One Down, One to Go

A blogger’s life can be tough. Besides having to sustain a full time job to feed and house the family, one often has to spend tens of minutes on the phone and hours sifting through public documents, often crammed into a corner of the city clerks waiting room, in order to find out what they don’t necessarily want you to know. By they, I mean of course, our transparent city government. Often, what we find, is so disgusting we wish we  had let it be.

Take for instance, the recent court case between the city of Tustin and Tustin Unified School District. I spent a few days attempting to chase down a rumor that I had heard from one of our readers. After multiple calls and emails to the city, the district and a few of my reliable contacts, I finally procured a copy of the Proposed Ruling, filed with the court on June 27th. A Proposed Ruling is tantamount to a judgment and, in the case of this one, a judgment has been ordered to be written.

To bring you up to speed, we wrote earlier that the city has spent $810,000 on the two lawsuits that were pending between the city and school district. The original lawsuit that TUSD was forced to file to protect themselves from the city’s (read Jerry Amante’s) push to stop construction at various school sites, involved grading permits and whether the school district is required to obtain permits from the city before beginning construction. The City maintains they are responsible for storm water runoff, among other things, and could be fined if the School District did not properly grade the sites before beginning construction. The District maintains they answer only to the state and, while they have previously cleared plans with the city, it was as a courtesy, not as a legal requirement. That lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in Orange County Superior Court later this month.

The second lawsuit was filed in August of last year by the city of Tustin against TUSD in retaliation for temporarily closing Hillview and Sycamore Schools and moving their students, along with some administrative staff from the District Headquarters, to the new Heritage School on the old Tustin Marine Air Base property. There were outcries of foul play by the city, who, in meetings with Columbus Square residents, said the District reneged on their promise to open Heritage Elementary School for its intended use. They claimed there was no traffic study or environmental review before the change was made. Nearly every argument the City made was based on California Environmental Quality Act issues. The claimed issues included higher traffic in the area and degradation of air quality, noise, hydrology and a slew of other items. In fact, it seemed the city’s attorneys threw in everything except the kitchen sink.

From the Proposed Ruling:

The City further argues the alleged activities will have significant adverse impacts on the environment including traffic, air quality, noise, hydrology, water quality, hazardous waste, and incompatibility with the adopted land use plans. The City argues that despite the impacts, the Discrict failed to perform any CEQA review. The City Alleges that the activities are not exempt, and even if the District argues that they were exempt, there are applicable exceptions.

OK, how did the city decide the proposed land use was different from the intended land use? Weren’t both uses as schools? And, it should be noted that TUSD fully complied with all CEQA and EIR requirements prior to building Heritage. In fact, the original reports would have indicated much higher traffic in the area than would have been seen with the school being used temporarily to house other students as the school capacity is over 600 (yeah, kids don’t drive, but their parents do).

But there is another facet to this story.

The Good ‘ol Boys Get Out Their White Sheets and Pointy Caps

According to court filings submitted to the Orange County Superior Court before the change of venue, the City also took the provocative stance of saying that, by not opening Heritage for its intended

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purpose, the District  was forcing students to go to overcrowded schools and inferring these schools were somehow substandard because they serve predominantly minority students.

Elementary school age children who live in the vicinity of the school, including children living in the transitional housing provided at The Village of Hope and the Tustin Family Campus, to date, have been forced to attend overcrowded elementary school in other neighborhoods further away from their homes. But for the Project, those students would be able to attend class at the neighborhood elementary school planned, paid for, and built for their use. These overcrowded elementary schools include W.R. Nelson Elementary, Jeane Thorman Elementary, and Benjamin Beswick Elemenatary. These schools serve predominately minority populations.

Yes, you heard that right. The City said, “We don’t want our kids mingling with the minority riff-raff in those substandard, overcrowded schools. And, while it may not be a far stretch for Amante and his black ops guy, Mayor Nielsen to say something like that (they are Republicans, after all), it is amazing that Al Murray and Beckie Gomez would simply stand by and let this become part of the public record and a significant reason why the City opposed the transfer of students to Hillview. So, now you know just how much Tustin loves their schools.

When Tustin School Board member Lynn Davis was contacted about this he said, “This is completely outrageous and immoral. How could anyone calling themselves a ‘public servant’ of any kind allow such a thing to stand for one day? In stating in effect that schools ‘serving predominantly minority populations’ are not worth attending, they are in fact denigrating nearly every school within the City of Tustin.” We agree. Where was the thinking during closed session where these documents had to have been checked by the councilmembers? Were they too busy looking at their iPads to notice the biased wording of these documents?

Another interesting fact is, a copy of the Petition for Writ of Mandate was served on the TUSD Clerk of the Board on August 12, 2011, the very same day Doug Holland resigned as Tustin City Attorney. Could it have been that he could not dissuade the Council from using such inflammatory language in a public document? At least one person’s conscience may have been working.

For their part, the District took the high road and apparently ignored this issue. They said that, although the specific use had changed, they were within their rights to do so. The use change was brought about by necessity and convenience. It is no secret the Heritage School property was a gift from the Federal Government to be used as a school. At a time when construction was supposed to start, the county was already mired in deep depression and it was not likely there would be enough students to fill the school. Still, the District knew the school had to be built or the Feds would recover the property. It was unfeasible to open the school for its original intended purpose and that is why they chose the route they did. It was a way to keep the buildings in use until such a time as Heritage could be opened as it was intended, an elementary school to serve the families of Columbus Square and surrounding tracts. And the District, in all of its pleadings, covered all its bases.

In its discussion and reasoning for its judgment, the court found that the District satisfied all CEQA requirements through the Administrative Review which contained substantial evidence concerning the basis for exemption:

The AR contains substantial evidence concerning the basis for the exemption. The Notice of Exemption provides a factual description of the Project, and the reasons why it is exempt. (AR 179-182). For instance, the NOE states the temporary closing of the Hillview High School campus and the Sycamore High School/Tustin Adult School campus and the temporary transfer and relocation of students from those facilities to existing classroom space at Heritage Elementary School are statutorily exempt under CEQA section 21080.18 and qualify for a Class 14 categorical exemption under CEQA Guidelines section 15314 because the relocation of approximately 240 students from these two facilities to Heritage Elementary will not increase the original student capacity at Heritage by more than 25% or ten classrooms…”

Further, once the District properly concludes that the Class 14 exemption and/or other enumerated exemptions apply, “the burden shifts to the party challenging the exemption to show that the project is not exempt because it falls within one of the exceptions listed in CEQA guidelines.

The ruling goes on to say the City had merely concluded that exceptions would apply  but it failed to present what the court said was “substantial evidence showing a reasonable possibility of adverse environmental impact sufficient to remove the exemptions. That was pretty plain and simple. The City, meaning then Mayor, Jerry Amante, went off half-cocked and decided to sue TUSD without any thought toward whether the city actually had a case. And, while doing so, they spent a good chunk of that $810,000 in legal fees on another Amante Folly.

The School District attorneys have been directed to prepare the Proposed Judgment that will close out this portion of the saga. Hopefully, cooler heads (Jeff Parker, this is where you come in) will prevail and no one will do anything stupid like appeal this mess. In fact, what the entire City Council should be doing in one of their near future closed sessions, is to step back from the table, take a deep breath and possibly work toward a resolution with the remaining case. With the court clearly siding with the District and the City Attorney’s shabby legal research, this should be number one on their agenda.

Oh, and maybe they should think about publicly apologizing to every minority family whose kids attend school in the Tustin Unified School District.

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 July 4, 2012, in Local Government, politics, Tustin City Council, Tustin Unified School District and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 43 Comments.

  1. Informed citizen

    The City’s own press release on its CEQA lawsuit loss makes it clear that it did NOT sue for environmental issues, but because it disagreed with an educational decision. I would remind these good Republican Councilmen – Amante, Nielsen and Murray – what the California Chamber of Commerce has to say about this: “The controversy lies in the fact that the existing CEQA process facilitates the filing of lawsuits by plaintiff s who are motivated by reasons beyond the scope of environmental protection. The ease with which CEQA lawsuits can be filed and used to delay projects drains the public and private sectors’ limited economic resources, often without any correlating environmental benefit.”

    The City’s CEQA suit is a prime example of just the kind of lawsuit that most concerns the Chamber of Commerce! A frivolous lawsuit if ever there was one.

  2. They used CEQA as their platform because it would not fly to just say, “Jerry doesn’t like the fact that you are making him look bad. So, we are going to squander $810,000 of taxpayer money and make you do the same. This was a pure ego trip by a has-been mayor and so-called fiscal conservative who thinks it is more important to buy shiny new toys for the councilmembers and beat down a female councilmember because he does not agree with her philosophy. The big question is, whether they will be stupid enough to appeal and spend hundreds of thousands more of taxpayer dollars on this fiasco. Hopefully, the District will ask for attorney fees. At least that way, we will know the money is going to educate our kids and not feed someone’s ego.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Columbus Square Mom


    As a resident within Columbus Square – – the Community Facilities District (“CFD”) that has funded Heritage Elementary School’s construction, and more importantly as a mother of two, the Heritage Elementary School situation has been particularly important to me and my family. I feel that you are missing a key component of the story regarding Heritage Elementary School – – what Columbus Square residents were told about Heritage Elementary School when the Mello Roos taxes were imposed.

    After the school was not opened as an elementary school as promised, I researched why the school has not been opened for students within the CFD that has funded it. I have come across some very troubling information.

    TUSD raised taxes on Columbus Square residents to build an elementary school stating that it was necessary for students anticipated from Columbus Square development when in fact, TUSD did not believe it was necessary for Columbus Square. TUSD knew – – at all times – – that it would require the students from Columbus Square to attend existing schools until, at a minimum, the entire rest of the Base is developed – – development which TUSD intended to generate about 75% of the school’s population but that would not pay a single dime for the school’s construction. That burden would rest entirely on Columbus Square homeowners.

    1. In 2006 TUSD Raised Taxes On Columbus Square To Build An Elementary School To Meet “Increased Demand” On TUSD From Columbus Square Development

    In 2006, TUSD created a Community Facilities District covering Columbus Square which requires payment of Mello Roos taxes. The CFD was created for the stated reason that new school facilities were necessary to accommodate new students from new housing development within the CFD – – Columbus Square. (See Resolution 06-01-01 “The Facilities to be planned, acquired, constructed, leased, or financed are public facilities as provided for in the Act and the Board determines that the Facilities are necessary to meet increased demand placed on the School District, and other public agencies, as a result of development occurring within CFD 06-01.”) The CFD boundary (CFD 06-01) is coextensive with Columbus Square. (See Community Facilities District Report attached “The CFD . . . is more specifically represented by that property being known as Columbus Square.”)

    At the time, projections relied on by TUSD showed that approximately 173 students were expected to be generated from Columbus Square. Bonds were passed, and the school was built.

    2. Only After Heritage Was Built in 2011 Did TUSD Specifically Tell The Committee That TUSD Never Intended To Open Heritage Just For Columbus Square. The Rest of the Base Would Need To Be Developed, Even Though That Development Would Not Be Paying Any Of The Cost Of The School.

    After the Mello Roos tax was imposed, and during construction of Heritage, we all believed that the school would be opened for our children when it was completed. We believed this for two reasons: (1) we were told when we purchased our homes that Heritage would be for our children and that a second school servicing elementary students was expected for the rest of the development of the Base, outside of Columbus Square (in fact three schools were planned for the Base, a high school, Heritage Elementary School, and a third school – – to be either a K-8 or a K-5); and (2) TUSD propagated this idea. (See Davis 2010 campaign website page entitled “TUSD Schools Moving Forward!” “We are working on the completion of Heritage School on the former marine base. If we are able to proceed without interference, we should be able to open the Heritage School in the fall of 2011”.)

    However, now that the school is complete and Columbus Square homeowners have been paying the Mello Roos for 5 years, TUSD specifically claims that (1) they only planned to open one school for elementary students on the Base, not two – – it would be either Heritage or the other school, but not both; and (2) at least 350 students are required to open Heritage with over 600 needing to attend within a short time thereafter. (See, for example, the November 21, 2011 letter from TUSD’s attorneys explaining that “at a minimum, at least 350 students would be needed to justify such an opening.”) According to the projections relied on by TUSD, this would never have been possible from development within the boundaries of Columbus Square alone. By their own admission, the remaining 400 + are expected to come from future housing development outside the CFD, development which has not materialized, and which we were told would have its own school.

    Today, the school district claims that the students generated within the CFD can be accommodated in its existing elementary schools that have “ample capacity” (as they apparently did at the time of the establishment of the CFD, despite the statement in the Board resolution that Heritage was “necessary to meet increased demand placed on the School District” from the Columbus Square development). The school district also claims that the school will not be necessary and will not be opened until other proposed (but not approved) housing developments, outside the boundaries of the CFD, are completed. Instead, the school district has placed continuing high school students at the school, leaving the local homeowners inside the CFD footing the bill for an expensive school that their children will not be allowed to attend – – if ever – – until the entire rest of the Base is developed, which is outside of the control of TUSD, and which may never happen.

    This bait-and-switch has generated frustration among Columbus Square residents. We bought our homes and agreed to pay the Mello Roos for an elementary school for our children, not for continuing high school students residing outside of Columbus Square who already had adequate school facilities. TUSD has failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing and has failed to offer any commitment to opening the elementary school. TUSD is content to continue collecting taxes and allowing continuing high school students to occupy our children’s elementary school indefinitely.

    I would be happy to email you the documents to which I refer in this post if you are interested.

  4. I don’t fully understand the legal aspects, but I think the school district really screwed the people living in Columbus Square. The residents there paid to build Heritage, and by the time TUSD built it they knew darn well that development wasn’t going to be expanding quickly, but they took the money and built it anyway. Plus, you aren’t supposed to create a Community Facilities District to build something if you aren’t going to let the people that paid for it use it.

    I also don’t appreciate many of the City’s comments, but again it comes back to the people that live there and have paid for this school. It’s not unreasonable, much less racist, for people to be hesitant to send their kids to a school that is almost entirely Spanish speaking if their children do not speak Spanish. Moreover a lot of the Tustin schools really do have very dismal academic rankings, and I’m sure a lot of Columbus Square residents would not have moved there without the assurance that there would be a new school built.

    The school district owes it to the residents, literally, to open the school.

  5. Tired of the lies

    Jeff I don’t know why you’re in such a rush to protect the school district. Tustin city council might be wrongheaded buffoons but the people who deserve defense and sympathy here are those that live in Tustin Legacy. Not only were they lied to about the elementary school and forced to pay for something they don’t get to use, but now their property values are getting hit too because no one with a family is going to spend that kind of money on a house when the local schools are terrible.

    • First, I am not defending the school district except to say that this is not their fault entirely. Most of the problems with opening the schools is due to economy and the city’s inability to draw more development to the area. And, I would disagree that any school in the school district is substandard.

      It is frustrating to be told one thing and then something else happens that you don’t expect. That’s what happened here and people apparently did not read the fine print. The city exacerbating the issue by initiating and forcing the response to multiple lawsuits does not help things.

      The Mello-Roos paid for the schools, among other things. They did not pay for staffing or routine maintenance. Where, with only a handful of students, will the district come up with that money unless there are sources of income from property tax? And, if no one is buying, there is no property tax.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. To Columbus Square Mom and to Clarity,

    I agree that the whole deal stinks. But, as far as I know, the school district cannot raise taxes on their own. Mello-Roos is a gimmick to eke an extra dollar out of unsuspecting homeowners who are usually sold a bill of good on exactly what they will be used for.

    That said, I don’t like the idea that the school district has not opened Heritage for its intended purpose any more than you do. The fact is, you cannot open a school with 75 or so kids. It just doesn’t work. Who let us down? I would say number one on the list is the economy. Next, would be the city of Tustin who finally fired their worthless master developer (so much for outsourcing) and took on the jobs themselves. So, things look promising.

    But how does the school district’s inability to open Heritage equate to the massive amounts of money spent by both sides to pay lawyers for senseless lawsuits? I have not gotten the information out of the school district but I would not be surprised to find the total amount spent by both sides to be approaching $2 million. Does that make sense to either of you?

    If you don’t like the fact that Heritage is not serving your kids, go to the school board meeting and voice your opinion. Take neighbors and friends. Call me, and I will even go with you.

    Thank you both for reading and commenting.

    • I think you give the school board too much credit. At the time they established the CFD and when they started construction on Heritage their OWN PROJECTIONS for number of kids coming out of Columbus Square was below what they now say is the minimum they would need to open it. Jeff, they knew all along they wouldn’t open that school!

      They built it anyway because they got the land for free and because Lennar, the developer, agreed to let them establish the CFD before anyone moved in and then proceeded to pass on the false promise to every person that bought a house there that a school would be built for their kids to attend. There’s a word for that, it’s FRAUD.

      If they knew there would not be enough children in the CFD, (and they did know, because they admitted it with their own projections) they never should have built it to begin with. But something tells me Lennar chipped in to some election campaigns and got them to do it anyway so they could lure in prospective home buyers with a big lie.

      So now you have a bunch of homeowners who have paid for a school they can’t use, and most of them are probably underwater thanks to the bad market, so they can’t even move somewhere else to get their kids a decent education. They are stuck. Trapped by the deceit of the school board and Lennar.

      They could open the school if they wanted to. They could fill in the population by making a portion of the school available for GATE or other magnet-type program that would be an option for the overflow from Tustin Memorial Academy, which gets waaayy more applicants than they can let in. But TUSD won’t do it, because they don’t care. They don’t have a skin in the game, they didn’t pay for the school, and they’d rather use it for their other various projects instead of do the right thing. It’s utterly shameless, and I don’t understand how what they did is legal to begin with.

  7. Columbus Square Mom


    Thank you for responding. We were certainly sold a “bill of goods.” We did actually go to meetings and complain. We formed a committee of homeowners with the District to work on these issues. I was a part of that committee. The District is not motivated to open the school or to think outside the box for creative ways to open the school. One example:

    We suggested opening Heritage as a magnet school (or partially as a magnet, the “magnet school within a school” concept used at Columbus Middle School) with a Gate program similar to Tustin Memorial Academy. TMA is a successful and popular program. Over 100 TUSD families lose the lottery to get into TMA annually. The District should be going out of its way to expand this program which obviously does a great job of educating students and is popular with parents. I asked my neighbors. 100% of Columbus Square parents I spoke with (and I talk a lot about this issue) support this idea. With at least some of those families attending Heritage, as well as Columbus Square kids, the school would have more than enough children to open.

    They told us that opening Heritage as a magnet would be “robbing Peter to pay Paul” since some kids from other schools would be attending Heritage. Yes, that is a direct quote. Yes, somehow according to TUSD, someone other than Columbus Square taxpayers and Columbus Square children are getting robbed in this scenario.

    Having your child’s educational opportunities be a lottery should be embarassing to TUSD, but apparently they don’t mind. Not only were they content to allow over one hundred families lose the TMA lottery annually, they created a new game of chance just for Columbus Square families. It is called – “Which School Has Room?” We can send our children to any school within TUSD, but only if it has room. What schools will have room when your child is ready to enter the school system? Roll the dice and find out!

    We agreed to pay the Mello Roos to have a great neighborhood school for our children so that they can all attend together, not so that we can gamble on what school will have room for them.

    As far as the lawsuits, for $2 million they could have opened Heritage with or without other kids.

    • I can’t stop laughing in derision because I can’t disagree with anything you say. I love the idea that you came up with a magnet school for Heritage. That idea should be fostered even when this mess is straightened out and Hillview goes back to Hillview.

      And you are right, for 2 mil, you should have gotten a better deal.

  8. Columbus Square Mom


    As far as reading the fine print, the fine print stated that the school was necessary to meet “increased demand” from development within Columbus Square. That was my initial point. TUSD stated in a Board Resolution that Heritage Elementary School was necessary for Columbus Square development only, not development of the entire base. The rest of the base was supposed to have its own school. In fact, if you look at the proposed development plans, to this day, they show two more schools on the Base in addition to Heritage Elementary School, a K-5 and a high school. Reading the fine print does no good when they say one thing and do something completely different.

  9. Lennar knew they’d never sell a single home to a family with kids at those prices if the school choices were W.R. Nelson, Jeane Thorman, and Benjamin Beswick. It would be absurd to even try. So it’s not surprising they would try to influence local agencies to make their community more attractive to potential buyers, but what amazes me is that the school board would go along with it knowing full well they wouldn’t open the school when it was done.

    Those must have been some handsome election contributions.

    If I recall correctly, the current school board has been the same through this process, so they can’t even blame it on a predecessor. And just watch, I guarantee you they will try this whole thing again when Irvine Company starts building houses on the east side of the base. What a scam.

  10. This is standard procedure for the School Board and the Developers. They just don’t feel any obligation towards the homeowners that paid to build the schools. The Irvine Company projections have always been a joke. Pioneer graduated almost 600 kids from 8th grade this year from a school originally built (as far as traffic and parking and so forth) for 950 kids in total! It has been super overcrowded just as the people in the neighborhood predicted.

    The new homeowners never get what they are sold. The people of Columbus Square are going to have to ban together and make a lot of noise to be heard. There is still a lot of property to be developed down there and you have some leverage in that regard. I recommend you get very active in the elections and with the press.

    My condolences on your situation. This mess is going to negatively impact your property values for years through no fault of your own beyond trusting in your elected representatives and the integrity of the people who sold you your homes. Good Luck!

    • Sees Both Sides

      Lyann, the residents did ban together. Many attended the meetings with the City of Tustin and the TUSD. Petitions were signed and an uproar was made.

      • I think what you’ve done so far is great. Keep up the good work and don’t give up! I have heard this story repeated up and down the state with developers and school districts woking together to fleece unsuspecting new home buyers. I support u 100%! 😊

  11. Sees Both Sides

    Jeff, while your comments seem to finally be getting swayed towards the plight of the Columbus Square residents, your original blog is very biased towards TUSD. You seem to portray that they have done nothing wrong, even with what has been told to you in the comments. You also make it a point to back hand slap the City of Tustin with each slight nod of the comments against TUSD. As noted, TUSD twisted the required population of children for the school to be used as an elementary school. They then met with the CS residents to try to give some type of reasons for what they are doing. The residents, then, formed a group to try to work with the District to come up with a way to use the school for it’s intended purpose. The District refuted the solutions, which were based on methods being used successfully in practice (such as a magnet school).

    I just hope that you’re readers also read all of the comments so that they get full perspective and not just the “The Tustin City council and mayor are immoral wasters” meme.

  12. Informed citizen

    One key fact is being ignored: If TUSD had not built a school on that land when it did, the federal government would have cancelled its land transfer. As it was, TUSD got the deadline extended. If it had not been built, it would not be there EVER for ANY students to attend. Since none of the other school sites on Legacy are anywhere near ready to be built upon, who knows when there would have been a school. If there was EVER to be a school there, it had to be built when it was, and not later.

    • Tired of the lies

      Ya know, “informed citizen” it sure seems like every post you make is a shill for the establishment. TUSD may not have gotten the land for free had they not built it, but IT WASN’T THEIR MONEY, and it does NOT justify taxing people to fraudulently build a school they knew they wouldn’t open for the people that paid for it.

      It sure is easy for the school board to spend money when it’s a bond, but when it comes to actually opening a school which would impact their budget, GOSH what do you know there aren’t enough kids, we can’t afford it, blah blah blah

      I think it’s clear whose interests both you and the school board have in mind, and it surely isn’t the children of Columbus Square.

    • Columbus Square Mom

      I am fully aware that the land would have gone back to the Federal government.

      First and foremost, that is no excuse for telling Columbus Square buyers that the school was only for Columbus Square when apparently it wasn’t and that was their plan all along. Homebuyers actually look at schools when they buy homes. If we had known we would have to wait until the entire Base was fully built out before an elementary school would be opened, we might have bought elsewhere. If we had known that we would be footing 100% of the construction costs when we represent only 25% of the projected school population, we might have bought elsewhere. It is irresponsible at best to intentionally mislead taxpayers in this way.

      Second, as I stated above, TUSD does not need two elementary schools on the Base, according to its own personnel. They told our committee after the school didn’t open – – for the first time – – that TUSD never intended to build two schools. There would be either Heritage elementary school or an elementary school at the second school site, but not both. They have no intention of building the second planned elementary school. Since they need only one, why not build at the second site when the Base is built out and have the entire Base comprise the CFD paying for the construction costs, not just Columbus Square – – 25% of the projected population of the school?

      TUSD really does not need the land that has been set aside for it, according to its own representatives. They renovated Tustin High School and I have been told specifically that they currently have no intention of moving it to the Base. They do not need another high school. TUSD should let the City know they can’t use the remaining land that has been set aside for them so that the City can efficiently plan for its ultimate use.

      • Where do you get the idea that, with the addition of the thousands of families the MCAS property would generate (eventually) would not need another high school or any other school? As far as I know, Tustin High School is near capacity. That is the closest school in TUSD to the MCAS property, isn’t it? If what you say is true, point me to the documents because I haven’t seen them.

      • Jeff, just look at the map. Half the homes are zoned for Irvine Unified, so you have roughly 2,000 homes remaining in Tustin Unified, 75% of which are apartments or condos. You’ll never reach enough students for them to open a new high school, build one with mello roos taxes maybe, but it will only be used for other “temporary” purposes.

  13. Uh… Informed Citizen, I think I said that… multiple times. The Feds would have reneged on the transfer of land if the school had not been built.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  14. Columbus Square Mom


    Where do I get my idea? From TUSD, of course.

    I (along with my neighbors on the Committee) have been told by TUSD personnel, at meetings where the Superintendent was present, that only one elementary school is needed for the Base. Also, it is evident that only one is needed since they are demanding that the entire Base be developed to generate enough students for Heritage. If the entire Base is required to be developed before Heritage is opened, what would they do with a second elementary school? Build it and not open it?

    Concerning the High School, I discussed with a Board member that they intended to relocate Tustin High to the Base, but that deal fell through. They now have no plans for another high school.

    Also, Mark Eliot of TUSD forwarded by Student Projections for the entire Base development relied upon by TUSD. The entire Base is projected to generate 623 K-5 students (hence only one elementary school – – TUSD requires that over 600 students populate a school) and 290 high school students. Would they open a high school for 290 total students? No.

    Also, the District stated in its October 17, 2011 letter to Columbus Square homeowners that enrollment projections for the Base include “about 500 elementary students and 400 middle/high school students.” “There are two additional properties earmarked for schools in Tustin Legacy – a 40-acre site and a 10-acre site adjacent to a 5-acre park site. The District will continue to work with the City on the possible use of these sites to serve students.” Notice they used the phrase “possible use” of the sites. No plans. Also, they specifically did not say they intended to build an elementary school or a high school.

    I can forward you the email from Eliot and the letter is you would like to review them. Let me know where I should forward them.

  15. I am willing to handcuff myself to the school fence with a picket sign to open Heritage School if it comes to that! Who is with me?

  16. Columbus Square Mom


    Once correction – the letter estimated “600” elementary students.

  17. While I agree completely with the complaints of the Columbus Square homeowners (I am one myself now, although I don’t have kids), I don’t see how you can open a school with 75 kids. It’s just not practical.

    The mistake here was that the school should have NOT been built in the first place, “free land” or not. You don’t build a school just because you get “free land”…just like you don’t build a new factory because you got “free land” (even if you don’t need one). Supply and demand, Econ 101.

    If, at some point the has enough kids to build a school, TUSD could have issued bonds to do it right? That would be preferable than forcing MELLO ROOS onto homeowners that have no recourse on an apparent bait and switch by TUSD and the former Master Developer (we all know how that went…).

    This is a no-win situation for the foreseeable future. Typical government nonsense.

    By the way Jeff, I appreciate you keeping on top of these stories (regardless if we agree or not). I’ve been following your blog for a while, keep up the good work.

  18. Informed citizen

    Certain homeowners have a grievance about the fact that Heritage is not open as a local elementary, for whatever reasons. Okay. How did it help for the City to file a CEQA lawsuit? TUSD was exempt in this case from CEQA under SEVEN different exemptions. The legal case was a pure loser from the beginning. All it did is waste untold thousands of dollars of taxpayer money. Personally suing board members didn’t help either. The result – a total loss for the City – was completely predictable from day one. The problem is nowhere nearer to being solved, at least as evidenced by posts here. How was the LAWSUIT anything other than a total fiasco – yet one more example of horribly poor judgement by Amante, Nielsen, Huston and crew? How is anyone who explained their problem here one tiny bit better off? It was a total fiasco, nobody is one iota better off than before it was filed.

  19. Nielsen’s bad judgement ?—what judgement?-i’m sure he did not put much thought into it because he always does what Amante tells him to do– i’ve never seen a councilmember so under the spell or scared of another person as with him– what is it, does Amante have the goods on Nielsen that he can never call out Amante in public? Does Nielsen ( or Murray, who campaigned that he is going to my his own man and vote free of Amante’s influence) really feel that Amante’s 4 years of verbal abuse and insults to a female councilmember ( Gavello) serves the greater public good and shows good government at work? i do not know what is worse—Amante’s baiting of Gavello or Nielsen’s silence ( esp. with him being mayor and should setting the tone for council meetings. we get it that Amante does not like Gavello, but it would be interesting to add up all of the time Amante has wasted on the dias ranting about her — it would probably be quite of chunk of time — think of all of the extra staff time and money being wasted as they sit at a meeting listening to him—with Nielsen doing nothing—

    • I certainly agree with you, JS, on Nielsen. I don’t rerun that picture of him sitting on Jerry’s lap for no reason. The running joke in the blogosphere (where all of us bloggers reside) is that Amante never takes a drink of water when Nielsen is talking. I say Hizzoner is a much better ventriliquist than that.

  20. Sees Both Sides

    What is it with the Tustin council and mayor bashing? With no mention of TUSD’s deceptive actions by the same commenters? Is that because all of you anti-Tustin City Council/mayor commenters have no TUSD aged kids?

  21. In fact, I do have school age children attending Tustin school. There has been plenty of TUSD criticism here and on other posts. Nothing compares to the dog and pony show that appears every two weeks in the Tustin City Council Chambers.

  22. Tustin Legacy is the future of Tustin. The city knows this did everything it could to try and make is a success, from moving Tustin High School to the base and opening Heritage Elementary School. TUSD on the other hand, because of a pissing match between Davis and Amante, is doing everything it can to make it a failure, from not moving Tustin High School to the base and not opening Heritage Elementary School and tacking on additional tax burdens (The LRA has identified concerns regarding timing and financing of the proposed school uses and do not believe the burden for school construction to serve larger community needs should be borne by the MCAS Tustin project). Everybody loses because of this personal battle they’re trying to fight.

    • What’s the point of moving Tustin high school? So the kids in Tustin Legacy don’t have to go to an “over crowded” high school that primarily serves minority students?

      Did you ever look at the plans for moving THS to the base? That school was horrible and not well thought out.

      I don’t know see how moving THS benefits the students at THS, I only see moving THS to make Tustin Legacy a success, and in my opinion it is not TUSDs job to go through such a sacrifice for something that won’t improve the quality of education for students already going to THS.

      But I do agree that for the long term success for our community, we need the City Council and the School Board to be able to coexist and collaborate with one another.


      There is never going to be enough kids to justify a new high school imho, and why don’t people just use their real name?

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