen a decrease in their assessment budget due to no reclassification of lots and no enhancement of conditions to the landscape and maintenance.

An image of the layout of the California Crown Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District. (City of Signal Hill)

SHP would have been removed from the assessment regardless of the outcome due to a separate one-year term agreement struck between the City and SHP to maintain the property in a “workmanlike” condition at all times.

Councilmember Robert Copeland raised concerns regarding the viability of upkeep to the walls that SHP shares with homeowners, specifically along 20th Street and Crescent Drive.

“Because I hate to see the ones [walls] that we’re taking care of look super nice. And then the Signal Hill Petroleum started falling away,” Copeland said.

Bekele assured that as per the agreement, SHP is required to maintain “current conditions or better.”

There are currently five oil lots in the California Crown, but they are not included in the assessment.

As reflected in the agreement, SHP will maintain their side as they choose while not sapping the value of the district’s properties.

The City and an architectural control committee will oversee the landscape improvements and provide an annual report to the city council and property owners about the expenditures.

Out of 90 mailed ballots, only 43 were received by property owners. Copeland stated that it was “really unfortunate that we had so many ‘no’ votes,” and that the City will “continue to work with [property owners] to make sure that they’re pleased with the arrangement.”

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