North Tustin 1, Catholics 0

This afternoon, Elysse James from the Orange County Register reported that Orange County Superior Court Judge Gail Andler ruled the Board of Supervisors used illegal spot zoning practices for a proposed senior living community in North Tustin. Since 2009, the North Tustin communities, which are not part of the city, have been battling the Catholic Diocese of Orange over a senior residential community proposed for a seven and a half acre parcel of land located on Newport Avenue, North of 17th St.Andler, who rules on complex civil case, is located in Santa Ana Main Courthouse.

The diocese spokesman, Carol McDermott called the ruling disappointing. She also said the Diocese would be evaluating their legal options and there may be an appeal in the works. The County spokesman, Howard Sutter, echoed the same possibility of an appeal by the county. From the Register Story:

County spokesman Howard Sutter said the county is assessing the impact of the decision. Staff members are waiting for a full copy of the judge’s decision before presenting the information to the Board of Supervisors. The board will consider the county’s legal options, Sutter said.

One option the county has is to appeal the ruling.

The Foothills Communities Association is a coalition of the communities in the area also known as Tustin Foothills. In a blog entry on their website, they congratulated the community leaders in being “tenacious” about the issue and not giving up.

The North Tustin Community is to be congratulated on being tenacious on this case and not giving up. FCA and the No-Rezoning Team appreciates the encouragement and the financial support of our community that has gotten us to this point.

The FCA entry goes on to say that the issue is not necessarily over and that an appeal could be in the works.

We agree with the FCA that this is a great win. While the idea of building a much needed senior living complex is a noble one, the area was specifically zoned for single-family residence. The Diocese of Orange had originally planned to build a church on the site. However, citing needs of the Catholic community in Orange County, they decided to build the Springs at Bethsaida which would largely incorporate apartment type living for seniors. The FCA asked the county to stand by the 1982 zoning agreement in place that would have prohibited such a facility. Their reasons centered mainly around the impact that the facility would have on existing infrastructure including parking and traffic with vehicles entering and exiting onto busy Newport Avenue. No one argued that the project was not a worthy one, just not one that fit into the foothill area. Even county staff must have recognized this as they also sought, as an alternative, a land swap with land on the Tustin MCAS that would have served the Diocese just as well.

Property rights are an issue everywhere, nowadays, and it seems that homeowners must fight each and every day to maintain their individual property rights against an ever increasing governmental force bent on enacting laws that intrude on every citizen’s life. Changing or “spot Zoning” for the benefit of one entity, in this case the Diocese, would set a precedent for others who would also like to bring in commercial types of business and facilities that are not in keeping with the original intent of the zoning. Many residents have moved to the area specifically because it was residential in nature and they do not want commercial properties in the vicinity. In an area where the threat of encroachment by business and other commercial facilities is ever immenent, it is refreshing to see a community come together in force, as the FCA has, to combat the autocracy that branded our local government.

It is interesting to note that the Foothills Communities Association, while joining forces for a common purpose, has made a statement in the community. They like to say they give as well as receive. You may have seen their booth last year at the Chili Cookoff. They also hold town hall meetings whose attendance I could only dream of for our own Tustin City Council Meetings. And, it seems, now  they are a force to be reckoned with.

The residents of the foothill communities can congratulate themselves for the win today. It is an important one as appeals courts are loath to overturn lower courts without good reason. We haven’t seen the written ruling from the judge yet, but we expect it to be specific and succinct. Let’s hope the County does not go off fighting windmills in a situation that should never have come to this point to begin with. We should know within the next 60 days.

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About Jeff Gallagher

I am a retired peace officer from the 2nd largest law enforcement agency in Orange County. I live in and love Tustin where my family and I have resided for the past 25 years. I am a highly moderate libertarian that despises hardcore Republicans, Democrats and anyone else who is not willing to compromise for the good of the people.

Posted on March 14, 2012, in County Government, In the News, Local Government, politics, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Matt in North Tustin

    Good article, but I don’t see this is a Catholics vs. North Tustin issue at all. There are probably thousands of Catholics in North Tustin opposed to this effort to mess with zoning regulations, because it undermines everything the area is about. I am one of them. The whole church thing is a sideshow orchestrated by the Prescott family of Tustin, who offered to donate the property to the Church if they got the zoning changed.

    The Prescotts would dearly like to develop the vacant corner of Newport and 17th street, which they also own, into a shopping center. Getting the Catholic Diocese to fight the zoning battle and get a zoning exception approved would then open the door for the Prescotts to develop their commercial enterprise by demanding a similar type of exception. (and Supervisor Bill Campbell is a Catholic bigwig, coincidence?)

    That is why I am skeptical about any ‘land exchange’ agreement or swap for a senior site elsewhere ever happening, because it wouldn’t do the developin’ Prescott’s a bit of good to overturn zoning which is all they’re really after.

    • Interesting info, Matt. Thank you for contributing to the article. The issue of property rights is a hot topic, escpecially now since the RDAs are dead making it even more difficult for local government to exercise eminent domain. I expect this will be appealed either by the Diocese or the County. Check their agenda next week and I bet you will see this on closed session.

      Funny, I didn’t see Campbell at the KofC Clergy Appreciation Night last month at Marywood.

  2. It still comes down to property rights and NIMBY. The county should push the county island out from under their jurisdiction and force them to decide whether they should become a city of their own or annex to Tustin or Orange. The area cannot afford to pay their own way so becoming a city will always be nixed by residents there. Annexation probably would cost Orange or Tustin some cash but both would welcome it, especially Tustin. But of course the leaders of FCA would their power base so they would appose any change. With the economy as it is the county and taxpayers can no longer afford these county islands for the rich. If North Tustin really wants to control their future they need to put up or shut up!

    • LAFCO has already identified the foothills communities as having to come under the sphere of influence of either Orange or Tustin. But, why should they be forced into it? The county simply wants the county islands to be part of a city or form new cities so they can then contract services to them ala Rosmoor and Sunset Beach. That way, the county can rid themselves of the cost of governing while taking lucrative contracts for Fire and Sheriff services. Tell me, if we get rid of the county areas altogether, why bother having a sheriffs department? We would end up like San Francisco where the city and county share the same exact boundaries and the sheriffs department has been relegated to warrant service and court security. When the county is willing to give up a commensurate amount of funding for the area, then I might be a little more sympathetic.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • So let me get this straight, the purpose of keeping expensive county islands is so we have a reason to have a sheriffs department. The economy and the problems associated with too many governmental units suggest we must change the system. If it means ending county islands in order to save taxpayer dollars that should interest all county residents. If it means consolidating the many water districts and organizations that do similar work that is something we must consider. Do we need 34 city governments, individual city fire departments or even individual city police departments? I am not saying that I favor mass consolidation of services but as a resident, voter, and taxpayer I am in favor of keeping options open and being willing to discuss all options with all affected groups. But I do believe county islands are being used by the wealthy to protect themselves from the messy politics of cities that may include citizens of many economic strata.

  3. No, that is not what I said. The county would like to rid themselves of the islands while taking lucrative contracts for the sheriffs and fire departments. That way, they can continue to justify their existence. If every location in the county were part of a city or incorporated town, why would we need a county bureaucracy? That is not what the Board of Supervisors wants when Moorlach complains about Rossmoor. He wants the contract for services to go to the county without having to deal with the day to day bureaucracy. He gets the best of both worlds that way. Look at the “City and County of” San Francisco. Why do they need a county?

    I have lived in numerous cities here in Orange County. Every community has its own style and culture. You could not have one or ten large “supercities” within the county. Would you want to be part of Santa Ana or even Laguna Woods? Seriously?

    Property rights are property rights. If the foothills communities are happy with the way things are, why should they change just because Moorlach doesn’t like it? Where is this extra cost you are talking about? A city would still cost dollars. And, because county governments get the lions share of the tax dollar, how are they supposed to survive? Take a look at Vallejo and Stockton. Or, even closer to home, look at Santa Ana, just recently averted a multimillion dollar deficit. And how? Partially by ceding to the county for fire services and doing away with a local fire department with a century old history.

    • “Property rights are property rights,” except when the NIMBY’s want to protect their idea of heaven on earh. Where are the property rights of the owners of a property located on busy Newport Avenue that include many doctors, real estate, and other businesses close by. I do not have a horse in this race but we always seem to be willing to push lower economic areas into accepting many types of businesses and not worry about their “property rights.” Tustin cannot even put needed cell towers into parks near the rich.
      As I stated, we must look into changing the current system. As for Moorlach, he like Amente in Tustin, have become the system that needs to be ousted. They are both arrogant politicians who have come to believe the world cannot go on without them. Do we need a county government, the current form of cities or some new form that will work better in this century? I don’t have the answer, but I believe the question must be asked and we must be willing to discuss changes before it becomes to late for our economy. San Francisco and Indianapolis have a city/county form but why must we stop with just the current system or the city/county system, are we too dense to think what might be better.

      • We agree on one issue: Amante and Nielsen are not what this city needs. Fortunately, they will both be out at the end of the year. But, be careful what you wish for. What we get could always be worse.

      • Amente is attempting to build a political machine that he can control after he leaves. He already owns 2 council members and it appears he is now pushing a neighbor of his to run this November.

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