Letters to the editor
I’m responding to inaccuracies in Mark Kamp's letter to the editor (March) regarding the potential redevelopment of the Tustin Hills Racquet Club (THRC) and the community’s response. As a North Tustin resident and Foothill Communities Association member fighting to preserve THRC’s existing zoning, I’d like to offer facts and dispel misinformation so residents can be fully informed.
Advocating for owners’ property rights is precisely the focus of our efforts, which entail fighting to uphold existing zoning codes and binding land-use restrictions at THRC that were put in place to protect the rights and interests of residents.
THRC land is zoned A-1 (general agriculture), permitting agriculture, parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, and one dwelling unit (Orange County Zoning Code - Title 7, Div. 9, Sec. 7-9-59.2. - principal uses permitted). We wholeheartedly support owners’ rights to hold and operate private property as desired, providing it conforms to existing codes and laws. However, the buyer of the THRC site is requesting a zone change to R-2 to develop 37 condominium units on 5,000-sq.-ft. lots.
North Tustin property owners have rights under existing zoning codes, which ensure compatibility and conformity with surrounding land uses. Residents bought homes based on the in-place code, and many paid a premium based on this zoning. Rezoning to a higher density would solely benefit the buyer and seller while devaluing homes in the community.
Additionally, a legally binding land-use covenant recorded decades ago, and signed by the then-THRC, restricts the use of the property to that of a private or public use tennis club into perpetuity. The proposed development violates the covenant and homeowners’ rights.
Chuck Pate (seller) bought the tennis club years ago with these legally binding zoning and land-use restrictions in place, and paid a price commensurate with its use. He rejected several purchase offers from community members attempting to maintain the tennis club because his apparent motive was to maximize personal gain at the community's expense. Despite a clear understanding of the current zoning, legal covenant, and the community's overwhelming opposition to redevelopment, the transaction closed, and the buyer is intent on a zone change.
The community has more than "put up" to protect our rights under the existing jurisdiction, including multiple purchase offers for the property. Rather than spread misinformation or conjecture, perhaps it is better to get involved and join the fight to protect this extraordinary North Tustin community that we are proud to call home.
What is the value of family? What is the worth of friends? What is the price of memories? What is the importance of a healthy lifestyle? What is the significance of a life well-lived in a home for over 40 years? What is the impact of negatively changing the nature and character of a community forever?
None of these questions are answered in the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Tustin Hills Racquet Club property in North Tustin. Nor can they ever be.
Our family moved to North Tustin in June 1979 from Rochester, New York. We were ecstatic to find a house in the recently-built John Lyttle homes in Lemon Heights. We could walk to the Tustin Hills Racquet Club. The tennis club was the single most important reason that we bought the house we did.
We immediately joined the club. Forty-one years later, I am still a member. Our children, ages two and seven when we moved here, grew up at the club; first in the swimming pool, and later on the tennis courts. Our son wound up playing tennis for Foothill High School. He also got his first job tending the snack bar at the club. This is significant because he went on to a career in the hospitality industry. Today, our three-year-old granddaughter is learning to swim at the club. What is the value of a family history like this?
My wife and I played years of mixed doubles with many other wonderful couples that became our circle of friends. What is the worth of friends and memories such as we have because of our tennis club? As somewhat of a fitness fanatic, I would play tennis Saturday morning, lift weights in the club weight room and then run five miles in the hills. My wife and I would walk down to the club after dinner just to hit balls. Now in my seventies, it has helped me recover from knee surgeries, retain muscle tone and generally stay healthy. There is no facility anywhere in North Tustin that provides the recreational and social opportunities offered by the Racquet Club. What is the importance of a healthy lifestyle provided by the availability of the tennis club?
In the early eighties, with nearly 300 of our neighbors, we banded together to prevent Racquet Hill Drive from becoming a through street to the new Tustin Ranch development, preserving the tranquility of our neighborhood. It was, and still is, a neighborhood that is relatively unique in Orange County, with all half-acre lots.
The Mitigated Negative Declaration does not address a single one of these questions. That is because it does not address the human elements at play with this proposal. People live here because they have chosen to live here. It is a tranquil area where homes are not jammed together as they are elsewhere in Orange County. Proposed is an island of ugly, jammed-in duplexes. How completely and insanely incongruous this development would be in its proposed location.
Without addressing the human, aesthetic and property value impacts to the neighborhood, the Mitigated Negative Declaration is fatally incomplete. I urge all residents of North Tustin to forcefully oppose the development of this property.