Voters' voices

Dear Editor: 
While emotions have been strong about filling the [Orange City] council vacancy, the decision to have a special election is about the only one that makes sense. The council would have received strong criticism over the appointment of any of the other applicants as an “insider” decision that failed to take into account Betty Valencia’s and her supporters’ demand that she was entitled to the appointment because of her third place finish in November.

Now there is a level playing field, where people who feel that they are most qualified can turn to the voters for the ultimate decision. The argument that this special election will be expensive is true; but what is the price of democracy? And who wants months of chaos and finger-pointing against our council, their motives and whoever would have been chosen to fill the vacancy. That energy can best be devoted to a serious campaign to take a candidate’s message to the voters and organize a successful election.

So what happened to the “sweet, sweet Orange” that our former Mayor Tita Smith always referred to? What changed the tone in Orange? The politics in Washington, D.C. or Sacramento? The decision, last year, by our council to challenge the sanctuary state approach to immigration? The opposition to a needle exchange program for addicts? Passionate activists who felt diversity wasn’t sufficient in Orange?

This is a great city. Not everything goes perfectly, but we have a lot going for us: jewels like Old Towne, with its historic homes; the Cypress Street Barrio and El Modena community; East Orange, with its rural character; medical facilities that are great employers and bring wellness to our citizens; big retail centers; our own Chapman University; good schools; competent city management; a police and fire department that works together to protect us; a social conscience to serve the poor, homeless and vulnerable children sheltered at Orangewood Children’s Home; elected officials that truly love Orange and understand what governance is all about. Isn’t this the city council where no one ran against the incumbents recently?

Frankly, I am sick and tired of the lack of civility and respect for different viewpoints. The council can’t be expected to please everyone. I do hope that whoever is elected has a history of service to Orange and a constructive vision for its future.

But after the vacancy is filled, I have a reminder. Power and decision-making in Orange requires three votes by councilmembers. No one can go it alone, no matter how impassioned they feel about an issue.

That’s how compromise is achieved and important things get done. It’s all about collaboration, and not polarization – and up until now, I think that is what most of our residents want.

William G. Steiner

Dear Editor:
Wow! Letter after letter (December Sentry) revisited information on Betty Valencia that was in her published propaganda literature. Why was this even published? The many voices sang in concert about accomplishments that are common to perhaps over 100,000 residents in Orange. One kind of different voice did state that she entered the race late and finished third. I see Valencia differently, based on what I read about her and the lack of details that could have been stated. Plus, as just a dig, if all of you had read her published bio you would have had a chance to see grammar errors. That doesn’t show well for someone who is “working on a doctorate.” Once you take a close look at the organization doing all of the work for her, it really isn’t such a big deal. Hopefully, those writing the notes will have more time to do some original research on and about Valencia.

Gary Wright

Road rage

Dear Editor:
My husband, daughter and I moved to Orange Park Acres in 1994. We also moved our two horses here from Huntington Beach. Developers had come into Huntington Beach, and much of our open riding land and trails had been taken. It was a good move to OPA; we felt like we had found horse heaven.

Our house backs up to the Santiago Canyon curve just west of Holy Sepulcher Cemetery. Soon after we moved here, a motorcycle rider was riding west on Santiago behind our house. The motorcycle left the road, hit a fire hydrant head on, the bike stopped but the rider flew off and took out two sections of trail fencing. The rider’s leg from the knee down was in the road, his lifeless body lay up on the horse trail.

The next fatal accident was a 17-year-old male driver coming down the hill in his ‘68 Mustang. It was raining heavily, and the water was cascading down over Santiago Road. He drove west into this moving creek of water and hydroplaned, spun around going uphill facing east. Faster moving traffic coming up the hill couldn’t stop and rear-ended the Mustang. The car burst into flames and the young man died. 

We’ve had five fatal accidents behind our house, plus several fender benders, sideswipes and flip overs. I went to our city council in February 2006 to ask for changes in that road to prevent fatalities. I looked every one of them in the eye, including our then-Councilman Steve Ambriz. Three months later that councilman was killed on the curve behind my house by an intoxicated driver. 

Now the two-lane country road behind our house is a four-lane highway with a guard rail on the outside of the curve, a median down the middle of the road and a 45 mph speed limit on the curve.   You’d think things would get better, but we’ve had another fatality since those improvements were made. 

When the 241 toll road was finished, our traffic doubled. People avoid going towards the 91 by using Santiago to get to Cannon Street or farther west on Katella. In the afternoons, we have gridlock behind our house: a stream of bumper-to-bumper cars

Then the Canyon 2 Fire happened. We were given very little time to evacuate. Most homes here have horses; homeowners were challenged with hooking up horse trailers and loading large animals. 

My husband was the last to leave our house. He called to tell me he was stuck on Orange Park Boulevard, with trucks and horse trailers bumper-to-bumper in both directions. He made a U-turn to go back north on Orange Park, finally got to Kennymead and drove up the hill toward Amapola. Firefighters were actively fighting flames and fire trucks blocked his escape. 

The Canyon 2 Fire did not happen during rush hour. I shudder to think how catastrophic the outcome could have been if all OPA residents and livestock had to evacuate with bumper-to-bumper traffic on Santiago.

And now the developer that bought the Sully-Miller gravel pit wants to build over 120 houses there. Santiago can barely handle traffic now. It is unacceptable for 120-plus houses to be built on a main evacuation street from OPA. 

Carolyn Aliotta
Orange Park Acres

The Sentry received letters opposing the Sully-Miller project from Lisa and David Letourneau; Katrina Kirkeby; Vincent, Cynthia, Cindy Lynn and Theodore Reina; Charles Leffler; Bobbie Grayson; Linda Dickinson; Karen Beck; Kelley White; Valentina Raugi; Jenny So; Chris Hooker; Sharon Mule; Mark Massie; Mike Henry; Eliot Dratch; Sharon Butterfield and Larry Wakefield.

Dear Editor:
There seems to be a tremendous amount of confusion over the issue of what happens to the Sully-Miller property if the proposal from the landowner is defeated. The majority of residents I have spoken with assume that if the proposal is defeated, this will immediately create “open space” on that land. From my research, that is not the case.

The gravel pit is not zoned “open space” on the city General Plan - it is zoned “Resource Area.” This means that if the landowner cannot get a rezoning to anything else, they will have to observe the current zoning and return to crushing rock and concrete there again. 

This is a much different scenario than the battle over the Ridgeline property. 

Ridgeline was originally zoned “recreation/open space.” When OPA prevailed in the courts to prohibit a zone change, it stayed “recreation/open space.” The Sully-Miller land, by contrast, is zoned  “resource area.” If OPA prevailed at the city level or in the courts to prohibit a zone change, it will stay  “resource area.”

Further, it is incorrect to assume that Milan has to clean up the site as it was ruled in 2003 that this site was exempt from SMARA as it was grandfathered in to mines that were exempt under the law. It says that in a memo from then City Attorney Dave DeBerry dated July 22, 2003. In that memo, there is a letter from the California Department of Conservation from May 5, 2003 stating the City of Orange has jurisdiction over this decision. You can obtain this memo online.

It is my opinion that the better alternative is to get to the bargaining table and make the best deal possible for the community and the residents for years to come now, rather than spend a vast amount of time and money to keep a gravel pit open (and still have 50-plus homes that are already permitted north of the creek and south of Santiago Canyon Road). These homes will be built with or without a zone change on the gravel pit unless we can negotiate otherwise. In short, this is not the Ridgeline Scenario. Stopping this proposal will not create a park or open space in the doing; it will simply keep what is there -- the gravel pit.

Mark Moore
The Reserve

Ed note: The property is designated “open space” in the OPA Specific Plan and East Orange General Plan, which are adjuncts to the city’s General Plan.  Instead of rezoning it to accommodate housing, the city could honor those plans.

Dear Editor:
It has become apparent that there is a lack of parking within Orange. With the expansion of multi-family homes and complexes, it’s amounted to packing in more people than older neighborhoods were designed for. It’s not the amount of people, but the ratio of vehicles per residence. 

The influx of extra living residences (“granny flats” or added-on rooms) within single-family neighborhoods leaves some long-time residents feeling that overcrowding is imminent. There are just too many vehicles, per residence, and people are parking in neighborhoods where they do not reside.

“Permit parking only” can be a fine option for some, but can exacerbate the parking issue in neighboring areas not designated as permit parking. Those “permit parking only” people without permits must park in nearby neighborhoods. We just pass the “parking buck” to the next nearest place anyone can park.

One starts to ponder what could make this parking situation work for the present, and also the future. There is a need to construct housing and rework older neighborhoods to have more “off street” parking. Do we need underground parking to be incorporated into new home construction? Considering that things are only going to get more crowded with neighborhoods designed for single families becoming multi-family, and single-family homes housing extended families with more adults (with cars) than children, the city needs to think outside the "permit parking only" box. 

Our older neighborhoods need protection. Not just Old Towne, but those areas surrounding the university. Investors rent out their homes and make money; homeowners pay taxes and the city makes money;  parking permits are sold, and the city makes more money.  Those who sell their homes before this parking issue becomes overwhelming will make money. What about residents who bought our home in a neighborhood to raise our children or spend our senior years?

Mary Keogh

Dear Editor:
Greedy California just upped the penalties on vehicle late registration, giving you 10 days to register a vehicle  -- and the earliest appointment is out 30 days or more. AAA can’t do it.

Tom Foster
North Tustin 

February 2019