Foothills Sentry March 2023

NEWS INSIDE A Monthly Community Newspaper MARCH 2023 Letters Page 4-5 Canyon Beat Page 6 Service Directory Pages 11-13 Prof. Directory Page 13 Classifieds Page 13 Community Sports Page 14-15 Real Estate Page 16 East Orange • Old Towne Orange • Orange Park Acres • Villa Park • Silverado/Modjeska Canyons • North Tustin The Best News In Town Since 1969 FOLLOW US at Foothills Sentry ENOUGH SAID Conversation with mall developers cut short by shrewd timing of preliminary plans filed with the city. See Village, page 3 RAPTURE OF THE DEEP OUSD board majority wants to bypass needed lower school improvements for a new pool at VPHS. See OUSD, page 7 FROM MIGHT TO BLIGHT Canyon oak trees are under attack by boring beetles spread by the transport of firewood. See Canyon Beat, page 6; Oaks, page 8 The Foothills Sentry is returning to its roots! Only 54 years ago, kids on horseback and bicycles delivered the Sentry to each household. This year, due to skyrocketing postage rates, the Sentry -- with the Best Local News -- will be delivered to each residential driveway. Of course, it will continue to be available at libraries and civic centers, online at and via subscription. See "OUSD" continued on page 2 Builders employ untested legal theory to bypass local zoning By Tina Richards Milan Capital, owner of the long-contested Sully-Miller property in East Orange, is one of three builders that has submit- ted preliminary development ap- plications to the City of Orange, exercising untested provisions of state legislation. Pro-growth advocates and de- velopers throughout the state wedded an obscure 1990 law with the 2019 Housing Account- ability Act (SB330), and coined it “builder’s remedy.” They believe it will allow developers to over- ride local zoning ordinances, gen- eral plans and voter referendums. It theoretically gives developers free rein to build what they want as long as the municipality does not have a “substantially compli- ant” housing plan in place. Twen- ty percent of their plans, however, must be affordable housing. Cities are required to complete a comprehensive housing plan – “housing element” -- every eight years for California’s Department of Housing and Community De- velopment (HCD). The plan must identify future housing opportu- nities within a jurisdiction to meet projected population growth. The 2021-29 cycle includes specific requirements to accommodate low-income households. The pro- cess is arduous, lengthy and en- tails numerous iterations. End run planning Chapman Yorba VII, LLC and Integral Communities/TRC took advantage of the gap between HCD’s notice to the city that its submitted housing element re- quired revisions and the agency’s subsequent Jan. 27 acknowledg- ment of those revisions. Milan Capital jumped in and filed a pre- liminary application on Feb. 9. It appears the developers relied on the notion that, lacking HCD’s formal certification, Orange did not have a substantially compli- ant housing plan and that the builder’s remedy applies. None of these sites is zoned for resi- dential, nor are they included on the city’s housing element “site inventory.” Milan Capital’s “Creekside Village” preliminary application consists of 200 single-family homes, with 20% classified as af- fordable. In an accompanying let- ter, Milan’s attorney wrote, “The city does not currently have an adopted housing element in com- pliance with government code, which requires approval of any 20% low-income housing devel- opment project.” Never say never This is Milan’s third attempt to build on the property. A plan to build 395 units was denied by the city council in 2014. A 128- unit development was approved by the city council in 2019, but overruled by a voter referendum the next year. With no approved housing tract on its horizon, Milan has used the acreage as a depository for con- struction waste. No records of what was dumped were kept. The resulting 40-ft.-tall dirt mounds contain contaminants (identified by the county’s Local Enforce- ment Agency) and other unknown materials. Milan has been direct- ed to clean it up. No cleanup activity has been detected; Milan is now position- ing 20 acres of the property for housing. The Creekside Village proposal consists of 30 3,055-sq.- ft. lots and 170 1,891-sq.-ft. lots. The dwellings will be two- to three-story. Milan says it will leave the remaining acreage as OUSD facing uncertainty under new board leadership By Tina Richards The abrupt resignation of In- terim Superintendent Edward Velasquez, Feb. 15, amplified the uncertainty brought to the Orange Unified School District by ma- jority members of the Board of Trustees who are reigning over change, with no explanation or clear direction. Velasquez was hired to stand in for Superintendent Gunn Ma- rie Hansen, fired by the board just as abruptly on Jan. 5. He was expected to stay for two months, commuting from his home in Ida- ho to Orange County at taxpayer expense. And just as the board of- fered no reason for Hansen’s dis- missal, Velasquez said little about his departure. While the board seeks a perma- nent superintendent, day-to-day district operations will be han- dled by Assistant Superintendent, Business Services Dave Rivera; Assistant Superintendent, Hu- man Resources Ernie Gonzalez; and former Canyon High School principal, recently named Assis- tant Superintendent, Craig Aber- crombie. Unclear on the concept Even with Velasquez still at the helm for the board’s Feb. 2 meet- ing, the uncertainty and confusion wrought by John Ortega, Rick Ledesma, Angie Rumsey and Madison Miner, as they set out to redefine the district, was pal- pable. The meeting began at 5:30 p.m. and lasted until 1:15 a.m., as public speakers took turns challenging almost every agenda item, airing grievances or prais- ing the board majority for “bring- ing change to OUSD.” The confusion began almost immediately when the board con- vened to take public comments before its scheduled closed ses- sion meeting. President Ledesma advised the audience that only comments related to closed ses- sion items would be heard at that time. The rest would have to wait until the 7 p.m. open meeting. He explained that one item, “labor negotiations,” referred to interim Superintendent Velasquez. Trustee Kris Erickson noted that the closed session items were “vague and confusing to the pub- lic.” Indeed, the first speaker, intro- ducing the concept of chaos in the district, was interrupted by Ledesma, who told her she was not addressing the closed session topic, the interim superintendent. “That’s exactly what I’m going to speak about,” she answered. “The fact that we have a short-term per- son. We don’t know the next step. It creates a lot of unknowns.” Read between the lines Another speaker noted that the agenda item did not mention Velasquez by name, or that the topic even referred to the interim superintendent. “It’s about trans- parency,” he said. “Why don’t you want to tell the public what you are doing? Why doesn’t the agenda identify the person you’re talking about?” A subsequent public com- menter, addressing the board’s inability to be “upfront with your intentions” was cut off by Ledesma, who reminded him to stick to the agenda topic. “I’m not here because you’re giving me answers I don’t like, I’m here because you’re not giving me an- swers at all,” the speaker insisted. Ledesma’s charge that he was not on topic and the speaker’s re- sponse that he was, escalated into a shouting match. Ledesma ended the argument by adjourning the public portion of the meeting and moving into closed session. When the public meeting re- sumed at 7 p.m., the audience was standing room only, with dozens prepared to speak. It wasn’t until 11 p.m. that the agenda item “ac- ademic audit data comparison” was heard. The project had been assigned to Velasquez as part of Hearing on construction waste dump in Orange postponed The public hearing on the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Con- trol Board’s ruling on a plan to fill in a natural riparian area in Or- ange with construction waste has been postponed. Originally slated for March 17, the hearing has not yet been re- scheduled. Chandler’s Sand & Gravel has applied for a permit from the wa- ter board and asked it to accept a Mitigated Negative Declaration instead of a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Neighbors of the site, behind the Blue Diamond Nursery on Santiago Canyon Road, just west of Cannon Street in Orange, have sent public comment letters to the water board opposing the project and demanding an EIR. So, too, have numerous nonprofits and en- vironmental groups. Among them, are the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, California Native Plant Society, Naturalist for You, Orange Park Association, and Sea and Sage Audubon. All cite the project’s disregard for native and endan- gered plants and animals, inade- quate details and documentation, improper mitigation, the loss of natural open space, potential flooding and erosion, no air qual- ity, greenhouse gas emissions or noise analysis. Chandler has said it plans to fill the site with 1,240,000 cubic yards of dirt, via 60 truck trips per day to bring it up to street level. It has not indicated where the material will come from, or what the property will be used for when the five-year fill operation is complete. See "Builders" continued on page 2 Villa Park Mayor Robbie Pitts celebrates the Year of the Rabbit with costumed characters at the city’s Lunar New Year observance, Feb. 11. See photos, page 16. Photo courtesy Jordan Wu