Previous Letters to the Editor can be found in the Foothills Sentry archive section where they can be viewed as part of the past edition PDFs.
There has been a lot of talk about rezoning the Tustin Hills Racquet Club into multi- and single-family dwellings. I personally oppose this idea for several reasons. The tennis club acts as a recreational place for the community. Also, if rezoned and turned into housing, there would be safety issues for those in the surrounding area; finally, there would be lasting negative effects on the environment.
It is said that adults should get 150 minutes of activity a week in order to stay healthy, and kids should get an hour of activity a day. The tennis club provides a place to be physically active, an important part of living a healthy life. If the tennis club is taken away, it would take away an outlet for the community to swim, play tennis and enjoy physical activities. Now, during a global pandemic, being physically fit as well as the benefits of mental health that comes with physical exercise, is crucial.
Adding more homes means more cars and traffic, which would not benefit the safety of the community. The hills around the tennis club are a popular walking and running path for many, including myself. If the tennis club was rezoned and turned into family homes, it would mean that there would be more traffic
around those hills, increasing the chances of someone getting hit.
Lastly, putting in more homes would negatively affect the environment. More homes means more pollution. The most noticeable would be noise pollution.
Overall, the Tustin Hills Racquet Club should not be rezoned because it would damage the community’s physical health, insurance of safety, and the environment around it.
Hayden Bullard, North Tustin
Following is a letter sent to Mayor Mark Murphy and the Orange City Council: We are appalled that, during your Aug. 25 city council meeting, you allowed Milan Capital consultant Frank Elfend to go on record with a calculated false statement. Elfend stated, “…Stephanie Lesinski and Michelle Duman support homes north of the creek …”.
This is an absolute, bald-faced lie. All of you are fully aware that during several council meetings, we made it clear we do not support any of the proposals Frank Elfend is promoting for the former Sully-Miller site. In fact, at the Oct. 22, 2019 council meeting, Stephanie Lesinski stated that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Santiago Creek Development cannot be certified due to multiple errors, including the fact that the acreage zoned for homes north of the creek is inaccurate and inconsistent throughout the document. Frank Elfend is attempting to use the same deceptive EIR to justify building homes north of the creek.
We will clearly state, once again, that not only do we not support homes to be built north of the creek, we do not support homes to be built anywhere on the Milan-owned toxic dump site whatsoever.
Please incorporate this letter into the official record.
Stephanie Lesinski & Michelle Duman, Mabury Ranch
As a long-time homeowner in Orange, I am alarmed at the proposed changes to the Design Review
Committee. The proposed changes weaken the existing protections of historical buildings and landscaping and provide opportunities for developers to destroy architectural integrity not only in
historic districts but throughout the city. There has been no opportunity for the public to voice its
concerns over these changes that could impact the look of our city for years. The idea that a member
doesn’t even need to live or work in Orange to be on the Design Review Committee that impacts our
town is ludicrous.
I strongly urge the council to invite the public to voice its concerns regarding the proposed gutting
of the DRC before it votes in the future. Passing these changes now seems a little sneaky.
Jeannette McClain, Orange
We strongly urge residents and business owners to pay attention to the changes being considered to the city’s Design Review Committee if they cherish their city’s historic environment.
As a nonprofit, member organization whose mission is to promote conservation of our county’s architectural and cultural heritage, Preserve Orange County (POC) carefully scrutinizes historic preservation policy in Orange County. POC believes that the action to change the roles and responsibilities of the DRC significantly undermines a number of existing protections for historic resources in Orange, both within the historic districts and throughout the city.
The DRC has long served the city to ensure Orange retains its unique character by integrating new construction in a sympathetic way. This important public review step will change if city council approves the proposed ordinance:
Please make your voice heard at email@example.com.
Krista Nicholds, President
Preserve Orange County
As an architect, resident, and business owner in the City of Orange, I urge the city council to vote "no" on Ordinance 13-20.
Adopting this ordinance would be a serious mistake that, I believe, will cause lasting harm to the community and take decades to repair. Since my initial encounter with the DRC nearly 34 years ago, I have found the committee members to be highly qualified and conscientious professionals. They take their mandate to uphold community aesthetics very seriously; they care about all facets of this wonderful city - its downtown, its neighborhoods and business districts—not just certain parts of it. As such, their expert viewpoint on a wide array of complex design and planning issues presented by applicants is an enormous benefit to the community in its entirety. The suggestion by some disgruntled applicants that the committee’s expertise is somehow an impediment to development is ludicrous. The
suggestion that the committee is unqualified to review numerous and complex applications—and this lack of expertise causes unnecessary delays in the project approval process—is laughable.
Reducing or eliminating the professional qualifications of prospective committee members will haunt this community for a very long time, because it threatens to reduce the committee to a rabble of unqualified hacks and politically connected “insiders” as happens in so many other jurisdictions. Orange is unique among Southern California cites, in that design review in this town is professional, independent and credible. This makes me proud to be a practicing professional in this community.
If you adopt Ordinance 13-20, Strategic Plan Goal #5 will be eviscerated—not strengthened as the Planning Commission claims. This ordinance is nothing less than an attempt to silence independent professional voices who seek to preserve the integrity of our community.
Just to be clear, adopting this ordinance favors “speedy” applications over thoughtful growth; favors pushy developers over long-term livability; and sacrifices community aesthetics on the altar of expediency. If the genuine motivation is to increase the ‘effectiveness’ of the entire project approval process, adopting Ordinance 13-20 is NOT the best way to do it.
Rick Fox, Orange
The City of Orange doesn’t get to operate in secret thanks to the California Public Records Act of 1968. The Act is very clear that “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.”
The government must be accountable for its actions, and as such, the public has a right to request and receive copies of government records. That’s what transparency is all about.
For whatever reason, our city doesn’t take these laws seriously, as I have made several requests that have not been fulfilled in a timely manner. The staff doesn’t get to decide what to provide and what to withhold.
In addition, permits have been applied for on land designated as open space, with no environmental impact reports or public notice being required. Where is the transparency that the city’s website proclaims is a core principle?
Bonnie Robinson, Orange
Many people in the Milan camp are asking, “Who are those people opposing the re-zone?”
The people of Orange are a community. We are a major university, praiseworthy in its diversity. We are homeowners and renters in downtown Orange who live in quiet neighborhoods, on shady tree-lined streets, reminiscent of a bygone era in America. We post signs in our yards, proclaiming “A Hero Lives Here” and “Orange Strong.” We are the residents who are proud of the best police and fire departments
We are the merchants and small businesses that are the pillars of support in our city. We are the Elks, the Knights of Columbus, the Women’s League, and many other organizations that make Orange the great city that it is. We are the residents of the west side, the people who work for the Gas Company, Edison, AT&T, and hundreds of other businesses, and we are proud of our neighborhoods.
We are the residents of Orange Park Acres, who provide over 25 miles of trails for equestrian, mountain biking, and hiking ... all at no cost to our citizens. What we definitely are not, is a “pack of elitists, idiots, NIMBY’s” and a myriad of other offensive names that Milan, and its chief spokesman on social media, have called us. Who we are, is a group of concerned citizens who do not want an outside
big-money investment company trying to uproot and destroy our community for their profit. We all
know that Milan has been conducting an illegal and unregulated dumping ground on the former Sully-Miller site. This company, in violation of legal cease and desist orders from the county and state, continues to dump daily.
That is who Milan is ... and that is not who I believe the citizens of Orange will support in November’s
election. Please, vote “NO” on measure AA. Help us “Keep Orange Safe.”
John Reina, Orange
As current and former Presidents of the OPA Board of Directors, we can attest to Milan’s property dealings in Orange Park Acres for decades and their negative impacts on our city. As readers are probably aware, Milan’s most recent tactics were met by Orange citizens with another referendum appearing on the November ballot as Measure AA. Additionally, OPA has filed a lawsuit against Milan for violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in connection with Milan’s flawed
Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Trails at Santiago Creek project. Briefing in the CEQA lawsuit is complete and the trial, which was set for October, has been recently postponed until after the election. OPA’s briefs pointed out the numerous deficiencies, inconsistencies, and outright misstatements in Milan’s EIR. Milan’s brief recycled its tired claims about supposed traffic relief and housing shortages. Milan’s untrustworthiness is further demonstrated by its continuation of rock crushing and stockpiling activities without proper permitting. Orange residents alerted government authorities about the violations. Once Orange County and the State of California got involved, an order
was issued directing Milan to cease its activities. Milan ignored the order and has continued its illegal operation. OPA and its attorneys continue to work with the public agencies, as Milan is not entitled to evade the law.
OPA’s three-pronged approach to protect our General Plan and open space (Measure AA, CEQA lawsuit, OC cease and desist order) continues, and we need everyone’s help. You can contact any member of the OPA Board of Directors to learn how to participate with your time, talent, and funds. In the upcoming election, we urge you to vote "no" on Measure AA as we should not change the General Plan. Defeating Measure AA will force Milan to properly respect the land use planning that has protected the City of Orange for almost 50 years.
Sherry Panttaja, OPA board president
Don Bradley, immediate past OPA board president
I have lived in the City of Orange almost all my life. I went to school here, got married, bought a home here in our Old Towne district and have built a good life. I’ve always loved Orange, and I still do. But lately, I am seeing a difference in the way our city is run.
Specifically, I wish to address our current mayor and city council’s lack of respect for the needs and wishes of Orange citizens. A grassroots community movement by citizens, just like you and I, has driven the referendum that brought about the vote on Measure AA in our upcoming election. This is a group who wants to see laws upheld, promises already made to the community kept, and our unique local natural environments protected. They want to keep all of us safe from natural disasters that could befall our city, from lawsuits that could tax our city budget, from greedy developers trying to strong-arm our community and from a citycouncil that is choosing to look the other way.
I have felt sick at the misleading ads that have presented the promoters of the residential development
on the Sully-Miller dumpsite as the group wanting to “protect the environment” and close down the site. The developers, Milan Capital, own the site. They are the ones who have allowed the property to become the eyesore it is today! They continue to operate it, despite the cease and desist orders that
have been handed down from the county due to its illegal operations. Why? Because they are using
its ugliness in their campaign to push their agenda for their own profit. Milan doesn’t care about Orange. They have created this environmental disaster in our city and have done so without permits,
which is against the law. Our current mayor and city council have done nothing to stop them. They
should enforce the law, close the dumpsite, and support the wishes of their constituents over those of
I’ve never been especially political, but when I see a wrong being done, I have to say something. I am tired of big money interests controlling our city. I am tired of regular citizens’ voices not being heard. If our current city council and mayor do not seize this opportunity to do what is right and best for the city and its inhabitants... then maybe it is time for the citizens of Orange to say “no” to them as well. Replace them with public servants who do just that ... serve the public, not the developers.
Please vote “no” on AA!
Arlene Johnson, Orange
When a city exercises its powers to change long-standing plans for a community, it opens the door for change across the city. These types of policies are dangerous for the whole city, as there is much more at stake than one community. Plans should never be altered without overwhelming support from residents. The Orange City Council, however, once again overstepped its authority to change our General Plan for the benefit of an outside developer and in the face of strong opposition from the majority of residents.
While there were a few who spoke out in favor of development on the Sully-Miller dumpsite, they did so out of desperation to be rid of the untenable nuisance that the city ignored. I am pleased to know the county issued a cease and desist order to stop the stockpiling operation of waste concrete that has apparently been going on without compliance to codes and zoning.
The only one who will benefit from approving a development is the investor who gets a lucrative rezone from the city. Everything that comes after the rezone seems to be filled with caveats and promises that are mostly smoke and mirrors. And, instead of protecting us from high-density laws that may come down from Sacramento, a rezone would actually make us vulnerable. Let’s keep our designated open space, protect Orange citizens from development on unsafe land, constrain traffic, and follow our long-established plans. Vote "no" on AA.
Lauren McLeary, Orange
Thank you for publishing the OUSD candidates’ statements. One stuck out to me as particularly troublesome. Angie Schlueter-Rumsey claimed to be a “teacher in Orange County” who sent her
children to “local Orange County schools” and herself graduated from “local Orange County schools.” Voters need to scrutinize these statements. Schlueter-Rumsey fails to tell voters that her experience
is exclusively limited to local private schools. She attended private schools, sent her kids to private schools, and has only ever taught in private schools. While voters are free to choose that experience
over a public school experience, it is critical that voters know what they are voting for. In addition, Schlueter-Rumsey is endorsed by the current OUSD board members whose votes were clearly pre-determined by substantial donations from an outside political action committee (and persons associated with it) who are committed to defunding our public schools by diverting funds to private schools. Their December vote will potentially drain OUSD of nearly $15 million over the next five years.
I believe that to be a trustee of a public school district, you should be a solid supporter of public schools, which this candidate shows no evidence of doing.
This November, let’s make sure the people we elect to our OUSD public school board actually support
public schools and their students, not those supported or funded by radicals trying to push a political agenda.
Michelle Weisenberg, Orange
As I drove down Santiago Canyon Road approaching Sully-Miller, my jaw dropped and I was dumbfounded. Posted on the fence, with the usual mountain of ugly debris in the background, was sign after sign screaming for my attention. “Re-Elect Mark Murphy For Mayor.” Really?! Mark Murphy, are you so proud of the horrific mess you’ve helped to create that you need to stamp your signature all over it? Orange does not deserve the legacy that you are leaving us on your way out.
Having lived in Orange for 34 years, I remember in 2000 when Hansen operated the Sully-Miller site. It was mostly a flat meadow, except for the small concrete recycling operation screened by trees in the corner of the property. Over time, the mining operation ceased and Hansen was down to the dusty business of just crushing rock. Under the pressure of complaining residents adjacent to the property, the planning commission voted, in 2002, to completely shut down Hansen’s operation. If that had been the close of the story, all would have been a sweet ending because the land could have reverted to open space. But no...Hansen pleaded for a three-year extension in hopes of recouping financial losses. In an incredulous turn of events, in 2003, the city council, which included Mark Murphy and Mike Alvarez,
voted to overturn the whole concept of a shutdown rather than take the three-year deal. Today, Milan is the landowner and the business operation is run by Chandler/Rio Santiago. With a wink and a nod, Mayor Mark Murphy and our city council have allowed their business to operate without supervision and morph into the stockpiling of concrete waste.
Our city council’s solution is to sweep the whole thing under the rug by plastering houses over it. It is their intent to invalidate long-term city plans by removing the property from the Santiago Greenbelt Plan and support a rezoning in favor of houses. Our city council rubber-stamped their approval to place family homes in a dam inundation area, next to a field with migrating methane gas, and adding to traffic gridlock in a fire zone -- robbing the city of designated open space that was agreed upon 50 years ago.
We have had enough of Mark Murphy and Mike Alvarez, who seem committed to outside investors
over the citizens of Orange. It is crystal clear that the time to act is now.
Please vote Murphy and Alvarez out.
Please vote NO on AA to stop houses from being built and to preserve open space zoning on the Sully-Miller property.
It’s the right thing to do.
Julie Maurer, Orange
“Between a Crime and a Dime: Bribery and Campaign Contributions” is a published legal analysis
about the corruption of politicians. The analysis noted that a scenario of a “pay to play” crime can be a contributor’s “undue influence” on the political acts of a candidate, that deprivation of honest services can be a crime, and that the appearance of corruption can include the perceptions of voters and constituents.
An examination of contributions to past and current campaigns of candidates for the Orange City Council raises questions as to why certain individuals and businesses are making donations. The incumbent mayor, who is seeking re-election on Nov. 3, and two, so far, council candidates have each received a $1,000 contribution from the California Real Estate Political Action Committee (CREPAC). Why? CREPAC is administered by the California Association of Realtors, which, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), spent $471,250 to help defeat a measure that sought to protect 400,000 acres of rural land in Santa Clara County.
In the Orange mayor’s 2018 campaign, he received contributions from a property manager and a consultant for developer Milan Capital, which seeks to build 128 houses on the Sully-Miller site. The mayor later led the council in approving a General Plan amendment that enables Milan’s proposed development known as Trails at Santiago Creek. That approval is being challenged on the Nov. 3 ballot because more than 13,000 Orange voters signed a petition for a referendum leading to Measure AA. Other previous campaign donations include payments from Southern California Edison to all four current council members. Why? In 2010 another private investor-owned utility, PG&E, spent $46 million on Proposition 16 to make it difficult for cities to provide lower energy rates to residents and businesses through Community Choice Energy (CCE).
The proposition failed after opponents, with access to less than $100,000, cited a study finding customers of public electricity providers paid lower rates than customers of private utilities. In light of Edison’s proposed 14.4 percent residential rate increase effective in January, why doesn’t the Orange City Council even study CCE to save constituents money on their energy bills? In “Big Money Talks,” the
FPPC wrote, “The reality in politics is that money talks.” While political action committees and private utilities may spend vast sums of money influencing legislators, constituents can overcome them by exerting their will and power with their votes. Ratepayers can decide that saving money on energy bills makes it worthwhile to explore CCE. Voters can outshine the influence of special interests, including developers, and not be swayed by promotional media featuring incumbents at taxpayer expense and produced by campaign donors.
Nancy Jo Albers, Orange