Canyon Beat: 

(Not) burying the lede

By Andrew Tonkovich

At least three families last month buried victims of traffic accidents that occurred (if that is not too passive a verb) on Santiago Canyon Road, tragedies involving predictably doomed contests (“operator of motorcycle vs. auto,” as offered in the bloodless prose of the duty-bound scribes at the coroner’s office). Three deaths in a single July week have provoked discussion of what many see as a public policy failure, vis-a-vis our popular rural amateur speedway posing as a scenic and otherwise charming country highway, with residents weighing in to suggest a more regular and vigorous law enforcement presence, installation of cautionary signage, cameras, speed bumps, you name it.

The circumstances of at least one motorcycle death developed out of a weird backstory involving urgent telephone and email reports of a “pool guy” driving a white truck observed for days harassing women in Modjeska Canyon. He was unofficially identified as the driver in the July 16 cycle fatality, released on bail, but, of course, potentially subject to any number of future potential criminal charges.

In other mortality news, a moderately notorious longtime local squatter’s identity and cause of death could, at press time, still not be officially confirmed, pending notification of family, but he appears to share a name with both a famous Scottish clergyman and British karate champ.  The man illegally occupied, we are told, an RV parked on private property in Silverado, in which his body was found.

In between cheering us up a bit with news about a modest bit of late spring real estate activity, local realtor Cressa Cruzan shared her unenviable, if still kinda thrilling, canyon true-crime tale.  A recent victim of identity theft, Cruzan’s victimizers apparently purchased items with her account info, ordered them shipped, then showed up in real, as opposed to virtual, life (Scandinavian or Russian types, reportedly) at Silverado P.O. to claim their ill-gotten booty.  Super-postal worker Anastasia demanded ID from the ostensible con artists, knowing full well they were bogus.  They fled.

Puss in books

I heard that story, and details about a brief flurry of local home sales and, alas, recent higher rates of failed escrows at --- where else? --- our library branch, a comfortable air-conditioned retreat for literate canyon residents and the people who love them.  New library hours are in effect, so maybe cut out this month’s column and affix it and revised schedule to your fridge: M, T, W, Th 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. , Sat 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Friday & Sunday.  Lately, our very own Library of the Canyons mascot, the rotund, if presumably well-read, feline totem and sleepy animated plush toy, finds herself on Facebook. It turns out dozens of U.S. libraries host cats and, yes, fans of library felines have made the pilgrimage to admire ours. The Facebook page “celebrates the furry charms, abiding grace and profound feline indifference of Megan, Silverado’s most excellent library cat.”  When we say Megan is a big reader, we mean it. When Megan sits around the library, she really sits around the library. Meanwhile, modifications to its design plan, including planting drought tolerant native species, suggest transformation of the former Silverado Elementary into our new branch and multi-use OC Parks facility is moving along, if slowly.

The Summer Concert Series’ penultimate offering features canyon locals Jason Richards and Daze of Blue, Saturday, August 20.  And pencil in Oct. 8 and 9, dates of this year’s 46th annual Country Fair.  Contact intrepid organizer Jane Bove to reserve a booth, or visit

The fix is in

Alert canyon residents will have observed continuing hazard mitigation efforts by Edison, lately replacing a dozen utility poles in proactive efforts to avoid damage from high winds, in addition to performing regular maintenance. Routine core sampling identifies weak poles, and anybody can see damage done by woodpeckers, which cache acorns and care not at all about power to our homes.

Finally, in local governance news, the Silverado-Modjeska Recreation and Park District invites potential candidates to review requirements (and the significant commitment demanded) for office, and consider filing to run for one of two director positions up in November. Filing period ends Aug. 12. 

And, following recent advice from  Supervisor  Todd  Spitzer, the Inter-Canyon League just plain went for it, hiring a landuse expert to produce a brief on the legal viability and enforceability of the contested Sil-Mod Site Specific Plan, this in response to Spitzer’s pessimistic assessment, if somehow also helpful encouragement.  Attorney John McClendon’s 19-page legal opinion (available from ICL) demolishes arguments challenging intent and, importantly, enforceability of the plan. To two specific (!) questions --- Is the plan in force and binding in light of its adoption by resolution and not by ordinance? And, to what degree is it in force and binding? --- he firmly answers “yes” and, to embrace a less lawyerly idiom, majorly.

August 2016