OK, they didn’t really thumb their noses at the Bishop Vann. But, North Tustin residents did get a bit of good news at the January 13th Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting. If you ever drive on Newport Avenue north of 17th Street, you have seen the large, empty lot, owned by the Diocese of Orange, that was earmarked for a Catholic-oriented senior living facility. In past years, my family bought live Christmas trees off this lot (now, do you remember?). We previously wrote of a victory by the Foothill Communities Association to overturn a spot-zoning attempt by the county board of supervisors. That court victory quickly turned to defeat when an appeals court reversed the decision.
Saying the face of the county had changed, it was necessary to address the concerns of senior citizens. Three justices on the 4th Appellate Court concurred and the hard work of the FCA legal team was undone. Interestingly, the county did not pursue the issue. It was the diocese’ management partner, Kisco, that sought the appeal. Of course, millions of dollars in expected income were at stake.
All of the expense and work were futile, it seems, as the OC BoS headed by soon-to-be Chairman Todd Spitzer derailed the proposed project by moving to rescind the Senior Residential Housing Zoning designation. Supported by Supervisor Shawn Nelson, the board voted 4-0 in favor of the change. The recommendation must still go before the planning commission but Supervisors made it clear they expect the recommendation to come back in favor of FCA.
I emailed Richard Nelson, spokesperson for the Foothill Communities Association, asking what the chances were the action would stand court scrutiny. He inidcated he felt it would. In any case, kudos to the North Tustin folks who saw this fight to this point. I remember seeing them protesting in front of the property as well as sending out information. Heck, before this, I didn’t even know there was an FCA.
For his part, Todd Spitzer came through for the community under his governance. We like to rag on Todd (mostly because he presents such a tempting target) but he has proven loyal, both this term and his previous years on the board, to the community and the county. Now, if he would just take a lesson from his cohort Shawn Nelson on how to be lo-pro, he’d stay off the radar of the OCW and OTT. Maybe just an occasional cigar fest at the house, Todd. Todd, by the way, was last mentioned in the OCW “Best of 2014” as part of the Best Political Battle with his nemesis Susan “Dragon Lady” Kang-Schoreder over the ongoing fight for the district attorneys office when T-Rack leaves.
The foothills folks are also in the middle of a nasty water fight with their current provider. Unhappy with the high cost of water provided by Golden State Water, activist residents embarked on a campaign to change water companies.
Two years ago, FCA made a presentation to the community of a plan to change water providers from GSW, a private utility, to a public utility (looks like Irvine Ranch Water District is the favored candidate). Citing costs that have skyrocketed since 2003, it looks like GSW is proposing even higher rates in the not too distant future.
The biggest obstacle is, of course, money. Proponents are suggesting bonds to purchase GSW assets that serve the area. From the looks of things, residents aren’t too keen on something that could actually cost them in the end.
One thing that may help is the bad publicity GSW has garnered from one of their other customer communities. Folks in Gardena aren’t too happy with GSW as black, foul smelling water has been issuing from their taps and toilets. The results can be seen on this video. If that doesn’t compel them to find a solution, I don’t know what will.
So, what else are those nefarious rebels in the foothills up to? You can find out by checking out their website, maintained by Rick Nelson, at www.fcahome.org.
Apologies to Rick Nelson and our friends in North Tustin. I am on Rick’s email list and he sends me occasional emails on events and items of concern for our neighbors to the north. He also sends me a regular “North Tustin Update” which I received a couple of weeks ago. He is probably wondering when I would publish anything. So, here we go.
The annual FCA meeting was held on March 4th. They had several interesting speakers including, John Sears, OCFA Deputy Chief Laura Blaul and the ever entertaining, Honorable Todd Spitzer. I would like to have come to the meeting just for that but I was still recuperating from my injuries. Todd spoke about projects around his district, which includes North Tustin, and talked about issues facing the community. One of the issues was the impact long term park planning will have on North Tustin.
FCA is busy gearing up for their campaign to switch water companies. In order to fund the effort to change from Golden State Water to another water company, the board is asking for a $100 contribution from each member. All funds for the effort will be segregated and dedicated for the sole purpose of funding the change. FCA alleges that GSW has been ripping off their customers for years with some of the highest rates around. Now, GSW intends to hike rates again (join the crowd) even though they are turning a substantial profit. A committee will look into changing water companies for the Cowan Heights and Lemon Heights customers. One of the companies they are looking at is Tustin Water.
One item that is still on the boiler, although it has taken a simmer for the time being, is the Senior Living Facility proposed by the Catholic Diocese for property they own on Newport Avenue. The outcome of the lawsuit forbidding the construction is far from over. Appeals were made by both sides of the argument for different reasons. In a bit of good news for North Tustinites, the Orange County Board of Supervisors withdrew as a party to the appeal, leaving the Diocese on their own. FCA expects everything to be settled by this summer. We say, it ain’t over til the fat lady sings.
Other items of interest to our rural neighbors include the formation of a Coyote Committee and vine maintenance on Red Hill Avenue. They are also looking for volunteers who can help with computer input, accounting and their website.
There is nothing like a picnic to bring out the best in people. And, the Foothills Communities Association are getting to be old hands at this. They held a great picnic last year with a great turnout and lots of food, fun and games. The 2012 picnic looks to be shaping up to be an even bigger event while still holding to the tradition of community. That’s what I like about these folks. They have created a community that knows how to have fun and band together under common cause when necessary.
We first wrote about our neighbors to the North when news broke of FCA’s win over the Orange County Catholic Diocese and the County of Orange in a zoning dispute. the Diocese had asked for a change in zoning of property they own in the area so they could build a senior living community. FCA banded together to voice a strong opinion and, when that did not work, took the Diocese to court. The issue does not appear to be over, by any means, as motions have been filed seeking clarification of the judge’s ruling. It is a shame the Diocese, who just purchased the Crystal Cathedral, can’t leave well enough alone.
Back to the picnic. Here is the information from the website:
FUN fall picnic for the whole family!
Thanks to our generous sponsors, the bulk of the cost will be underwritten. Attendee cost is $5 per person for the picnic plus $5 per car upon park entrance. The charge per person is to encourage people who register to show up.
The picnic is open to the first 300 individuals who register. Everyone, FCA member or not, in unincorporated zip 92705 and unincorporated zip 92780 as well as the FCA members outside of these unincorporated areas, is invited. All children & grandchildren are welcome.
Location: Irvine Regional Park [see map on reverse side]
Sunday, September 23, 2012, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
[The park is open 6am to 9pm – park amenities will be available all day].
Food to be provided by area restaurants. This is a great opportunity for area restaurants to boost their presence in the community!
The contact for restaurants is Barbara Ferreira, email@example.com
Please contact Rick Nelson to sign up for sponsorships.
firstname.lastname@example.org (714) 730-7810
Drinks: Cold Lemonade and Water
Fun Stuff from FCA (included)
The Wacko Show!
Walk Around Magic
The OC Fire Authority (our Fire Department) is bringing ice cream, a fire truck, and fireman badges and hats.
The OC Sheriff Department is bringing a K-9 unit.
Park Activities: (additional fees may apply; some only available 10am to 4pm)
Bicycle & Aquacycle Rentals, Children’s Pony Rides
Irvine Park Railroad (10am-4pm), Zoo
Please remember that advanced registration is required.
Registration is limited to the first 300 registrants.
As noted, this event is open to everyone in North Tustin, not just FCA members. Registration is limited to the first 300 and I doubt they will have trouble reaching their quota. If you would like a taste of the experience from last year, take a look at this video. It was more than enough to get us to register. If the video does not embed, you can find it here.
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.