Foothills Sentry June 2023

NEWS INSIDE A Monthly Community Newspaper JUNE 2023 Letters Pages 4-5 Canyon Beat Page 8 Service Directory Pages 11-13 Prof. Directory Page 13 Community Sports Page 14-15 The Best News In Town Since 1969 FOLLOW US at Foothills Sentry TEEN VOLUNTEERS VAUNTED Graduating seniors honored for community service, leadership and team building. See Assisteens, page 9 GOOD VIBES REIGN ON MAY PARADE Garbed in 1970s regalia, entrants drove, rode, walked, dance or marched thru Orange. See May Parade, page 16 GO FOR BROKE OUSD parents urge school board to spend limited funds on planned improvements, not a pet project. See Guest Commentary, page 4 URBAN OASIS Jeanne Carter turned a plot of dirt into a natural haven. The ElMo Nature Center has been named in her honor. See ElMo Nature, page 6 Racquet Club housing project approved by OC Planning Commission By Tina Richards A planned 37-unit housing project slated to replace the Tu- stin Hills Racquet Club was ap- proved by the Orange County Planning Commission, May 10, with a 4-1 vote. Some 215 North Tustin resi- dents attended the meeting, and 420 wrote emails to the commis- sion opposing the development. The number of in-person attend- ees overwhelmed the usual com- mission meeting room, forcing a hasty transfer to the larger Board of Supervisors chamber, where everyone would have a seat and fire code restrictions on room ca- pacity were met. As a result, the 1:30 p.m. meeting did not com- mence until 2:15 p.m. The Racquet Club has been a fixture in the community since the 1970s, nestled among single- family homes on half-acre lots and accessible via small wind- ing roads. Residents note that the club is the only recreational facility in the area, and replac- ing it with higher-density housing will destroy the character of the neighborhood forever. The City of Tustin, which shares a border with the Club, also opposes the project. Proactive opposition The North Tustin community has been speaking out against the development, which consists of 17 duplexes and three stand-alone units, since it was introduced in 2018. Residents have organized, held rallies, written letters and shared their concerns with elected officials, among them Third Dis- trict Supervisor Don Wagner. Things have changed since 2018. New state legislation gives developers rights that su- persede local land-use planning, zoning ordinances, established precedents and impacts on exist- ing neighborhoods. Developers are taking full advantage of the state’s relaxed position, squeez- ing projects into the new legal landscape whether they fit or not. On paper, the project looks relatively benign. The Envi- ronmental Impact Report (EIR) found no significant impacts on the community. It noted that the housing units would generate less traffic than the Racquet Club, and there is ample parking. The report stated there is no fire danger re- quiring an evacuation plan; the project will not adversely impact community aesthetics, air or wa- ter quality; and will not result in overuse of recreational facilities. Residents challenged those re- sults. They supplemented written comments with testimony at the Planning Commission hearing. Residents pointed out that losing the Racquet Club, the only recre- ational facility in the area, would have an adverse impact on their quality of life; that 37 units on five acres is not compatible with the neighborhood; and that fire is, in fact, a threat. Several retired firefighters noted that the area is close to a high fire zone, that em- bers could travel a long distance and that the neighborhood had been evacuated during the 2017 fire, creating a bumper-to-bumper line of cars. Reality check The planned development has two cul-de-sacs and only one way in and out. One public speaker suggested that it would be a death trap during the next fire. A civil engineer noted the EIR omitted that asbestos is present in the as- phalt that was laid prior to 1979 Orange High music man Michael Short is retiring. He was feted at a songfest held in his honor, May 21. See story, page 2. See "Racquet Club" continued on page 2 A time capsule dating back to 1905 was discovered during the demoli- tion of an Orange High School building. OHS Principal Sharon An- derson Glass and OUSD Senior Executive Director Scott Harvey sur- vey the bounty. See story, page 6. By Tina Richards The Orange Unified Board of Education majority is signaling its willingness to spend $25-$28 million on a 50m pool for Villa Park High School, despite fiscal and conflict of interest concerns raised by other trustees and the public. That direction was made clear during another arduous board meeting, May 4, that ad- journed at 2 a.m. on May 5. The VPHS pool is 50 years old and failing. A major leak, like the one that disabled the El Modena High pool in 2018, is, according to coaches and pool technicians, inevitable. The impending pool failure was raised several meet- ings ago, and staff was directed to look into repair costs as well as pricing for a new pool. Because the pools at Canyon and Orange High Schools are also reaching end-of-life, the board agreed to explore renovation costs for those as well. The full palette of pool op- tions was presented at the May meeting. The costs presented by LPA architects were higher than expected. A 25m pool would run $19 to $22.5 million (not includ- ing demolition of existing pool); a 30m pool would be $21 to $24 million; a 50m pool, $25 to $28 million. Those costs include pool decking, structures, bleachers, electrical, plumbing and equip- ment rooms. Recalling that the 30m El Modena pool had cost about $8 million, the entire board was shocked. Sticker shock Costs are high, LPA’s Den- nis Berkshire explained, because pool construction has gone from about $1.45 a square foot to $3.20 to $3.50 per square foot. Prices are escalating 5 to 10% a year. In addition, the state has imposed new rules and require- ments for all structures, includ- ing safe emergency egress from every gathering space, lighting and emergency power. “There have been huge spikes that are consistent throughout the state,” he said. Repair and refurbishment costs for all three pools would depend on the extent of the work and how long the district wants them to last. On average, a one year fix would be $40,000 to $60,000; $125,000 to $150,000 would give the pool up to three years; and $3.35 million would promise five years and bring the facilities in line with state requirements. The district’s total facility- related reserve is, according to Assistant Superintendent, Busi- ness Services Dave Rivera, $33,839,028, with $2 million set aside for the Orange High Little Theatre. A 50m pool would use most of those funds. “It’s a lot of money,” Ortega admitted, “but it’s an investment. I’m looking at it as a community pool, it will attract people to the district. Students will gain, the community will gain.” Go for broke We shouldn’t be building a community pool, Boardmember Kris Erickson countered. “We have to spend our money on students, not on the community. There’s about 200 kids in Villa Park aquatics. We’ll be spending our reserves on a small number of students. I can’t believe an OUSD board majority steams ahead on 50m pool for VPHS See "OUSD" continued on page 3 THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON Four high school athletic teams take division titles. See Community Sports, page 14, 15 Photos by Aaron Jacoby Photos by Tony Richards