September 2019

Math major

Dear Editor:
I know that you called out the City of Orange for its mathematical errors when it attempted to present numbers about the districting plans. I want to point out that the numbers produced with the most recent plans published by the city still have basic math errors.

In the tables provided for each of the plans, there is an ideal district size identified as 27,314 persons. Unfortunately, this appears to be the ideal size for a five-district plan, not a six-district plan.  

One can readily calculate from the values given for the population of each district that the ideal for six districts is approximately 22,761. It appears that this is the value from which the deviation from the ideal is calculated for each of the six districts in each plan.

It is completely unclear, however, what the value “Deviation from the ideal” means in the “Total” column. It is clearly not the sum of deviations from each district. This number should always be close to zero as, by obvious logic, the deviations in each district should cancel out, but for rounding error. 

Finally, the percent deviation for the Total column is not internally consistent. For example, using the number for Map 101, 249/136,568 equals 0.18 percent, not 1.09 percent; moreover, the sum of the deviations from ideal from each district is two, not 249.

It does not appear that much effort was spent checking these tables, as the errors are obvious and the numbers are not even internally consistent.

Vincent Pollmeier

Ed. note: Demographer Justin Levitt replied to the writer’s concerns: Pollmeier is correct that there was a typo on the “ideal” population. That has been corrected. 

To calculate percent deviation, we look at the difference between the largest and smallest districts. Mathematically, it is the sum of the absolute value of the deviations of the largest and smallest districts. For example, on Map 101, the largest district is 134 persons from the ideal value, and the smallest is short by 115.  We add these values to get a total of 249 persons, which is a total deviation of 1.09 percent. This is the formula we use on our demographic templates.

Over taxed

Dear Editor:
Recently I purchased a vehicle from Tustin Toyota and when writing up the contract, they charged us 9.25 percent tax. We questioned the tax, and were told it was based on zip code. We assumed Toyota knew the tax code laws and went along with it.  

I could not believe that this could be correct, so I asked my Nextdoor neighbors for input. I was directed to the CA DMV website that clearly showed vendors and businesses are required to check tax rates based on zip codes or address of buyer.  

Armed with this information, I showed the dealership the tax law and Toyota’s responsibilities. The general manager said we have to pay the DMV based on zip code, so that is what you must pay. I stated that this was illegal, and would give her until Wednesday to run this up the legal and corporate ladder for more review.  

I left feeling violated and frustrated. I couldn’t help but think of all the other consumers who have overpaid since the new tax rates for Santa Ana went in to effect. 

The dealership then advised us that, since the paperwork had not been turned in to the DMV yet, we would be refunded $750. I was happy, but I would have preferred to hear, “we will refund you and anyone else who has overpaid, and we will be changing the way we charge tax in the future.”

The tax rate for residents of North Tustin is 7.5 percent, but because our zip code is Santa Ana, we are automatically being charged its 9.25 percent. If we don’t argue this, and go to great lengths to get our taxes right, we overpay on those purchases.  

The easy solution is to have our own zip code, but the post office is refusing to do this. It’s been an ongoing and frustrating issue.  

Kathy A. Davis
North Tustin

Ed. note: Scott Logue’s May “North Tustin Notes” column addressed this issue in detail. His advice: North Tustin residents should always include the plus four digits that follow their five-digit zip code.

Fan mail

Dear Editor:
As a 30-plus-year resident of Modjeska Canyon, I look to the "Canyon Beat" as the best source of truly local news. I particularly appreciated Scott Breeden’s lead-up and follow-up articles to the Festival de Santiago and his distinction between “commemorating” and “celebrating” the arrival of the Portola Expedition in 1769. I note that the organizers of the event did incorporate that distinction in their final advertising of the event. Breeden’s combination of surface-level reporting (times, dates, names and events) with analytic questions takes readers further into the significance of news. He reminds us that yes, there are times when bicyclists take over whole traffic lanes, but “whose road is it?” Does it matter that most of the children in our locally funded childcare center live elsewhere?

Breeden’s ability to tie these current issues of road use and childcare to historical issues is refreshing: how do 21st century Orange County residents understand Portola’s arrival and the mission system it led to? Is the conflict there any different from conflicts facing us today? Breeden does not give answers, leaving his readers to muse over the issues. Thank you for continuing to offer the writers of the "Canyon Beat" the journalistic freedom to cover, what otherwise could seem like simple calendar announcements, at a much deeper level.

Sarah Sarkissian
Modjeska Canyon

Fill in the blanks

Dear Editor:
I recently learned of a new reclamation grading permit application submitted by Chandler’s Sand and Gravel, LLC, for the 14 acres located near the intersection of Santiago Canyon Road and Cannon, adjacent to Santiago Creek. Chandler is the same company that is currently dumping on the former Sully-Miller site. I am deeply concerned that this permit is being moved through the approval process without a public hearing or environmental impact reports. 

The area is a deep gorge, formed as a result of the former mining operation, and now covered with riparian vegetation that has been in its natural state for at least 70 years. This area of the floodplain is necessary in its current state, as it acts as a relief valve, and slows the flow of water downstream. 

It hosts two acres of willow woodland inhabited by the endangered least Bell’s vireo, and coastal sage scrub occupied by the threatened California gnatcatchers. It is designated “open space” in the East Orange General Plan, which was formally adopted into the City of Orange General Plan. Chandler plans to dig out the willow woodland in the first two months, perform some mitigation at the creek bank, and then begin dumping the same type of material currently being dumped upstream, with some fill and compacting in between.  

Reading the plan approved by Fish and Wildlife, there are mitigation requirements in place. However, some of this mitigation will take place 10 miles away. There is no mention of surveys of the rare amphibians and reptiles that likely reside here, or evaluations for Native American resources. And, although no project is currently planned after the grading is completed, we all know what the next likely prospects are. 

When I contacted the City of Orange, I was told that the current zoning allowed for the dumping of inert materials (construction waste) and grading, and that this is a ministerial decision. 

I am concerned that approval of a grading permit would even be considered at this time. Just because this type of operation may be permitted in this area, doesn’t mean it should.  

Bonnie Robinson

Island in the stream

Dear Editor: 
I read with great interest your article entitled “Villa Park settles development truck traffic issues for promises and $25K” in the August Foothills Sentry. Since the article is intended to report on the actions taken by the Villa Park City Council, I would like to share my perspective as one member of that council, correct some mischaracterizations, and fill in the details associated with that action. 

To begin, I need to make it clear that the Trails at Santiago Creek project is entirely within the City of Orange, completely outside Villa Park city boundaries. Villa Park does not have any legal jurisdiction over the approval of the proposed project or related zoning issues. The project could be approved by the Orange City Council, regardless of any input from the Villa Park City Council. 

The article is correct. The City of Villa Park did provide written input outlining concerns regarding the initial DEIR and the recirculated DEIR. By law, the developer is required to respond to the input, but that response is evaluated by the City of Orange, which has jurisdictional authority. The only recourse available to Villa Park would be to either petition the Orange City Council and/or initiate legal action. I want to reiterate: the City of Orange could approve the project regardless of the fact that Villa Park felt its concerns were or were not adequately addressed. Litigation would be another option, but that could be extremely costly and last for years. The outcome of litigation would be uncertain, at best. 

That being the case, the Villa Park City Council made an effort to work with the developer on mitigation actions mutually acceptable to both the developer and the city. The timing of these discussions was critical. The Orange Planning Commission held its initial meeting on the project on July 15. Its final vote was on Aug. 6. In order to incorporate proposed mitigation actions into the conditions of approval, Villa Park had to provide input prior to the July meeting. 

The city did just that, via a letter signed by the mayor on July 2. A copy of that letter is public record. The letter specifically states: “Should the project be approved by the City of Orange with the conditions incorporated therein and assuming the project withstands any legal challenges, please be advised that the City of Villa Park is supportive of moving forward with the Trails at Santiago Creek project.” Authorization to send this letter was approved by the city council in closed session within the context of a discussion of potential litigation. The city council took action to address a potential legal issue in what it believed to be the best interests of the residents of Villa Park. 

Robert Pitts
Mayor Pro Tem, Villa Park

Internal unrest

Dear Editor:
As a Mabury Ranch homeowner and Mabury Ranch Homeowners Association (MRHOA) Board Member, I was astounded to see the letter representing the MRHOA in the last edition of the Sentry regarding the proposed Trails at Santiago Creek 128-home development. 

The board took no action on the proposed development at its April meeting, as indicated. The board discussed the issue at our May meeting; however, the motion was contingent on a review by the board before anything was to be submitted to the Sentry. This did not happen. 

The board is divided on this issue. In March, there was a motion to oppose this same proposed development and the vote was tied, 3 to 3. For many reasons, including the added traffic it will add to Santiago Canyon and Cannon, I voted in favor of opposing it. 

A year ago, the MRHOA conducted two surveys, with conflicting results. Because of this, members have stated on social media that the board has no business taking any position on any proposed development. They have called for a new survey, conducted by a legitimate third-party survey company. If you are a member of MRHOA and believe a new survey is warranted before the board takes any further steps to endorse this proposed development, please send an email to the Tritz Property Manager at

Michelle Duman
Mabury Ranch

Problem solved

Dear Editor:
I am a licensed civil and structural engineer in California and several other states. A good part of what is being stated by opponents to the project proposed for the Sully-Miller site is not factually true. I am here to tell the facts, the whole facts, and nothing but the facts, so help me God. 

The proposed project does not lie within the 100-year flood zone, as defined by FEMA. This can be seen at The 100-year flood stays in the creek channel next to the project site. 

The project does lie within the 500-year flood zone as defined by FEMA. The 500-year flood zone will cover the existing topography of the western portion of the project. If the pad elevation in this portion were to remain at the current elevation, then the project would be in the 500-year flood area, which is acceptable to FEMA. However, it is my belief, the pad elevation is this area will be raised to match the elevation of Santiago Canyon Road in order to eliminate the requirement to install a “lift station” for the sanitary sewers lines that would service the homes in this area.

Villa Park Dam is categorized as “high risk” by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) because of the extremely high downstream hazard if this dam were to fail. The dam structure has been certified “satisfactory” by the DWR and thus poses no failure threat. If this dam were ever to fail, OC Flood Control’s recent inundation map shows that the project is not in the inundation zone.  

Villa Park Dam, Santiago Dam (Irvine Lake), and the project are not located over earthquake faults. This can be seen at The map shows there are two faults in the vicinity of the proposed project. Neither is located under Villa Park Dam or Santiago Dam. These faults’ last activity was over 2.6 million years ago; they are not considered active.

There are two areas in the proposed project that would be subject to potential liquefaction during a seismic event. These two areas are the disposal ponds for the sand and gravel mine tailings. However, before any structure could be built, the mine tailings would have to be excavated, removed and new engineered fill placed in these areas. Once this is completed, there is no potential for liquefaction in the proposed project.  

The Villa Park Landfill located immediately to the west of the proposed project has a methane capture and disposal system installed. No evidence of methane migrating under Santiago Canyon Road into the Jamestown home tract has ever been recorded. Methane once found in Fire Station 23, west of the proposed project, came from the Reeve Pit landfill, which does not have a methane capture and disposal system installed and is located under Oakridge School and Santiago Canyon Road and across from Fire Station 23. 

Tom Broz

Problem unsolved

Dear Editor:
I am the president of the Orange Park Association Board of Directors. The OPA Board opposes The Trails at Santiago Creek project for numerous reasons. First, the project proposes houses in an area that does not provide for any houses, either through zoning, the City of Orange General Plan, the OPA Specific Plan or the East Orange Plan. While the law may allow such plans to be modified, there must be a very good reason for doing so. Milan, the landowner, has not shown a good reason. Milan claims that the project provides public benefits that justify the changes to these planning documents. However, even if the proposed public benefits were to actually happen (which is doubtful), they would not support the wholesale disregarding of plans that have been in place for over 40 years.  

Worse, the proposed public benefits are presented in a fashion that lacks important details. A glaring example of this is Milan’s claim that 70 acres will become a public park and will be managed either by OC Parks, or some undefined HOA. However, the actual response from OC Parks states, “Please be clear that at this time, there is insufficient information for OC Parks to even review a proposed land transfer … the county is not agreeable to accepting fee title to any land at this time.” When I raised this issue at the Planning Commission hearing, Milan’s representative responded falsely that the matter was “covered”— it was not even discussed. The county’s response highlighted a further failing in the project’s supposed public benefit of $4.1 million in landscape, trail, and other improvements: “It is unknown whether the proposed funding is adequate even to cover those features, let alone recreational improvements … ”  Additionally, Milan’s “offer” to convey the Ridgeline property to the city lacks significant detail, including whether the City of Orange even wants the property.  

Finally, the project documents contain numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act, which subject the project, and the City of Orange, to lawsuits for CEQA violations. These issues include, among many others: (1) conflicts in the project description, including false statements regarding traffic and soil import and export; (2) failure to explain creek restoration; (3) failure to mitigate hazardous, carcinogenic substances in the soil; (4) failure to address flooding and protected species impacts; and, (5) failure to mitigate land-use impacts. OPA’s attorneys explained the CEQA violations in great detail in a 38-page letter submitted on Dec. 28, 2018 as part of the public comment process. Milan’s response to the public comments in the “final” EIR largely brushed aside these concerns.

The Planning Commission failed to appreciate the gravity of the problems this project will cause the city. Because this project is detrimental to residents on many levels, we ask that the City Council not make the same mistake. The city should reject this project.

Don Bradley, President
Orange Park Association

Letter to the Editor