Ontario Escalates Hostilities In Clash With LA Over Airport Ownership

(April 12) ONTARIO–The jousting between Los Angeles World Airports, the entity that manages and operates Ontario International Airport, and Ontario municipal officials and their allies continues over the terms by which the ownership of the airport should be returned to Ontario.
This week,  Ontario rejected Los Angeles’s offer to sell the airport back to Ontario for $474 million and then followed up with a threat of legal action against Los Angeles.
Ontario, which deeded the airport to the city of Los Angeles in 1985, has come to rue that move.
While Ontario Airport prospered and grew under the management of the Los Angeles Department of Airports for four decades, since 2008 passenger traffic into and out of Ontario  has steadily declined. Ontario officials blame Los Angeles and its successor to its Department of Airports, Los Angeles World Airports, for the decreases. They maintain that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has purposefully operated and promoted the airport inefficiently as part of its design to promote ridership at Los Angeles International Airport.
In response to an ever more vituperative campaign by Ontario officials, LAWA officials, on behalf of Los Angeles, have been negotiating transfer of control of the airport, or outright ownership, with Ontario officials.
Since the forging of an agreement between Los Angeles and Ontario in 1967, Los Angeles, first under its Department of Airports and then under the aegis of LAWA, has managed the airport’s operations.
Using its leverage over  airlines based upon its ability to dole out or withhold favorable gate positions at Los Angeles International Airport, the Los Angeles Department of Airports induced more and more airlines to fly into and out of Ontario. By 1969, flights out of Ontario dramatically increased. In short order, Continental Airlines, PSA, Western, United, American Airlines, Hughes Air West, and Delta established routes from Ontario. In the early 1970s, Ontario was in competition with John Wayne Airport in Orange County, which at that time was expanding dramatically. Though a benchmark of 10 million passengers at the airport by 1975 was not achieved, the Los Angeles Department of Airports still assiduously promoted Ontario International.  In 1981, a modern, second east-to-west runway was built, necessitating the removal of the old northeast-to-southwest runway. Los Angeles officials stepped up pressure on Ontario officials to have them cede ownership of the airport in total to Los Angeles, but Ontario’s then mayor,  Robert  Ellingwood, resisted, maintaining that all of the criteria specified in the transfer portion of the 1967 agreement had yet to be met. As tensions mounted between the cities and Ontario began levying a parking tax at the airport, which L.A. objected to as unwarranted and illegal in a lawsuit, Ellingwood pressed for the recission of the joint powers agreement and for Ontario to take full control of the airport. Los Angeles, which  had control over the revenue being generated at the airport and was bankrolling the cost of operations there, threatened to stand down from the joint powers agreement, leaving Ontario in the position of paying all operational costs.  Ellingwood’s four council colleagues, believing Ontario did not have the financial means to operate the airport on its own, broke with him and during Ellingwod’s absence from the February 19, 1985 council meeting, voted 4-0 to transfer title to the airport to the city of Los Angeles.
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. The same year Aeroméxico started seasonal flights to Guadalajara and Mexico City, making Ontario a true international airport.  The airport was also renamed Ontario/LA International Airport, ostensibly to avoid confusion with an airport in Canada.
In 2007, use of the airport peaked, with 7.2 million passengers enplaning there and using its terminals. 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 was undertaking a flurry of improvements at Los Angeles International Airport intended to make traveling in or out there more convenient to its passengers.
Just under 4.6 million passengers took flights out of Ontario International in 2011. That figure dropped to 4.5 million in 2012.
In 2009, Ontario officials, believing that Los Angeles airport officials were intent on driving up passenger traffic in Los Angeles, potentially to the detriment of Ontario, began a dialogue with Los Angeles World Airports about combating the downward trend in passenger traffic at Ontario. But Los Angeles airport officials were not keen on surrendering any share of the market Los Angeles International had captured in the aftermath of the extensive improvements made there. They countered with offers to improve the marketing of Ontario Airport, at one point offering to bankroll such a marketing campaign to be run by Ontario officials. Ontario declined that offer.
Ontario officials gravitated toward the conclusion that reacquiring the airport was paramount and that not leaving its destiny in the care of Los Angeles officials, whose first loyalty consisted in keeping Los Angeles International Airport thriving, was the only realistic approach to the problem.
They began pushing Los Angeles to allow a public agency-to-public agency transfer of the airport at no consideration, reversing the 1985 action.
Los Angeles officials balked at that.
Quietly, so as to not publicly contradict its official position that the airport grounds are a public benefit property and thus of no sales value, the city of Ontario privately tendered a $250 million offer to Los Angeles World Airports for transfer of the airport’s title and operational control. That offer included the city assuming $75 million of the outstanding bond debt obligations for past improvements to the airport, $125 million in future passenger facility charges to be realized at the airport and $50 million cash.
Los Angeles World Airport officials scoffed at the $250 million figure, pointing to the $560 million in improvements made to the airport since 1967 utilizing revenues generated at both Ontario and Los Angeles International Airports, Federal Aviation Administration grants, and proceeds from bonds issued by the city of Los Angeles at Los Angeles World Airports’ direction.
Last year, Los Angeles World Airports commissioned an appraisal of Ontario Airport by the consulting firm of Leigh Fisher, which pegged the airport as being worth at least $243 million and as much as $605 million, depending on cash flow expectations over the next half century.
Los Angeles World Airport officials indicated that bargaining toward an eventual sale would start at the high end of the estimate, i.e., $605 million. At one point, Gina Marie Lindsey, the executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, indicated  that a buyer, public or private, would need to put up $560 million, an amount equal to the investment in improvements made at the airport over the last 45 years while Los Angeles has had operational control there. Privately, Los Angeles World Airports officials have suggested Los Angeles would be amenable to selling the airport to Ontario for $450 million.
Ontario officials, who created with the county of San Bernardino the Ontario International Airport Authority last year as an entity intended to eventually wrest ownership of the airport from Los Angeles and subsequently manage its operations, maintain Los Angeles World Airports has greatly inflated the airport’s value.
The Ontario International Airport Authority recently commissioned Oliver Wyman, a New York-based consulting firm, to review and refute Leigh Fisher’s estimation of the airport’s fair market value. Oliver Wyman delivered a document that met Ontario’s specifications, one that said the property was not worth the  $243 million to $605 million Leigh Fisher derived but rather had a breathtaking value below zero – i.e., from negative-$78 million to negative-$104 million.
“The low valuation for ONT (the Federal Aviation Administration acronym for Ontario International), even under a privatization valuation approach, should come as no surprise to anyone who has analyzed ONT’s finances, high airport charges, competitive position and passenger traffic trends,” according to Oliver Wyman.
Oliver Wyman paints a picture of such dire prospects at Ontario Airport that it leaves the reader of  the report questioning why any entity would be interested in acquiring it.
No investor using sound investment guidance criteria would consider purchasing the airport, Oliver Wyman maintains. The average rate of return for the S&P 500 since the Great Depression has stood at 7.1 percent annually. Even if the airport were to be valued at the minimum $243 million Leigh Fisher envisioned for it, it would still need to garner $17.25 million in profit per year to meet the S&P average, which Oliver Wyman asserts, “is inconceivable… based on ONT’s revenue and operating profile.”
In fact, the airport is incapable of generating any profit whatsoever, Oliver Wyman maintained, in that expenses will outrun revenues.
Oliver Wyman said Leigh Fisher’s notion that a private operator can take over Ontario Airport and drive down its per enplaned-passenger charge – which at $12.68  is one of the highest in the nation  –  and then operate successfully charging $10 per passenger was highly questionable.
Oliver Wyman pitched the concept of making a public agency-to-public agency transfer of the airport for no consideration. That option was more viable, Oliver Wyman wrote, than selling the airport to a private operator, which the firm said, would not be able to run the facility at a profit.
In delivering the report, Oliver Wyman acknowledged it was hampered by not having available, and not being able to rely upon, financial documents relating to Ontario Airport’s operations that are in the exclusive possession of Los Angeles World Airports.
This week, in a letter to Lindsey dated April 10 and stamped “privileged and confidential” but which was immediately leaked to the press, Ontario City Manager Chris Hughes referenced Lindsey’s heretofore undisclosed $474.5 million counteroffer to sell the airport made in response to Ontario’s $250 million purchase proposal. Hughes rejected that counteroffer and threatened legal action, stating, “LAWA’s approach in this matter…leaves Ontario with no meaningful option other than to pursue its legal remedies arising from LAWA’s conduct in connection with the airport.” On Thursday April 11, the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of  Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton  filed a 67-page administrative claim against the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports charging them with chronic mismanagement of the airport. The claim seeks to abrogate the 1967 joint powers agreement between the two cities.

Musser Outfoxes Filippi

(April 12) Upland Councilman Gino Filippi this week was on the cusp, or so it appeared, of achieving a significant breakthrough in preparing for his future political efforts.
Previously, the city had adopted campaign contribution limits that restricted elected officeholders from receiving more than $2,000 from any single donor per four-year election cycle.
In Upland, all elected officials – the mayor, city council members and treasurer – are elected to four-year terms.
Before the campaign contribution ordinance was passed in 2011, Filippi garnered election to the city council in 2010. In 2012, with two years yet remaining in his term as councilman, Filippi ran for mayor against incumbent Ray Musser. Also in the race was Musser and Filippi’s council colleague, Debbie Stone.
Filippi proved to be by far the most prolific fundraiser, taking in $91,722.47 to fuel his mayoral campaign. Musser brought in a total of $27,625.56. Stone ran her campaign on $4,748 in donations. A number of Filippi’s donors provided him with money that neared or equaled the $2,000 per entity donation limit. Despite his fundraising prowess, Filippi lost to Musser.
In 2014, Filippi has intentions of running for reelection to the council again, perhaps positioning himself for another mayoral run in 2016.
In recent months, Filippi has posited an argument that the spirit of campaign contribution reform involved the intent of curtailing the influence of donors per election rather than per four-year term. In this way, Filippi asserted, those seeking or holding council office who are also vying for mayor two years after a council run, should be eligible to receive $2,000 per donor for each election, for the council and for mayor.
Musser did not see it that way, arguing that the $2,000 contribution limit from any particular donor was intended to limit the donor’s influence over the politician, or politicians, in question. For that reason the $2,000 restriction should stay in place, Musser asserted, regardless of whether the politician runs just once every four years or twice every four years.
In March, the city council took up the issue but failed to come to a clear consensus, and tabled the matter to give the city attorney and the council advisory committee an opportunity to review the regulations to determine what the advisory committee, which had recommended the limitations to the council in 2011, had intended.
This week the city council was provided with the input of the advisory committee and the city attorney which basically called for Upland’s campaign contribution ordinance to impose the limit per election.
A divided council, with Glen Bozar and Brendan Brandt joining with Filippi, voted to direct the city attorney to redraft the ordinance, changing the limitation to each election a candidate is involved in, so that the proposed changed ordinance can be brought back for a vote at a later meeting.
At that point, it appeared that Filippi had obtained an outcome that was in keeping with him being able to exploit his fundraising talent  in future elections.  But sly Mayor Musser, who has been a member of the city council since 1998, utilized his control of the gavel and mastery of parliamentary procedure to outfox Filippi.
Before moving on to the next order of business, Musser inquired of the city attorney whether he could make a motion at that point to reduce the contribution limit to go into the newly drafted ordinance. He was told that he could indeed do so. Thereupon, Musser made a motion to reduce the contribution limit from $2,000 to $1,000. That vote passed by a 3-2 margin, with Musser, Stone and Bozar supporting it.
In this way, the redrafted campaign limitation ordinance to be considered by the council will have the effect of attenuating one of Filippi’s major political assets, that is, his ability to draw substantial money to his electioneering efforts.
Musser, who of late has been belittled and lampooned by his critics and political foes as a doddering yokel who is  unable to keep up with the pace of events or his younger council colleagues, showed with his adroit maneuver that he remains a political force to be reckoned with and even faster  on his parliamentary feet than those decades his junior.
Asked what he thought of being outmaneuvered by Musser with his add-on ploy, Filippi noted that the actual redrafted ordinance has yet to come before the council and he hinted that there will still be an opportunity to liberalize the campaign contribution law.
“This isn’t over yet,” Filippi said.

GT Mayor: Past Neglect Of Economic Development Necessitates City Tax

(April 12) Grand Terrace Mayor Walt Stanckiewitz recently defended his administration’s handling of the challenges facing the city, asserting that under his watch the city has defied doomsayers that predicted the town’s demise because of a perpetually weak revenue base that has been worsened in recent years by the economic downturn.
Stanckiewitz, who zoomed into the mayoralty in some measure on the strength of his criticism of the city’s historical reliance on diverting money from its redevelopment agency to shore up its general fund, was nevertheless critical of the state’s wholesale dissolution of municipal redevelopment agencies in 2011, which he said puts Grand Terrace at a disadvantage.
Moreover, the mayor said he was determined to go hat in hand to the city’s residents later this year to request that they approve some form of tax to provide the city with more substantial operating revenue.
Though the county Local Agency Formation Commission did not oppose Grand Terrace’s incorporation in 1978, the commission’s staff was skeptical of the city’s ability to generate sufficient tax revenue to sustain itself as a municipality. From the outset, the city’s limited population and its geographic isolation  which discourages outsiders from traveling through it translated into a severely limited number of shoppers frequenting Grand Terrace’s modest commercial district.
Today, among San Bernardino County’s 24 incorporated cities, Grand Terrace is the third smallest population-wise, with 12,040 residents. It ranks 24th as a producer of tax revenue of all sorts, such that it has the most meager of the county’s 24 municipal budgets. The city’s financial status as a municipality being outhustled by practically every other incorporated city in Southern California for tax revenue clashes with the image the city has enjoyed otherwise. In 2007, Money magazine ranked Grand Terrace as one of the United States’ “Top 100 Cities to Live In.”
For years, under the stewardship of former city manager Tom Schwab, the city made a practice of diverting a sizeable amount of the Grand Terrace Redevelopment Agency’s available funding into the city’s general fund, using that money to defray a portion of municipal operations.
Schwab, who began with the city in 1984 as a finance department employee and became city manager in 1989, left as city manager in 2008, which corresponded with Stanckiewitz’s election to the city council. Stanckiewitz was outspokenly critical of Schwab’s use of redevelopment money to fund city operations and in 2010, successfully ran for mayor as a municipal and financial reform candidate in a campaign which made frequent reference to Schwab’s diversion of redevelopment money.
Upon becoming mayor, however, Stanckiewitz was given a very dire assessment of the city’s financial standing and in his first state of the city speech just a few months after becoming mayor he raised the specter of disincorporating the city and returning the 3.502 square miles within its city limits to the county for administration. Simultaneously, the city was hit with the state’s dissolution of redevelopment agencies as well as being informed by the county auditor-controller that in 2008-09 and 2009-10, the auditor-controller’s office, which handled the apportioning of state redevelopment pass-through funding, had mistakenly credited Grand Terrace with $2.294 million that should have gone to the redevelopment agency for the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. That overpayment was later recalculated to actually have been $2,052,000. Grand Terrace has since entered into an agreement to repay that money over ten years, tantamount to  a $205,200 shrinking of the city’s yearly budget for the next decade.
Stanckiewitz stridently assailed the state for the destruction of  redevelopment as a tool available to his city.  That raised questions about Stanciewitz’s earlier attacks on Schwab for his creative use of redevelopment funding. Stanckiewitz’s growing chorus of critics noted that as mayor he was put in the position of having to deal with the city’s intrinsic financial shortcomings and was fairing no better than had Schwab, who for 19 years had sustained the city. In the light of harsh financial reality, it was said, Stanckiewitz’s criticism’s of Schwab’s approach were not only politically motivated, but self-delusional and mean-spirited, as well.
Stanckiewitz rejects those portrayals, maintaining that Schwab’s formula was one of using the redevelopment agency as a crutch, such that the city never adjusted to walking on its own.
“The truth is we never did develop an adequate tax base and relied heavily, too heavily, on our redevelopment agency to cover general fund expenditures,” Stanckiewitz said. “Mr Schwab’s strategy was to substitute available redevelopment funding for economic development. We are weaning ourselves from [our financial dependency on] the redevelopment agency. When you are as dependent on your redevelopment agency to shore up your general fund as Grand Terrace was, that is not something you can do overnight.  This is something the state is forcing us to do, but we have been cutting and cutting for years, so we are not in a position where this shocked us. We are not, for example, as hard hit as the city of San Bernardino. It is basically a structural deficit. We have got to address those problems that were identified by LAFCO [the county’s local agency formation commission] when we formed as a city 35 years ago. We were told by LAFCO that we don’t have the tax base we need to hold together as a city. Now we are faced with the cold hard facts. What we will now need to do is go out with a tax measure.”
Stanckiewitz said he believes a vote can be scheduled for later this year to get the tax in place, if the voters approve it, by January 1.
“We could have that on the ballot in November if we hit all the time lines right,” he said.
He said he had no fear of asking the people he represents to tax themselves for the city’s sake.
“I think if we lay it out right and explain it  to people and involve citizens in the city so they know the whole process and give them the choice and say, ‘This is what it will cost to keep the services you are accustomed to. If you don’t approve it, we will be providing you less service,’” Stanckiewitz said.
In fact, Stanckiewitz said, the reductions that will be necessitated if no tax is imposed will result in Grand Terrace residents “receiving less service than if we were part of the county. We need to lay it out and show people we are not asking for pie in the sky to start grandiose programs but just want to maintain our little city to the level of service we are accustomed to having.”
While he is now the mayor and the chickens are coming home to roost, Stanckiewitz said, he is not the one to blame for the city’s long slide into the fiscal morass. He insisted Schwab was the culprit.
‘Thirty years passed and nobody did anything,” he said.
As the guy in office now, Stanckiewitz said, he is looking for long term solutions. The foremost prospect he sees is expanding the city’s commercial base and generating more sales tax.
“The city needs to put a welcome mat out,” he said. “I’m not sure the city was real open to a lot of commercial development. Once they found out how they could use the redevelopment agency to divert money into the general fund, doing commercial development became secondary. We had some attempts ten or twelve years ago with the Outdoor Adventure Center, with lakes and businesses around it. I’m not sure anyone was dedicated to that. At other times, city officials were talking about Lowes [i.e., a hardware store]. What it came down to is if you don’t have the traffic counts you can’t get businesses to look at you seriously. If you don’t have commercial development, you don’t get traffic counts. Stater Bros. took it upon themselves to put in a new store and a new center that held out the promise of bringing in even more. The world went sour and they are having a tough time attracting business to come in there. In the old Stater Bros. center, we have had some companies look at the space there, but it all comes back to the traffic counts aren’t there. There is not an overnight fix. They had thirty years to do it and it wasn’t done.”
The city is still afloat, but struggling to dogpaddle and keep its head above water, the mayor said.
“We will end the current fiscal year with a balanced budget and some reserves, how much we are not sure,” he said. “Next year could be the challenge. Given the redevelopment agency takeaways by the California Department of Finance, we will be short in the general fund. Our reserves cannot fill the hole. We’ve got a budget workshop coming up on April 23, which should give us a clearer picture relative to what the state is doing with the redevelopment agency takeaways.”

Chino Airport Contamination Monitoring Tab Mounting

(April 12) The cost of monitoring the spread of contamination from Chino Airport has escalated.
This week, the county board of supervisors upped its contract with an environmental services company from $964,100 to $1,695,880 for work relating to an assessment of the extent of the underground pollution at and around the airfield.
San Bernardino-based Tetra Tech, Inc. was given a previous contract for that work, necessitated by known contamination of the water table around the airport, including a perchloroethylene and trichloroethene (PCE/TCE) plume. Subsequently, it was discovered that fifty-one drums of what is believed to have been napalm were buried at Chino Airport decades ago and remained there until they were discovered in 2010, according to documents in the possession of the Sentinel.
Leakage from those drums partially accounts for the pollution of the area’s aquifer, technicians say.
On the afternoon of July 22, 2010, three buried drums were discovered at the airport during trenching for installation of a storm drain pipeline for a new Southern California Edison facility. The county of San Bernardino Department of Airports was notified and it contacted the county fire department’s hazardous materials division and Tetra Tech, with which the county has an ongoing contract for environmental assessment.  Tetra Tech retained Double Barrel, a commercial hazardous materials emergency responder, to assess the situation.
Additional drums were discovered that day and by sunset on July 22, 2010, eight buried drums had been removed from the excavation. The drums did not have lids and contained soil on top of a tan resinous material. The contents of the drums were field tested using a chemical identification kit and determined to be a non-explosive, flammable, non-corrosive, organic resin-type material.
Soil samples were delivered to Microbac Laboratory in Riverside for analysis. Results of those tests indicated that high concentrations of benzene were present in all of the samples. Benzene concentrations ranging from 1,600 milligrams/kilogram (mg/kg) to 6,800 mg/kg were detected in the resinous material in the drums. The benzene concentration in the soil sample was 170 mg/kg. Also detected were toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, styrene, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, and naphthalene. The tan resinous material appeared to be a jellied fuel mixture.
On July 28, 2010, a geophysical survey was conducted in an effort to locate any additional buried drums. During the survey, anomalies were found in several areas to the east and west of the original excavation, and were marked as possible targets for further investigation. Tetra Tech formulated a removal strategy and submitted it to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board office in Riverside on August 9, 2010 and the staff for the board provided same-day verbal approval of that plan.  Excavation and removal of the remaining drums was conducted between August 16 and August 25, 2010. A total of 51 drums, several aluminum canisters and pieces of wood were removed from the excavation and placed into six vapor tight closed top roll-off bins. Excavated soil without obvious contamination was stockpiled and additional soil was excavated from beneath the drums, placed in stockpiles and covered. The resulting excavation measured approximately 100 feet from east to west and 20 feet from north to south. The bottom of the excavation varied from 10 to 15 feet below ground surface.
Well prior to these events, on October 17, 2006, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved a $200,000 contract with Tetra Tech to conduct a ground water assessment of the water table at the Chino Airport and investigate possible sources of contamination from the airport property. On September 11, 2007, the board approved a $200,000 amendment to extend the assessment services, including investigation, characterization, testing and quarterly report preparation required to identify and mitigate soil and water contamination together with preparing bid documents for an additional 24 months. On September 22, 2009, the board approved a $185,000 amendment to extend the assessment services an additional 12 months to continue the same efforts. A third amendment in the amount of $148,000 was approved by the board on February 15, 2011 to continue investigation, characterization, testing report preparation through February 2012 and perform historical research. On December 13, 2011, the board approved a $231,100 amendment to provide continued inspection and testing services and quarterly sampling/reports.
As a result of Tetra Tech’s work to this point, the county has now completed its required work to characterize the extent of the offsite plume and has filed a timely report with the California Regional Water Quality Control Board. The cleanup and abatement order now requires the county to do more work to investigate sources of contamination on the airport property that are contaminating the groundwater.
This week, the board voted to make a fifth amendment to the contract with Tetra Tech, Inc., increasing the total contract amount by  $731,780 from $964,100 to $1,695,880 and extending the contract through April 30, 2015 for professional services related to required compliance with the cleanup and abatement order, including historical site assessment, Phase ll environmental site assessments, environmental compliance audits and the ongoing annual monitoring program.
According to James E. Jenkins, the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Airports,  “At times, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board staff have expressed some frustration with the time being taken by the county to come into compliance with the orders. Unfortunately, this resulted in the issuance of a notice of violation on March 28, 2012. The informed and competent representation by Tetra Tech was essential to the county being released by the water board in February 2013 from the obligation to submit monthly status reports on the county’s compliance with its clean-up and abatement orders. These efforts resulted in the water board rescinding the notice of violation. Tetra Tech has proven to be a successful advocate and credible representative of the county to the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and this continued representation will be of great value to the county as it works to complete the investigation at the airport property.”
Jenkins said the contamination survey and cleanup effort at Chino Airport has been complicated by the emergence of information, such as that represented by the discovery of the drums of napalm. “At that time, neither the actual extent nor the chemical make-up of the plume was known, and little was known about contamination on the airport property,” Jenkins said. “The work started by Tetra Tech over the last 6 1/2 years has identified the extent of the plume and its chemical make-up and has identified suspected source areas of contamination. The time needed to complete this part of the work was sometimes delayed by off-site access and permitting problems, but also it appears now that the original time estimation was simply too short to complete the work required by the California Water Quality Control Board. In order to maintain compliance with the water board orders, it is now necessary to extend the contract with Tetra Tech to continue the investigation work on the airport property to locate and identify the sources of the contaminants in the plume.”
Tetra Tech will collect water samples from each of the 33 previously installed monitoring wells at and around the airport, test the samples collected; compile and evaluate the data obtained on a quarterly basis; and prepare reports as mandated by the water board.

Yucca Valley Council Refuses To Endorse Leone’s Town Commission Nominations

Robert Leone, who returned to the town council last month after a four-and-a-half year hiatus following a special election to choose resigned councilman Isaac Hagerman’s replacement, was unable to get either of his commission choices approved by his colleagues.
After outdistancing Michael Hildebrand and Jennifer Collins in the March 5 election, Leone was due to make his appointment to the park, recreation and cultural commission and planning commission. Those appointees will serve terms concurrent with Hagerman’s underlying term which Leone will now fill. That term will end in December 2014, with an election due in November 2014. Approval of a council member’s commission appointments has traditionally been a formality in Yucca Valley, where council members normally ratify one another’s appointments with little question or fanfare.
Right off, however, Leone ran into opposition when he nominated Curt Duffy to replace Hildebrand as a member of the planning commission. Not one member of the council seconded Leone’s motion to elevate Duffy. With that issue temporarily unresolved, Leone went on nominate former councilwoman Lori Herbel to the park, recreation and cultural commission. Councilman George Huntington seconded Leone’s motion, but no vote on her appointment was taken. Leone wanted Herbel to replace Collins.
When it became clear that the council would not accept Duffy, Leone relented and nominated Hildebrand to remain on the commission for the next 19 months. That motion passed unanimously.
Councilwoman Dawn Rowe said that Leone had not given adequate consideration to the several qualified applicants for the positions and that she wanted to resist a nomination process that was pre-determined and not transparent.
Mayor Merl Abel said he wanted to avoid the specter of a backroom deal that would hang over the council if it had gone along with Leone’s nominations. Huntington suggested that Duffy had not been a resident of Yucca Valley long enough to merit appointment to the planning commission.
Whereas Rowe and Abel’s statements hinted that the balance of the council’s support of Leone’s nominations would have been improper, Leone was of the opinion that his fellow council members’ stony silence in the face of his nomination of Duffy and their collective unwillingness to support either of his preferred appointments indicated connivance on their part.
“I find it very strange that all of them were on the same page and I could not even get a second to my motion so we could at least discuss Curt Duffy’s merits,” Leone said. “I think he is a very capable and intelligent person who will make decisions on a fiscal level as well as with regard to good land use. He availed himself to the town and we did not even hold a serious discussion about his qualifications. I think George Huntington said he doesn’t live here or hasn’t lived here that long. Well, he does live here and he owns a home here. I have been on the council before and I never encountered that before. It makes you wonder if a Brown Act violation took place. I don’t know that I can go that far, to say there was some behind-the-scenes collusion that took place. I don’t want to say that and I am not saying that. I am going to have to work with the rest of the council for the next 20 months and I don’t want to accuse them. It just makes you wonder why they were suddenly very silent when I made my nomination.”
The Brown Act is California’s open meeting law which prohibits a quorum of elected officials from discussing public business or arriving at a decision outside the forum of an official public hearing.
Leone said he moved to keep Hildebrand on the planning commission when it became obvious he would not be able to get Duffy approved. He said he could live with Hildebrand remaining in place.  “He’s a nice young man,” Leone said of Hildebrand. “Why not retain him? He has grown into the position. Charles McHenry was another possible choice, but he would have been a new person on the commission and would have had to backfill a lot of information.”
In an unexpected development, Hildebrand on April 8 tendered  his resignation from the planning commission, citing his increased work schedule.
So, while Leone said he would have been comfortable with Hildebrand remaining as planning commissioner, he was not prepared to keep Collins as his appointment to the parks, recreation and cultural commission.
“A lot of negative things against me came out of her mouth during the election campaign,” Leone said. “She directly accused me of things that I know were not true. She seems to be against what I stand for. That is why I wanted Lori Herbel.”
Leone said the difficulty he is having getting his commission appointments approved is probably attributable to his problematic relationship with the town manager, Mark Nuami.
He said he believes the town council has fallen too heavily Nuami’s sway and are allowing him to set the agenda for the town rather than adhering to their elected duty of developing a vision for the community and setting policy for local governance and having the city manager execute on that vision and policy.
“I just got elected to fill out the rest of Isaac Hagerman’s term for the next 19 months,” Leone said. “I think the people want a change from what we have. Mark Nuami is a bright young man and he has a lot of pull with the council. Unfortunately, a lot of his moves are duplicating the same baggage as he had in Fontana, where he was mayor. He wants to select people for the two commissions using the power of his office. I think he is running the town into the ground. He is pulling the town in a direction people don’t want to go. The town council is going along with him. They have given him a raise to almost $300,000. That has upset a lot of people in a town where the median income is somewhere between $35,000 to $42,000. At the same time the town is cutting programs. I think people believe we are spending our money on a lot of the wrong things.”
Leone said he will work to fill the two vacant commission spots as soon as possible.
“I am accepting applications for the planning commission and the parks, recreation and cultural commission, pending printed notification in the newspaper,” Leone said.

Cable Tells Upland Inflexibility On Stale Liens Will End In Lawsuit

(April 12) Bob Cable, the owner of Cable Airport in Upland, on April 8 sternly warned the Upland City Council that he is on a collision course with the city over city staff’s unwillingness to remove a long dormant lien against his property.
“We are possibly going to litigation on that,” Cable said. “I bet you don’t know. I’m here to tell you now. Upland touts itself as a business friendly city. I do not see it from where I sit. I have been working for six months to get two liens that are more than 35 years old removed. Hopefully you will end this foolishness before it costs the city a lot of money.”
Cable later explained to the Sentinel, “We are refinancing some construction loans on hangers. Wells Fargo was doing some in-depth title research and came across two liens and an operating agreement, all three of which are over 35 years old. The operating agreement gave the city the right to run the airport if we ever failed to do so. We have consistently kept the airport operating and that agreement has been removed. One of the liens was for streetlights, sidewalks and trees along Benson Avenue near the entrance to the airport. The streetlights and sidewalks were put in long ago and the trees cannot be placed there because of how close it is to being beneath the flight path and the city has given us word that it will release that lien. The other lien applies to where decades ago we built a row of hangars within six feet of the property line and the lien called for the construction of an 800 foot-long block wall there as a separation. The lien called for it to be reviewed every five years. The block wall was never constructed and the city never said anything until we brought it up. Now the city wants us to indemnify them forever. My position is that I didn’t keep up with the terms and the city did not keep up with the terms, so neither of us should be responsible and the lien itself should be null and void. Those liens are so old they should be thrown out. Nobody kept them up for 35 years, so why is it a big deal now? I want this to go away and I made every effort to inform the city of the situation and come to a reasonable resolution. The first two issues are taken care of but when we came to the second lien, the city attorney’s attitude is ‘We’ll see you in court.”
Part of the problem, Cable said, is that the city’s paramount decision making body, the city council, “doesn’t know what is going on.”
Cable continued, “Typically city staff are the only ones who know what the situation is until the day of the council meeting or just a few days before, when the council gets the staff report. And the council almost always goes with the recommendation in the staff report. Then, if that decision is to become litigious, it becomes a closed session item from there on and they remain isolated from the information they need to make an informed decision. I went there on Monday because I was pretty sure that the council at that point had no clue as to what is going on and it looks that once again they are going to end up in a situation they do not need to be in where they spend tens of thousands of dollars or hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.”
The problem is exacerbated, Cable said, by the city having a new city attorney who is not fully acclimated to the city, does not have a full grasp of the situation or the city’s history and is seeking to establish her place in the municipal pecking order while simultaneously generating billable hours for her law firm.
“I don’t want to get into a lawsuit,” Cable said. “I don’t think the city wants to get into a lawsuit. Those liens are so old and neglected, I think the court will just throw them out. I’m not going to back down. I went directly before the city council because they are the ones that make the ultimate decision. We’ll see in two weeks if they make the right decision and keep the city out of a lawsuit.”
Attempts to reach Upland City Manager Stephen Dunn for  comment were unsuccessful.

Chad Mays Contemplating Run For State Assembly In The 42nd District

Chad Mayes, chief of staff for San Bernardino County Second District Supervisor Janice Rutherford and a former mayor and councilman in Yucca Valley, has declared his intention of running for the California State Assembly in the 42nd District.
Yucca Valley Councilwoman and former mayor Dawn Rowe held a fundraiser for Mayes on April 7.
Calling himself a “committed Christian,” Mayes said he “will be a strong voice of pro-life legislation in Sacramento.”
Mayes made early declaration of his candidacy as part of an effort to succeed Brian Nestande, the Republican incumbent in the 42nd Assembly District, who is now serving his third term and must leave the Assembly at the end of this term because of the term limit rule that applies to current incumbents.

Precipitous Rise In Heroin Use Among Affluent Teenagers In Upland

(April 5) Upland, which lies at the base of Mt. San Antonio and is known as the City of Gracious Living, is one of  San Bernardino County’s more upscale communities. Situated between the well-to-do college town of Claremont to the west and more modern but equally affluent Rancho Cucamonga to the east and imperiously standing uphill from Ontario and Montclair to the south, the city boasts bustling commercial corridors along its major east-west arterial, Foothill Boulevard, i.e., Old Route 66, as well as down Mountain Avenue, which Intersects Route 66. Upland’s showcase feature is Euclid Avenue, with its 65-and-one-half-foot wide median that once was the route for a trolley car that ran from Ontario up to the base of Mount San Antonio. The median, with pepper trees planted by community founder George Chaffey back in the late 1800’s, lies between the rows of impressive houses lining  the east and west sides of Euclid, seemingly  competing with one another as statements of grandeur, a number of which cross over into the category of mansions as Euclid reaches San Antonio Heights.
Nevertheless, the stately homes, the impeccably manicured lawns, and the overall veneer of gentility belies a darker and seedier reality: In Upland, the use of heroin among teenagers and young adults is running at epidemic proportions, surpassing all other cities in the county, indeed beyond that of inner city neighborhoods in the most crime ridden sections of Los Angeles.
A paradox lies at the root of the problem, one that has turned conventional wisdom upside down. Most assume drug use, and particularly hard narcotic use, to be the province of the lower classes.  The reality, however, is that the children of the well-heeled are particularly vulnerable to predatory drug dealers because their parents’ affluence in many cases enables them, at least in the primary stages of their addiction, to support their habits.
The city of Upland is not much different from most other Southern California cities in that it has its own impoverished class, with 9.1% of its families and 12% of the population living below the poverty line. Some 30,490 of the city’s total 73,732 population, or 41.4%, live in rental housing units. A significant number of those, however, live south of Foothill Boulevard. It is those households and their less impressive earning power which brings down the median Upland household income to $48,734, and the median income for a family living in Upland to $57,471. Remarkably, the use of heroin among young people is virtually unheard of among youths living in the poorer section of town.
North of Euclid is a different story. Median income there increases to $83,458 per household and $92,601 per family. Throughout the city, according to the 2010 Census, 65.6% percent of Upland’s population is categorized as white. North of Foothill, more than 80 percent of the residents fall into that category.
Among those upper middle class and even wealthy predominately Caucasian families in northern Upland, an alarming number of children of high school age have sampled or experimented with opiates of one kind or another or have been exposed to peers and classmates who have done so. In many cases, casual use has grown into addiction.
Readily available among Upland High Students are prescription opiates such as oxycodone, which is widely known by its commercial name, OxyContin;  percocet, which is also known as endocet; dextropropoxyphene, also known as Darvocet or propoxyphene; and codeine. Morphine, for reasons that are not entirely clear, does not appear to be widely distributed among teens in Upland.
Simultaneously, heroin in many forms is available. White heroin, brown heroin, black tar heroin and opium paste can be had with relative ease.
Beginners are likely to smoke heroin in their initial experience with it. Snorting, i.e., sniffing or inhaling it, is also a way neophytes acclimate themselves to the drug, which can induce nausea. Users report that the drug taken in quantity initially can prove unpleasant, with nausea and vomiting being a common side effect. Some experimenters with the drug never make it beyond that stage because of the unpleasant feeling it can initially induce in some. Those who persist with it, however, invariably find it insidiously inviting even if the nausea persists, as all opiates work on the central nervous system to block any sensation of pain by interrupting  neurotransmission.  Use of the drug can in a relatively short period result in psychological dependence, tolerance and addiction. As use continues, physiological dependence can set in to the point that ceasing use can result in withdrawal symptoms that include severe pain, nausea, intractable headache, alternating chills and heat flashes, extreme irritability and muscle, joint and bone ache.
In time, users typically gravitate to injecting the drug intravenously.
In some cases within Upland, though reportedly mostly just across the city limits, purveyors of heroin have set up shop, targeting it seems, Upland youth specifically, apparently as a consequence of their access to money to purchase the drug.  The Sentinel is informed  that “major” dealers operate out of  San Antonio Heights, the unincorporated county area just north of Upland, and Rancho Cucamonga, in particular an apartment complex there. Both San Antonio Heights and the city of Rancho Cucamonga draw their law enforcement service from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.
No hard statistics about the prevalence of heroin use among Upland youth is available from any public sources. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests the problem is widespread.
Horror stories of children as young as 15 being caught in a near death grip of addiction abound. The family of one Upland  16-year-old learned of his affinity to heroin only after he was using $150 worth of the drug per day. He was taken to a clinic in Orange County, where he was subjected to treatment that mitigated but did not entirely reduce the excruciating ordeal of withdrawal. His mother, who with his father removed the boy to a private school outside of Upland to isolate him from his peers, told the Sentinel “I pray every day he will stay clean.”
Another father, who owns a business and residence in Upland, told the Sentinel he was startled to learn that both of his teenage children, students at Upland High, were smoking heroin regularly, along with opium paste when it was available. Divorced from the children’s mother, his method of dealing with the problem was to curtail both his son’s and daughter’s freedom, ensuring that they came directly to his place of business after school, where they went to work under his watchful eye.
Many Upland parents, it seems, are oblivious to their child’s or children’s use of or addiction to heroin. Some miss or fail to recognize the tell-tale signs and symptoms of heroin use. The generous monetary allowances some parents provide to their children allow the younger set to experiment with the drug and gradually fall into its clutches. With the development of a more serious habit or addiction, the monetary demand of sustaining heroin use can lead to ongoing or episodic theft, acts which can betray to parents, eventually, that something is amiss. When parents become aware of such a situation, they find themselves in a terrible quandary. Even the most resourceful parent is ill equipped to deal with a child’s drug addiction. But bringing in law enforcement or other public authorities to deal with the issue can result in criminal charges being filed against their child or children.  For that reason, many go it alone, struggling to resolutions of greater or lesser effectiveness in overcoming the challenge. Others turn to professionals, doctors or clinics offering  a specialized practice in overcoming heroin dependence, utilizing a multitude of detoxing strategies, including substituting codeine, methadone or  buprenorphine for heroin and gradually weaning the patient from those substances, which likewise have withdrawal implications, though less violent and less intense than heroin withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Upland city officials have been pursuing a drug enforcement policy that was in some measure out of step with the serious inroads achieved by heroin pervaders in the community.
Between 2009 and 2012, the city expended just over $420,000 in an effort to prevent G3 Holistics, a marijuana clinic which opened in 2009, from operating in Upland. The city succeeded in temporarily closing down the G3 Collective in August 2010 after the city filed an injunction in West Valley Superior Court in Rancho Cucamonga, but that injunction was stayed by G3 owner Aaron Sandusky’s immediate appeal of the city’s blanket prohibition of medical marijuana dispensaries. On November 9, 2011 the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Riverside ruled that Upland’s banning of clinics did not contradict Proposition 215, the 1996 law that approved medical marijuana in the state, but Sandusky appealed that ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Ultimately, the city’s legal efforts against the clinic failed to shutter the operation, as the matter remained unresolved in the state court system, complicated by the consideration that in 1996 California Voters legalized the provision of marijuana to medical patents in possession of a valid prescription from a licensed physician as a consequence of the passage of Proposition 215. Ultimately, Sandusky was forced to close his operation not through the effort of the city but rather through action of the federal government, in the form of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, who undertook a November 2011 raid against the G3 clinic and then followed up with a prosecution of Sandusky and his associates in federal court, obtaining a conviction and prison sentence against Sandusky under the much more stringent and less ambiguous federal law.
Thus, the $420,000 legal effort against Sandusky proved to be superfluous and diverted money to the city attorney’s office that might have been provided to the police department to beef up operations devoted to dampening, if not eradicating, the contagion of heroin use among Upland’s youth.
Upland Police Chief Jeff Mendenhall, while not denying the existence of a heroin use problem among the city’s youth, offered his view that “I’m not aware that it’s limited to Upland.” He said that describing the situation as an epidemic is “not a fair” characterization. “I don’t know how much is being used in Upland on a daily basis,” he said. He expressed skepticism that the elevated use of heroin or other opiates in Upland could be attributed to the affluence of the families of those who have fallen under its sway.
With regard to whether he believed the city’s energetic and relatively well funded efforts to drive medical marijuana clinics in general and one such clinic specifically out of town squandered monetary resources that might have been better directed to intensifying enforcement efforts aimed at heroin trafficking and use as well as other hard narcotics, Mendenhall said such a question “puts me in a box I do not want to get into. Marijuana is not only a federal issue, it is a state issue and local issue. The city council sets policy. Their position was the G-3 clinic violated the zoning code and they tried to rectify that. I support them on that.”
Mendenhall said he would ask the department’s narcotics division to make recent heroin-related operations and arrest data and records available to the Sentinel, but that material was not provided by press time.
Upland’s narcotics division functions under the aegis of a joint task force with the Ontario Police Department, which is headed by a lieutenant employed by Ontario PD. There have been suggestions that with narcotics operations headquartered and supervised outside the city, those calling the shots may be less sensitive to the nuances within the Upland community than are Upland police officers who constantly work the city’s streets and are answerable under a hierarchy based within the police department.
Former Upland Police Chief Martin Thouvenell told the Sentinel that heroin is not a new law enforcement issue in the City of Gracious Living.
“When I first started with the department and was working patrol, that was a pretty big problem,” he said. “We had a lot of that on Campus (Avenue) south of Thirteenth (Street). We pretty much cleaned that up. I can’t say what geographical area they would have gone to now. “
That heroin has made a comeback does not surprise him, Thouvenell said. Nor did he believe that it was necessarily the case that heroin had become a drug of affluence in Upland, though he acknowledged sustaining such a habit was expensive.
“Drug use and the types of drugs that are prevalent are cyclical in nature,” he said. “You will see trends come and go.”
He did not jump to the conclusion that a task force based outside the city is at a disadvantage in addressing an uptick in heroin use within northern Upland.
“I can tell you that at the time I was a member, our narcotics task involved Upland and Montclair, and we pretty much spent equal time in each city. Just because a task force is based in one geographical area doesn’t mean that the effort would be slanted. They will go to the area were the problems are. Even if the task force is based in Ontario, I would think they will be responding to the trouble spots in Upland.”

Urban Futures To Fill Finance Department Gap In SB

(April 5) The city of San Bernardino has filled the finance department vacuum created when former finance director Jason Simpson resigned in February, this week hiring the municipal service consulting firm Urban Futures to oversee the city’s fiscal affairs.
Simpson departed nearly two months ago, leaving the bankrupt city around the same time that acting city manager Andrea Travis-Miller departed.
In multiple ways, those departures left San Bernardino in the lurch. The city, which filed for bankruptcy protection in August, is staggering under a $47 million budget deficit and has lost 535 employees through layoffs, attrition or firings since 2008.
The finance department is a crucial cog in the city’s bankruptcy bid, as multiple entities are challenging the filing. The  city’s pendency plan, which calls for stringent economies and cost and expenditure reductions, needs to be fastidiously documented to continually pass muster with the court.
Urban Futures, which is based in Orange, offers consulting services to municipalities, school districts and other governmental agencies in the areas of public finance, bond issuances, bond disclosure reporting, utilities, capital improvement planning, economic development, housing analysis and housing compliance.
The company has been doing consulting work for the city since last year, having undertaken and completed the financial report that the city council relied upon in making the decision to proceed with the city’s bankruptcy filing.
The city had not replaced Simpson, nor had it filled other vacancies in the finance department. Urban Futures had already been taking up that slack. Acting city manager Allen Parker called upon the city council this week to formalize an arrangement with the consulting firm to act as the city’s de facto finance department.
Parker had started with a more modest proposal to have an Urban Futures employee serve as finance director. As Urban Futures employees began to dig in on the backlog of finance work, including generating court-ready documents and financial statements, completing audits, making ongoing year adjustments to the budget, and preparing the 2013-14 budget, Parker was informed that the staffing requirements were greater than he had presumed.
The city council on April 1 committed the city to utilizing three Urban Futures personnel as the city’s finance director, budget manager and fiscal officer at an annual cost of $450,000. All three are to work out of offices at San Bernardino City Hall. Urban futures then prevailed upon the city to hire another Urban Futures employee to serve as the city’s contract administrator and to augment the finance department team by having the city hire two new employees to work for the city directly as accountants outside the rubric of the contract with Urban Futures.

Chino Hills Commits $76 M, Opposes Double Circuit In SCE Line PUC Testimony

CHINO HILLS – Chino Hills City Manager Mike Fleager last month told the California Public Utilities Commission that the city stands ready to make a financial commitment of as much as $76.7 million to mitigate Southern California Edison’s costs to ensure that a major portion of the transmission lines for the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project are placed underground.
Slightly over five miles of the 173-mile Tehachapi line, connecting what is planned as the world’s largest windfarm consisting of hundreds of electricity producing windmills in Kern County to the Los Angeles Metropolitan basin, will run through  Chino Hills. In 2009, the California Public Utilities Commission, over the city of Chino Hills’ protest, granted Southern California Edison clearance to erect a series of 197-foot high power transmission towers through the heart of 44.7-square mile Chino Hills along a long-existing power corridor easement owned by the utility.
Fearing a host of problems from the imposition of the towers, including significant negative impacts on property values in the city, the Chino Hills City Council authorized the expenditure of over $2.3 million to employ attorneys and make other efforts to contest the Public Utility Commission’s action, including a suit against Southern California Edison alleging the company had “overburdened” the power line easements. That legal effort failed when West Valley Superior Court Judge Keith D. Davis ruled the California Public Utilities Commission has exclusive jurisdiction regarding the route used by Edison, and the suit was thrown out. Chino Hills appealed Davis’s ruling to the 4th District Court of Appeal, asserting the city had the right to have the case heard by a jury, but in September 2011 the appeals court affirmed Davis’ decision.
In 2011, Edison, which has long had a 150-foot wide right-of-way for its power lines that runs for 5.8 miles from Tonner Canyon to the Riverside County line, erected 18 of the towers within Chino Hills before a city appeal to the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Public Utilities Commission Chairman Michael Peevey in particular succeeded in a temporary halt to the towers’ construction being granted in November 2011 while a potential undergrounding alternative is explored.
On February 28, the California Public Utilities Commission directed Southern California Edison to proceed with its plans to bury its transmission lines for the Tehachapi Renewable Energy Project along a 3.5 mile portion of the five mile length the lines will run through Chino Hills. No final decision on whether the electrical cables will be undergrounded was made, with that determination now scheduled for July. In the meantime, the commission is taking testimony and considering all order of submissions from Southern California Edison, the city of Chino Hills and other interested parties related to the undergrounding issue.
In November, Southern California Edison (SCE) filed a proposal by which it would be able to recover any money it put into exploring the undergrounding options. The commission’s February 28 directive to have SCE seriously consider the undergrounding options  contained a provision for Southern California Edison to recover its costs in proceeding with the planning for undergrounding the cables in the event the commission this summer elects to remain with the already-approved game plan of utilizing an above-ground conveyance of the electricity.
Also on February 28, SCE provided the commission with a tentative contracting report relating to the undergrounding.
On March 20, Fleager, representing Chino Hills, provided testimony to the commission intended to inform its ultimate decision in July as to whether the line will be undergrounded through that 3.5 mile span within the city.
In his testimony, Fleager stated, “The towers, given their mammoth nature, both in height and girth, pervade all aspects of city life. The city and its residents were taken by surprise by the enormous size and impact of the towers. It is the city’s position that an underground transmission alternative is vastly preferable to the overhead project supported by SCE. Such an alternative should allow the project to go forward absent the harmful impacts to our community and to the residents.”
Fleager told the commission that if it determined that the lines should be buried underground, the commission “would ordinarily require SCE to pay the entire cost of the underground transmission line. Chino Hills opposes any attempt by SCE to assert that the city or its residents should be directly required to pay for the transmission line. That said, however, Chino Hills was directed [by the commission] as part of its testimony to “identify, clarify and quantify any financial commitment it is prepared to make to minimize the total additional cost of an underground option. In accordance with this directive, the city has prepared a package of financial commitments that the city is prepared to make to reduce the additional cost of an underground option. In total, the commitment is in the range of $70.45 million to $76.7 million. They include real property that is necessary for the construction of an underground transmission line which the city is prepared to convey to SCE in fee; future  revenue which the city would have derived which will now be available to SCE through ownership of such properties; increased expenses that the city will incur due to its loss of the use of the contributed properties; and costs associated with the landscaping and maintenance of those properties that are located in the right-of-way.  The city of Chino Hills is proposing to incur these costs, thereby reducing the ongoing cost to SCE and other ratepayers.”
Fleager said the land he referenced included 67.2 acres for right-of-way, 46.5 acres of which the city currently owns and the remainder of which it will need to purchase from private owners, as well as a 2.77-acre parcel that will be provided to SCE to host its Western Transition Station. Fleager said the revenue the city will lose would include leases of the property to Verizon and AT&T for cell phone towers.
At one point in his testimony, Fleager appeared to provoke at least a mild degree of consternation from the commission when he expressed opposition to SCE’s underground configuration that would entail two transmission cables.
After obtaining  Fleager’s acknowledgement that the undergrounding  project will entail for SCE  considerable expense and  for Chino Hills residents  “substantial disruptions of their daily lives… road closures, increases in noise levels… huge pieces of equipment being brought into and out of their neighborhoods… major amounts of dust and dirt kicked up into the air by the construction activity,” the commission inquired why the city was averse to laying into the right-of-way a double circuit line, thus doubling the electrical carrying capacity available to SCE, creating an economy of scale and obviating the future need to tear up the right-of-way and put in another line in the future.
“The underground proposal that the city is advancing calls for the replacement of an above ground double circuit transmission structure with a single circuit below ground line, correct?” the commission asked Fleager.
“Yes, it is my understanding that even SCE has stated that a double circuit transmission line is not needed at this time.,” Fleager responded.
The city manager’s response prompted a follow-up question.  “If at a future date it is determined that a double circuit is needed, then the city would once again be subject to significant disruption during the time period that the second circuit is installed. Would not the residents rather have the second circuit constructed now, rather than suffer yet another disruption to their daily lives in the future?” the commission asked.
Fleager responded “Absolutely not. The city and its residents have one goal – removal of the 200 foot transmission structures which SCE has constructed through the city. The city believes the single circuit underground transmission alternative represents the most cost-effective means of achieving this goal. In putting forward this solution, the city, however, recognizes that it may be necessary at some time in the future for SCE to install a second circuit. If that occurs, the community understands that once again there will be disruption to their lives resulting from the construction activity associated with the installation of the second circuit. The community believes that the temporary disruption this will cause is a small price to pay to ensure the removal of the overhead transmission structures.”
In elaborating on that point, Fleager dwelled at some length over the future inconvenience installing a second line will entail for Chino Hills residents and their willingness to endure it, but made no reference to the added cost such an undertaking would represent for SCE, totaling in the scores of millions of dollars.
“City officials, including myself,” Fleager said, “have had numerous conversations with residents and leaders of the community groups advocating removal of the towers, and we are confident in stating that the community as a whole is willing to put up with the inconvenience of underground construction activity for a relatively limited period of time in order to avoid permanent installation of the overhead transmission lines.”
Indications are that the undergrounding of the lines being considered will extend over a three-and-a-half mile span through Chino Hills and that the lines will remain above ground for the 1.5 miles they will must traverse through Oak Tree Downs.
In his testimony, Fleager indicated that city expenditures in seeking to prevent the towers from being erected went well beyond the $2.3 million in lawyers’ fees expended on lawsuits and administrative petitions. Fleager said the city has spent $3.4 million to “research, investigate and document alternative transmission routes and configurations.”
Other interested parties have a deadline of today to submit testimony. SCE is expected to submit rebuttal testimony on April 12, accompanied by the submittal of cross rebuttal testimony the same day. From April 22 to April 25, the commission will hold evidentiary hearings related to the Tehachapi line through Chino Hills at the State Office Building at 505 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.