The Los Angeles County Assessor's Office released their 2010 Annual Report on August 23rd.
The Vipperman-Baroldi City Council has given the City its greatest property value decline in the history of the City.
The City Council's Crackdown on residents, particularly children, and loosening of development standards appear to have taken a toll on property values, and the desirability of the community.
While the average property value in Los Angeles County declined by 1.7%, La Habra Heights was almost four times that at 6.4% decline in one year. See the table below of Cities with largest decline in values.
|City||Change in Value|
|La Habra Heights||-6.3%|
In contrast, communities which La Habra Heights has typically compared to in the past, such as Bradbury, Hidden Hills, Pasadena, San Marino, Rancho Palos Verdes, Sierra Madra and Rolling Hills Estates all INCREASED in assessed values.
High development standards and protection of property rights, such as views and privacy, typically maintains or increases property values. The communites who increased in value have such high standards, whereas La Habra Heights has drastically removed or reduced standards the past few years.
La Habra Heights fared worse than neighboring communities as well.
|City||Change in Values|
La Habra Heights has a total assessed value for 2010 of $1,098,173,906 a decline of -$73,981,948 from 2009.
In a Whittier Daily News Article, City Manager Shauna Clark suggested that the Assessor's numbers might be wrong as she noticed a utility reported $5 million less of value than the year before. However even if true, La Habra Heights would still be seventh worse in the county with a decline of about 6%.
What has happened in the past few years, different than other communities, that could have caused this steep decline?
The past few years had a dramatic shift in the direction and tone of the City Council, which may have affected the values of properties and desirability of the community.
Since 2007, there has been a rollback in Code protection for views, privacy, and open space; with the council courting outside developers by cutting building permits 50%, with the difference paid by existing residents, and changing codes to allow more building, grading and concrete.
A councilmember has openly called resident(s) "stupid".
A mayor's email revealed "back room deals", asking for a resident's appeal to have a predetermined outcome and to avoid public comment.
The City was featured in a front page Whittier Daily News article about the District Attorney's investigation into the possible wrongdoing of the Mayor.
The City Council banned bicycles and skateboards from the City's only park, and often the only place residents with children and steep lots are able to take their boys and girls to learn how to ride a bike or skateboard.
A mayor filed a lawsuit against a resident because he didn't like what he said, an event also featured in the Whittier Daily News.
The Fire Suppression Capability rating of the City declined, and the City response was nothing would be done to improve it.
The Council majority (Bergman and Carroll opposed) approved an unsightly 25 story tall tower to remain, even though required to be removed in June 2009.
The Council majority took no action to oppose 20 story tall Edision towers and powerlines to be routed through the City, with then-Mayor Vipperman refusing to write an opposition letter, saying, "I'm the Mayor, I'll write the letters I want". The towers will loom over the City, spoil open space, and likely reduce property values further. A home adjacent to a proposed tower has already been put up for sale.
The City was hit with a harrassment and employment lawsuit, which settled for $375,000, a factor in a recent $266,000 retroactive charge, taken from General Fund reserves carefully built by past Councils, and $27,000 annual insurance increase by the City's insurance agency.
The City Council has removed all resident volunteer committees, except for the State required Planning Commission and a Parks and Recreation Commission chaired by the then Mayor's wife and reported to include someone who works for her.
The City no longer has an Emergency Preparedness Committee, even though required by the City's General Plan.
The Council continues to crack down on residents ability to particpate and monitor their government, including adding public comment restrictions, removing residents use of Powerpoint presentations, and elimination of detailed minutes of City Council meetings.
Residents report Code Enforcement being used for political purposes, and minor problems; with major building and grading violations by developers ignored.
Besides property tax, residents pay almost $500 per year in Fire Tax and about $173 in Road Assessment.
The Council has proposed 5 new or increased taxes.
To justify an increase in the Fire Tax, the council went back and reworked the books for the past five years to make it look like the Fire Fund was bankrupt.
Fire Tax monies are used to pay portions of other City Staff salaries, and the City Council defunded the Fire Training Academy which was a source of volunteers.
Residents pay higher Home Insurance costs than surrounding communities and often have to scramble to find insurance when a company stops writing for La Habra Heights.
During this time, the City Council majority has been supported by board members of the La Habra Heights Improvement Association.
The Association has seen their Vice President arrested, misrepresented themselves in solicitation of contributions, engaged in activities called "mail fraud" by the US Postal Inspector, and recently a resident videotaping their annual public meeting was attacked by board members and a mob of members, which was reported all over the country.