Lost at sea

Dear Editor:
This is in response to “How much is an inch of rainwater worth?” by Denis Bilodeau in the February Sentry.

Per Bilodeau’s numbers, an acre-foot of rain water is worth about $1,000, or $84 per inch. That is a lot money and in Denis’ words “is a big deal.”

I then have to ask why we are still allowing millions of acre-feet of rainwater to wash down concrete storm channels and empty into the ocean every time it rains here?

One hundred years ago, Orange County was mostly farmland and dirt roads. I would estimate that over 90 percent of the rain that fell in Orange County then went back into the ground. Added to that, we were on septic systems that also put our used water back into the ground. Today, with the houses, hardscaping, paved roads, concrete storm systems and sewer systems, less than 30 percent of our rainfall ends up in the ground. The rest ends up in the ocean.

Water districts in Orange County and OCWD should be working to find ways to keep what little rain we get. Our last wet winter, we lost millions of acre-feet of water that went to the ocean instead of into the ground.

W Tom Foster
North Tustin

Clogged arteries

Dear Editor:
Several years ago the 55-North exit at Lincoln was demolished, no doubt to pay off some crooked politicians and concrete contractors.  The “engineers” who talked at citizens’ meetings lied with a straight face, “It will make the traffic flow better.”

So the Lincoln exit was killed, and all traffic had to exit at Nohl Ranch, causing backups on the freeway and a blocked intersection at the exit.  We have watched as traffic has gotten worse because of this scheme.

How was it possible to make traffic flow by taking away the Lincoln exit?  Killing the Lincoln exit funneled all traffic to Nohl Ranch, creating bottlenecks at Santiago constantly as any idiot knew it would.

Now it is nearly impossible to exit from the Vista Royale development because of blocked traffic on Santiago. Politicians are killing the viability of that section of Orange.  

Steve Francis

Candid council

Dear Editor:
As a former councilman from the city of Villa Park, I am embarrassed by the fighting amongst the current members of our city council. They should be working together for the city, and not on their own personal agendas.  Our reputation as a congenial jewel is in jeopardy. We need new individuals on the council who use common sense and can work together.   

I have talked to many citizens of our community, and we are tired of the games played by this council.  We encourage others who are independent thinkers to step forward and lead our community.  We do not need power plays and the intrigue of 3-2 voting blocks.  Everyone should be respected.

This is a small, beautiful community. There is no need for numerous committees and studies to run this city. It takes staff time and costs money that could be better used elsewhere.  We do not need empire builders. 

Good citizens possessing high standards, with their egos under control and having only the city’s interest at heart, are needed to run for our city council. I hope such individuals will come forward. Several members of our current city council should be replaced at the upcoming election. They are not the type of leaders this city deserves.  

James P. Reichert
Villa Park

Dear Editor:
The February Sentry includes an article entitled “Proliferating council committees scatter governance in Villa Park.”  Although not decision-making bodies, the city has maintained several committees that provide recommendations to council based on focused research and consideration. 

On Jan. 23 the council split the previous “Community Development & Public Safety (CD&PS) Committee,” consisting of two council members, into three separate committees, each also consisting of two council members:  Community Development; Public Safety; and Public Works. Each of these disparate sets of issues warrants increased focus by council. 

Community Development – As Villa Park is built out, our internal planning issues relate to code enforcement, zoning variance requests and General Plan updates.   This was the focus of the previous CD&PS Committee.   However, over the past three years, CD&PS has begun to address significant externally imposed planning-related issues including sober living facilities, impacts from proposed developments in adjacent areas, and state mandates requiring zoning for affordable and high-density housing, and homeless housing matters.  

Public Safety – CD&PS began to address the “public safety” component of its mission.  Although crime in Orange County has been increasing at an alarming rate, only Villa Park has seen consistent reductions in our already low crime rate.  Maintaining a low crime rate is the top priority of our residents, and will require continued close coordination between our city, Sheriff, Law Enforcement Advisory Committee (LEAC), Neighborhood Watch and residents. 

Public Works – CD&PS has also begun to assess the condition of our infrastructure and the need to develop, fund and implement preventive management programs.  Our city is now over 55 years old, and our infrastructure requires increased preventive maintenance and repair.  Our residents expect and deserve streets rated “good” or better, yet too many are rated “fair” or “poor.” Preventive maintenance is 14 times less expensive than replacing streets on failure.  Our sanitary sewers are requiring increased maintenance due to age, and the impacts of drought and water conservation.  The need for maintenance of our storm drain system was recently illustrated by collapse of a section, imperiling downstream neighborhoods. 

More effective management of each of these issues by council is imperative if we are to maintain our community and property values. Each is sufficiently large and complex to warrant separate committees, each consisting of two council members, to provide needed focus to address our challenges. The new committee structure provides the opportunity for greater participation, and accountability, in addressing these issues by all council members.

Those critical of the new committee structure have not provided any alternatives to better address the planning, public safety and infrastructure needs of our city.  However, suggestions that will improve the city’s ability to manage these issues at no additional cost are welcome.

Robert Collacott, Mayor 
Villa Park

Slippery slope

Dear Editor:
I’ve been a resident of North Tustin for 44 years.  I can’t believe a contractor is planning on building massive homes with expected prices twice that of the surrounding area.  And, to build on expansive soil that, after construction was done to shore up the hillside in 1991, only to have it fail for a second time.  One only has to look at Lemon Hill Drive, where minor repairs have been made to the street due to soil movement.  There is a reason why no contractor has tried to build on the six lots for 27 years.  Now a contractor is expected to get a rubber stamp from the county to build reportedly four-story homes with an entertainment area on the top story, nine car garages -- homes overbuilt for the area.  I can only ask where are our elected and appointed officials who seem to be allowing this development that is dangerous to the surrounding area?

Don Rosholm
North Tustin

Dear Editor:
I am contacting you today out of grave concern over the potential for a repeat of a serious landslide we experienced in the area of Lemon Hill in North Tustin.  I am one of the homeowners affected by the Foothills landslide in 1991, and earlier in 1973, due to the unstable soil in this area.

It will serve no one after the fact to say “We told you so” after homes have been damaged or destroyed as a result of poor planning, decision making, and a weak approval process.  For this reason, on behalf of my many concerned neighbors, I reach out to you.

Todd Spitzer, we need your support!  We ask that you please use the weight of your office to protect our homes and families from this out-of-place, towering development. 

This development is currently under review by county staff to approve the proposed engineering plan to retain and stabilize the land around the development. Twenty-seven years ago another team within your office processed a similar proposal and approved it, with catastrophic results.  Twice, the land came down, before the project was abandoned.

Now, another developer plans to build on this land, but this time, to maximize profit, they plan on four-story houses with rooftop pools and subterranean garages, which will overpower this beautiful, established neighborhood. Your neighbors are deeply concerned, and we are turning to you.

Mr. Spitzer, do you want the Lemon Hill Luxury Estates to join these headliners?

•Sinking Millennium Towers of San Francisco:  Seeking $200 Million

•Sinking Monterey Hills Condo Development in Los Angeles:  1990, Jury Awards $21,634,466

•Clark Gable Estates in Encino: 2003, Jury Award $4,000,000

•Seagull Way in Malibu:  Multi-Million Dollar Subsidence Case

Does this developer care about any of this? No, because Frank Eder of Lemon Hill Luxury Estates, LLC is a bully.  According to my neighbors, he regularly stalks them on the phone, shows up unannounced at their property, threatens them with lawsuits, and intimidates and misleads them to get his own way. If everything was open and aboveboard, why would this “businessman” need to operate in this way?

My home is directly adjacent to this development, and the first home immediately below.  We have already experienced two severe landslides.  It’s the perfect storm.  The county is poised to approve the final steps of the structural and geotechnical aspects before beginning at least a full year of nonstop construction in a densely populated family neighborhood - and we are worried.

We are worried about movement and subsidence during construction and subsidence post construction.  We are worried about the fact that historically, after developers and their investors are done and something goes wrong, no one steps up to make good. Once any of the bonds in place are consumed, there is talk of bankruptcy and the homeowners have nowhere to go.

We are not saying don’t build, we are saying do this right.  Complete the right analysis, construct the right (not the cheapest) retaining system to protect everyone and build structures in keeping with the surroundings.  Ensure full accountability and don’t let this be another headline, as there is too much at stake.

Suzanne Gavin
North Tustin

Dear Editor:
Not long ago, it came to our attention that Frank Eder is planning to build six houses in a very small strip of land above our home.  We were never notified or asked about our concerns regarding this development and the setback variance needed.  We and our neighbors are totally against this plan in its current state. Even though we‘ve been told that he is complying with the building code (which apparently needs to be changed), these structures certainly do not meet the theme and other criteria of our beautiful neighborhood. 

First, they are extremely modern four-story buildings with an open entertainment area (party- like) on the top; they certainly do not look like a family home. They are so big, there will be no room for back/side yards and the residents will be forced to use the open rooftop area, which will create unacceptable noise levels for the rest of us.

Secondly, our single-story home will have two of these massive structures directly next to us (one above our back yard and one above our side yard); we will lose all sunlight and privacy. This will totally destroy our quality of life and certainly devalue our property.

Thirdly, the density mass of these buildings does not balance with the density mass of the land. There are no harmony in this project; there is just six huge buildings forced onto a small hillside.

Fourthly and most important, is the stabilization of this property. This land is not stable enough to deal with the cuts and the load factor of these huge buildings. It seems like Eder only cares about making as much money as possible and ignoring the safety of all the homes and people surrounding his project. He needs to redesign his project to more appropriately sized homes that will blend in with the existing theme of the neighborhood-and the county needs to make sure the hillside is totally stabilized.  

Jacques and Roxanne Doumani
North Tustin

Dear Editor:                

Neighbors need to be aware of an appalling housing development planned for North Tustin that has shocked the 10-15 surrounding households that have recently seen the plans for the structures to be built.  I am referring to six “small estates” proposed for the narrow strip of land behind Lemon Hill Drive and Lemon Leaf Lane. There is a myriad of problems with this development.  These “small estates” are actually gigantic, nine-car garage, ultra-modern structures with three stories, plus a full rooftop entertainment area.  The houses are crammed into lots that have minimized front setbacks and no backyards.  Undoubtedly, that’s why the developer is rising to essentially four stories – he has no room to spread outward because the lots are too small to accommodate the hotel-like structures he plans to build.  There is another reason why the developer is building up, not out – he must remove the entire foot of the hillside, tons and tons of dirt, in order to fit any structures on this land.

This is not the first time a developer has attempted a project like this.  In 1991, a different developer removed the foot of the hill rising above these empty lots and a major landslide occurred.  The hillside was hastily repaired and no further development has been attempted until now.  The current developer has spent considerable money attempting to engineer a satisfactory stabilization plan and now, millions of dollars in debt, he plans to make back his money with houses that are as tall and wide as he can possibly build them.  If these monoliths are built, the neighbors will rarely see any sunlight, and the houses above will have views of adults frolicking in their hot tub instead of green vistas and city lights.   This development will ruin the quality of life for dozens of long-time North Tustin residents, families who love their quiet, traditional neighborhood and intend to be here much longer than the cut-and-run developer who cares for nothing other than making money. 

Ellen Smiley
North Tustin

Go fish

Dear Editor:
After spending a few intimate hours with the planning document (DEIR) for the Sully-Miller development project, The Trails at Santiago Creek, it become astoundingly clear that the applicant has no understanding of the Orange Park Acres community, and has no interest in learning what makes the community tick.

The DEIR is difficult to read, difficult to understand, and unclear in many important aspects. All are by design, I suspect. In addition, it is highly redundant, not well-organized, and full of half-truths, falsehoods and worse.

The DEIR raises more questions than it answers, and amounts to a “pig in a poke.” There is no tract map – therefore, the community has no idea of lot sizes, street configurations or house styles. It’s clear that some of the homes are next to the methane-producing property at Santiago Canyon Road and Cannon Street, clearly a health hazard for some. And, it completely ignores the desires of the community, as they were presented more than a year ago at a public review of the project.

The DEIR represents a 129- home development unfairly. The number of homes can increase easily, and without much approval, to 240 homes.

As if that’s not enough, the project introduces life-threatening traffic changes to residents and passers-by travelling on Santiago Canyon Road. Expanding the road to six lanes by narrowing the existing lanes increases the likelihood of more deaths and accidents. No investigation was made by the authors of the DEIR into the accident and death history. The proposed traffic solution is pouring water on a drowning man, not a drop in the traffic bucket, as the DEIR purports.

The preservation and maintenance of Santiago Creek is not addressed, although it runs through the property. Residential water excesses from the proposed project can pollute the creek and cause the ecological balance and profile to change. It happened with Handy Creek. It can happen again.

If that’s not enough, abandoned mines, which the property is, at this point of its existence, require, by law, special handing and remediation before the property can be made available for other purposes. If an unlikeable situation is ignored, it may disappear.

Come on, Milan – show some respect for the lifestyles and character of the community that you are trying to “improve.” If this document is the best that you can produce, how can anyone expect anything good to come from The Trails at Santiago Creek?

To the City of Orange staff: reject the DEIR before any more taxpayer money is spent on reviewing it. The document is an embarrassment. It’s unprofessional. It’s a regurgitation of earlier failed attempts. It treats the Orange Park Acres community poorly. Demand something better.

Remember folks, that green wrapping on the fencing that surrounds the property remains blowing in the wind.

Peter Jacklin
Orange Park Acres

Dear Editor:
I have lived off of Santiago Canyon Road, across from the proposed Sully-Miller/The Trails at Santiago Creek project, since 1987.  My backyard and kitchen are directly across the street from the gate in which the 500 daily truck trips, listed in the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed project, enter the property.

When my husband and I purchased our home, we were told that the property across the way would soon be developed into a park.  That is indeed stated in the East Orange General Plan.  When the Sully-Miller operation ceased, we believed that park would come to be.  We did not get the park; however, for many years, we enjoyed the raptors, grassland, and a view of the foothills until the current owner of the property began dumping dirt, broken concrete and asphalt, building the mountains that we now see along the length of the property. The noise, vibrations, air pollution and dust had a negative impact on my neighbors, family and me for years.  We were no longer able to enjoy our backyards or open our windows, except for limited periods of time.  

With a cessation of activity while a city-appointed committee works with the owner to come up with a development plan that fits into the community and current zoning constraints, vegetation has begun growing on that mountain and the dust has settled.  

However, a new proposal for homes has been made by the developer that violates the Orange Park Acres Specific Plan and the East Orange Community Plan. The OPA Plan, the Santiago Creek Greenbelt Plan and the East Orange Plan all designate this site as open space.  Besides the loss of open space, another concern is the approximately 73,333 truck trips that would be required to stabilize the soil.  The outdated traffic study in the DEIR does not take into account the impact of that truck traffic, the current traffic conditions which have significantly worsened due to further development in the area, nor projected traffic from the build out of Santiago Hills II and other nearby developments.

Yes, we would like public access to trails and our creek restored. We also want our specific plans for open space, which so many community members worked on for so many years, to be implemented, not amended, with a natural passive park and perhaps, community gardens to the benefit of all of surrounding communities.

Bonnie Robinson

Dear Editor:
Last March many of us walked out of the scoping meeting wondering if we would be forced to do a referendum on the Trails of Santiago Creek project.  It was impossible to figure out what the developer was planning.  The audience was irritated and many felt it was a waste of time.  Nevertheless, people took the time to express their thoughts verbally and in writing.

With the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Report, it is obvious the developer was not listening and, it appears, simply doesn’t care about our community.  A year later we still have no idea of what is planned.  What we do know is that there is no entitlement to the 129 homes they are proposing.  What we have learned is that only 25 homes were approved in 1993 north of the creek. 

The community put forth a reasonable plan, Alternative E. It was completely ignored in the DEIR. The long-standing OPA plan was completely deleted in favor of tract housing.

The developer inherited all the problems, obstacles, and liabilities by purchasing this property and has made one bad decision after another.  Bad business decisions should not be rewarded and taxpayers should not bail them out.  It’s time for Milan to move on and mitigate its losses. 

Bob Kirkeby
Orange Park Acres

A price on their heads

Dear Editor: 
I was reading an article posted in the Foothills Sentry in regards to "School funding: only so much to go around," and wanted to make a few points.  

The writer says that 40 percent of California’s money must be spent on education and school renovations. But what made me oppose this statement was “does this include the lottery?” Meaning the state lottery was originally intended to help build staff and create better schools for all. So if this money is supposed to go to educational purposes, what is considered an educational tool? I have seen schools paint murals on walls and revamp the gym floor. But I do not see how this is considered a benefit to a child’s education. 

The next point was the amount each student brings in to a charter school. A school should not be looked at by the amount brought in by each student. A school serves to educate a student, not look at them as a source of income. Some classrooms have 42-50 kids for one teacher. This does not benefit the child nor the teacher; and if it has to have this much attendance in one class to receive money, then that is absurd. 

Lastly, the paragraph about the benefit or damage a charter school does to a public school is biased. I myself attended a charter middle school that educated me on a higher level than a traditional public school. Class sizes were smaller, teachers were happy to be teaching and any additional help I needed was given. The amount of educational classes was limitless. 

I hope you take my statements into consideration for future articles about charter schools. 

Abby Sheppard
Santiago Canyon College