Foothills Sentry March 2021

Foothills Sentry Page 4 March 2021 JOHNSON MOTORCARS 31 Years of Specializing in the Service and Repair of Mercedes-Benz Gary Johnson 714-997-2567 982 N. Batavia # B13, Orange, CA 92867 Guest Commentary Council majority protects its power By Windy Horton The year 2020 brought many changes to the City of Orange. But not the Orange City Coun- cil. Change is for lesser mortals, not the Orange City Council. Nowhere is this mentality better illustrated than when watching the laborious debate at city coun- cil about its city committees and commissions. It should be a simple matter of common sense, if not a practical one, that the city’s committees and commissions should be ex- panded to match our new coun- cil. But listening to the council majority, we’d be getting way out over our skis if we did that. We’re supposed to believe that things are moving too fast, and we need time to slowly contemplate the is- sues. It is truly laughable. The listing of current appoin- tees given to council for discus- sion showed appointments well past their sell-by date, open va- cancies and completely aban- doned committees. In a city of 130,000-plus residents, it is sim- ply ridiculous to argue that you can’t find 20 people willing to serve. Perhaps a more accurate statement is that maybe you can’t trust the other 129,980? One for all Time and again, we have heard the council majority say it is im- portant to remember that we act city-wide, represent all our resi- dents equally. And yet, of those serving on these commissions, a vast majority of them are from District 1. Where is the city-wide representation in that? The plan- ning commission is the most grossly out of balance, with four of its five commissioners resid- ing in District 1 and, adding ad- ditional insult to the equation, not a single woman. Where are the voices for OPA? Doesn’t it make sense that West Orange have a commissioner that understands their neighborhoods? When this conversation began in January, the mayor reluctantly admitted that councilmembers have been able to bring forth their own nominees, even if that meant removing a sitting commissioner mid-term. The mayor even stated that this tradition was started by himself some 20 years ago. By February, a collective amnesia had set in on the council, and not a single person could remember which commissioner was nomi- nated by which council member. Thankfully, it’s all in the archival record. Say no more When all these points were brought up and debated, Coun- cilmember Chip Monaco quickly moved to shut down discussion. Nothing to see here folks, let’s just move along. In his rush to quash further debate about the planning commission, he inad- vertently saved our beleaguered design review committee, which he himself made the focus of a firestorm last year. Here’s the truth of the matter: The only thing the Council major- ity is protecting is their last ves- tiges of power embodied in the Orange Planning Commission. Protecting a broken system is un- derstandable when seen through this myopic lens, but let’s not pre- tend that it even remotely repre- sents the entire city anymore. Windy Horton is a lifelong resi- dent of Orange and a social com- mentator on local politics. Guest Commentary Neighbors are forced to protect themselves while city hall looks the other way By Sharon Mule What makes the City of Or- ange so special? In a word, it is “neighborhoods.” Our city is unique in its diversity of neigh- borhoods, all of which are worth preserving. Many just think of Old Towne because the city has so aggressively protected that community. We all love Old Towne, but other neighborhoods have brought great flavor, heritage and benefits to the city and remain worthy of protecting as well. El Modena and Cypress Street Barrios (the historic Killefer School), Orange Park Acres and the Eichler tracts all should be treasured, and not trashed. Do no harm Unfortunately, what the City of Orange lacks is a city council that pursues preservation over exploitation of neighborhoods outside of Old Towne. Even Old Towne standards are in jeopardy due to some on the council who seek to undermine the Design Review Committee. This disconnected mindset has left residents to do the hard work of protecting the character that defines the city. Residents in the city and sur- rounding areas have borne wit- ness to neighbors’ recent oppo- sition to 10-bedroom dormito- ries on Cambridge; OPA’s epic battle to preserve its specific plan; Washington Street’s fight to keep new development within the zoning code of single-story dwellings; the Non-Toxic Or- ange group who wants pesticide- free parks; and concerns about Chapman University expansion into the surrounding community. Without the fierce efforts of Orange citizens, in the face of a developer-driven city council, Orange would lose its best asset -- diverse and unique neighbor- hoods. The council and city hall seem to be most adept at ignoring its citizens, making mistakes, and then having to clean up the mess, which always costs the taxpayer in one way or another. Don't look now Short-term rentals (STRs) and accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in Orange have morphed into a debacle of neglectful manage- ment. Short-term rentals are pro- hibited, and not an allowable use under the zoning code. The city attorney publicly admitted that city hall has not enforced its ex- isting zoning codes, but looked the other way on the STR issue. While we appreciate his hon- esty on this one, it is time to come clean on other mistakes. The Sully-Miller site has been a notorious eyesore and another travesty of poor leadership. Residents end up fighting with the city as much as they fight un- wanted influences that threaten their neighborhoods. Most re- cently, the city, in its perpetual pursuit of taking control away from the citizens of Orange, is denying even the new district- elected councilwomen, Arianna Barrios and Ana Gutierrez, their request to appoint planning commissioners. Representative government The city was divided into six districts to improve represen- tation in our city government. Therefore, additional commis- sioners appointed by new coun- cil members should be an inher- ent extension of the new law, but no. Now some councilmembers have more power than other members. Councilman Mike Alvarez is serving a third term because the city attorney did not enforce the term-limit ordinance voted in by citizens. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of all this dysfunction is the inability of citizens to ad- dress the city council about their concerns during the pandemic. It has taken city hall nearly one year to adjust to virtual meet- ings, and they still have not got- ten it right. Why in the world are citizens forced to come down to the council chambers and risk their health to make public com- ments while the councilmem- bers sit in the security of their homes? Other cities and agencies have figured this out. When solutions and the will of the people are obvious, but yet ignored on so many levels, one has to question what is wrong with our leader- ship, and why it chooses to react to citizens rather than proactive- ly reflect them. Sharon Mulé, Co-chair of the Orange Park Acres Heritage Society, has been a resident of OPA for 40 years and is active in community issues. The Ronald McDonald House (RMH) expansion project at 383 S. Batavia St. was approved by the Orange Planning Commission, Feb. 17. The commission noted that changes made to the project addressed concerns raised by the Design Review Committee when it rejected the expansion in December. “It’s better now,” one commissioner granted. RMH reduced the roof pitch, made one gabled roof flat, changed the wall color, lowered a balcony wall height, moved the trash enclosure, and replaced river rock with fiber cement siding. The 17,325-sq.-ft. addition required a general plan amendment and a zone change. It does not meet all historic district design standards, but the commission concurred that it sits on the edge of Old Towne and the addition is to the south, “moving away” from historic district boundaries. A house located at the rear of the property will be converted to office space, but RMH says its character will be preserved. Neighbors on the street behind the facility are unhappy with the addition’s mass, expected increases in vehicle and pedestrian traffic and loss of privacy. Commissioners believed that many of those concerns were resolved in the revised project plans, and that the “expansion is needed to meet increased demand for the charity’s services.” Ronald McDonald House provides temporary housing for families with children undergoing medical treatment at local hospitals.