Once Burned For $680,000, Upland Again Targets Dirt Pile

(January 21) The city of Upland has reinitiated communication with the current ownership of Dineen Trucking, apparently over the accumulation of debris at that company’s corporate yard, located north of Foothill Boulevard and south of Cable Airport, a very short distance from where Central Avenue dead ends into Foothill.
The city’s communication presages an effort to again eradicate that pile of debris, which is referred to as “Dineen Mountain” or “the dirt pile” and which is readily visible from Foothill Blvd/Route 66, the major east-west corridor through the City of Gracious Living. But that effort is fraught with hazards to both the city’s taxpayers and its officials, who previously failed in their efforts to shut down the Dineen operation.
Dineen Trucking has been operating in Upland since 1958, specializing in services ancillary to construction businesses. Specifically, Dineen engages in dirt, rock and debris hauling to and from constructions sites, providing top soil and fill dirt when it was needed for landscaping or stabilization or, conversely, hauling away rocks, excess earth and debris from construction sites.
The original owners of Dineen Trucking, Patrick and Jack Dineen, turned his company over to Ken Beck 15 years ago. Beck had access to a crusher with which he would convert some of the materials Dineen Trucking had acquired into aggregate that would be used as base for roads.
There has been discontent with the towering mountain of dirt and rubble at the Dineen Trucking yard for more than a decade. On November 24, 2003, a zoning complaint letter arrived at Upland City Hall, sent by Lee Jackson, a lawyer representing Intravaia Rock and Sand, a company in competition with Dineen Trucking. The letter suggested mounds at the Dineen trucking yard, which contained rubble Dineen Trucking had hauled from an earlier city of Upland project, were out of compliance with zoning changes that had been instituted in 2000.
Despite the hubbub, the zoning changes were not applicable to Dineen Trucking because during the 2000 city council meeting at which the zoning changes were adopted, existing businesses were given on-the-record exemptions from the newly codified standards and were allowed to maintain their operations as legal nonconforming uses. Upland’s senior planner at the time indicated that he was “not aware of one single incidence where the city enforced” against a nonconforming use existing at the time a new zoning ordinance was passed. Such uses, he said, would be “allowed to continue, as long as they continue.” The city’s director of community planning confirmed at that meeting that the city’s policy was to enforce newly drafted and passed zoning ordinances only against new property uses.
Thus, Dineen Trucking’s activity has been, in municipal zoning parlance, “grandfathered in” as a legal, non-conforming use.
Nevertheless, the city made efforts to persuade Dineen Trucking to close out its Upland operation during the first decade of the millennium. Ultimately, these did not play out well for the city. When the city excluded Dineen Trucking from offering bids on a city project, Dineen Trucking owner Ken Beck objected, resulting in a series of confrontations with city officials in both public and private. When the police department arrested Beck in the aftermath of one of those confrontations, he sued and the matter made its way to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after the city sought to have the lawsuit brought by Beck dismissed. In a 22-page opinion, the Ninth Circuit rendered findings that suggested the city had indeed overstepped its authority and abused its discretion in dealing with Beck, such that Beck’s case should be permitted to go to trial.
Before the matter went to trial, however, the city of Upland forged a settlement, paying Beck and his attorneys, according to former city attorney Bill Curley, $375,000. In fending off that lawsuit, the city had spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 on its own legal fees, bringing the cost of that single entanglement with Beck and Dineen Trucking to more than two-thirds of a million dollars.
More recently, it has been city councilman Gino Filippi who has been pressing his colleagues and city staff to reinitiate a tougher line with regard to Dineen Trucking’s operation and the dirt pile at its corporate yard. Filippi, however, has been on the city council only since 2010, and was not in office or heavily involved in city affairs during the era in which the city was engaged in its futile and expensive undertaking to close down Dineen Trucking. Nor was city manager Rod Butler nor city attorney Richard Adams involved in past dealings with Dineen Trucking. Given this lack of institutional memory to the Dineen Trucking yard matter, there is concern among some city residents the move now afoot against Dineen Trucking may again entail expense in pursuing a less than thoroughly thought through goal, no matter how desirable closing down the Dineen Trucking operation may be from some perspectives. This is particularly true in the case of Adams, who works for the city through a contract with his law firm, Jones & Mayer, which provides him and the firm a financial incentive to take up such cases as the Dineen Trucking operation abatement, since Adams and Jones & Mayer will be paid for their work at a rate of $250 per hour, regardless of the outcome of the effort.

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