Five Contestants, Including Two Incumbents, In SVLA Board Race April 28

SPRING VALLEY LAKE—With two of four incumbents whose positions are up for election in this year’s race ineligible to seek reinstatement to the Spring Valley Lake Association Board of Directors, there will be a total of five candidates on the ballot for the board April 28.
Incumbents Jeff Morgan, who is currently Spring Valley Lake Association vice president, and recent board appointee Scott Eckert are vying to remain on the board. They are joined by challengers Marvin Jobes, Dennis Verhagen and Mike Visser.
Current vice president Ernie Martell and Ken Bodle cannot run again, as both have served two consecutive terms on the board and thus must depart because of the term limitations in the association’s charter.
There are 8,220 people living in 3,072 households at Spring Valley Lake, which encompasses 2.969 square miles of land surrounding a .564 square mile man-made lake. The community has not yet reached build out, as there are 4,200 parcels in the confines of the property.
Residents at Spring Valley Lake are now wrestling with approval of the site plan and environmental impact report for the 25-acre Tamarisk Marketplace project, which is to involve a Wal-Mart supercenter to be built near the community’s entrance on Bear Valley Road.
Another perpetual issue at Spring Valley Lake is the continual tension between preventing runaway homeowner costs to maintain and administer the association while providing services and amenities.
Those elected at the April 28 election will join treasurer Ilene Bandringa, secretary Derek Couse and director Jonathan Tasker on the board.
A candidate forum will be held at 10 a.m. on March 31 at the Equestrian Estates Clubhouse, at 12660 Indian River Drive, Apple Valley.
The election will be held at the Spring Valley Lake Association Community Building and commence

Two Appointed To 29 Palms Planning Commission

TWENTYNINE PALMS—The Twentynine Palms Planning Commission now has a full complement of five members.
On February 27, the city council designated Pamela Carmichael and Richard Banneck to serve the remaining unexpired terms of Steve Whitten and Christina Benton, both of whom resigned last year. The city council had previously sought to replace Whitten with Christopher Plummer, but Plummer declined the appointment. The selections were made on the basis of evaluations of candidates for the positions done by councilmen Joel Klink and Jim Harris.
On March 6 Carmichael, an account manager, and Banneck, an architect, took up their positions on the panel.

Survey Defines SB County As Particularly Racially Diverse

The Inland area consisting of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties qualifies as one of the most racially diverse regions in the nation, according to a recently completed demographic study by sociologists at the University of Southern California published March 15.
California already qualifies as the most
Survey Defines SB County As Particularly Racially Diverseracially and ethnically mixed state in the nation. Within Southern California and the five-counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino, the latter two counties are the most diverse, with 81 percent of Riverside County cities and 71 percent of San Bernardino County cities defined as “multiethnic.”
Surprisingly, in Los Angeles County, which is home to the city of Los Angeles – widely considered one of the most cosmopolitan of the world’s major population centers – 53 percent of its cities meet the multiethnic criteria, which is well below San Bernardino County. In both Orange and Ventura counties, 60 percent of their cities are recognized as multiethnic.
To be defined as multiethnic, a city’s second largest ethnic group had to compose at least 20 percent of the population or have three different races or ethnicities make up at least 15 percent of the population, or otherwise have its fourth largest group represent at least 8 percent of the population.
The study made further distinctions as to the blend of cultures, race and ethnicity, creating categories that measured the level of diversity, such as “three-way” and “four-way” multiracial cities. Four-way cities, which were defined as the most racially balanced, had a population wherein the largest of the city’s racial and ethnic groups did not exceed 55 percent and the fourth largest group was no less than 8 percent
Of the 182 incorporated cities in the five counties, 13 were considered four-way, with three of those – Rancho Cucamonga, Loma Linda and Highland – in San Bernardino County.
The statistics for the study, entitled “Racially Balanced Cities in Southern California, 1999 to 2010,” were compiled by USC students and professors working within the PopDynamics Research Group in the Sol Price School of Public Policy, based upon data provided in the 2010 census. The work was overseen by USC professor of demographics, Dowell Myers.
An ironic finding of the study was that some cities are now so heavily Hispanic that they failed to obtain the multiethnic label. Colton, with a population of 52,154; San Bernardino, with a population of 209,924; Rialto, with a population of 99,171; and Fontana, with a 196,069 all have Latino populations exceeding 60 percent and all other ethnic groups in those cities were less that 20 percent of their respective head counts. Both San Bernardino and Riverside counties had the largest increases in Hispanics between 2000 and 2010 of any U.S. metropolitan areas.
The incorporated towns of Yucca Valley and Apple Valley, both of which have sizeable Caucasian populations, were not considered multiethnic.
In San Bernardino County overall, 49.2 percent of the population is Hispanic, 33.3 percent is Caucasian, 8.4 percent is African-American, 6.1 percent is Asian, 0.4 percent is Indian, and 0.3 percent is Islander. Those cataloging themselves as other are 0.2 percent and 2.1 percent say they fit in two of the categories.

Mediation Effort Between So Cal Edison And Chino Hills Fails

CHINO HILLS –The mediation effort between the city of Chino Hills and Southern California Edison to find alternatives to the 200-foot high power line towers Edison is building through this upscale community has broken down. As a result, it now appears that the city’s last hope hinges on the outcome of a petition for modification to the California Public Utilities Commission, the same panel that in December 2009 authorized the construction of the towers through the heart of Chino Hills.
The $2.1 billion Tehachapi Line, a portion of which is to traverse the city, is intended to convey electricity from what will be the nation’s largest wind farm in Kern County to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area.
The city of Chino Hills has expended more than $2 million to fund a legal effort to block the project and over the same two year period enlisted the help of local legislators in seeking to prevent Edison from intensifying its use of its existing utility corridor through town. Both the court and the legislative efforts failed to provide the city relief, as the judge hearing the case and the state legislature deferred to the utilities commission final authority on the matter. In October, even as Edison was erecting the towers, city officials made a desperate plea to the California Public Utility Commission, which now has three new members who did not participate in the December 2009 vote, to reconsider that approval. The city lobbied all of the commission’s members and induced the  chairman of the commission, Michael Peevey, to visit Chino Hills and see first hand the towers and their overbearing proximity to the city’s residential neighborhoods.

Michael Peevey

On October 19, the commission ordered a temporary halt to the project over an issue unrelated to the city’s protests, i.e., the failure to include red lights on the towers to ensure their visibility to low-flying aircraft. The city followed up on October 31 with an application for a rehearing and motion for partial stay of the 2009 decision and in response, the commission extended the tower construction stay and directed Southern California Edison to produce by January 10 a feasibility study on an alternative route for the transmission line through or around Chino Hills.  On January 10, Southern California Edison offered up four variant ways of bringing the electricity through Chino Hills by means other than the 200-foot high towers. Those methods were routing the lines through Chino Hills State Park, undergrounding 500 kilovolt lines through the city, utilizing a route that skirted the perimeter of the city, and using the existing right of way with shorter and more closely-spaced towers.
Also in January, administrative law judge Jean Vieth directed Southern California Edison to give serious consideration to a suggestion by Michael B. Day, the city’s legal counsel, that the utility company could use a single circuit 400 kV underground cable to transmit the electricity.
Vieth called upon the city of Chino Hills and Edison to initiate a mediation of the matter by early February. In sixteen total days of negotiations, the two sides were unable to come to terms over how Edison could meet its mandate of delivering the electricity through some alternative means and recoup its losses after having in good faith erected 12 of the 18 towers that were to span the city.
Edison officials are faced with the reality that even the least expensive alternative at this point will entail an added expense of no less than $8 million, given that two thirds of the towers intended for Chino Hills are already erected. The plan approved in 2009 by the California Public Utilities Commission is the least expensive method, at a cost of $166 million. The alternative of erecting shorter towers would boost that projection to at least $174 million and perhaps as much as $192 million. By skirting the city and going through the state park, the cost would escalate to at least $424 million and could go as high as $589 million. The undergrounding option would be the most expensive, running from $601 million to more than $1 billion, Southern California Edison officials maintain. Reportedly, when having Chino Hills pick up the difference in the cost was broached by Edison’s representatives, city officials balked, ultimately leading to a collapse in the mediation effort.
Consequently, the matter will now return for a determination by an administrative law judge. A prehearing conference for that process has been set for March 19.

Wal-Mart Suit Ends

Ontario’s four-and-a-half year long legal battle with a group of its own residents over effectuating the city’s approval of a Wal-Mart supercenter at the old White Front site at Fifth and Mountain drew to a close this week.
The Ontario Mountain Village Association, represented by attorney Cory Briggs, this week withdrew its appeal of Superior Court Judge Don Alvarez’s determination that Briggs was eligible to receive remuneration from the city of Ontario and Wal-Mart based only on those  issues sustained in the most recent challenge of the environmental impact report for the commercial behemoth. While the association had succeeded in delaying the project from proceeding for nearly a half decade and required that the city and the Wal-Mart Corporation expend more than a million dollars in attorney’s fees, the big box store will now proceed to completion.
The Ontario Mountain Village Association hastily formed in 2005 with the assistance of Briggs, an Upland-based attorney who has made challenging Wal-Mart supercenters on environmental grounds a mainstay of his legal career.
Briggs and the association raised a bevy of issues in the early opposition to the project and then filed a lawsuit after the city council approved the project in 2007. After a protracted back-and-forth, including Briggs’ challenge of the environmental impact report on seven distinct issues, Alvarez upheld only one of those as valid and ruled in October that Briggs was not entitled to the $487,000 he maintained he should be paid by the city and Wal-Mart for engaging in the legal showdown over those matters but rather would receive $54,000 for the work he did with regard to the single issue – the safe circulation of delivery trucks coming into the shopping center – the court had sustained as a shortcoming in the environmental impact report approved by the city.
Five months later, Briggs elected not to appeal that ruling and to forego the chance of the bigger payday. That means the other six environmental issues the association had raised are now moot. The city is addressing the truck safety issues and upon the court’s acceptance of mitigation measures put forth by the city and Wal-Mart, the project will proceed.
Briggs and the association, calculating that the appellate court would be unlikely to reverse the Superior Court ruling with regard to the other issues, elected not to carry an appeal forward.
Wal-Mart, as the project applicant, agreed to cover whatever legal costs the city of Ontario sustained with regard to challenges of the project approval. So far, Wal-Mart has reimbursed the city $673,500. In addition, Wal-Mart has paid its own attorneys $1.5 million according to a knowledgeable source.
Briggs said this most recent development is a footnote.
“The lawsuit has been over since last year,” Briggs said. “We raised several issues and the city made the improvements to the project we wanted. Before the suit was filed we went to the city, trying to have them improve the plan for the safety of the neighbors and the kids playing soccer across the street.  The judge decided the case in our favor two-and-a-half years ago and the city made the changes we told them they ought to make in June. The only thing hanging out there since has been the attorney fees. We initially decided to appeal and just decided to drop the appeal.”
Briggs deflected statements emanating from city officials to the effect that the association had lost the lawsuit or that the dropping of the appeal was a demonstration that he was not sincere in having waged the lawsuit or was merely attempting to shake down the city and Wal-Mart for legal fees.  He said that his interest in the lawsuit was based on propounding his client’s interest. He said Wal-Mart’s attorneys offered him over $500,000 to dismiss the suit.
“I made less than one twentieth of what the other attorneys were paid on this case,” he said. “I was offered in excess of a half million to walk away. I did not take them up on their offer.”
He absolutely rejected any suggestions that he was attempting to extort money from Wal-Mart or the cities contemplating having Wal-Mart supercenters locate within their borders.
“When a politician says I am a shakedown artist, ask them why it was that I went to court and won,” he said. “A better question is why are politicians spending taxpayer money after we tell them the problems they have with their development plans and they just blow off the recommendations and go forward and then end up in a legal fight they can’t win. And I do win. In any contest, baseball or basketball or hockey or in court if at the end the score is one to nothing, whoever scored the one wins. No one is ever going to win every argument but it is a lawyer’s job to make every reasonable argument and then let the judge decide. The city and its lawyers will not tell you that they made over 30 defenses of the suit and the judge rejected every one of them. It is easier for them to slip into attack mentality and make me out to be the boogey man instead of taking responsibility, which is a common trait among politicians, who are out of touch with the public good and what the law requires.  If you look at the merits of the case, you will see that we raised legitimate issues and the city made the improvements we asked for. In the end, after we took them to court, the mayor and even the lawyers for Wal-Mart said we had good ideas. I take it as a badge of honor when a politician has something bad to say about me.”
Ontario Mayor Paul Leon said, “I’m happy for the people of Ontario and that a long, drawn out dispute over Wal-Mart is apparently over. As in any dispute, there are people who are happy and others who aren’t but in the long run here, the city will be able to proceed with the development and people who live here will benefit from the jobs it produces.”

LA Officials Not Buying Ontario’s Line That Airport Has No Value

Los Angeles officials have rejected Ontario’s contention that the monetary value of Ontario Airport is not tied to the general property values of the region.
Ontario officials maintain that the airport is a public utility and as such, its worth is not a function of the traditional real estate market, having no value, real or potential, outside of functioning as an airport.
Ontario officials previously publicly suggested that Los Angeles should deed the airport back to Ontario for no consideration, as Ontario deeded the airport to Los Angeles in 1985 for no consideration. In 1967, the city of Ontario entered into an arrangement with the city of Los Angeles, whereby the larger city’s department of airports, now known as Los Angeles World Airports, took over management of Ontario Airport.
Los Angeles World Airports used its clout as the operator of Los Angeles International Airport to induce airlines en masse to schedule flights into and out of Ontario International Airport. Under the guidance of the Los Angeles Department of Airports and Los Angeles World Airports, passenger traffic at Ontario International Airport, having stood at less than 200,000 passengers in 1966, increased steadily for 40 years, to 7.2 million passengers enplaning there in 2007.
Under the terms of the deal between Ontario and Los Angeles by which Los Angeles took over management of the airport on November 1, 1967, title of the airport itself was to be transferred to the city of Los Angeles after the achievement of several designated milestones, including passenger traffic levels, runway improvements, and terminal construction. Promised construction on a modern, second east-to-west runway, which was supposed to begin in 1971, was delayed a decade. In 1981, that second east-to-west runway was built, replacing the old northeast-to-southwest runway. Sometime thereafter, Los Angeles officials stepped up pressure on Ontario officials to have them cede ownership of the airport in total to Los Angeles.
In 1985, ten years after the airport had failed to achieve the goal of ten million passengers per year set for 1975, Ontario’s city council members, led by councilwoman Faye Myers Dastrup and against the wishes of then-mayor Robert Ellingwood, at a council meeting on February 19, 1985 when Ellingwood was too ill to attend,  voted 4-0 to transfer title to the airport to the city of Los Angeles.  Los Angeles took over ownership officially on July 1, 1985.
According to Gina Marie Lindsey, the executive director of Los Angeles World Airports. “Over $560 million in airport capital improvements have been made utilizing funds from a combination of Los Angeles and Ontario airport revenues, Federal Aviation Administration grants and bond proceeds secured by Los Angeles World Airports.”

Gina Marie Lindsey

The lion’s share of those improvements were made after Los Angeles took on ownership of the airport. In 1987, the departure runway was extended to the east.  In 1997 and 1998, Los Angeles built two modern 530,000-square foot terminals at the airport at a cost of $270 million. In 2005-2006, the airport’s departure runway was repaved, received storm drains, and  runway lighting was improved. The airport’s taxiways were widened.
In recent years, Ontario Airport has seen its use decline. In 2008, 6.2 million passengers took flights from the airport, a drop of 13.5 percent compared to 2007. In 2009, the airport had 4.95 million passengers pass through it. That trend continued in 2010, with 4.8 million travelers flying from Ontario International. Simultaneously Los Angeles World Airports undertook a flurry of improvements at LAX intended to make traveling in or out there more convenient to passengers.
In the last year, passenger volumes in Ontario continued to decline, with travel at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) picking up. Just under 4.6 million passengers took flights out of Ontario International in 2011.
Over the last three years, Ontario officials have sought to induce Los Angeles to cede both ownership and control of the airport back to them.  In their public pronouncements they have emphasized that they consider the airport to be a public utility with no practical real estate value, that the investment Los Angeles has made in Ontario airport was not composed of taxpayer money put up by Los Angeles citizens but rather consisted of money generated by airport revenues and federal grants and that the 1967 management arrangement and 1985 no consideration title transfer should simply be rescinded or reversed.  In private, however, Ontario officials have offered to purchase the airport back by paying Los Angeles $50 million in cash, assuming $75 million in bonded indebtedness at the airport and providing up to $125 million to Los Angeles from future revenue to be generated at the airport in the way of passenger facility charges, pending the airport achieving certain passenger traffic levels.

Anthony Villaraigosa

It is the Los Angeles mayor and city council which will have the ultimate say on whether to return Ontario International Airport to Ontario. Privately, Lindsey and other Los Angeles World Airport Officials have advised Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa and the members of the Los Angeles City Council to seek to recover as much of the money put into improvements at Ontario Airport since 1967 as possible.
Last week Villaraigosa, after meeting with several western Riverside County municipal officials who encouraged him to broker a sale of the airport back to Ontario, told the City News Service that he was not inclined to support the sale of LA/Ontario International Airport under current economic circumstances that include deflated real estate values and that he would entertain a sale of the airport only when the real estate market recovers. This was a clear indication that the senior level of political leadership in Los Angeles has rejected Ontario officials’ assertions that the airport’s value should be assessed separately from the wider real estate market.

Desert Water Plan Gains Pipe Options And Foes

Cadiz Inc. is looking toward using idle natural gas pipelines to transport water it is proposing to pump out of the aquifer in the east Mojave Desert to consumers in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
Cadiz Inc., which is also known as the Cadiz Land Company, pursued and abandoned a plan  a decade ago to extract water from the water table underlying the Cadiz Valley and transport it to the Los Angeles metropolitan area for use there. That original plan was forsaken after questions about the ecological impact of the strategy were raised by environmentalists and the entity Cadiz intended to partner with to carry out the undertaking, the Metropolitan Water Agency. That plan called for taking water from the desert aquifer in what were deemed “wet” years and pumping water from the Colorado River into the desert aquifer during “dry” years.
Four years ago, Cadiz Inc., which operates a 500-acre organic citrus, grape, tomato and melon farm in the Cadiz Valley, revived the water plan, renaming it the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. Cadiz is working with Orange County-based Santa Margarita Water District, which services an area that is more than 200 miles from the Cadiz Valley, to obtain approval for the project. The Santa Margarita Water District, is currently serving as the lead agency for the project, and is charged with overseeing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review process for the undertaking.
Through an arrangement with the Cadiz Land Company, the Santa Margarita Water District will receive the lion’s share of the water. In addition, Cadiz, Inc. has entered into agreements with Three Valleys Water District, which provides water to the Pomona Valley, Walnut Valley, and Eastern San Gabriel Valley; the Golden State Water Company, which serves several communities in Southern California, including Claremont; Suburban Water Systems, which serves Covina, West Covina and La Mirada; and the Jurupa Community Services District, which serves Mira Loma in Riverside County.
Both Cadiz Inc. and the Santa Margarita Water District maintain the project is an environmentally responsible one that should not alarm environmentalists or local landowners. It is one that will consist of a wellfield of 34 wells to “capture and conserve” the water resources in the East Mojave Desert using “safe, established groundwater management techniques  to ensure the project is operated without causing harm to the local environment,” according to the Santa Margarita Water District.
In recent months, however, numerous critics of the plan have come forward, asserting that  pumping from the aquifer 65,000 acre-feet of water yearly as Cadiz Inc. proposes to do would cause a continuous drop in the desert water table that would dry up springs, deplete the local area of a water source crucial to life and future development of the area, create dust storms on nearby dry lake beds, adversely impact air quality, alter the flow of groundwater beneath the Mojave Desert by drawing water away from neighboring aquifers and have a devastating effect on bighorn sheep and other indigenous wildlife.
In recent days there have been indications that Cadiz Inc. is seeking to reduce its costs in pursuing the project by eliminating its earlier declared intention of constructing a 43-mile pipeline to carry water to the Colorado River Aqueduct maintained by the Metropolitan Water District for distribution to the population centers of Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles counties. Instead, the company has secured options toward the purchase of unused natural gas pipelines which would instead function to move the water westward.
Under consideration is Cadiz Inc.’s purchase of a portion of a 220-mile span of 30-inch pipeline owned by El Paso Natural Gas which runs from the Bakersfield area to the Cadiz Valley. Last week, Cadiz Inc. paid El Paso Natural Gas $1 million to extend until March 2012 a previously unannounced option the company had obtained to purchase the gas line for $40 million. Hydrologists retained by Cadiz Inc. believe El Paso’s gas line can be converted to carry as much as 30,000 acre-feet of water per year. Last week, the company paid the line owner $1 million to continue an option agreement until March 2013. Cadiz also has also secured an option to acquire for $10 million a smaller gas line owned by Questar Corporation which runs from near Palm Springs to Long Beach.
Cadiz maintains the water can be transported in the natural gas lines without damage to the integrity of the pipes and without serious impact upon the quality, purity, safety or drinkability of the water.
Rancho Santa Margarita Mayor Anthony Beall has gone on record as being in favor of the project. Nevertheless, there are residents of Rancho Santa Margarita who are opposed to the project.  One of those is Craig Innis, who objected to the Santa Margarita Water District serving as the lead agency on the project and what he said was “the lack of opportunity for the citizenry to be most affected by this project to make oral statements and comments. The Santa Margarita Water District held its meetings here, imposing an undue hardship for the citizenry of the Eastern Mojave Desert to have equal access and the ability to comment, having to travel 200 to 300 miles or more roundtrip to do so.”
Innis suggested that Cadiz Inc. is in “dire financial straits” after losing millions of dollars consistently for the last dozen years on its Cadiz Valley operations and he suggested that the company was actually seeking to commandeer water rights under the guise of water conservation.
“There is no surplus Colorado River water to recharge the aquifer as Cadiz asserts it wants to do in Phase II of its plan,” Innis said. “The lower basin Colorado River water, according to the evidence, simply does not have the capacity or the capability of recharging the Cadiz aquifer. Cadiz’s Phase I would drain the aquifer and surrounding wells. This is comparable to what happened to Owens Valley. The Metropolitan Water District pulled out because they knew that fact too, and could not deliver on recharging the aquifer.”
Dr. Karen Tracy, a retired dentist who has lived and worked in Joshua Tree for 26 years, told the Sentinel, “I dissent in the strongest terms to the Cadiz water project and in particular to our county supervisors’ implicit participation in this vaguely disguised water theft.”
Tracy decried the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors’ acquiescence in allowing an Orange County water district with a vested interest in utilizing the water to be derived from the project to oversee the evaluation of its environmental impacts.  “Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt’s bought-and-paid-for involvement has been amply documented,” Tracy said, referencing Cadiz Inc.’s political contributions to Mitzelfelt.
Since 2007, the Cadiz Land Company has been one of Mitzlefelt’s major political backers, having contributed a total of $48,100 to his campaign fund. All of the Cadiz Valley and much of the Eastern Mojave lies within the county’s First District, which Mitzelfelt represents at the county seat.
“The Mojave Desert is a well-known and highly trafficked holiday destination,” Tracy said. “The county is standing mute while others are going forward on a pumping/monitoring plan that shuts out the best available experts and trusts the pumpers as environmental custodians. United States Geologic Survey (USGS) analysis is needed to review the pumping models and groundwater drawdown; the hydrology model in use by the pumpers is mysterious at best and suspect while the work of John Izbicki and Peter Martin, USGS hydrology experts, is above reproach. I am personally familiar with them and their modeling procedures. This desert is their territory. Why has their evaluation not been solicited? Are the assurances about salt chemistry and immunity from dust storms contained in the draft environmental impact report true? What about the assurances that this aquifer is a “closed system” and delicate ecologic niches will not be affected? I’ve read the draft environmental report posted to the Santa Margarita Water District website and the pumpers just do not have the science to say that. To give perspective to the pumpers’ enterprise, they propose pumping 50,000 to 75,000 acre-feet of water per year out of the desert to the coast. I have long been a volunteer for the Joshua Basin Water District, which is not the smallest water district in the Morongo Basin in square miles, nor number of connections, nor gallons pumped. We deliver 1,500 acre-feet per year.”
According to Tracy, “The immense scope of this project demands a much larger big-picture view. The National Park Service must become part of this process because of the potential impact to natural resources on adjacent federal lands packed with the natural wonders that bring those tourists out here. Inclusion of federal lands requires a far more comprehensive environmental impact statement, precisely what the pumpers dread most. The folly of this project cannot stand up to the scrutiny of macrocosmic and verifiable science in an environmental impact statement.”
A collection of desert residents and environmentalists in February successfully pushed to have the public input deadline with regard to the environmental impact report Cadiz Inc. and the Santa Margarita Water District had drafted for the project as part of the environmental certification process extended from February 13 to March 14.  That group is currently seeking to have the Santa Margarita Water District removed as the lead agency overseeing the environmental certification and approval of the project in favor of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
Meanwhile, East Mojave property owners have chartered a local water district formation committee and installed Chris Brown as chairman. The group is next scheduled to meet at the Goffs School House and Museum, located at 37198 Lanfair Road in Goffs on March 18 at 2 p.m.
Goffs is located off old Route 66 between Barstow and Needles and can be most safely accessed by way of Exit 107 for Goffs Road from the west, or the US 95 exit from the east.

Political Balance Shifts On SB Council

SAN BERNARDINO—The book on the long simmering feud between San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris and San Bernardino City Attorney Jim Penman opened a new chapter this week. The delicate political balance on the city council that had previously favored Morris reversed with the departure of Morris’s ally, councilman Tobin Brinker, and the swearing in of new councilman John Valdivia, who was endorsed by Penman in his race against Brinker last year and elected in November.

John Valdivia

As one of the first orders of business at the Monday March 5 meeting following the oath-taking ceremonies for the most recently elected or reelected city officials, the newly composed and aligned council voted 6-1 to provide the city attorney’s office with $939,000 in supplemental funding that Penman has been requesting for months but which the previous city council, at Penman’s urging, denied.
At a rare breakfast meeting between Morris and Penman on March 5, prior to Valdivia’s ascendency to the council, the mayor and city attorney took a stab at burying the hatchet. And Morris did emerge from the meeting willing, either because of political reality or a newfound and sincere inclination toward amity, to get on with life and allow Penman autonomy as well. At the council meeting, when the issue of increasing the amount of money the city attorney should have to work with, Morris said, the council should ask “our city manager to find funding for this.”
As mayor, Morris leads the council, wields the gavel at meetings and controls the tenor of discussion and debate, but does not have a vote unless his is needed to break a tie.  His signal of support resulted in the two of the three members of the council who previously voted to deny the increased funding to the city attorney’s office – Fred Shorett and Virginia Marquez – to vote in support of upping Penman’s office’s budget. Councilman Rikke Van Johnson voted against it.

Patrick Morris

Last spring, Penman had his office launch an investigation of Morris, Brinker, Shorett and Van Johnson based upon allegations Penman did not specify but which he at one point indicated related to violations of the Political Reform Act that were in some fashion tied into alleged misdemeanor violations of the city municipal code by non-elected officials. Penman never released the report of the outcome of that investigation, although he claimed in May that Morris had prevented him from making a report of some the ongoing investigation’s findings at that time.
Morris, a Democrat, called the Republican Penman’s report pertaining to Political Reform Act violations “nothing but a political diatribe filled with revisionist history and political puffery.” He accused  the city attorney “of ramping up the political agenda in this city, attempting to hijack the council’s  agenda to meet your political needs, particularly during election years.”
Penman accused the mayor of seeking to “interfere with the prosecutorial duties of this office” and chastised him for preventing him from delivering the report in a public forum, saying that Morris was “afraid to hear what another public official has to say.”
The political rivalry between Morris and Penman extends back to 2005, when Morris outdistanced Penman in the race for mayor. He again defeated Penman in a head-to-head contest in 2009. In 2010, Morris sponsored  a measure to change the San Bernardino city attorney into an appointed position,  but that change in the city charter failed at the polls.
With the departure of Brinker, whose enmity toward Penman was nearly as great as that of Morris, it now appears that Penman holds sway over the city council. Penman enjoys an ironclad alliance with councilwoman Wendy McCammack and councilman Chas Kelly, who were both reelected in November. Penman is also aligned somewhat less closely with Robert Jenkins, who was elected to replace a previous Penman ally, Jason Desjardins. Valdivia, a pharmaceutical company representative who ran with Penman’s support last year, now is seen as the fourth crucial vote to hold Penman’s coalition of support together. Nevertheless, Valdivia downplayed the significance of that alliance, remarking during the swearing in ceremony that the press and public’s perception of him as a member of the Penman political machine was an “unfair characterization” and that his loyalty would be to the residents of the 3rd Ward who had elected him. He said he consider himself a political “independent.” If that self appraisal is accurate, Penman’s hold on City Hall is more tenuous than many perceive.

Jim Penman

Indeed, Penman’s political grip on the function at City Hall was attenuated somewhat in the recent city clerk’s election in which his favored candidate, Amelia Sanchez-Lopez, was narrowly defeated by Georgeann Hanna, who is connected to Morris.

Mosque OK In Unincorporated Area Will Entail Chino Annexation

The board of supervisors last week upheld the planning commission’s approval of a mosque in the unincorporated county area north of Chino and south of Montclair. The board is allowing the project to proceed with the apparent agreement that the property upon which the mosque sits will be annexed into the city of Chino.
The county planning commission by a 4-1 vote on December 8, 2011 granted a conditional use permit for the 7,512-square foot Al-Nur Islamic Center, a two-story facility on 1.54 acres at 4797 Phillips Blvd, on the south side of the street roughly 330 feet east of Yorba Avenue. At that hearing, 19 people spoke or registered their opposition to the proposed project, and 42 people spoke or registered in favor.
Rashid Ahmed, chairman of the Al-Nur Islamic Center, applied on March 12, 2010 for a permit that would provide for the establishment of a 16,763 square foot structure that was to include a variety of ancillary uses such as a caretaker’s unit, a multipurpose hall, senior citizen activity center, senior citizen library, kitchen, health clinic, and nine classrooms. According to Christine Kelly, the director of the county’s land use services department, that “proposal was unable to meet all of the required development standards and was reduced to the current proposal. The site is currently developed with an existing single-family home that was originally proposed as a caretaker’s unit, but will now be demolished as part of the proposal to accommodate the structure and the required parking. The proposed facility includes a 1,836 square-foot prayer hall, with a maximum occupancy of 262 persons, which will be utilized for daily prayers during the hours of: 5 a.m.– 6 a.m., 1 p.m.– 2 p.m., 3 p.m.– 4 p.m., 6 p.m.– 7 p.m., and 8 p.m.– 9 p.m.
The maximum occupancy is expected only once a week, on Friday from 12 p.m.– 2 p.m. when congregation and prayer are held. In addition to the prayer hall, there are to be approximately 1,000 square feet of lobby area, a 257 square foot library/youth center, and restrooms on the first floor. The second floor will consist of a 133 square foot office and four classrooms totaling approximately 700 square feet, which will not be occupied during religious activities in the main prayer hall. Special events will take place on an occasional basis and may also involve maximum occupancy. The mosque office will be staffed by a maximum of two employees from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m.– 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Kelly recommended that the board of supervisors deny the appeal of the planning commission approval.
Kelly’s recommendation and the board of supervisors’ vote in accordance with that recommendation did not absolutely redress a major objection raised by the appellants, which pertained to sanitation and potential contamination of the groundwater at and around the project site.
The appellants contended that the parcel size cannot support an on-site septic system that can accommodate the proposed intensity of use and that existing sewer service providers in the general area, i.e., the cities of Montclair and Chino, have not been willing to allow the project to hook-up to the nearby sewer systems. The appellants were supported by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, which sent correspondence to the county indicating that the septic system on the 1.54 acres did not supply adequate effluent processing  capability to accommodate the 262 person capacity of the house of worship. Kelly, however, said that there was a potential that the property could be annexed into the city of Chino, which would thus allow for the project’s plumbing to be hooked up to the sewer system.
“The site is currently developed with a single-family residence that utilizes an existing septic system,” Kelly told the board in a report dated February 28. At the time of the planning commission hearing, the applicant was proposing to utilize an on-site wastewater treatment system. Since that time, the county  received correspondence from  the city of Chino, the sphere of influence for which covers the project site. In her report, Kelly said, “On February 11, 2011, the city of Chino submitted a letter to the county indicating that there is an existing sewer line at the intersection of Yorba Avenue and Francis Avenue, located southwest of the project site. In order for the project to receive service from the city of Chino, an application would need to be submitted to the Local Agency Formation Commission, and an irrevocable agreement to annex to the city of Chino would also need to be recorded. Additionally, the applicant would need to construct the necessary facilities to connect to the existing sewer. This is a condition of approval and is an issue that would need to be resolved with environmental health services prior to issuance of a building permit.”
In this way, annexation of the property by the city of Chino appears to be a requirement, although that was not explicitly stated by the board.
The appellants further contended that landscaping of 1.2 acres of the site would create run-off onto properties downhill of the subject property and create additional flooding on Phillips Blvd. and Yorba Ave., which is already overwhelmed during significant storm events due to a lack of storm drains in the area. County staff, however, maintains that the site design includes on-site infiltration/retention basins within the landscape areas, as well as a vegetated swale, and all drainage is directed towards these areas, such that “it is not expected that there will be any run-off entering the storm drain system, or that will adversely affect adjacent or downstream properties during post construction operation.”
The appellants also charged that the project will intrude on the peaceful, rural nature of the neighborhood, will increase traffic, entail a glut of parked cars and architecture that is outside the character of and will tower over the surrounding single family homes. The county land use division said that under the county’s development code, places of worship are allowed in residential land use zoning districts, that the originally proposed 16,763 square foot building has been reduced to 7,512 square feet, will included a minimum 20 percent landscaping on site, and that the inhabitable portion of the structure will reach no higher than 35 feet, with a 52.5 foot-high architectural feature, which is allowed for religious institutions by the San Bernardino Development Code.
The county’s traffic engineer has accepted the inclusion of 88 parking spaces at the site, and proposed access entering and exiting the project site be limited to right turn only, such that the project will be outfitted with the appropriate signage regarding turning movements entering or leaving the site. The county is also requiring that the parking area located adjacent to residentially developed properties will be provided with a minimum 10-foot wide landscaped setback in conjunction with a maximum six-foot high decorative block wall to provide buffering between the mosque and the existing residences, which will shield the adjacent properties from any headlights from cars exiting or entering the site.
Supervisor Gary Ovitt, in whose Fourth District the project site is located, was the lone board vote against upholding the previous planning commission approval of the project. He said he was opposed to the project because of the opposition to it by several of his constituents.
The mosque’s supporters said those opposed to the project were anti-Muslim.

Residents Evicted From Daggett Airport

DAGGETT—San Bernardino County and its division of airports are evicting residents from 17 housing units located on the grounds of Barstow-Daggett Airport.
Those being ousted from their properties are not in arrears on their rent payments. Rather, the county is getting out of the landlord-residential tenant relationship due to the costs of maintaining the units as rentals and to clear the way for transformation, renovation and modernization of the premises to furnish quarters for aviation related uses and expand the military component of the facility.
The units were originally constructed in the 1940s by McDonnell-Douglas to house aircraft mechanics and technicians working there as defense contractors working at the base, including ones doing alteration work on World War II-era warplanes. The homes were later used to house some military personnel stationed at the base. In the 1950s, the county acquired the residential properties and by the 1960s was renting out some of the residential units. The county maintains a water system and sewage treatment system at the airport. The cost of supplying residents and other entities there with potable water runs to $225,000 per year, according to the county and the sewage plant costs roughly $55,000 per year to run and maintain.
The eviction of the residential tenants, however, will not obviate the need for the water and sewer systems, as flight and military related operations will continue to be carried out at the base. According to the county, administering the airport’s home rental program at the base entails up to $120,000 worth of staff time and the county must maintain insurance that entails premiums of approximately $2,000 per month. These costs are not offset by the $451 rent each residential household pays per unit monthly, which provides the county with a total of $92,000 per year.
According to the county, rent on the units would have to be increased to $2,400 per month to defray what it asserts is the $489,600 cost of remaining as landlord to the residents and maintaining the units themselves, along with the water and sewer systems.
Some of the residents and others have questioned whether the county’s assertion as to the actual costs of administration and maintenance of the water and sewer services are accurate and disputed the county will actually achieve savings by effectuating the evictions.
There are a handful of aviation-related businesses at the airport, including Daggett Aviation, which has contracts with the U.S. Army to provide services at the airport. The water and sewer systems will need to remain in place for use by the military, businesses and the county’s own office on the airport grounds. The county has no intention of closing down the airport, and is indeed looking to expand operations there. The board of supervisors has appropriated $2,444,000 for upgrading the electrical system on the airport runway and has already concluded the extension of one of the airport’s taxiways and put in new lighting for another taxiway.
Nevertheless, county officials insist they recently crunched numbers to determine that maintaining the housing program on the airport will cost more than four times what the rents generate. The county maintains it has no obligation to provide those evicted with alternative housing and has offered each household $500 toward moving expenses while insisting that they vacate the premises by May 1.