Foothills Sentry January 2021

NEWS INSIDE East Orange • Old Towne Orange • Orange Park Acres • Villa Park • Silverado/Modjeska Canyons • North Tustin A Monthly Community Newspaper January 2021 *********ECRWSSEDDM**** Residential Customer Letters To The Editor Page 4 Canyon Beat Page 6 Service Directory Pages 11-13 Prof. Directory Page 13 Classifieds Page 13 Real Estate Page 15 Obituaries Page 15 The Best News In Town Since 1969 WALK ON THE WILD SIDE A curious canyonite captures the after- hours activity along Silverado Creek. See Nightlife, page 14 FOLLOW US at Foothills Sentry See "New council" continued on page 5 New Orange City Council members speak up By Tina Richards The newly elected-by-district Orange City Council members hit the ground running during their first appearance on the COVID- dictated virtual dias. Arianna Barrios (District 1), Ana Gutierrez (District 5) and Jon Dumitru (District 2) all took the opportunity to raise commu- nity and governing-related issues during the “reports from council members” meeting segment. Barrios raised the topic of term limits, fresh in Orange residents’ minds after Councilman Mike Alvarez ran for a third term, de- spite a 1996 vote by citizens that capped consecutive terms to two. Her attention to the issue was reaffirmed by a public comment asking the city to “set the record straight on why term limits were discarded.” Coming to terms Barrios asked that the subject be agendized for a future council discussion. “Things may or may not be murky,” she said. “I’d like an analysis of the current ordi- nance. Can we administratively fix it, or must we go back to vot- ers?” Aside from agreeing to bring it up at a later date, Mayor Mark Murphy and City Attorney Gary Sheatz remained silent on the issue, as did the other council veterans. Barrios also asked if her col- leagues would be interested in pursuing Certified Local Gov- ernment (CLG) status. The CLG program was established as part of the National Historic Preserva- tion Act to empower municipali- ties in their preservation planning activities and to assure support The Bond Fire started in a residence in the Cabinlands area of Silverado Canyon, Dec. 2. Accelerated by strong winds, it burned 6,686 acres, destroyed 31 structures and damaged 21 others. Photos by Paul Dixon Canyon residents rally to protect each other against Bond Fire as communication systems fail By Tina Richards A loud, insistent pounding on the front door woke her up at 1:30 on the morning of Dec. 3. The knocking was accompanied by shouts of, “There’s a fire, we have to go.” Monica Edwards, still in a stu- por from sleep, packed her car and prepared to leave her home in the eastern portion of Silverado Canyon. “It was dark, but I saw an orange glow on the ridge,” she said. “It looked like it was moving away, instead of coming closer.” Edwards and a neighbor paused their evacuation plans to get a better look at the fire’s direc- tion. “We decided to stay,” she said. “There were embers rain- ing down. My neighbor grabbed a hose and started putting them out. It’s a good thing we stayed. At that point, there wasn’t a fire truck in sight.” A shot in the dark Hours earlier, Paul Dixon awoke from what, he said, sounded like gunshots. “It was a little before 10 p.m. I thought someone was going crazy and went to radio Canyon Watch to report gunfire,” he says. When he looked out his window, the hillside was lit up. He saw a ball of fire. His neigh- bor’s house was in flames. The power had been shut off that evening at 7 p.m. There was no phone service, no internet. “I couldn’t call 911,” he explains, “so I used the radio to report the fire.” The Canyon Watch volun- teer manning the radio that night got a message out to someone else to call 911. Fire trucks ar- rived about 20 minutes later. Meanwhile, Dixon’s neigh- bor, block captain Rich Pfeiffer, also awakened by the sound of exploding ammunition, raced to grab a fire hose that he had stashed for such emergencies. He also had a key to the nearby fire hydrant. With the hose hooked up, he became the first responder tackling the flames, wearing only a bathrobe and slippers. “His wife later brought him protective gear and a helmet,” Dixon recalls. “He was the only one standing against the fire for the first 20 minutes un- til the firefighters arrived.” At one point, the fire sur- rounded the small community of houses behind the Silverado Café on three sides. Residents wielded garden hoses. “The fire went up the hill from my house toward Williams Canyon,“ Dixon re- ports. “It finally settled down at 4 a.m. At that point, there was no sense in leaving.” Ready this time Phil and Melody McWilliams lost their Modjeska Canyon home in the 2007 fire. “I watched it burn down on the TV news,” he recalls. “We both cried for 10 minutes, looked at each other, and said ‘let’s rebuild.’” Rebuild they did. Their new dwelling is a molded fireproof dome. “We didn’t know about the fire until Thursday morning. We felt safe staying,” McWilliams says. “We watched the flames come over the hill toward us. My neighbor’s guest house caught fire. It sounded like a 747. It was completely gone in 20 minutes. Court challenge to Alvarez’s third term filed A challenge to the re-election of Mike Alvarez to the Orange City Council was filed in Supe- rior Court by John Russo, one of two candidates who ran against him in the November race. The challenge claims that Al- varez is ineligible to hold office because of term limits enacted by Orange voters in 1996. The city’s Municipal Code states that, “no person shall serve more than two consecutive four-year terms as a member of the city council.” The document also notes that when the city converted to by- district elections as part of a le- gal settlement, the council did not revoke, modify or make reference to the existing term limits in the stipulated judgment given to the court. Further, the city has not brought any measure to the voters revoking, modifying or otherwise altering the Municipal Code. Alvarez had just completed two consecutive four-year terms as a councilman. The challenge asserts that his new term violates the plain language of the code. According to Alvarez’s attor- ney, with the concurrence of City Attorney Gary Sheatz, the newly instated District 3 seat (that he now fills) is different than the at- large seat he held before. In es- sence, Alvarez ran for a new seat and is, therefore, starting over. The challenge was filed, ac- cording to Russo, to settle the matter for now and into the fu- ture. There are still two council seats held by at-large incumbents. If a new district seat offers a clean slate for term limits, those at- large incumbents will also be al- lowed to exceed their term limits if they choose to run as by-district candidates. “Voters need to know, one way or the other,” Russo said. “I don’t expect to get anything out of this other than a clear answer. Is Alva- rez’s third term legal or not?” See "Canyon fire" continued on page 3 A CLEAN SEEP Local water district is one of the first to filter chemicals detected in ground water. See Serrano, Page 7 RIGHT AND WRONG Respected nonprofit scuttled by Old Towne design standards. See Ronald McDonald, page 2 FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN As flames threaten a neighborhood, residents pull together with hoses and heart. See Canyon Beat, page 6 PINES AND NEEDLES Festooned trees turn Villa Park town center into a festive forest. See Holiday, page 9