County Lays Claim to $33.8 Million In RDA Money Seized By The State

February 25)  The county of San Bernardino has moved to claim $33,818,415 it maintains it is due back from the state in the aftermath of the shuttering of its redevelopment agency in 2011.
In 2011, the state legislature at Governor Jerry Brown’s instigation passed legislation, ABX1 26, closing out the more than 400 municipal and county redevelopment agencies in California.
Redevelopment agencies were formerly adjuncts to local governments which were chartered to reduce blight in those communities and generate economic development. They were empowered to utilize money available from the state and federal government, otherwise obtain loans or financing, or to use their own authority to issue bonds, the proceeds from which were used to eliminate blight and build infrastructure. The improvements from this redevelopment activity would then, theoretically, result in an increase in the value of the property within those redevelopment agency project areas. The increased property tax revenue from those areas would  be used to pay back the loans or debt service the bonds, that is, pay the bondholders.
The law called for the creation of successor agencies to the defunct redevelopment agencies, which would then oversee the discharging of the redevelopment agencies’ debt.
This week, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement between the successor agency to the county redevelopment agency and the county to have the successor agency pay back $12,180,971 in outstanding loans from the county to its redevelopment agency. Those loans included one to the Cedar Glen Redevelopment Project Area of $10,365,000 and another to the Mission Blvd. Redevelopment Project Area of $50,000. In addition to principal on those loans, the first had accrued $1,755,628 in interest to reflect a debt of $12,120,628 and the second had accrued  $10,343 in interest to reach a total debt of $60,343.
The county claims that under a law passed after the redevelopment agencies were closed out, Assembly Bill 1484, the obligations the loans involved could be reestablished if it is demonstrated the loans were made for a legitimate redevelopment purpose.
Those loans thus now stand as enforceable obligations, according to the county, and the California Department of Finance is obliged to make those payments in full to the county.
Furthermore, according to the county, it is applying to have the successor agency to its redevelopment agency transfer all remaining funds, estimated to be $21,637,444 of outstanding successor agency bond proceeds to the county relating to bonds issued for redevelopment efforts in Cedar Glen and San Sevaine.
Cedar Glen lies within the San Bernardino Mountains and San Sevaine is in the unincorporated area between and north of the Rancho Cucamonga/Fontana city limits.
According to Dena Fuentes, the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Community Development and Housing, the aforementioned Assembly Bill 1484 gives the board of supervisors the authority to “act as the governing body of the successor agency to the redevelopment agency of the county of San Bernardino [to] adopt a resolution approving the agreement regarding expenditure of bond proceeds between the successor agency to the redevelopment agency of the county of San Bernardino and the county of San Bernardino  for the transfer of all remaining funds, estimated to be $21,637,444 of outstanding successor’s agency bond proceeds to the county, to be expended in a manner consistent with original bond covenants.”
That money, Fuentes said, included $4,756,226 in Cedar Glen Tax Exempt Bonds, $3,810,122 in San Sevaine Tax Exempt Bonds, and $13,071,096 in San Sevaine Taxable Bonds.

Moving SBSO Air Fleet From Rialto To SB International

(February 25)  After years of delays, the county board of supervisors this week officially committed to relocating the sheriff’s department’s aviation division from Rialto Airport to San Bernardino International Airport.
Upon the recommendation of David Slaughter, the director of the county’s real estate department, and sheriff John McMahon, the county entered into a 25-year lease and fuel service agreement with the San Bernardino International Airport Authority for an approximately 61,640  square foot aviation facility consisting of a 27,500 square foot aircraft maintenance hangar, a 22,500 square foot storage hangar and 11,640 square feet of office space on approximately eight acres of land.
The county also signed a work agreement with the authority for the completion of 348,639 square feet of site work improvements.
San Bernardino International Airport is located on the grounds of the now shuttered Norton Air Force Base, lying between the cities of Highland and San Bernardino and north of Loma Linda. The airport is owned and operated by a joint powers agency, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, which consists of the county of San Bernardino, and the cities of Highland, Colton, Loma Linda and San Bernardino.
According to a report to the board of supervisors jointly submitted by McMahon and Slaughter, “This item is for a twenty-five year lease with San Bernardino International Airport Authority for a new aviation facility for the sheriff consisting of 50,000 square feet of hangar space for aircraft storage and maintenance, 11,640 square feet for office space and other aviation related site improvements on approximately eight acres located at San Bernardino International Airport in San Bernardino because of the need to relocate from the soon-to-be closed Rialto Municipal Airport and provide additional hangar and office space to accommodate the expanded aviation needs of the sheriff.”
On July 5, 1977, the board of supervisors approved a twenty-year lease agreement with the city of Rialto for 6.77 acres of land at the Rialto Municipal Airport for rent of $1 per year. The county constructed a 12,750 square foot aviation facility for the sheriff to store and maintain fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, and conduct aviation operations. In the thirty-seven years since the lease was originally approved, the board approved two amendments adding language regarding use of the airport and extend the term thirty years to the current lease termination date of June 30, 2027.
In 2007, however, the continuation of the sheriff’s department’s aviation operations at Rialto Airport was attenuated when the city of Rialto and its redevelopment agency entered into a development agreement with Hillwood/Lewis, LLC, pursuant to which the Rialto Municipal Airport would be decommissioned and the site redeveloped for non-aviation related uses.
At that point the county’s real estate services department and the sheriff began searching for a new location from which its aviation division, the 28th largest air fleet in the world, could be operated. According to McMahon and Slaughter, “The parameters for the search were based on response times, weather conditions (ground fog, wind), sufficient ground to construct a larger facility to provide on-going maintenance and storage for ten helicopters, four fixed wing aircraft and six command post/trailer vehicles, and the overall cost for a new facility.”
San Bernardino International Airport, Chino Airport, Ontario International Airport and a site in Redlands were identified as potential locations for a new facility. County chief executive officer Greg Devereux was a strong proponent for basing the sheriff’s air fleet at Chino Airport. All other participants in the process, however, favored San Bernardino International Airport, which was determined to be the best location and to have the best weather conditions for deployment in response to calls to the sheriff for aviation assistance, 71% of which are for services in the east end of the San Bernardino Valley. On April 6, 2011, the county administrative office approved Capital Improvement Program request No.11-188, submitted by the sheriff for a new aviation facility in San Bernardino consisting of approximately 39,000 square feet of hangar space, 16,000 square feet of office space and 4,200 square feet of shop space. Another factor emerged in headquartering the sheriff’s aviation division in San Bernardino. The sheriff’s emergency operations division includes both the aviation and volunteer forces units. The emergency operations division has forty-four full-time personnel and oversees over 2,000 reservists, citizens on patrol, and other volunteers throughout the county. The emergency operations division provides aviation support to all agencies in the county and handles major disaster and large scale search and rescue operations. The volunteer forces unit is currently located at sheriff headquarters in San Bernardino.
According to McMahon and Slaughter, “Operationally and in the event of an emergency, it is ideal to have both units, aviation and volunteer forces, located in one facility and under one  unified command structure. Consequently, the emergency operations division will also be located in the new aviation facility at San Bernardino International Airport.”
Despite the paltry $1 per year lease payments the county is making to Rialto for the use of the facilities at Rialto Municipal Airport, Rialto is required to provide relocation compensation and assistance to the existing tenants because of its closing. In order to provide a facility of like size and cover moving costs, Rialto offered to pay the county $4,121,878, which the real estate services department and sheriff staff determined to be reasonable. The $4,121,878 payment will be deposited into a Federal Aviation Administration required escrow account and disbursed directly to San Bernardino International Airport Authority as part of the $9,600,000 prepaid rent for the new sheriff aviation facility.
The twenty-five year lease agreement includes five five-year options to extend the term and will commence upon completion and issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the 50,000 square feet of hangar space, the 11,640 square feet of office space and site improvements. The rent for the hangar and office buildings for the initial term of twenty-five years is $9,600,000 and will be paid in full upon completion of the facilities and commencement of the initial twenty-five year lease term.
The initial ground rent for the eight acres for the first five years of the lease term is $6,850 per month. After the initial twenty-five year lease term and upon exercising one or more of five five-year options to extend the term, the county can acquire the hangar and office buildings for $100. The county will be required to continue to pay ground rent during any extended term. The lease is exempt from requirements of County Policy 08-02-01 regarding leasing privately owned real property for county use because San Bernardino International Airport Authority is a public entity.

DA Pressured Lewis Heir To Wear Wire Prior To His Suicide, Lawsuit Claims

(February 25)  David Lewis, a third generation member of the Lewis Homes homebuilding and shopping center development dynasty, was driven to suicide in 2010 by pressure put on him by district attorney Mike Ramos to act as a cooperating witness against members of his family, according to a lawsuit filed by his widow and surviving son.
Lewis Operating Corporation and the Lewis Group of Companies today stand as two of the premier business operations in San Bernardino County. They are the corporate successors to Lewis Homes, which was founded in Claremont in 1955 by Ralph Lewis, an attorney, and his wife Goldy. Starting with small subdivisions, to which he had his wife devoted intense focus with regard to design and living space detail, Ralph Lewis gradually expanded the company’s operation to involve larger and larger development projects.
By the 1970s, Lewis Homes, which had relocated its corporate headquarters to Upland, had grown to become one of Southern California’s major homebuilders. In the 1980s, the company became known for its large master planned developments, involving specific plans that included homes, retail centers, schools and parks. By 1990, Lewis Homes was the single largest homebuilder in the western San Bernardino County cities of Ontario, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana, and the torch had been passed to the second generation of the Lewis family – sons Richard, Randall, Robert and Roger –  who guided the company’s scope of operations beyond California to Nevada, Arizona and Utah and transformed the paradigm of Lewis Homes to include an array of partnerships and ventures falling under the umbrella of the Lewis Group of Companies. Now in its 59th year, the Lewis juggernaut has completed the development of 56,000 homes, 10,000 apartments and 14 million square feet of retail, office, and industrial space.
With the march of time, two members among the third generation of the Lewis Family were stepping into the shoes of their forebears, David Lewis and Jennifer Lewis, the son and daughter of Richard Lewis. Jennifer, with a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning and development from the University of Southern California, was involved in the planning of new development projects.
David, who graduated cum laude with a B.A. in business economics and accounting from UCLA and went on to obtain a masters degree in real estate development with a specialization in finance and construction management from the University of Southern California,  had acceded to become the executive vice president of the Lewis Group of Companies, overseeing both land acquisition and obtaining building entitlements in Nevada and Southern California.  He had also worked closely with his uncle Randall on the marketing of the company’s various proposed and completed projects, such as in March 2009, when the two made a presentation to the Rancho Cucamonga City Council relating to a proposal by a consortium the company had formed with several other developers known as  Rancho Partners with regard to that group’s plans to acquire 1,400 acres of surplus flood control district property within and straddling Rancho Cucamonga’s city limits and subdivide it for both residential and commercial use.
By 2008, David Lewis was at the seeming pinnacle of success and was being groomed as the heir apparent to succeed his father as the head of the company. Along the way, he was elected to the board of directors of the Baldy View Chapter of the Building Industry Association, was a member of the Urban Land Institute, a member of the National Association of Office and Industrial Properties, as well as a member of USC’s Graduate Real Estate Association.
Married and with a young son he had named after his grandfather Ralph, David was working in large part out of the company office in Las Vegas where he had established a second home, though he continued to have a role in pursuing business for the company elsewhere.
Sometime in 2009, however, his life took a sharp turn downward, subjecting him to heretofore unimaginable and, apparently unbearable, pressure. That pressure included an intensifying battle with drug addiction, pending criminal charges and the attempts by law enforcement to subjugate him into a role of informant against friends and acquaintances, politicians with whom his business dealings had brought him into contact, others in the building industry, and, worse still, members of his own family.
While the precise set of circumstances that led David Lewis into the depth of despair have long been shrouded, that fog has now begun to lift.
What is established is that on June 22, 2010, he returned to his Las Vegas Vegas home and, according to the Las Vegas Metro Police, used a shotgun to kill himself.
The Clark County Coroner’s Office ruled the death a suicide.
On July 11, 2011, Lewis’ widow Rachel and son Ralph Lewis filed a lawsuit in San Bernardino County Superior Court naming the county of San Bernardino, state of California Highway Patrol, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, a State Highway Patrol officer identified only by his last name, Bissett, and three San Bernardino County sheriff’s department employees.
Rachel and Ralph Lewis are represented in the suit by New York-based attorney Paul L. Mills.
According to the lawsuit, between June 6, 2010 and ending on June 22, 2010, Lewis “undertook a series of actions whose combined goal and intention was to commit suicide. During this period he (Lewis) was subjected to coercion by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, defendant District Attorney Mike Ramos and other San Bernardino County employees, against decedent, to cooperate in an investigation of his family, including by wearing a concealed electronic recording device and other actions, when these defendants knew or should have known that, due to his vulnerable mental condition, this coercion was reasonably likely to cause decedent substantial or permanent mental injury, or cause him to take his own life.”
The complaint highlights the fact that Lewis was arrested the day prior to his death. On June 21, 2010, Lewis was pulled-over by a CHP Officer on Interstate 15, and subsequently arrested for being under the influence of drugs. Several hours later, Lewis was released from the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.
The complaint states that approximately 12 hours after his arrest, at or about 11:00 a.m., Lewis killed himself.
The lawsuit contends that the Lewis family was, at the time of Lewis’ suicide, under investigation by the San Bernardino County District Attorney.
During the last seven to eight months of his life, there were indicators that David Lewis was working with either the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office or another prosecutorial or investigative agency,  meeting with or phoning witnesses and criminal suspects and their associates, seeking information and statements that would be of use in constructing any of a number of public corruption cases. The district attorney’s office has not confirmed or denied that Lewis was acting in any such capacity.
Some public officials were completely unsuspecting of Lewis. Others grew wary of him and his approaches. It is unknown what information he may have been successful in garnering. With his passing, he will not be available to testify against anyone, though it is conceivable that audio recordings made of conversations he had with various individuals might yet be produced as evidence against some targets of those investigations where criminal charges have already been filed. The three-year statute of limitations has elapsed against any targets not already charged.
Rancho Cucamonga city councilman Rex Gutierrez, who was charged by the district attorney’s office and subsequently convicted of theft, fraud and conspiracy for working on personal and politically-related issues while employed at the county assessor’s office, told the Sentinel in an article published on July 9, 2010 and before his conviction in 2010 that he considered David Lewis, with whom he had become acquainted over the previous  several years, something of a friend. But they were not overly close, Gutierrez said. Early in 2010, Lewis evinced an increased interest in speaking and meeting with him, Gutierrez reported. The timing of this coincided with Gutierrez’s progress toward trial on the charges of which he was eventually convicted and which were filed against him in 2009. The first trial held on the matter ended in a mistrial on June 30, 2010, eight days after Lewis’s death. Gutierrez was convicted at a second trial in October 2010.
The district attorney’s case consisted of allegations that Gutierrez had voted favorably as a Rancho Cucamonga city councilman on projects by developer Jeff Burum and that Burum had essentially rewarded or bribed Gutierrez by interceding with then-county assessor Bill Postmus, to whom Burum had delivered over $400,000 in political contributions, to hire Gutierrez into a no-work assignment at the assessor’s office. After a two week trial and less than three days of deliberations, the jury deadlocked.
In the  weeks and months before the trial, David Lewis made repeated contact with Gutierrez, inquiring about how the preparation for his trial was going and other issues involving Burum.
“I felt it was amazing how he would call me so often and ask questions about the Colonies and my involvement with Jeff Burum. I didn’t think about it at the time, but in retrospect I think it is conceivable he was looking for information that might have been of use in my prosecution or in a case the district attorney’s office wants to make against Jeff Burum. I really didn’t get too deep into it with him. I pretty much told him I didn’t think Jeff had done anything illegal and said I didn’t know of anything inappropriate that went on.”
Gutierrez’s reference to the Colonies is to The Colonies at San Antonio project, which was undertaken by a company co-managed by Burum, the Colonies Partners. In 2002 the Colonies Partners sued the county over flood control issues at the Colonies project, located in northeastern Upland and in 2006, that lawsuit was resolved by a controversial 3-2 vote of the board of supervisors to confer a $102 million settlement on the Colonies Partners. That vote was supported by then-supervisor Bill Postmus, and supervisors Gary Ovitt and Paul Biane. The San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and the California Attorney General’s Office indicted Postmus and Jim Erwin, a former president of the San Bernardino County sheriff’s  deputies union who served as a consultant to the Colonies Partners during their efforts to settle their lawsuit against the county and who was later hired by Postmus as assistant assessor, charging them with involvement in an extortion, bribery and conspiracy scheme in connection with the $102 million settlement and Burum’s provision of four separate $100,000 contributions to political action committees controlled by Postmus and Erwin, as well as Paul Biane, and Mark Kirk, Ovitt’s then-chief of staff. Postmus subsequently pleaded guilty to all charges against him and turned state’s evidence. A superseding indictment named Erwin, Burum, Biane and Kirk, charging them with bribery and conspiracy in relation to the settlement.
In the earlier referenced July  9, 2010 Sentinel article, Erwin said that the month before the original February 2010 criminal indictment was handed down he received a call out of the blue from David Lewis. The call was both unexpected and unwelcome, Erwin said, in that there was no particular affection between him and Lewis and indeed some small degree of tension in their relationship, in that his affiliation with Burum and his company, which to a certain extent has had a historical rivalry with the Lewis Group of Companies, put him at odds with Lewis.
“He told me he had some Lakers tickets and that he would send a limousine out to pick me up so we could go to the game together,” Erwin said. “I didn’t really consider him to be a friend or even an acquaintance. I didn’t think it was a good idea. It occurred to me, and seemed more likely, that he would be wearing a wire. I mean, this phone call came out of nowhere. I politely told him, ‘No, thanks.’ It’s one thing to go out on the town with someone for a fun evening,  but something again when they are trying to record you.”
David Lewis on multiple occasions over the last six months of his life was witnessed in the company of Upland Mayor John Pomierski, who, was eventually, in March 2011, indicted by a federal grand jury on political corruption charges involving, bribery, extortion and money laundering. He subsequently pleaded guilty and is now serving time in a federal penitentiary.
Lewis Homes, with its corporate headquarters in Upland, has historically been one of the major residential developers in the city.  The Lewis Operating Company and the Lewis Group of Companies and their principals had been major donors to Pomierski’s electioneering funds over the ten years he was in office.
Exactly what information was exchanged between Pomierski and young Lewis during their various huddling sessions is not publicly known. The exchanges, at the time they were taking place, were viewed simply by many as innocent social contacts between the up and coming developer and an established older, and more gregarious, political hand. Nevertheless, the FBI focus on potential political corruption involving Pomierski and reports that developers were being shaken down for kickbacks or having their projects and proposals benefited by upfront under the table payments made many developers doing business on the west end of San Bernardino County in general and in the City of Gracious Living in particular, very nervous.
David Lewis may have taken to his grave specific knowledge about any such kickbacks if indeed he ever had such knowledge at all.
The reason for Lewis’ apparent cooperation with law enforcement authorities is not entirely clear. For some time, his drug use was whispered about in rarified quarters of the community. His arrest by the CHP  gave credence to those subliminal suspicions. Such a proclivity, augmented by a sub rosa arrest, could have given the district attorney’s office or the FBI leverage with which to secure his cooperation in their investigations.
Perhaps of relevance is the possibility that he had either fear, or direct or indirect knowledge, of facts related to the FBI’s inquiry and where it might lead and was potentially personally caught up in the investigation into allegations of kickbacks and bribery involving developers and local elected officials.
In the lawsuit filed on behalf of his widow and son, however, the only reference to his acting as an informant is on behalf of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office, not the FBI or U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“There was a state-created danger as to the district attorney, because he [Mike Ramos] coerced the decedent into conduct that pushed him in his fragile condition of mental disability into becoming suicidal. This affirmative action left him in a worse condition and caused his death,” a filing made on December 1, 2011 in U.S. District Court states.
That filing came after the case was transferred on October 4, 2011, pursuant to a motion by the county, to the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Eastern Division, due to the federal causes of action listed in the lawsuit.
In addition to claiming that Ramos and district attorneys’ office subjected David Lewis to psychological pressure that led to his suicide, the suit also propounds the theory that the CHP and the sheriff’s department acted with callous disregard to David Lewis’ safety and wellbeing because several items indicating he was suicidal were found in his car at the time of his arrest, including books about committing suicide and the use of a firearm, as well as containers of a prescription drug used for the treatment of a mental disability.
On December 14, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips dismissed the civil rights claims, and remanded the case back to the state superior court to hear the wrongful death claim.
On January 9, 2012, Phillips’ decision was appealed by the Lewises.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on February 24 issued a decision denying the appeal and upholding Phillips, in effect returning the case to West Valley Superior Court for litigation regarding the wrongful death allegations minus the civil rights violations aspects contained in the complaint. The state court action had been stayed pending the ruling from the Ninth Circuit.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that despite David Lewis’s “erratic driving and materials in the car suggesting suicide,” there were insufficient grounds “to plausibly allege that an officer conducting a routine DUI arrest was deliberately indifferent to a suicidal arrestee.”
The Lewises have two weeks from February 24 to request another hearing before a circuit court judge panel or appeal the Ninth Circuit’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and special damages against the county and state, and punitive and exemplary damages against the individual defendants.

Bloomington Housing Project To Include County Library

(February 25)  In what appears to be the first such arrangement of  its kind, a developer has been given clearance to build 190 high density residential units in an unincorporated county area conditional upon the inclusion of a library and other infrastructure elements in the development.
Irvine-based Bloomington I Housing Partners has obtained an entitlement to build 190 residential affordable housing unit on nine acres of county-owned property near the corner of Valley Boulevard and Locust Avenue in the community of Bloomington. One year ago, on February 26, 2013 the board of supervisors approved the selection of the Bloomington I Housing Partners, L.P. as the developer, following a request for qualifications process, to develop an affordable mixed-generational housing and library development.
In addition to building a  6,500-square foot county library, Bloomington I Housing Partners has agreed to provide $2,012,590 toward financing the construction of wastewater system improvements. The  $2,012,590 will be made available to County Service Area 70  in a lump sum.  Any unused funds will be returned to the County Department of Community Development and Housing  upon completion of the sewer improvement project.
The county board of supervisors accepted that financing arrangement this week.
A companion item approved by the board of supervisors approved a contract with Christensen Brothers General Engineering, Inc., to construct the wastewater system improvements, consisting of approximately 5,149-feet of 18-inch diameter PVC sewer line beneath Valley Boulevard, miscellaneous small diameter sewer lines, 20 precast manholes, a metering and monitoring facility at the connection with the city of Rialto, and road repairs upon completion of the sewer line construct ion and other appurtenances. These will provide sewer service by means of publically owned and operated sewers as an alternative to private septic waste disposal systems currently in place at the site.
The project is one undertaken by San Bernardino County’s Community Development and Housing Department. To facilitate the project, the Community Development and Housing Department requested assistance from the County Special Districts Department to provide for the construction, operation and maintenance of the sewer facilities. On November 19, 2013, the board of supervisors approved and adopted a resolution of formation to create County Service Area 70, Zone BL, to provide sewer service to the Bloomington development and the approved service area. The district and the city of Rialto approved an extraterritorial agreement to accept waste generated within the district for treatment and disposal by the city of Rialto in lieu of constructing and operating a district-owned wastewater treatment plant. The agreement was approved by the city of Rialto Public Utilities Commission on November 19, 2013; approved  by the Rialto City Council on December 10, 2013; and approved by the board of supervisors on December 17, 2013.
The arrangement approved by the board of supervisors on Tuesday set terms for on-going sewer fees including those fees required for treatment by the city of Rialto; allowing for a reimbursement agreement and collection of proportional share of the improvement costs from other benefitting properties; and providing requirements for conveyance of the improvements to the district.
Phase one of the Bloomington Affordable Housing Project, which is to entail Mediterranean-style structures, is projected to begin construction in fall 2014. The first phase will consist of 70-units for seniors, public library, and 2,200 square foot senior community space. It will also include 36 family units, 2,625 square foot community center and classroom facility. Phase two will consist of the remaining 84 family units. The housing project will lease one, two, and three-bedroom units.

County Cites Overriding Concern To Give 3,114 Unit Project Near Apple Valley Okay

(February 26)  The board of supervisors this week approved a 3,114-residential unit project on 1,557 acres in the unincorporated county area east of Apple Valley.
A public hearing on the Hacienda at Fairview Valley Specific Plan was held by the Planning Commission on December 5, 2013. Prior to the hearing, a number of letters both in support and in opposition to the project were received and provided to the commission by separate memoranda. The commission recommended approval of the specific plan and related actions on a vote of 4-0, with one commissioner recusing himself.
The project is to be built at the northeast corner of  Laguna Seca Drive and Cahuilla Road as a master planned residential community focused primarily on active adults, ages 55 and above, totaling a maximum of 3,114 residential units, 15 acres of commercial and 336 acres of parks, equestrian facilities, and open space.
The project’s proponent is Strata Equity Group Incorporated.
County Land Use Services Director Tom Hudson called the project “a sustainable system of housing, recreation, retail and infrastructure in which the development complements the natural resources and environment. The project will also ensure the development of a well-planned, balanced, and sustainable county by providing the framework for a master planned community. The project is organized around four neighborhood ‘villages’ that will be linked together through a network of local roadways, multi-use trails and pedestrian paths, parks, greenbelts, water features, and natural open space. The project also contains two overlay districts that provide options for expanded equestrian uses and a golf course. The project is located approximately two miles east of the town of  Apple Valley and within the town’s sphere of influence.”
According to Hudson the project is proposed to be developed in four phases over a 15-20 year timeframe. “It is important to note that the Hacienda at Fairview Valley Specific Plan is conceptual in nature and does not include any subdivision or precise development plans. Therefore, while specific acreage assumptions are assigned to each land use category in the specific plan document for planning and environmental purposes, the land use areas shown on the land use plan are conceptual and will require specific mapping before individual development parcels can be created. Furthermore, additional studies will be needed before all necessary infrastructure and public facilities can be designed to accommodate the project’s development phases.”
With regard to environmental compliance, Hudson said a project-level environmental impact report was prepared for the project, evaluating potentially significant effects.
“The potential environmental effects have been exhaustively analyzed in a final environmental impact report together with a draft environmental impact report and errata thereto, which is subject to certification by the board of supervisors. All of the potential environmental impacts were determined to be capable of being reduced to a less than significant level except in the following areas: 1) aesthetics, 2) air quality, 3) biological resources, and 4) traffic and circulation, which were determined to be significant and unavoidable.”
Because not all the project’s impacts can be reduced to a level that is less than significant, findings of fact and a statement of overriding considerations was adopted by the board of supervisors in approving the project. That vote was made unanimously.
According to Hudson, the overriding benefits of the project included new residential development that satisfies an identified need providing housing for active adults in the region, the generation of sales tax revenue, improved drainage facilities for the area, compliance with the Town of Apple Valley’s resident-approved density for the area of a maximum of two dwelling units per acre and new employment opportunities associated with the proposed commercial development.

Thompson Will Replace Slaughter As County Real Estate Division Director

(February 26)  David Slaughter, the director of the county of San Bernardino’s Real Estate Services Division, will retire next month.
The county has gone outside of its own ranks to replace him, recruiting Terry W. Thompson, who  has over 28 years of extensive experience in real estate management, development, acquisitions, and leasing in the commercial real estate endeavors throughout Southern California, to oversee the division.
The director of the real estate services department directly oversees the real estate division and supervises the managers of the architecture and engineering department and the facilities management division, as well as the administrative and fiscal section that provides budgeting and accounting support to the group.
According to Greg Devereaux, the county’s chief executive officer who made the final decision to employ Thompson, “Mr. Terry Thompson has a bachelor’s degree in economics/business from the University of California, Los Angeles and is a member and past president of National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, Southern California Chapter, which is a nationally known commercial real estate development association. Terry has held several positions in Southern California and has handled assets and portfolios in excess of 13 million square feet of commercial properties, coordinated the marketing of land sales, and handled a variety of acquisition activities for various firms in Southern California. In the position of real estate services director, Mr. Thompson will oversee the real estate services department group consisting of 153 employees and multiple budgets that aggregate to nearly $380 million.
Architecture and engineering is responsible for planning and implementing the design and construction of capital projects associated with county-owned facilities including major repairs to or replacements of mechanical and other building systems and components as well as new construction. Architecture & engineering manages the capital improvement program budget that currently includes approximately 275 projects with budgets totaling $278 million and has an operating budget of $2.7 million to support 19 staff.
The facilities management division provides for day-to-day and 24/7 emergency maintenance and repairs, grounds upkeep and custodial services to county-owned facilities and associated equipment. In addition to a budget of $16.5 million for supplies, equipment and tools and a staff of 111, the facilities management division also manages county utilities expenditures with a total budget of $21 million.
The real estate division negotiates and administers revenue leases for the use of county-owned facilities and expenditure leases for leased space throughout the county for departments and their employees to deliver services in locations convenient to county residents, and provides property management for county-owned real estate. The real estate division also provides appraisal, acquisition, and relocation assistance to acquire rights-of-way for public safety projects, transportation corridors and floodways, sells surplus property and acquires land and facilities for various county functions. In addition to an operating budget of $3 million to support 23 staff, budgets for rent payments and property management total $58.4 million.
Thompson, whose tenure with the county will begin on March 10, 2014, will receive a total annual compensation package of $227,025, consisting of  $154,053 in salary and benefits of $72,972.

County Treasurer Recalculates Grand Terrace’s Post-RDA Property Tax Revenue Yet Again

(February 27)  The city of Grand Terrace has been crossed up once again by the county treasurer/tax collector’s office, which for the third time in the last eight months has recalculated the amount of property tax residuals the Blue Mountain City will receive as a consequence of the shuttering of its redevelopment agency.
In 2011, the state closed out municipal redevelopment agencies statewide. That change was particularly hard on Grand Terrace, the county’s third smallest city population-wise and smallest in terms of viable commercial development, which translates into very low sales tax revenue. The city had traditionally relied upon its redevelopment agency to fund the employment of about one-sixth of its staff.
When the city passed its current 2013-14 budget, it had done so based on the county tax collector/treasurer’s representation that the city would be entitled to and would actually receive 20 percent of its post-redevelopment era property tax residuals.
City officials passed a preliminary budget in June that carried with it the possibility that city operations would be cut back on January 1 if city voters did not approve a utility tax in November. That measure did, in fact, fail, but city officials were heartened to learn shortly thereafter that the city would actually be receiving 45 percent of its property tax residuals.
The previously planned-upon cuts to municipal operations that were to go into effect with the new year were not triggered.
Within the last fortnight, however, the city’s financial consultant, the Rosenow Spevacek Group, informed acting city manager Ken Henderson that Grand Terrace can count upon receiving 29 percent of its property tax residuals.
The city council, which was scheduled to review the city’s mid-year budget figures and make any appropriate adjustments on February 25, put that discussion off until its March 11 meeting at which point its members hope to have firmer numbers with regard to the city’s eroding and fluid financial condition.

County Overturns Planning Commission’s Denial Of Helendale Solar Project

(February 26)  The board of supervisors this week overturned the county planning commission’s denial of Sunlight Partners, LLC’s application for a conditional use permit to establish a 7.5 megawatt photovoltaic solar power generating facility on 80.6 acres in Helendale.
On October 17, 2013, the county planning commission conducted a public hearing to consider Sunlight Partner’s application for the conditional use permit pertaining to the project. The planning commission heard testimony from the general manager of the Helendale Community Services District, who expressed concern that the project would impact the adjacent property owned by the district, which is currently used as a park. The district objected to impacts to scenic vistas that would result from the project and asserted the park would be adversely subjected to dust and blow sand originating from the project site. While the matter was continued until the November 7, 2013 county planning commission meeting, the commission, by a vote of 3-2, directed staff to prepare findings for denial of the conditional use permit for the project based on the project being inconsistent with the goals and policies of the general plan, which require land use compatibility. County Land Use Services Department staff indeed prepared and presented findings for the denial of the project to the planning commission.
At its November 7, 2013, meeting, only four of the planning commission’s five members were present. In addition to staff’s findings for the denial of the project, the commissioners who were present were provided with the applicant’s revised site plan that incorporated an increased setback from the park property to reduce impacts related to aesthetics and blow sand. The revised site plan showed an increase in setback from the park property to the fence line from 15 feet to 249 feet.
According to Tom Hudson, the director of the Land Use Services Department, “This design change solves an inconsistency in the initial study/mitigated negative declaration related to the   minimum distance from the proposed facility to the existing off-site residences. The revised plan was presented to the planning commission for consideration.”
Additional testimony was provided by the Helendale Community Services District reiterating concerns regarding the potential impacts on the adjacent property, including blow sand and impacts to view qualities. The representative of the Helendale Community Services District also stated that she did not agree that the revised site plan presented at the hearing would reduce those impacts.
At the conclusion of the November 7 public hearing, the planning commission voted 2-2 on the item with one commissioner not present. By rule, the project was denied for not having the required majority vote for approval.
On November 18, 2013, the applicant filed a timely appeal of the planning commission action to deny the project. The issues raised in the appeal application included making reference to the consideration that the planning commission dismissed staff’s original recommendation to approve the project based on findings that the project complies with the county’s general plan and development code that was supported by analysis contained in the planning commission staff report.
Moreover, according to the appeal, the findings for denial were not supported by evidence, and the denial of the project violated the California Solar Rights Act.
More than three months later, in his report to the board of supervisors on Tuesday, Hudson said, “Notwithstanding the outcome at the planning commission, staff is recommending that the appeal be granted and that the project be approved. Staff believes that the revised site plan submitted by the applicant between the October 17, 2013, and November 7, 2013 planning commission meetings mitigated the concerns initially raised by the Helendale Community Services District and the planning commission. The significant increase in project setbacks assuages the concerns expressed as to aesthetics and blow sand. The increase in setbacks also resolves the issue of the minimum distance from the proposed facility to the existing off-site residences. Findings for approval have been provided based upon these revisions.”
In his presentation to the board of supervisors, Hudson also made available the proposed findings for denial that were prepared at the direction of the planning commission and which were adopted by virtue of the 2-2 vote.
The project site is situated in an unincorporated county area in the desert. The primary facility access point is proposed on Smithson Road, which runs along the southern project boundary. A secondary access point is proposed on Wild Road along the northern project boundary.
The project is to entail photovoltaic panels mounted on single axis trackers, supported by steel piers driven into the ground to an appropriate depth, as determined by soil conditions. The height of the panels will not exceed nine feet. The trackers will form rows running north and south. The design proposes five concrete pads, approximately 20 feet by 40 feet that would support 500KV inverters and mechanical components. Electricity generated onsite will be delivered to the existing electrical transmission system at the connection point along Smithson Road. The site will be surrounded by an eight foot high chain link fence with a security video monitoring system. The electricity produced by the arrays will be sold to
Southern California Edison under two long-term power purchase agreements. The first agreement was executed in January 2012 and required power generation by July 2013. An extension has been requested. A second agreement was executed in December 2012 and requires power generation by June 2014.
The board of supervisors was scheduled to consider the appeal on February 11 but postponed the hearing until this week.

Upland Trash Rates To Rise

(February 25)  This week the Upland City Council approved by a 3-1 vote increasing trash rates for residential and commercial customers. Councilman Glenn Bozar opposed the hikes ad councilman Brendan Brandt abstained.
The rates will go into effect unless more than fifty percent of the city’s customers file written objections to the increase.