Foothills Sentry February 2021

NEWS INSIDE East Orange • Old Towne Orange • Orange Park Acres • Villa Park • Silverado/Modjeska Canyons • North Tustin A Monthly Community Newspaper February 2021 *********ECRWSSEDDM**** Residential Customer Letters To The Editor Page 5 Canyon Beat Page 8 Service Directory Pages 11-13 Prof. Directory Page 13 Classifieds Page 13 Real Estate Page 14 Obituaries Page 15 The Best News In Town Since 1969 A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME Identity theft leaves Olympic gold medalist homeless in Villa Park. See Questionable, page 11 FOLLOW US at Foothills Sentry See "Vote" continued on page 5 POWER TO THE PEOPLE Electrical outages and wildfires are both consequences of high wind conditions. Not a good combo in the canyons. See Guest Commentary, page 4 VIRTUAL VACANCIES Orange City Council seeks to refresh some citizen committees that have no members and don’t meet. See Orange, page 2 TO ALL A GOOD KNIGHT Queen of Denmark bestows legendary honors on a local merchant who also serves as Danish Consul. See Orange business owner, page 3 THE STREET WHERE THEY LIVE Residents oppose transformation of neighborhood single- family homes into college dorms. See Conflict, page 4 F121, an eight-year old female puma, one of only 15-20 that call the local mountains home, was a casualty of the Bond Fire. See “Requiem,” page 7. Court hears two lawsuits challenging Alvarez’s third term in office By Tina Richards A second lawsuit challenging Mike Alvarez’s eligibility to hold a seat on the Orange City Council was heard in Superior Court, Jan. 20, in conjunction with another suit on the same issue filed by Or- ange citizen John Russo. The second challenge by Or- ange resident Michael MacIsaac, like Russo’s, alleges that Alvarez could not legally run for a coun- cil seat last November because he had been termed out. A term lim- its ordinance passed by voters in 1996 restricts council members to two consecutive four-year terms. The ordinance allows former council members to run again af- ter standing down for two years. Alvarez had served two full terms on the council, 2012 to 2020, but ran again last year be- cause, he claimed, the city’s move to by-district rather than at-large elections changed the rules, and term limits established for city- wide contests did not apply. City Attorney Gary Sheatz agreed. Double down Because Russo had filed his case pro per, without representa- tion by counsel, he deferred to arguments made by McIsaac’s attorney Gary Winuk during the court hearing. Winuk asked the court to annul Alvarez’s election because when he was declared the winner, he was not eligible to run. Winuk argued that, under state election code, the court has the authority to annul the election if the facts substantiate the candidate’s ineli- gibility. The challenge to Alvarez’s run for council is based on the re- silience of the 1996 ordinance. When the City of Orange moved to by-district elections last year, it amended a number of city or- dinances to accommodate that change, but did not address term limits. Because the term limit or- dinance was enacted by a vote of the people, Winuk noted, it can- not be changed by the city coun- cil. Any term limit amendments have to go back to the voters. Terms of engagement Alvarez’s attorney Mark Rosen countered that the 1996 term lim- it ordinance referred to at-large elections where council seats opened up every two years. When Alvarez ran for his second term in 2016, Rosen said, he understood that he could not run again in 2020, but his expectation was that he could run again following the two-year hiatus. Since he ran in 2016, how- ever, the city adopted by-district elections and the two-year stand down period changed to four. Under at-large elections, council members represented the entire city and two seats came up every two years. With the city divided into districts, council members are elected to represent those ar- eas specifically. Candidates must live in the district they represent, and opportunities to run occur ev- ery four years. Rosen asserted that candidate Alvarez was running under “a different system, under a different structure to a different constitu- ency. Prior terms do not apply.” Council calls it He further argued that the Mc- Isaac and Russo lawsuits were invalid for procedural reasons. Alvarez’s candidacy could have been challenged in August, he said, before the election took place. Since it wasn’t, the city council’s certification of the elec- tion results on Dec. 1 is binding. In turn, Winuk noted the Cali- fornia Elections Code allows challenges to a candidate’s eligi- bility to be filed by a voter within 30 days of the city council’s “dec- laration of election results.” Both lawsuits were filed within the 30- day statutory period. The attorney also stressed that the “implied” revocation of exist- ing term limits by the city’s shift to by-district voting, as Rosen had argued, did not stand. The Elections Code prohibits a city’s legislative body from repealing or amending a voter-adopted mu- nicipal ordinance. Or not “The municipal code provi- sion that put term limits in place in 1996 contained no language which allows the city council to amend it without going to the vot- ers first and is in full force," Wi- nuk reiterated. “Defendant Alva- rez ignored the City of Orange’s term limits law and is defying the will of the voters." “MikeAlvarez is a popular can- didate,” Rosen refuted. “He was the top vote getter of any council candidate in any district.” Superior Court Judge Nathan Scott will render his ruling in a few weeks. Vote to ban short term rentals in Orange postponed By Tina Richards The vote on policy options to enforce the prohibition of short- term rentals (STRs) in the City of Orange was delayed when the clock ran out at the Jan. 12 council meeting. The options on the table were to prepare an ordinance banning STRs and approve a contract with Granicus LLC to provide compliance services. Facing a lengthy agenda packed with items worthy of council discussion and 97 public comment emails on the STR topic alone, Mayor Mark Murphy sug- gested they agree to end the meet- ing at 11 p.m. Items not covered by then would be continued until February. At about the two-hour mark, Murphy noted that they were still only about one third of the way through the agenda and that a number of people were on the phone, waiting for their items to be heard. He recommended moving those items ahead of the STR policy discussion and taking it up last. It was about 9:30 p.m. when the STR prohibition resurfaced and 10 p.m. when it came time for public comments. Murphy asked his colleagues if they wanted to continue to 11:30 p.m. or stick to the 11 p.m. lights out. The council opted for 11. Yes, no, maybe The status of short-term rent- als in Orange has an up and down history. The municipal code does not specifically allow them, but beginning in 2013 the city re- quired them to have a business license and to pay transient oc- cupancy taxes (TOT). Four years later, the city determined it could not issue business licenses for them because they were not per- mitted in the municipal code. The city did not actively prohibit them at that time. With more than 300 STRs now operating in the city, neighbor- hood complaints about them have increased. Residents describe the worst offenders as party houses and drug dens that plague their quiet streets with cars, trash, noise and disruption that leads to repeated calls to the police. As a result of resident com- plaints, the city council, in Janu- ary 2020, began exploring policy options for STRs. At that meeting, the council heard the downside of short-term rentals from unhappy neighbors and the upside from landlords who reported they had no problems with them. Staff was directed, at that time, to prepare an ordinance that would prohibit them, and bring it back to the Orange Park Association: Saturday, Feb. 20, 9 a.m. See page 9 for details. Foothill Communities As- sociation: Monday, March 1. 7 p.m. See page 3 for details. Virtual meetings slated