Hesperia Approves I-15/Main Pylon Electric Sign

HESPERIA —(January 23)  The Hesperia City Council has given go-ahead to the erection of an 85-foot-high pylon sign on the southeast corner of Interstate 15 and Main Street.
TNT Electric Sign Company was given approval for the sign, which is to include 750 square feet of signage area and 364 square feet of digital display, by the Hesperia Planning Commission in October. The commission provided that approval over the objections of Faud Radi, the property owner of the adjacent parcels to the east and to the south. Radi expressed his concerns about the access to the site, the sign location, as well as safety issues. On October 20, 2014, Radi submitted an appeal stating that the proposed use will have substantial adverse impacts on the abutting properties.
An ordinance allowing freeway pylon signs was approved by the city council on October 15, 2013.
City staff, which recommended approval of the site plan for TNT Electric Sign’s project when it came before the planning commission in October 2014, reiterated that support before the council last week.
The sign, which will have extensive freeway visibility, will advertise local businesses and provide free publicity with regard to city-sponsored events. Staff said a potential byproduct of the sign’s installation is attracting national and retail tenants to Hesperia.
Radi reiterated for the council concern about access to the signage site, sign location and safety issues. He suggested moving the sign further southward  to provide northbound commuters time to read the sign and change lanes, if need be, to pull off the freeway and onto Main Street.
Councilmen Bill Holland and Russ Blewett dismissed Radi’s objections, expressing the belief that the sign will be a boon to the city and result in the generation of additional tax revenue to Hesperia.


By Ruth Musser-Lopez
A first in the history of San Bernardino County, a major intra-continental anthropological organization will be meeting just across the county/state line over Memorial Day weekend to inspect prehistoric rock art in eastern San Bernardino County. During the conclave, studies and papers will be presented, all of which will pertain in some way to the subject of prehistoric rock art in the east Mojave Desert of San Bernardino County and adjacent Mojave Desert areas in Nevada and Arizona.
The American Rock Art Research Association (ARARA) was established in 1974 by a small group of archaeological professionals, artists, Native Americans and others rock art experts and advocates from a variety of professions, backgrounds and countries, all committed to research, conservation, and education surrounding rock art.
The association has established committees devoted to the conservation and preservation of rock art sites and to educating the public to the importance of protecting rock art and the integrity of its surrounding landscape.   The organization has grown since its inception and typically draws 250 to its annual convocation that includes two days of presentations and two days of guided visits to rock art sites.
This year the rock art of the Mojave Desert and the Lower Colorado River is put on the map of regions important to American rock art. The convocation will be held in Laughlin, Nevada, with a variety of PowerPoint research presented in the meeting room at the Colorado Belle resort on Saturday and Sunday.
In the past, the ARARA annual conference has been held in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and in Casas Grandes, Mexico and Winnipeg, and Manitoba.  In 2013 ARARA joined with a partnering organization, the  International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO) with a joint conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico drawing over 300 attendees.  Last year, the international association met in China to observe rock art there.
Among ARARA’s publications are American Indian Rock Art, containing papers from the annual conferences, the quarterly newsletter La Pintura, and occasional papers or monographs.
On the Friday and Monday preceding and following this year’s conference, numerous field trips have been scheduled for loops to be made through the east Mojave, southern Nevada and Arizona side of the Colorado River.  Several field trips are offered that provide riverboat excursions through the Topock Gorge and the shores of Lake Havasu.  Some of the guided tours will follow and branch off of the route of the prehistoric Mojave trail that Padre Francisco Garces was first shown in 1776 as reported in last week’s Sentinel.  Participants will be able to view the rock art that Garces probably saw 250 years ago as well as historic inscriptions left behind by the U. S. military troops situated at outposts along this route in the 1860s.
Various forms of rock art can be observed on the field trips.  Petroglyphs are the most common type of rock art in the Mojave desert and were made by pecking, etching, carving or sculpting images into stone.  Often the outer surface of the stone is covered with patina, a “rind” of darker color that is caused by the accumulation of airborne bacterial and chemical deposits such as manganese on its surface.  Exposing the underlying surface of the stone results in a light mark surrounded by the contrasting dark color.   When an image is sketched into stone creating a petroglyph, the resulting contrast in color is often striking.
Patina develops over a long period of time, but once it is removed from the stone to form a petroglyph image, the exposed area is immediately subject to “repatination.”  Attempts have been made to calculate the rate of this repatination process, to compare the relative thickness of repatinated images and to suggest a relative age for various images based upon more or less patina.  It is often assumed when comparing adjacent images on the same rock art panel, that the thicker and darker the repatination, the older the petroglyph. This same relative dating scheme cannot be relied upon when comparing sites in different location due to the fact that patinas develop at different rates in diverse atmospheric conditions, which includes factors such as climate, air quality and the type of stone that the patina may (or may not) form on.
Pictographs are another form of rock art that will be visited on Memorial Day weekend by ARARA participants.  Imagery was painted on rock surfaces in the prehistoric past using paints made of mineral pigments and organic binders.  Binders are sticky substances that attach the pigment to the rock.  It is the organic material in the pigment, binders and other inclusions of the paint that provides researchers with the evidence they need to obtain a radiocarbon date.   Removing this material destroys the painted rock, however, so such dating techniques are limited, applied only when essential under the authority of special permits and with extreme caution to minimize the sample.
Earthen art or intaglios is another form of rock art that is rarely found but can be encountered in abundance on ancient relic river terraces sitting above the current Colorado River bottom. These art forms consist of giant human and animal figures along with curvilinear designs. The motif is made by removing the dark individual gravel stones from the shape leaving behind a lighter surface consisting of lighter gravel.  This light surface is in contrast with the surrounding darkly patinated gravelly landscape.
Famous examples of intaglios can be found fenced in along Highway 95 north of Blythe just south of the San Bernardino County border, but these have been damaged and attempts to recreate them have compromised their integrity even further.  The examples found farther north on the 95 in San Bernardino County near Needles have been largely preserved and evidence of the method used to produce the original art can still be observed.  The art work is distinguished from reliefs which involved the scraping up of gravels to form mounds and row mounds. This method was used at the nearby “Mystic (or Topock) Maze” site and is evidence that the so-called maze is actually rows of gravel made in a historic gravel mining operation.
Rock art often includes stylistic “signatures,” conventional symbols or icons that can often be linked with living or past cultures known to have “owned” or used that same imagery.  Objects depicted in the rock art, rock art style and the “delivery technique” are used as clues as well.  Archaeologist, like forensic investigators, analyze other material remains physically associated with the rock art, the global position and known tribal territory and the landscape within which the rock art is located in making the connection to a particular cultural group that the art work might be credited to even when there are no known direct descendants living today.
An atypical link of living people to prehistoric rock art includes the example of an Indian scout working in the US Army in the 1800’s who signed his name using a symbol in a ledger.  It can be assumed that his tribe used the symbol and that rock art containing that symbol was likely made by the tribe or cultural group the scout belonged to.    Upon a rare but fortunate occasion evidence exists of a particular person or persons who made the prehistoric rock art.
“What does it mean?” is a question that many ask.  ARARA provides this explanation:
“So-called ‘biographic’ rock art of the Northern Plains is probably the rock art where we can be most certain of parts of its meaning, because of the very close relation between the ledger art just referred to and rock art using the same symbols.  Both ledger books and the related rock art often recorded biographies of individuals, their accomplishments, victories in battle, and other events.  Or they may record partial histories of entire villages or peoples.  Such records are partly like the buffalo skins known as “Winter Counts” which could continue for 80 years, one important event each year.  So there can be something close to history here.  Quite a large vocabulary of signs can now be interpreted in this style of rock art, not because of any single “Rosetta Stone”, but because of the combination of details preserved in many places.
“For other kinds of rock art, we may not be so lucky.  We may have to use a very wide range of techniques of analysis, to gain partial clues from each, until many clues point in the same direction.  Which symbols occur together often, which rarely, which never do?  Which occur in particular kinds of locations (residential vs. ceremonial)?  What is the geographic distribution of particular rock art traditions, and did it change through time?  Do the symbols used in one tradition of rock art resemble those used in another tradition?
“Designs on shields, both real shields and rock-art images of shields, are very likely to be symbolic, whether of powers which a warrior relied on for help in battle, or of other cultural ideas.  Particular types of design may have been favored by particular cultures.  Rock art, whether shields, large human-like figures, or even mere handprints, may have been used to mark territory, homes, food storage, or other things.  Small shields in less public places might have merely meant that the bearer(s) of that shield design were there, perhaps as part of a larger alliance.  Clan symbols might be used in similar ways.
“Other explanations which may be valid for some rock art include these:  Girls’ puberty ceremonies;  Vision quests;  Prayers for rain;  Hunting magic (hoping to ensure a good hunt); Pictorial representations of hunts showing where nets were placed, how game was driven into nets;  astronomical indicators of the seasons; elements of rituals and ceremonies; echoes (voices from within the rocks); patterns often “seen” after consuming psychoactive plants; patterned phenomena of the natural world.  The list goes on and on.
“But the understanding or ‘interpretation’ of rock art symbols, alone or in combination, remains very difficult.  Simply because a symbol looks like something to us, it may not have looked at all like that for the people who created the rock art using it.  Two symbols which we judge the “same” may have been very different symbols for some culture.  Evidence will often be indirect, fragmentary, and even seemingly contradictory.  To be on a sure footing in interpretation, we have to use every clue available from every branch of science which studies ancient and modern cultures.  And even then, there are many things we will just never know.  We need to  be very modest when we think we do know, and keep gathering new kinds of information we had not earlier realized could be relevant. Even Plains Sign Language for example may hold some clues.”
As a member Archaeologist with rock art expertise in the region of this year’s ARARA convocation, I have been asked to act as local chair and field trip coordinator.  This year’s field trip scheduling involves a complexity of coordinating issues that will pull me away from writing the Glimpse column.  I am currently communicating and attempting to collaborate with the ten federal agencies involved, including the National Park Service at both the East Mojave National Preserve and the Lake Mead Recreation Area; the Bureau of Land Management’s field offices at Barstow, Needles, Kingman, Lake Havasu, Yuma and Las Vegas; the Bureau of Reclamation in Boulder City; and the Fish and Wildlife Service in Needles.  Further, there are also State, County and City officials and private individuals whose permission is sought to visit rock art on land they manage or own.  As Field Trip Coordinator, my responsibility is to obtain permits and coordinate the guides for the various field trips ARARA has designed.
This year a variety of papers will be presented including one I am preparing on how the style and delivery technique used by the Mojave in decorated pottery and other artwork we know can be associated with historic Mojave individuals can be used to attribute rock art in the region as having originated from them.  I will also use this presentation to show my evidence of the famous San Bernardino County “Mystic Maze” being historic and not of traditional Mojave origin.  The following is an abstract of the paper I will be presenting called “Mojave Style:”
“Our conference this year takes place in the hearthland of the “Pipa Aha Macav,” “People of the River,” (Lower Colorado), abbreviated to “The Mojave.”  Mojave language, culture and traditional religious beliefs are deeply rooted in the region’s landscape and so is their rock art.  The artistic style and delivery rendered in the artwork adorning pottery, crafts and earthen art made by local historic tribal artists can be linked to the stylistic patterns viewed in rock art of the greater region, distinguishing Mojave art from modern constructions and that of foreign, prehistoric pilgrim-sojourners using trails within Mojave territory crossing the river in strategic locations.”

Arizona State University, Tempe. houses ARARA’s archives and research library.  A variety of awards have been established by ARARA to recognize individuals, groups, and organizations for distinguished service in the field of rock art research, conservation, and education.

Husband And Wife, Both Former UISWA Presidents, Indicted For Embezzlement

COLTON—(January 22) A husband and wife who served as the former presidents of  United Industrial and Service Workers Local 101 and two of their children have been indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with embezzling $900,000 from the union’s wealth and welfare trust over eight years.
According to the United States Attorney’s Office, John S. Romero, 68, the former president of United Industrial and Service Workers of America Local 101; his wife, Evelyn Romero, 66, who was the immediate successor to her husband as president of United Industrial and Service Workers Local 101; their son, John J. Romero, 50, the former secretary and treasurer of United Industrial and Service Workers Local 101; and their daughter, Danae Romero, 37, who was a union officer misappropriated the money by making monthly payments from the union account into fraudulent accounts, some of which were set up outside California.
According to a 40-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury last week, the Romero family members colluded in a scheme that involved the filing of false and fraudulent annual reports with the U.S. Department of Labor. Those documents failed to disclose more than $100,000 in United Industrial and Service Workers Local 101 revenues and disbursements, as well as the knowing and willful misuse of assets from both the operating fund and health plan of United Industrial and Service Workers Local 101  from 2006 until 2014.
Evelyn Romero’s tenure as United Industrial and Service Workers of America Local 101 president ended in June 2014.
Assistant United States Attorney Jay Robinson is prosecuting the case. According to Robinson, the union was making monthly payments for a non-existent office for the United Industrial and Service Workers union in Nevada.  The payments were in fact routed to a Nevada-based company that had been created by John S. Romero, Evelyn Romero and Danae Romero, according to Robinson.
The indictment alleges that some of the health plan’s bank accounts were held in the name of a construction company associated with the health plan’s third party administrator, through which the Romero family received payments without the knowledge or consent of the health plan’s second trustee. It is further alleged that the Romero family controlled the health plan’s reserve fund accounts and used those assets for their personal benefit.
The Romeros allegedly used the union trust funds to pay personal and union-related legal fees and judgments levied against them, including roughly $110,000 to pay for a civil lawsuit that involved John S. Romero and John J. Romero.  The defendants also arranged for health plan assets to be diverted, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, through systematic payments to  a separate business entity they operated under false pretenses, fund a payroll account that had been established using the name and employer identification number of the now-defunct  United Service Workers of America labor union they had been in control of ,  pay off a car loan for a vehicle belonging to another Romero family member, and recirculating assets from the health plan’s reserve fund to its operating account to cover the insurance expenses for their own healthcare benefits that were billed to the union.
The indictment further alleges the four defendants knowingly and willfully permitting another Romero-family member who had previously been convicted of a felony narcotics violation to serve as an officer and employee of United Industrial and Service Workers Local 101.
If convicted of all of the charges in the indictment, the four defendants would face decades in federal prison.
The 40-count indictment is the result of a joint investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Labor – Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the U.S. Department of Labor – Office of Labor Management Standards which was prompted by an anonymous call regarding some inconsistencies with the way the trust money was being handled.
Despite the reputation that John S. Romero and John J. Romero had for carrying firearms, all four defendants were arrested without incident on January 28.

Freckled Milkvetch – Astragalus Lentiginosus

These plants of the Fabaceae family grow anywhere from six to eighteen inches high and are capable of living in or near sagebrush scrub, shadscale scrub, alkali sinks, subalpine forest, foothill woodlands, yellow pine forests, valley grasslands, creosote bush scrub, Joshua tree woodlands, on dunes or in any generally dry, open places.
In addition to thriving in the Mojave Desert, these plants are present in the High Sierra Nevada,  Sierra Nevada, Tehachapi Mountain Area, San Joaquin Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, Inner South Coast Ranges, and the Great Basin Floristic Province. They have been found at elevations from one hundred feet below sea level to 11,700 feet.
Clusters of anywhere from three to 50  flowers sprout on the plant’s arched and reddish stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches that ascend or spread, with purplish, pink, cream, whitish or mixed purplish ad whitish petals. Leaflets are a half inch to six inches in size, are ovate and most often silver-green in color.
The plant features a mottled, papery pod/fruit that is bladder-like. The common name freckled milkvetch is a reference to these somewhat hairy seed pods, which have a mottled, red/cream coloration, a groove down one side, and a sharply pointed tip. The seeds contained in the dried pod will make a rattling noise, which is the basis for one of its common names, rattleweed.
Stems and leaves may be hairy or hairless, though the species is generally less hairy than most other members of its  genus. The leaf edges are also often reddish.
These plants are also referred to as loco weed, but should not be confused with several other plants also referred to as loco weed, or one in particular, jimson plant or jimson weed, Datura stramonium.
Astragalus lentiginosus is referred to as loco weed because cattle and horses display unbalanced behavior after eating this plant, a phenomenon first noted by the Spanish inhabitants of the southwest who witnessed their animals acting crazily or “loco” in Spanish.
Most varieties of Astragalus lentiginosus flower from March through June with a few varieties also flowering during September and October.

Judge Rules Ontario Pact With LA For Operation & Sale Of Airport Was Lawful

RIVERSIDE—(January 22) The city of Ontario’s efforts to wrest control of Ontario International Airport back from the city of Los Angeles by legal means suffered two serious setbacks this week when the judge hearing Ontario’s lawsuit ruled the agreements Ontario entered into with Los Angeles in 1967 and 1985 to give the larger city first operating control over and then ownership of the airport were legal and binding.
In pursuing its lawsuit against Los Angeles, Ontario has contended those agreements, which have been honored at this point for 48 years and 30 years, were improperly entered into and therefore not binding. The court’s tentative ruling entered this week shoots down that legal theory.
After five years of declining ridership at Ontario Airport, the city of Ontario in 2013 sued Los Angeles in an effort to undo the terms of a joint operating agreement for the airport forged between the two cities in 1967 and Ontario’s deeding of the airport to the megalopolis to the west in 1985, after performance criteria specified in the original agreement calling for such a transfer were met. Ontario, alleging Los Angeles had mismanaged the airport through neglect, sought a ruling forcing Los Angeles to give up ownership of the aerodrome and return authority over its management back to Ontario.
The lawsuit was put on hold in late 2013, while the two cities were to seek a negotiated settlement of the differences that divide them, but no suitable terms could be worked out. Substantial disputes remained apparent between the two parties over the amount of compensation Los Angeles wanted to receive for renouncing interest in the airport. In the 48 years Los Angeles had managed the airport, over $500 million in improvements had been made to the facility, paid for by 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 the direction of the corporate entity controlled by Los Angeles which runs its airport division, known as Los Angeles World Airports, or the acronym LAWA.
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 Ontario 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 Airports officials scoffed at the $250 million figure, pointing to the $560 million in improvements made to the airport since 1967
With the failure of that temporary truce, the parties headed back to court, with Los Angeles again put in the position of having to fend off the claims by Ontario’s law firm, Washington, D.C.-based Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, that there are grounds to terminate the long existing agreements Los Angeles and Ontario have been abiding by for 48 years and 30 years, respectively.
In September, lawyers for Los Angeles filed a motion to dispense with crucial elements of the suit, based on the statute of limitations pertaining to rescission and reformation, which holds that any contesting of the original joint operating agreement or the airport title transfer had to be made within four years of their official ratification by the city councils for Ontario and Los Angeles. That point was subject to considerable briefing after the September motion was filed, as the judge hearing the case, Riverside Superior Court Judge Gloria Connor Trask, delayed her ruling with regard to the validity of the joint powers agreement and the title transfer, as Ontario was making the rather noteworthy argument, essentially, that its elected officials had overstepped their authority in transferring the airport’s ownership to Los Angeles. According to Ontario attorney Andre Cronthall, Los Angeles has referred to the 1985 action to transfer title as a sale. The sale of such a significant public property, Cronthall asserted, could only take place pursuant to a vote of the public and not be effectuated by a mere vote of the city council.
This week, Trask entered a tentative decision which stated, “The court upholds that the 1967 Joint Powers Agreement complied with applicable statutes and was lawful.” And further, Trask found, Ontario had both the power and authority to transfer ownership of Ontario Airport to Los Angeles, as it did in 1985. That transfer was voidable, she said, but only if an entity followed the proper procedure in a timely manner, that is, within the four-year statute of limitations applicable to such agreements.
The Sentinel reached Ontario’s attorney, Andre Cronthall, shortly after Trask’s tentative decision was made available.
He said Trask had seriously entertained his argument that the sale of the airport on a 4-0 vote of the Ontario City Council in 1985 was improperly done and should have been subject to a vote of Ontario residents. “Judge Trask recognized the proper procedure had not been followed in the effort to transfer, or as Los Angles says, sell, the airport. She acknowledge in her ruling the right to void the sale. She just ruled against us on statute of limitations grounds.”
Cronthall said the two motions Trask has ruled upon did not extend to the three issues remaining in the suit which have yet to be litigated and which entail a claim for damages. Ontario’s legal effort to reclaim the airport and have the Ontario International Airport Authority, which was created in 2012 as a joint powers authority involving Ontario and the county of San Bernardino, assume management and control of the airport remains intact, he said. “We are disappointed in Judge Trask’s decision and are looking forward to being heard before she enters her final decision on those two issues,” Cronthall said. “We disagree with the rulings, as stated. We are looking forward to litigating our claims that Ontario has deliberately mismanaged the airport, breached its fiduciary duty and violated the terms of the joint powers agreement.”
The Ontario International Airport Authority, through its president, Ontario City Councilman Alan Wapner, reacted to Trask’s ruling by stating, “Although we are disappointed by the court’s decision barring two claims within its complaint, we are pleased that a jury will have the opportunity to consider Ontario’s three other claims for L.A.’s breach of its contractual and fiduciary duties when the lawsuit goes to trial this spring.”
The real gravamen of the case has yet to be heard, Wapner asserted, and he referenced Trask’s specific language that “The motions do not seek to resolve, and thus the court does not determine at this time, whether Los Angeles, LAWA, or the [Los Angeles Airport] Board breached the terms of their agreements. Those issues remain to be adjudicated.” As such, Wapner said, “Ontario looks forward to its day in court and for Los Angeles to be held accountable for its inexcusable neglect of its obligations to promote air service development at Ontario. At trial, Ontario will seek damages and an injunction to regain control of the airport. While Ontario continues to vigorously prepare for trial, we also will consider whether to appeal the court’s decision.”
Cronthall told the Sentinel he believed an appeal of the case is inevitable, no matter how the case is hashed out in Trask’s court. He said he anticipates Los Angeles will appeal the case if the matter is adjudicated in Ontario’s favor, just as, he said, Ontario will not capitulate if it loses at the Riverside County Superior Court level.
“Whatever Judge Trask ends up doing, there is a good likelihood the court of appeal will end up ruling on most, if not all, of the issues being tried,” Cronthall said.
Under Los Angeles’s management of Ontario International, the airport prospered, with its ridership increasing from less than 200,000 in 1967 to 7.2 million in 2007. Over that forty year period, Los Angeles made substantial improvements to the airport, including paving its gravel parking lot, laying down a second, entirely new east-to-west runway over its obsolete northeast-to-southwest runway, modernizing its existing east-to-west runway, including the widening of taxiways and the addition of storm drains, modernizing its control tower, and constructing two ultra-modern terminals at a cost of $270 million, augmented with a world class concourse.
With the economic downturn of 2007, however, air travel in general declined and over the next six years ridership at Ontario International shrunk to just over four million per year. Meanwhile, Los Angeles, which had embarked on a modernization effort at Los Angeles International Airport in 2006, continued with that effort. Passenger traffic into Los Angeles zoomed to astronomical levels, leading to the perception that Ontario was being given short shrift by Los Angeles. In 2011, Ontario began a campaign to take back ownership and control over the airport. and that campaign has grown ever more vitriolic.
Los Angeles World Airport officials have hunkered down in the face of the lawsuit and the accompanying campaign being carried out by the city of Ontario to convince the public that Ontario deserves to reassert ownership over the airport. In response to Trask’s tentative ruling, Maria Tesoro, Los Angeles World Airports’ public affairs director for Ontario International Airport, told the Sentinel, ““Los Angeles World Airports is satisfied with the decision. We will continue the path of working with local entities and our airline partners towards the long-term success of LA/Ontario International Airport.”

Homeowner Insists On Going To Trial In Upland Brown Lawn Prosecution

(January 21) UPLAND—The criminal case brought by the city of Upland against Fernand Bogman for not watering his lawn will proceed to trial on January 27.
In that matter, Bogman will be represented by attorney Michael P. Vollandt, who has recently notched a victory over the city of Upland, its police department, its code enforcement division and city prosecutor Dan Peelman for what was widely perceived as an overextension of the city’s authority.
Bogman was previously represented by public defender Gary Austin.
Austin and Bogman battled the city to a standstill thus far, with the city having managed to keep the case against Bogman alive, while subjecting itself to considerable negative publicity in the process that has brought the continuing tenure of the city staff member who oversees the code enforcement into question. Meanwhile city residents and those aware of the matter are beginning to question the wisdom of the city’s policy which requires what at least some consider to be the profligate use of water to maintain aesthetic standards during an ongoing drought.
The city initiated proceedings against Bogman under its administrative citation authority in August 2013. Technically, the city of Upland through Peelman has charged Bogman with a violation of Upland Municipal Code Section M8.12.020(D), maintaining nuisance landscaping. Peelman has also charged Bogman with a violation of Upland Municipal Code Section M12.24.130, maintaining a nuisance parkway. In Upland, parkways are owned by the city but the municipal code requires that the most proximate landowner maintain them.
With regard to the second charge, Bogman maintains that he actually watered and attempted to save the tree in question, which is located on city property in front of the sidewalk in front of his house, but that some unknown condition beyond his control such as blight had infested it. He contends it was the city which neglected its own tree and caused it to expire.
The city cited Bogman for having allowed the lawn at his residence, located in the 1000 block of West 14th Street, to turn brown. Bogman, who does not have official title to the property in question, informed the city he was not the owner of record. The city proceeded with its action against him anyway. Under the authority the city assumed as a consequence of the administrative citation ordinance the city had put in place following a controversial 3-2 vote of the city council the month prior to the issuance of the Bogman’s citation, a summary finding against him was made and collection of the fine was handed over to a collection agency.
Bogman protested the city’s action, only to be told the five-day deadline for making an appeal had elapsed. Citing principle, Bogman stood his ground and now the city is attempting to get a misdemeanor conviction against him for refusing to water his lawn.
Bogman acknowledges that he did in fact cease watering his lawn, having done so because of the continuing drought. Responsible public officials were calling for water conservation throughout the state, he claims, and he said he was personally convinced that “pouring buckets and buckets of water on grass, while water is growing ever more scarce, is immoral.”
Complicating the issue is that in recent months, Bogman has reseeded his lawn and it is now green. That occurred, however, after a protracted go-round with city officials in which Bogman, who has installed a drip irrigation system which delivers a precise amount of water to the base of the rose plants and shrubbery in his yard, attempted to learn from city officials what drought tolerant plants he could plant that would be acceptable to the city. What Bogman learned from that exchange was that the city did not have a policy in place with regard to drought tolerant landscaping,. He was instead told to preview for city officials what his plan was to see if it was acceptable. Moreover, according to Bogman, the city had blurred the distinction between drought tolerant and California native plants.
In November, Peelman attempted to have Bogman capitulate to the city’s request, offering to drop the prosecution of the criminal case if he would pay a fine and redress the situation with his lawn. Bogman refused, demanding a trial. On the day that the trial was to begin, Peelman failed to show up. This angered Judge Jon Ferguson, who was hearing the case. Ferguson was on the brink of dismissing the city’s case against Bogman at that point, but told Bogman to return to court the following week, and Bogman complied. The case has continued to drag on. In the meantime there has been considerable publicity with regard to the matter, not limited to the local area but extending into the Los Angeles media market and beyond. Some of that publicity has been less than flattering to the city.
Of particular moment in the information being played out publicly is that the city itself has properties where it has allowed its landscaping and vegetation to go unwatered, a point Bogman made repeatedly in his interviews with the news media. In responding to that point, Upland Mayor Ray Musser lamented that the city had been less than fully conscientious about keeping its own landscaping maintained to the same standard its code enforcement officers were imposing on the city’s residents because the city did not have the financial resources appropriated to restore landscaping that had perished during the drought, now more than three years running. The hypocrisy of the city’s action was widely denounced by media pundits.
Also brought out was that Bogman was adhering to a mandate by California Governor Jerry Brown, who had appealed to the residents of the state to cease irresponsible water use and emphasized the mandate by ceasing the watering of the lawn at the governor’s mansion in Sacramento.
Even more than the city’s reputation is riding on the Bogman prosecution. One specter hanging over the matter is the city’s administrative citation ordinance, which was passed just prior to the citation being issued to Bogman. That ordinance gave the city’s code enforcement division sweeping authority that extended from citing individual residents or business owners to creating a process by which the citation would be adjudicated and the guilt of the party cited ascertained or determined by the city. The process then provided for the city to levy fines of up to $1,000 per day on offenders who had not been given the opportunity to plead their case before an independent magistrate or hearing officer. The administrative citation ordinance was a controversial proposal from the outset, and was passed on a 3-2 vote of the council.
One of the administrative citation ordinance’s architects was community development director Jeff Zwack. The use of the ordinance in the city’s enforcement action against Bogman, now playing out under the microscope of media attention and all of the particulars of Bogman’s case entails – in particular an effort to criminalize a resident who asserts as his defense his own crisis of conscience in having to abandon the principle of water conservation buttressed by the state governor’s mandate in order to comply with a city ordinance that gives no consideration to the extenuating circumstances of drought and a state mandate that conflicts with the ordinance – is now being seen as a referendum on Zwack’s performance in his position of trust and authority with the city. The Sentinel has learned that at least two of the city council’s members are contemplating firing Zwack. Thus, Peelman’s ability to extract a pound of flesh from Bogman – and thus acquit the city with regard to the administrative citation authority it has assumed – is seen as a crucial factor in whether Zwack will remain employed in Upland.
City prosecutor Peelman, perhaps seeking to shore up the city’s position vis-à-vis the Bogman prosecution and Zwack’s responsibility in laying the groundwork for it, engaged in an atypically vitriolic personal attack during the round of questioning earlier this week when the media learned that he had again offered Bogamn a plea bargain in the form of a $1,000 fine in exchange for a dismissal of the criminal action against him and that Bogman had turned that offer down.
Peelman stridently accused Bogamn of “blatant” disregard of the city’s landscape standard ordinances and of seeking to manipulate the media by making “disingenuous” statements that Peelman suggested falsely implied Bogman had allowed his lawn to die because of his concern about the drought when in fact, Peelman claimed, Bogman had taken up the issue of water conservation because it was “politically advantageous” to do so.
Meanwhile, Bogman’s attorney, Michael Vollandt, the managing attorney at the Upland-based Law Offices of Marc Grossman, is heading into the case with a determination to demonstrate the city is abusing its code enforcement authority. Vollandt recently concluded a defense of Grossman, who was accused by the city of having failed to display a business license for a second hand store Grossman was running in one of the two buildings he owns in Upland. Peelman had upped the ante in that case, seeking to get a criminal conviction against Grossman. Vollandt had demonstrated, however, that Grossman had indeed paid for the business license but could not display it because the city had failed to forward it to him. Vollandt prevailed in that case by calling Peelman’s bluff, insisting that the case be taken to trial. Faced with the prospect of having to explain to jurors why the city had cited Grossman for not having the business license on display when it was a city official that had failed to give Grossman the license even though he had paid for it, Peelman folded and the case was dismissed short of trial.
Vollandt said he will on Bogman’s behalf put Peelman and the city through their paces.
“The city wants to put its citizens in jail if they conserve water by not watering their lawns,” Vollandt said. “We believe a jury of Mr. Bogman’s peers will feel differently if they are given access to the facts of this case.”

Victorville Landfill To Host Ten Megawatt 58-Acre Solar Generating Facility

SAN BERNARDINO—(January 22) The county planning commission this week approved the establishment of a 10-megawatt solar farm at the Victorville Landfill.
The panel, which is one member short, granted the applicant, SunEdison and its representative, Jeremy Krout of EPD Solutions, permission to proceed with what was described as an “interim” solar photovoltaic generating facility. The facility is to cover 57.6 acres within the 90-acre third expansion phase of the 491-acre landfill.
According to a report on the project prepared by county land use division employee Tracy Creason, the terrain upon which the facility will be located consists of rolling hills and desert washes which slope from the northwest to the southeast with an elevation change of approximately 120 feet, over a distance of approximately a half mile. Vegetation on the property currently consists of Mojave creosote bush scrub and bursage scrub with a smattering of Joshua trees.
While proposed solar energy projects in other areas of the county have been opposed by environmentalists and nearby residents and in some cases halted, this project met with little resistance.
According to Creason, “The proposed commercial solar energy generation facility is either (a) sufficiently separated from existing communities and existing/developing rural residential areas so as to avoid adverse effects, or (b) of a sufficiently small size, provided with adequate setbacks, designed to be lower profile than otherwise permitted and sufficiently screened from public view so as to not adversely affect the desirability and future development of communities, neighborhoods, and rural residential use. Proposed fencing, walls, landscaping and other perimeter features of the solar energy generation facility will minimize the visual impact of the project so as to blend with and be subordinate to the environment and character of the area where the facility is to be located. The siting and design of the proposed commercial solar energy generation facility will either be: (a) unobtrusive and not detract from the natural features, open space and visual qualities of the area as viewed from communities, rural residential uses, and major roadways and highways or (b) located in such proximity to already ‘disturbed’ lands — such as electrical substations, surface mining operations, landfills, wastewater treatment facilities, etc. that it will not further detract from the natural features, open space and visual qualities of the area as viewed from communities, rural residential uses, and major roadways and highways. The siting and design of project site access and maintenance roads have been incorporated in the visual analysis for the project and shall minimize visibility from public view points while providing needed access to the development site.”
In addition, Creason stated, “The proposed commercial solar energy generation facility will not adversely affect to a significant degree the availability of groundwater supplies for existing communities and existing and developing rural residential areas.”
In the cases of other proposed solar projects that were denied approval, opponents often latched onto the degradation of the habitat of the desert tortoise those projects represented. In the case of the one to go in at the Victorville landfill, Creason said, “The solar energy generation facility will be sited so as to avoid or minimize impacts to the habitat of special status species, including threatened, endangered, or rare species, critical habitat areas as designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”
Creason also stated that the project “is located in proximity to existing electrical infrastructure such as transmission lines utility corridors and roads such that: (a) minimal ground disturbance and above ground infrastructure will be required to connect to the existing transmission grid, (b) new electrical generation tie lines have been co-located on existing power poles whenever possible, and (c) existing rights-of-way and designated utility corridors will be utilized to the extent practicable.”
The project required and the commission granted a major variance because grades exceed 5 percent.
The city of Victorville did not oppose the project.

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.

Fight Over Permitting Of Joshua Tree Dollar General Now In Appellate Court

(January 20) The dispute over the county planning commission’s 2013 4-1 approval of a proposal by Dynamic Development to establish a Dollar General store at the corner of Twentynine Palms Highway and Sunburst Avenue in Joshua Tree has now moved on to the Fourth Appellate District Court.
The effort by Dynamic Development in conjunction with the Goodlettsville, Tennessee–based Dollar General Corporation has proceeded in stages, which could be likened to rounds, entailing opposition by local residents who consider the Dollar General to be out of character with the rustic community and would prefer to not see it built. In most of rounds, however, Dynamic Development has prevailed. That has not discouraged the opposition, which is now looking to use the proponent’s appeal to the Fourth Appellate District as a forum for challenging even further aspects of the project locals find objectionable.
Dynamic Development prevailed in the first round, convincing Gus Romo and Ernie Perea, planners with the county’s department of land use services, to make a finding that the construction of the store at its proposed location is justified. That finding was passed along to Romo and Perea’s boss, Terri Rahhal, the planning director for the county, and included a recommendation to be passed along to the county planning commission that it approve Dynamic Development’s conditional use permit application.
Dynamic Development won the second round when Rahhal accepted Romo and Perea’s report and reiterated its findings to the planning commission.
In that report, Romo and Perea maintained the 1.45 acre site is compatible from a land use standpoint with the applicant’s plans. In their jointly authored report and recommendation, Romo and Perea stated, “This area of 29 Palms Highway is designated for commercial development and intended to cater to pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The project is considered a general retail use permitted within the Joshua Tree Community Plan zoning designation subject to approval of a use permit. Therefore, the proposed development and retail use are considered compatible with the surrounding land uses and general plan land use designations.”
Dynamic Development prevailed in the third round when the planning commission followed Rahhal’s recommendation and approved the project.
Maintaining that they prided themselves on the rustic character of their town, a number of people in the community including the entire membership of the Joshua Tree Downtown Business Alliance took it upon themselves to extend the matter to a fourth round, appealing the planning commission’s decision to the board of supervisors. The local opponents of the project told the board of supervisors the 9,100-square foot Dollar General, a national corporate retail establishment, would compromise the Old West ambience of a desert town that relies on tourism.
In June 2013, the board of supervisors held a public hearing that incorporated a video hook-up with the meeting room at the Joshua Tree Community Center to consider the appeal, allowing Joshua Tree residents to lodge their protests without having to make the 200-mile round trip to the county seat to be heard. Despite that accommodation, round four went to Dynamic Development, with the board of supervisors denying the appeal and approving the project.
Having been shut out in the first four rounds, the Joshua Tree residents and the downtown business alliance insisted on a fifth round, filing a lawsuit in San Bernardino County Superior Court the following month, asserting the county’s land use services division did not fully examine the negative impacts of the project, including cutting into the profitability of preexisting businesses and upsetting the rural character of the district.
Round five went to the project opponents when San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Donald Alvarez in March 2014 sided with the plaintiffs, ruling that the county needed to rescind Dynamic Development, LLC’s permit for the Dollar General retail store while county undertakes the preparation of an environmental impact report which Alvarez directed should specifically analyze the potential economic effects on surrounding businesses.
The county’s mitigated negative declaration of any untoward impacts of the project was insufficient, Alvarez ruled, in part because the analysis of the possible economic effects to existing businesses, which could result in urban decay, had not been done previously.
In reaching his conclusion, Alvarez relied upon a 29-year-old case pertaining to proposed new development in a less-than-highly-urbanized setting, the ski-resort community of Bishop. In that case, the court determined the California Environmental Quality Act called upon the governmental agency overseeing the project to “consider the secondary or indirect environmental consequences of economic and social changes.”
Though Alvarez said the California Environmental Quality Act is “not a fair competition statutory scheme intended to protect against economic competition,” he said the impact on preexisting businesses “must be considered if the loss of businesses affects the physical environment by causing or increasing urban decay.”
The project opponents of the Dollar General had further alleged the project was inconsistent with Joshua Tree’s community plan, which encourages small businesses, and challenged the project approval on the basis of a failure of the county and the proponent to do a traffic study. Alvarez did not find in favor of the plaintiffs on those issues.
Dynamic Development immediately intimated that it intended to extend the contest into a sixth round by appealing Alvarez’s ruling to the state appellate court in Riverside. Mark Ostoich, an attorney representing Dynamic Development, said the project met all the criteria of an acceptable property use.
Before Dynamic Development could initiate round six, the alliance and the town’s residents initiated and won that stage of the competition when they sought and received from Alvarez an order prohibiting the San Bernardino County land use division from permitting Dynamic Development from engaging in any pre-construction or preparatory activity relating to the construction of Joshua Tree Dollar General store at the corner of Twentynine Palms Highway and Starburst Drive in Joshua Tree.
In late December 2014, Dynamic Development made good on its earlier indication of a pending appeal, lodging a further legal challenge, effectively initiating round seven.
The appeal of Alvarez’s ruling to the Fourth Appellate District extends to Alvarez’s order that Dynamic Development carry out at its own expense the preparation of a full-blown environmental impact report. This transfers the matter to a three-judge panel in Riverside. The lodging of that appeal opened the door for the project opponents to have the issue with regard to the proposed project’s incompatibility with the Joshua Tree Community Plan as well as the need for a traffic study heard.
The Downtown Business Alliance filed its notice of opposition to the appeal. Ultimately, the courts, at both the Superior Court and appellate levels do not have land use authority. But Opponents are hopeful that the intent of law will be interpreted by the court in a way favorable to them, finding that the construction of large scale business structures, not in kind with the current architectural theme of Joshua Tree’s art district, will have an adverse impact upon the existing economics of the business district and will in effect be an eyesore turning away the current clientele. Opponents hope that the court will require this adverse impact to be mitigated or alleviated and that such mitigation can only mean that the Dollar General must be built in conformance with the scale and character of the existing historic district.