By clicking on the blue portal below, you can download a PDF of the November 19 edition of the San Bernardino County Sentinel.
By Mark Gutglueck
More than 12,000 ravens living in San Bernardino County’s desert area are most likely doomed if the U.S. Military gravitates, as it seems on a trajectory to do, toward the most efficient method of protecting the Desert Tortoise on and around the six military posts located in the Mojave.
As part of the arrangement the Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Air Force have to utilize land in Southern California, the services individually and collectively have been committed to protecting, to the extent possible, the ecology and environment around their various bases.
One of the most vulnerable species in the Mojave Desert is the desert tortoise. The gravest, most direct and lethal threat to the tortoises are ravens, which are present throughout the desert in massive numbers far in excess to those of the tortoise. Given that there are few other viable remaining habitats for the tortoise, the proliferation of the ravens in the Mojave Desert represents an existential threat to the tortoise.
A report relating to how desert tortoises in the Mojave Desert can be safeguarded was commissioned by the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command as well as U.S. Marine Corps Major General A. E. Renforth, the commanding general of the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center headquartered in Twentynine Palms; Captain Troy Searcy, the director of environmental affairs at the Combat Center; Kristina Brown, the deputy director of governmental external affairs at the Combat Center; Captain Jacob Spaulding, the deputy director of the Marine Corps Logistics Base; Stephen Watts, the chief of environmental resources and planning at Edwards Air Force Base; David Housman, the National Environmental Protection Act planner at Fort Irwin; Julie Hendrix, the natural resources specialist/installation biologist at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station; Bill Berry, the regional conservation program manager at the Marine Corps Installations West; Thomas Leeman, a wildlife biologist with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service; and Dennis Orthmeyer, the state director of wildlife services with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In response, a document was prepared by Stella Acuna along with Jackie Clark, Stephanie Clarke, J. Scott Coombs, Josh De Guzman, Michael Dungan, Doug Gilkey, Paul Radley, Clint Scheuerman, Lisa Woeber and contributors Jesse Martinez, Aaron Hebshi, Ph.D., Vanessa Shoblock and Albert Owen, Ph.D. Their study of the circumstance pertaining to the desert tortoise population, which was released yesterday, November 18, is entitled Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Integrated, Adaptive Management of the Common Raven on Department of Defense Lands in the California Desert.
The six major U.S. Military installations in the Mojave Desert are the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, the Marine Corps Logistics Base, Fort Irwin, the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Edwards Air Force Base and the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range. Those installations fall within parts of or overlap among Kern, Inyo, Imperial, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.
The assessment circumscribes the issue and lays out two alternatives for dealing with the threat the ravens pose to the desert tortoise. The first of those calls for a continuation of the existing primarily non-lethal and mostly ineffective raven management strategy, consisting of the flushing of the birds from their coveys and stepping up the level of stress on the birds to discourage and disrupt their nesting and breeding. The second more aggressive and much more likely efficient plan entails the lethal removal of 11,830 to 13,293 ravens initially and 1,477 to 1,715 ravens annually.
According to the assessment, “Over the last three to five decades, raven numbers have increased in much of Southern California and by a factor of 15 in parts of the California desert. In a recent study of bird populations in the Mojave Desert, the raven was the only species shown to have a significant population increase since the early Twentieth Century, while every other native species has shown a decrease. In general, as human communities increase, raven populations increase, taking advantage of resource subsidies that humans inadvertently provide. In 2008, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service and cooperating agencies, including the Department of Defense installations in the western Mojave Desert that are identified in this assessment, prepared an environmental assessment to implement a desert tortoise recovery plan to reduce common raven predation on the desert tortoise. At the time of the 2008 environmental assessment, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service estimated the California desert raven population at 37,500. As of 2021, the United States Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that there are over 100,000 ravens in the California desert. The current raven population in the U.S. is roughly 2.5 million.”
The assessment document continues, “The overpopulation of ravens in both the built and undeveloped areas of the California desert has had several detrimental impacts on the Department of Defense installations within the region. For instance, increased raven numbers result in higher incidences of predation on juvenile desert tortoises. The desert tortoise is the only federally listed species that occurs within the boundaries of all six Department of Defense installations in the California desert, and the Department of Defense is legally obligated by federal law to ensure the species is protected. Ravens are also causing property damage and pose a human health hazard in the built environment, particularly in and around areas where vehicles and aircraft are parked and where Department of Defense personnel must work directly underneath high-use roosting sites.
“One of the primary threats to desert tortoises is extensive raven predation of juvenile tortoises, which are vulnerable to raven predation until they are at least 8 years old,” the assessment document continues. “Ravens had the greatest impact on the mortality of juvenile (less than 2 years old) tortoises released from Department of Defense Headstart programs in the western Mojave Desert.”
The Headstart program consists of an effort by biologists attached to the various military bases in the Mojave Desert to assist in the survival rate of tortoise hatchlings. Since desert tortoises do not reach full maturity until they are 12 years old and remain vulnerable to predation at least until they are nine years old, the Twentynine Palms Combat Center created one of several tortoise research and captive rearing sites. Another was established at the Fort Irwin National Training Center near Barstow. Another was set up at Edwards Air Force Base. Within the captive sites, the young tortoises are protected from the vast majority of threats to their survival.
“In a study of desert tortoises released from the Headstart program at Fort Irwin NTC, of the 23 small juveniles (less than 2 years old) that died, two were confirmed as having been depredated by ravens (shells showed characteristic raven damage or carcasses were located beneath raven nesting or roosting sites), and 16 others were strongly suspected to have been taken by ravens (e.g., tortoise transmitter found under known raven perching sites or near fresh raven footprints),” the assessment document states. “Of 15 tortoises released from the Edwards AFB Headstart Program between 2005 and 2006, the probable cause of death of 8 tortoises was predation, with 7 by ravens that lived in the area. The Edwards AFB Headstart Program also released an additional 120 juvenile tortoises between 2013 and 2018. Of the known mortalities for these 120 juveniles, 45 occurred where the remains were found, and a likely cause of death could be determined with a high degree of certainty. Of these 45 mortalities, 15 (33%) were attributed to ravens based on peck marks and other evidence indicative of raven predation. In total, the Edwards AFB Headstart Program has conducted seven major releases for a total of 299 juveniles released into the wild. Of these 299 juveniles, only 57 are known to be alive (all others are dead or missing). As the numbers above show, raven predation has been a major factor in the mortality rates of small head-started tortoises.”
According to the assessment document, “Unlike ravens, which occur throughout most of the western U.S. and California, the geographic range of the Mojave population of desert tortoise is limited to portions of the Mojave and Sonoran deserts and their population is in decline.”
Beyond their threat to the tortoise, ravens have demonstrated themselves to be an all-around nuisance, the assessment document noted.
“Ravens can have negative economic impacts to agriculture and property,” the document states. “Ravens will eat crops such as grains, nuts, and fruits, and have been implicated in the killing or maiming of small livestock. On Department of Defense installations in the California desert, it is commonly acknowledged that ravens detrimentally impact places they are attracted to, such as: landfills, trash dumpsters, vehicle shade structures, hangars, parking decks, and barracks.”
The birds disingratiate themselves by shitting on everything beneath them, according to the assessment.
“In locations where ravens form large communal roosts in and around built structures on Department of Defense lands, the accumulation of excrement causes economic impacts from damage to military equipment (including but not limited to utility supply equipment, radar equipment, mission testing equipment, and parked vehicles and aircraft) and the personhours that are required to clean these areas,” the assessment document states. “Overpopulation of the raven in the California desert has resulted in human health hazards and potential disease vectors associated with significant build-up of raven excreta in shade structures and hangars and on buildings, dwellings, and other public locations where ravens roost and nest.”
Two paths for dealing with the ravens present themselves, according to the document.
“Under the no-action alternative, current raven management actions, primarily ad hoc and non-lethal, would continue to be conducted piecemeal at the identified Department of Defense installations in the California desert,” the document states. “These current management actions would continue if the proposed action is not selected. Non-lethal management techniques alone do not meet the purpose and need, and Department of Defense installations would continue to experience negative, and increasingly detrimental, impacts to ecological, economic, and health and safety resources from elevated and increasing raven populations. All of these impacts would continue to hinder military readiness.”
On the other hand, according to the assessment document, “Under the proposed action, the Department of Defense would integrate the identified raven management actions on lands owned or used by the Department of Defense in the California desert. Raven management would include non-lethal (subsidy management and unoccupied nest removal) and lethal (age-class specific removals informed by current density estimates and a desert tortoise-common raven conflict threshold) raven management actions to reduce raven populations and activities. Management under the proposed action would be integrative and adaptive. Adjustments in management strategy would be made based on changing numbers and effectiveness of efforts in achieving the purpose and need.”
The pro-active alternative calls for the “lethal removal of 11,830 to 13,293 ravens initially, followed by up to 1,477-1,715 ravens removed annually,” the document states. The birds would be killed by shooting them and by poisoning them with bait left proximate to their nesting grounds. The poisons to be used would consist or a 97 percent concentration of RC-1339, 3-chloro-p-toluidine hydrochloride or carbamylcholine chloride blended into meat or egg baits, without exceeding a maximum single application rate of 5,200 meat or egg baits/acre.
Another lethal means to be contemplated would be to douse eggs in nests with oil, which would have the dual impact of preventing the eggs from hatching while monopolizing the nests, as the parent birds will not dislodge unhatched eggs, such that subsequent laying of eggs producing offspring will be unlikely, lessened or compromised.
According to the assessment document, the non-lethal means consist of using “lasers for hazing” and salting foods the birds naturally gravitate to with substances unpalatable to birds to achieve “conditioned taste aversion.” Other non-lethal means include reduction of the ravens’ food and water availability, removal of perching, roosting, and nesting sites, as well as trapping and removing the birds.
According to the document “both non-lethal and lethal management actions would be implemented by trained personnel, following all applicable requirements and guidelines and per resource protection measures.”
According to the document, the most aggressive protocol contemplated, killing the birds, would result in a “less than significant adverse impacts to the raven population, because the species is overpopulated in the California desert and, at most, four percent of the California population would be removed.” The document states that “Less than significant, and overall, beneficial impacts to desert tortoise and other wildlife species that ravens threaten” would occur.
The Department of Defense and the command of the six military bases in the Mojave Desert are to ultimately determine whether to implement the no-action alternative or the proposed action in whole or part; whether to adopt additional discretionary monitoring and/or discretionary mitigation; whether the analysis presented in the programmatic environmental assessment supports a finding of no significant impacts or requires further analysis in an environmental impact statement; and/or whether to adopt the programmatic environmental assessment in support of the agency decision.
Members of the public have been invited to comment on the environmental assessment and its alternatives, consisting of the plan to kill thousands of ravens at the six military installations in the Mojave Desert or to essentially allow the status quo to persist.
An electronic copy of the draft assessment can be accessed at: www.29palms.marines.mil/Staff-offices/Environmental-Affairs After reaching that page, search in Environmental Assessments to find the document.
The 30-day public review period began yesterday, November 18, 2021, and electronic or written comments concerning the proposed action will be accepted through December 18, 2021.
Comments may be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail c/o Cardno Government Services, Attention Jesse Martinez, 3888 State Street, Suite 201, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.
Former Fontana Assistant Police Chief Alan Hostetter will represent himself in federal court against the U.S. Justice Department in seeking to fend off charges that he was an architect and primary instigator of the January 6 Capitol insurrectionist riot aimed at overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The soldier-turned-law-enforcement officer-turned-yogi-turned political firebrand appears confident that he will be able to acquit himself of the treason charges that could land him a two-decade term in Fort Leavenworth. And though some of his most ardent supporters believe Hostetter has powers of persuasion that will allow him to convince a jury of his peers that he is an innocent crusader for democracy and fair play who has been victimized by a liberal and Democratic Party bastardization of the American ideal and values, there are those within Hostetter’s circle who believe serving as his own attorney will inevitably lead to his conviction and imprisonment, and further discrediting of the Donald Trump Presidential Restoration Movement for which he has been one of the most vocal sponsors.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who is overseeing Hostetter’s case, sought to dissuade Hostetter, who had no fewer than three attorneys representing him in the initial aftermath of the charges being levied at him in June, from undertaking to construct and carry out his own legal defense. Hostetter, who has had a fair amount of success galvanizing crowds who are sympathetic to his pro-Donald Trump, anti-Gavin Newsom, anti-COVID-19 precaution measure message, believes he can use his rhetorical skill to the same effect on a jury, notwithstanding his lack of familiarity with court and legal procedure and evidentiary and testimonial restrictions and protocol.
In the face of Hostetter’s determination to serve as his own legal counsel and his assertions that attorneys who have been functioning within the legal system for their entire careers would be unable to adjust to accepting his philosophy that holds the entirety of the U.S. political and legal establishment has been corrupted, Judge Lamberth signed off on allowing Hostetter to serve as his own lawyer late last month.
There was nothing to suggest that over the first 22 25ths of his life that Hostetter did anything other than fit comfortably within the mainstream of the U.S. military/politico/legal establishment.
After graduating from high school in 1982, Hostetter joined the Army, training as an infantryman. He was stationed at Fort Hood in Texas with the 1st Cavalry Division and did a tour of duty with the 3rd Infantry Division in Aschaffenburg, West Germany. In 1986, after leaving the Army, he was hired by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. In 1989, he transferred to the Fontana Police Department. He was promoted to police corporal in 1993, sergeant in 1996, lieutenant in 2001, subsequently served in 2006 and early 2007 as the chief of the Fontana School District Police Department, returned to the Fontana Police Department as a captain in April 2007 and became assistant chief in December 2007.
While with the Fontana Police Department, Hostetter worked in the patrol division, on the special weapons and tactics team, in the narcotics unit, detective bureau, traffic unit, internal affairs unit, and administration division. His advancement in the department was paralleled by academic achievement. He obtained a bachelor of science degree in education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and a master of public administration degree from California State University, San Bernardino.
As he was working his way up from the rank of patrol officer in Fontana, he married Wendy Hostetter, a police dispatcher who eventually became the police department’s dispatch and communications division supervisor. They had a son, Corey, who was hired as a rookie police officer with the Fontana Police Department in 2016, then worked as a police officer in Upland in 2017 and 2018.
It is noteworthy that Alan Hostetter was a graduate of the 212th session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy at Quantico, Virginia. Within California he was also a graduate of Class 38 of the California Police Officers Standards and Training Command College; and Class 105 of the Sherman Block Supervisory and Leadership Institute.
Though he was on the fast track to become police chief, and it was widely anticipated that he would succeed then-Police Chief Rod Jones upon his eventual retirement, Hostetter, in the fall of 2009, as his marriage to Wendy Hostetter was falling apart, applied for the soon-to-open police chief’s position in the Orange County municipality of La Habra, a city of 60,000, which at that time was less than a third of the size of then-190,000 population Fontana. In December 2009, Hostetter was selected to serve as chief from among the 20 candidates selected from the applicants for the La Habra job.
Hostetter began as La Habra police chief in January 2010, but remained in place only until May of that year, going out on leave and then taking a disability retirement officially effective as of August 26, 2010. He was 46 years old. He moved to San Clemente.
The following year, he began pulling his pension, which was then pegged at $132,907.32, through the California Public Employees Retirement System. In the years since, his pension, tax free and with three percent annual cost of living increases, has grown to $160,495.09.
In 2011, Hostetter began as an instructor/facilitator with the University of Phoenix, teaching undergraduate courses in ethics in criminal justice and graduate courses in budgeting. He remained as an instructor until 2013.
In October of 2011, he founded a company, Public Sector Solutions, which provided investigative services to support private business with workplace investigations. He maintained that company until September of 2017.
Hostetter, who as a police officer had been an advocate of physical fitness, upon his disability retirement took up yoga as a means of maintaining flexibility, suppleness and muscle tone.
In January 2017, after stepping up from the status of a dedicated yoga practitioner to a full-fledged yogi, he created Alpha Yoga of Orange County, a lucrative enterprise which catered mostly to senior citizens and the wives of wealthy businessmen in San Clemente. Hostetter made a remarkable transformation, having gone from the clean cut military/police officer model he had typified in his 20s, 30s and early 40s to a bearded and long-haired guru hippy type. He made a profound break from his previous life as a police officer, an existence in which force and aggression were routine, speaking constantly about eliminating everything other than “good vibes” and seeking out spiritual fulfillment, getting in touch with his own soul and how yoga could make such cosmic realizations for others possible.
Within a very short period of time in the spring of 2020, shortly after the advent of the COVID-19 crisis, Hostetter made an abrupt retransformation, reinventing himself as a self-styled conservative political activist. In April 2020, he closed down Alpha Yoga of Orange County, at once diverting practically all of his time and energy into the American Phoenix Project, a nonprofit organization, of which he was the founder and director. The American Phoenix Project, he solemnly said, was “dedicated to moving America forward as we come out of this national ‘shelter-in-place’ nightmare. Its broad objectives are to:
1) Fight back against the corruption and abuse taking place at all levels of government, local to national.
2) Reform the main stream media entirely. They must be held accountable.
3) Reform social media platforms so that censorship without a legitimate reason is forbidden.
4) Educate the public regarding vaccinations and vaccination programs. Support medical freedom and medical choice, while resisting any attempt to implement a mandatory vaccination program.
5) Resist any attempt to strip Americans of their civil rights and constitutional protections in the future through quarantines of healthy Americans.”
Virtually overnight Hostetter had become the central figure in the resistance to the State of California’s program to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Touting the movement he was creating, Hostetter said, “The first action of American Phoenix Project was to file a lawsuit against Gavin Newsom to take down all ‘shelter-in-place’ orders currently in place.”
That lawsuit failed, but Hostetter’s efforts drew to him a sizable contingent of residents either opposed to the government lockdowns from the start or who began to chaff under those restrictions as they continued week after week and month after month.
He accused government officials of encouraging medical personnel and public health officials to falsify the cause of death data hospitals and other health institutions kept to fraudulently show that virtually all who were dying at the time had contracted COVID-19. “There’s no pandemic,” he said. “There’s never been a local health emergency.” He likened the call for self quarantining to being “placed under house arrest. We’re going to be wearing masks for the rest of our lives according to [Dr. Anthony] Fauci [the chief medical advisor to the president]. We are going to be digitally tracked for the rest of our lives. First masks, then vaccines, then vaccine passports. Next thing you know, you’re on the cattle cars. These politicians are bought off by big pharma and God only knows the corruption that is involved in keeping them dogging us and dogging us and dogging us.”
Of note, Robert Ramsey, with whom Hostetter had served the entirety of his career at the Fontana Police Department and who eventually acceded to the police chief position there in 2016 when Police Chief Rod Jones retired and after a little more than two years in the chief’s position in 2018 had himself retired to San Clemente, was often seen at the rallies Hostetter was hosting and leading, and he too went on record against the government’s action in seeking to enslave its citizens by increments through the lockdown justifications. Hostetter and Ramsey attended numerous rallies in Orange County against coronavirus restrictions in general during the summer of 2020, protesting beach closures, defying the civil authorities and daring the local police sent to break up the crowds to arrest them and their fellow protesters. Ultimately, on October 21, 2020, at one such rally in San Clemente that questioned the legitimacy of the beach closures, Hostetter was arrested by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Immediately upon his having taken up the anti-COVID-19 precautions cause, Hofstetter felt another calling in the form of ensuring the survival of American Democracy and Western Civilization by seeing to it that Donald Trump was reelected president and his Democratic opponent, Joseph Biden, was kept out of the White House.
He rapidly pivoted from insisting that Democratic doomsayers were overselling the threat of the spread of the coronavirus and that “hack politicians,” meaning Democratic officeholders and the Republicans who failed to oppose them, were selling out the American people so that a new order could be imposed on American citizens to an even grander mission of convincing anyone who would listen that Donald Trump represented the last hope for humanity, and that his reelection as president was imperative for the United States to survive as a nation.
Hostetter took to heart President Trump’s warning, made on August 17, 2020 in Wisconsin, “The only way we’re going to lose this election is if the election is rigged.”
On September 19, 2020 during a public address in Orange County, he referenced the trade war with China. “The United States was about to win that war and then that war went suddenly literally viral, manufactured in a Wuhan bio-weapons lab,” he said. “The China virus was unleashed on the world, with the Chinese Communist Party flying their infected citizens all across America and all across the world. And whether by design or simple opportunism, the domestic enemies that have been infiltrating and proliferating within the United States for generations now saw their opportunity six months ago to crash the hottest economy on Planet Earth and try to take out the best president ever. These domestic enemies have used this virus to divide us, to strike fear in us, to subjugate and oppress us, with the ultimate goal being to remove President Donald J. Trump, one of the most amazing and effective leaders this country has ever seen.”
Those around him said he was elated in the immediate aftermath of the election, when on election night, November 3, 2020, it appeared that Donald Trump had narrowly gained reelection, seeming to have won in the crucial swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. But with results from the more populous major urban areas of those states coming in the following day, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin slipped from the Republicans grasp and on November 4, 2020, President Trump tweeted from @realDonaldTrump, “Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled. Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the ‘pollsters’ got it completely & historically wrong!”
From that point on, President Trump and his supporters propounded that the election was being stolen.
On November 12, 2020, during his drive from California to Washington, D.C. where he intended to take part in the million man Make America Great Again March that was to take place on November 14 and make a show of continuing support for the president, Hostetter videoed himself as he was driving through Arkansas, noting that he was on schedule to arrive in Virginia that evening.
“It was so brazen what they did to us, the theft of this election,” he said. “They did this to us in broad daylight. They stole this election while everybody was watching, and they were flipping us the middle finger as they did it. The Deep State has been assuming power in this country and slowly taking everything over in this country. There’s been no honest vote probably in decades, if not longer. They think they’re firmly in control and they’re about to be proven otherwise.”
In the video, Hofstetter stated that votes cast for Trump had been “switched” to Biden, such that the election had been “stolen,” which he characterized as an act of “treason.” This threat to America was so dire that it called for a revolutionary remedy, he said. “Some people at the highest levels need to be made an example of with an execution or two or three, because when you commit treason against this country and you disenfranchise the voters of this country and you take away their ability to make decisions for themselves, you strip them of their Constitutional rights,” he said. “That’s not hyperbole when we call it tyranny. That’s fucking tyranny. And tyrants and traitors need to be executed as an example.”
When the million man MAGA March did not result in reversing the presidential election outcome, President Trump’s supporters and their efforts to prevent what they said was the theft of the election coalesced around the hope that Vice President Mike Pence would use his authority as president of the Senate to prevent the hijacking of the election from occurring. President Trump’s advocates believed that when the House of Representatives and the Senate met in a joint session to certify the election, Pence could overturn the election results in favor of Joseph Biden in key swing states by mandating that votes cast there which were in dispute not be counted, thereby making a determination that the Trump-Pence ticket had prevailed in the presidential/vice presidential election.
Hostetter became the self-appointed leader of Southern California’s “Stop the Steal” movement.
Back in Southern California in December 2020 at rallies in Orange County, he called upon as many “patriots” as possible to heed the president’s call and go to Washington ahead of the joint session of Congress to certify the election results on January 6 to protest that certification, which would, if it conferred victory upon Joseph Biden, he insisted, be invalid.
On December 12, 2020, the American Phoenix Project hosted a “Stop the Steal” rally in Huntington Beach. Hostetter was the primary speaker at the rally, and he later posted a video of his speech on the internet. In the video, Hostetter said Trump had in fact won the election but was cheated out of his victory by forces aligned with the Democrats who had miscounted votes which he said had actually been cast in favor of the incumbent president by miscrediting them as having been made in favor of the challenger Biden. This, Hostetter said, amounted to a “coup.” Hostetter is seen and heard on the video telling the crowd, “We’re gonna fix this before this is all over. There must, absolutely must, be a reckoning. There must be justice. President Trump must be inaugurated on January 20, and he must be allowed to finish this historic job of cleaning out the corruption in the cesspool known as Washington, D.C. The enemies and traitors of America both foreign and domestic must be held accountable. And they will. There must be long prison terms, while execution is the just punishment for the ringleaders of this coup.”
At that time, Hostetter spoke almost exclusively in circumstances where he was surrounded by like-minded Trump supporters. On two known occasions, when someone present asked Hostetter what evidence he could marshal to show the election had in fact been stolen, violence erupted, with those doing the questioning being mobbed.
During one of those rallies, Hostetter propounded that the “elected whores,” meaning the members of Congress, should “fix this mess and keep America America.” Allowing the crooked Democrats who had stolen the election to put their kingpin Joseph Biden in the White House was tantamount to treason, he said, which “patriots” would not stand for. Those members of Congress directly participating in the theft – meaning the Democrats – and the ones passively allowing it to happen – meaning the Republicans who were RINOs or Republicans In Name Only – would suffer the fate of being “tie[d] to a fucking lamppost,” he said.
Ultimately, it would be the action that occurred in the U.S. Capital of Washington, D.C. on January 6, culminating with a substantial number of protesters pushing beyond barriers and storming into the U.S. Capitol building, where allegedly some among those were intent on seeking out and assassinating then-Vice President Mike Pence, President Trump’s running mate who was set to preside over the Senate during the final ratification of the election results, that would lead to Hostetter being indicted.
On June 10, an indictment against Hostetter along with Russell Taylor, Erik Scott Warner, Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, Derek Kinnison and Ronald Mele was unsealed. According to federal prosecutors, Hostetter, Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele, self-identifying members of the “three percenters” political movement, purposefully sojourned from Southern California to the nation’s capital earlier this year to interfere with the orderly transfer of presidential power and thereby prevent Joseph Biden, whom Hostetter considers a “communist traitor,” from succeeding Donald Trump as the nation’s chief executive.
Taylor, Warner, Martinez, Kinnison and Mele all coordinated with Hostetter in Southern California in advance of their arrival in Washington, D.C., where they rendezvoused and engaged variously in speechmaking and/or other efforts to incite the masses assembled there to action, according to federal prosecutors.
In the immediate aftermath of his indictment, Hostetter was represented by Bilal Essayli, a California-based attorney who had run unsuccessfully for the California Assembly in 2018. In hearings before the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia where the case against him and his co-defendants is to be held, Hostetter was also represented John Pierce, and more recently by Karren Kenney.
At a hearing on October 14, Hostetter told U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth that he wanted to represent himself basically because of financial circumstances, his stated rationale for doing so being that the federal government knows that it has no case against him and is proceeding with the criminal charges in an effort to both discredit him and bankrupt him financially.
Lamberth said that whatever Hostetter’s impressions were of the case against him and the justice system, it was ill-advised for him to seek to represent himself in the legal arena with which he has virtually no expertise. He told Hostetter he had “never seen a pro se defendant actually succeed” and that in 2020 he had presided over a case against two defendants who represented themselves and were convicted and received sentences of more than twenty years in prison.
“A trained lawyer would defend you far better than you could defend yourself,” Lamberth said, “You’re not familiar with the law, even as a trained police officer.”
Hostetter intimated to Lamberth that he believes the Justice Department and the courts are corrupt, and that he wants the opportunity to illustrate that through his trial, and does not want to be hampered by an attorney who is likewise corrupted by the system. He said he would be willing to be advised though not represented by an attorney who was not a member of any secret societies such as the Masons, Book and Snake and Skull and Bones.
Judge Lamberth, having exhausted seeking to discourage Hostetter from representing himself by quoting the adage that “a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client,” said he could not and would not prevent Hostetter from serving as his own lawyer so as long as Hostetter submitted an affidavit or a sworn statement that he cannot afford to pay for such representation.
Hostetter did so, despite the consideration that as a consequence of his 24-year public law enforcement career he is currently receiving a $160,495.09 annual pension.
Coming before Lamberth again on October 28, Hostetter renewed his request to represent himself and be granted a speedy trial, meaning, presumably, the official proceedings against him will begin prior to February 2022.
Judge Lamberth granted the court’s permission for Hostetter to serve as his own counsel, with Kenney serving in a court-appointed “advisory” and “standby” capacity. Judge Lamberth’s order stipulated that, consistent with federal law, the court will ascertain after the trial whether Hostetter, based on his income, is capable of paying all or a portion of Kenney’s fees for the assistance she renders. This will prevent U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips, the federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia, from piling on with further perjury charges against Hostetter for falsely claiming he did not have sufficient funds of his own to pay for an attorney.
Meanwhile, Hostetter’s trial looms. Among his followers are those who believe that he will acquit himself in short order. Others, perhaps more realistically, see what Hostetter, for all of this railing about the corruption of American institutions including the court system ignores, which is that Judge Lamberth will not permit him to dominate the courtroom in which he is to be tried in the same manner by which his followers allow him to absolutely control the atmospherics of the protest rallies he leads. Simultaneously, Phillips and his prosecutorial cohorts are salivating at the opportunity to go up against Hostetter, widely considered the most charismatic, telegenic, and persuasive of the Trump Presidential Restoration Movement’s members, in a forum wherein he is entirely outside his element.
Moreover, those on both side of the political divide – Trump supporters and the former president’s most committed, dire and implacable enemies – perceive that the prospect of a Hostetter trial in which he seeks to marshal the evidence he claims will exonerate him will prove an unmitigated disaster that will put on display the delusional and what some consider to be the psychotic character of the Trump Presidential Restoration Movement through the demonstration of how unhinged Hostetter has become.
Even some of his closest friends have come to believe Hostetter has lost his grip on reality.
Hostetter maintains that is not the case. Part of the basis for what some say are Hostetter’s delusional and paranoiac representations stem from material provided to his legal team relating to the case against him. So far, Hostetter, in apparent compliance with one of Judge Lamberth’s orders and the legal advice from Essayli, Pierce and Kenney, has refrained from disclosing the precise substance of the discovery material provided to him and his legal team as a consequence of his prosecution.
That discovery material in large measure is the evidence and testimony that Phillips intends to use in court to obtain Hostetter’s conviction. Though Hostetter has not directly disclosed what the discovery material consists of, he has in some fashion cryptically and in other cases less opaquely referenced the gist of the investigative material accumulated by the prosecution against him and his co-defendants. Such material, under the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brady v. Maryland, must be made available to criminal defendants and their legal teams to assist in the preparation of a defense. Based upon Hostetter’s elliptical statements, there were apparently federal agents working undercover or informants in some fashion employed by the government within Hostetter’s circle of associates, fellow and sister political activists, friends and acquaintances. These federal agents, Hostetter has suggested but has not stated, included agents provocateurs, that is, individuals who may have themselves engaged in, or encouraged those with whom they came into contact to take, action that was illegal.
Hostetter last month explained his rationale for wanting to represent himself.
“What is happening to me is really a criminal conspiracy,” he said in a video uploaded to the website BitChute. “I’m not only not guilty of any of these charges, I am completely innocent of the charges they have fabricated against me and started working to set me up for.”
According to Hostetter, the FBI and other entities sent agents provocateurs into his circle long prior to the events of January 6, indeed from the time he began his anti-COVID-19 precaution agitation. “It turned out, I have discovered, it was nine months roughly before January 6 happened,” he said, “The FBI was sending informants into me and working me as a potential domestic terrorist going all the way back to my very first protests in April of 2020.”
The Sentinel has learned that federal agents assigned to the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section as well as investigators working out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California were monitoring Hostetter’s Taylor’s, Warner’s, Martinez’s, Kinnison’s and Mele’s activities, associations and whereabouts in 2020.
Attention to his constitutionally-protected free speech and political activity extended to his arrest in October 2020, one that was effected not by federal authorities, but officials functioning within the State of California, who were functioning in league with California Governor Gavin Newsom, Hostetter said.
“I have been exposing the corruption of the local sheriff’s department here and the Orange County sheriff,” he said.
In a gesture of solidarity with the pro-law enforcement orientation of the Republican Party, the conservative mindset in general and his own roots, Hostetter said, “90 percent of these men and women in the sheriff’s department are fantastic. They’re full of integrity, but their command staff, I’m sure, including the sheriff himself and a good contingent of deputies within the department, I have no doubt, are Masonic, in Free Masonry, and those are likely the vast majority of people that were around me the day I was arrested on October 21, 2020 in San Clemente when I organized a protest against Gavin Newsom and the COVID lockdowns.”
He continued, “I will continue speaking out in my own defense. I will continue speaking out in defense of this country against the insanity we are living through right now and the fraudulent Biden Administration that is currently trying their darndest to completely take this country down as a constitutional republic, and this has been going on for generations, being led by the FBI and the intel agencies of this country, which have gone fully rogue and completely evil and corrupt.”
Hostetter said the FBI and CIA are “Luciferian, Satanic organizations,” and he cited as evidence of that reality that in 1924 J. Edgar Hoover, who was then 29 years old, was designated as the director of what became the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “The reason he got that position is he was a 33rd degree Freemason,” Hostetter said. “He was given the leadership, the directorship of that organization. He built that organization, and I am sure once he moved into that position surrounded himself with Freemasons and probably hired as many Freemasons as he possibly could. It’s a secret society. It’s like Skull and Bones at Yale, the Cabal, many others that are out there that are destroying the fabric of this nation, destroying everything that is good, not only in this country but globally.”
Hostetter rejected suggestions that he is not dealing realistically with the world or his situation. He insisted he was simply standing up for the freedoms Americans hold dear, and that he was maliciously framed by corrupt FBI agents and informants.
“I have never been more sane, more happy, more optimistic and more excited about what I’m about embark on – defending myself and exposing these crimes against me and those crimes against this country,” he insisted.
According to the lawyer for Jeff Burum and Matt Jordan, the contemplated conversion of the historic 8.8-acre England Grove Estate and its more than 650 trees to a 28-unit housing development does not constitute spot development.
A contingent of Redlands residents feels differently, and they want the property in its entirety, the orange grove and its irrigation system and the structures on the property, to be preserved.
Burum says it is unrealistic for an agricultural property that is no longer economically viable to be salvaged, and that for the historic structures to be refurbished and maintained, the vast majority of the grove must give way to the homes that are to be built there.
The city council, which twice in the past was unable to decisively resolve the diametrically opposing aims of the city’s preservationists and those intent on developing the property, this week deferred a vote on the development proposal for a third time.
Beginning in 1891, Thomas Y. England began cultivation of naval oranges on a lot at the corner of Palm and Alvarado avenues in Redlands. The grove itself involved a gravity-fed irrigation system, and in 1893 he set within the grove a home in the Victorian style, which included a carriage house immediately behind it. In 1914 the house was altered by a subsequent owner, Guy Hunter, into a prairie style home. England had also established on the property a Queen Anne cottage built on that part of the property facing Alvarado Street.
The England Estate containing all of its historic and still-functioning assets was sold by the Hunter Family to James and Annie Attwood in 1922. The Attwoods in turn passed it along to their daughter, Mary Attwood Heeney, and her husband Thomas J. Heeney, who continued to operate it as a citrus-producing grove.
As with virtually all of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, Redlands, beginning as early as the late 1940s and certainly by the 1950s, then into the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and into the Third Millennium experienced the gradual and then more accelerated destruction/conversion of its agricultural properties, which were supplanted primarily with residential but also in some measure commercial and industrial development. Unlike in most other communities, however, a movement aimed at historical preservation found currency in Redlands. Even as the city’s elected officials, who were using the money provided to them by the development community in the form of political donations to pay for their reelection campaigns in order to hang onto their elected offices, embraced aggressive development, a solid contingent of Redlands residents succeeded in putting into place substantial controlled growth regulations in the form of voter-approved initiatives – 1978’s Measure R, 1987’s Measure N and 1997’s Measure U – which to a substantial degree took the development/land use approval process out of the hands of Redlands’ politicians. Measure R put a limit on the annual growth rate, followed by further refinements and restrictions put in place under the auspices of Measures N and U, such that no more than 400 residential dwelling units can be approved or constructed within the city annually, and the city council is not empowered to suspend, waive or rescind those provisions.
Meanwhile, Measure O, passed by Redlands voters in 1986, approved a bond to pay for purchasing and thereafter dedicating for preservation historic citrus groves in the city.
More than a decade ago, Thomas Heeney’s grandson Christopher Brumett along with his wife Jacquelyn signaled their willingness to sell the England Grove property. The City of Redlands, with its available grove-preservation bond money, and the Redlands Conservancy, showed interest. The Redlands Conservancy offered $3 million for the $8.8-acre property. The Brumetts turned that offer down, saying they wanted roughly twice that amount. Another offer, this one for $4 million, was tendered by preservationists. Again, the Brumetts balked at that offer.
Thereafter, Burum and Jordan approached the Brumetts with their own offer. Inexplicably, in June 2019, the Brumetts accepted Diversified Pacific’s $2.35 million bid for the 8.8 acres. Burum, Jordan and Diversified Pacific have applied with the city to convert six of the England Grove Estate’s 8.8 acres into 28 2,000-to 2,600 square foot homes on what are mostly 6,200-square-foot lots.
The property slated for development lies within one of the city’s ten sometimes overlapping historic zones, designated as the West Highland Avenue Historic and Scenic District, consisting of 24 historic homes within a two-mile radius of the proposed project. Those historic properties include the Miss Hester Leaverton House at 159 West Palm Avenue, less than 300-feet away; the Montgomery House, which borders the orange grove; the Thomas Jeffrey House at 625 Alvarado Avenue; the Thayer residence at 104 West Cypress Avenue, as well as 13 homes on West Highland Avenue, three homes on West Cypress Avenue, one house on South Buena Vista Street, two houses on Alvarado Street and three homes on West Palm Avenue.
If given go-ahead, the project would result in more than 90 percent of the grove and its irrigation system being bulldozed. The original England home facing Palm Avenue, the carriage house behind it and the England Queen Anne cottage on the property facing Alvarado Street will be preserved, along with roughly 57 of the navel orange trees that produced fruit marketed for decades under the Pure Gold label.
The potential eradication of the grove and its gravity-fed irrigation system, one of the three last remaining gravity-fed watering systems in the state, has animated local historical preservationists against the project. Additionally, residents living in proximity to the project proposal, faced with the prospect of having a subdivision with seven units to the acre in a neighborhood where the density is not that intense, have been galvanized into opposition as well.
A coalition of those people, banding together as the grassroots group Save The Grove, retained attorney John McClendon. McClendon drew up letters laying out the objections to the project as proposed, and came before the city council in July and September to enunciate the principles at stake with regard to the project when the city council previously considered the matter.
Early in the process of the City of Redlands’ evaluation of Diversified Pacific’s development proposal for the England Estate property, which Diversified Pacific dubbed the Redlands Palm project, then-Mayor Paul Foster advocated on behalf of the development company, prevailing upon city staff to allow the project to be completed without Diversified Pacific having to go to the expense of a full-blown environmental impact report, instead consenting to have the city council consider providing the project with a mitigated negative declaration.
Under the California Environmental Quality Act, most development projects are subjected to an environmental certification process. Some types of environmental certification are more intensive than others, ranging from an environmental impact report to an environmental impact study to an environmental assessment to an environmental examination to a mitigated negative declaration to a negative declaration.
An environmental impact report, the most intensive type of environmental analysis and certification there is, consists of an involved study of the project site, the project proposal, the potential and actual impacts the project will have on the site and surrounding area in terms of all conceivable issues, including land use, water use, air quality, potential contamination, noise, traffic, and biological and cultural resources. An environmental impact report specifies in detail what measures can, will and must be carried out to offset those impacts. A mitigated negative declaration falls near the other end of the scale, and exists as a far less exacting size-up of the impacts of a project, by which the panel entrusted with the city’s ultimate land use authority, as in the case of Redlands the city council, issues a declaration that all adverse environmental impacts from the project will be mitigated, or offset, by the conditions of approval of the project imposed upon the developer.
On October 1, October 15, and December 17 of 2020, and then on March 4, 2021 the Redlands Historic and Scenic Preservation Commission reviewed and discussed the initial study the city had completed as part of the proposed mitigated negative declaration the city council was to make in providing the project its environmental certification. The historic and scenic preservation commission adopted a resolution on March 4, 2021, documenting its findings that the proposed mitigated negative declaration and cultural resources report did not adequately identify and address the potential impacts to cultural and historic resources, while recommending that a full environmental impact report be prepared for the project to comprehensively identify and analyze any potentially significant impacts.
The Redlands Planning Commission took up consideration of the project at its May 11, 2021 and June 8, 2021 meetings, engaging in discussion with regard to how the project will mesh with the existing surrounding neighborhoods, the manner in which the neighborhood is to be separated from the surrounding area by a gate and how that gate would limit access to the project, the fire safety problems represented by the proposed cul-de-sac on the Alvarado Street side of the project, the variances for the front yard setbacks and rear yard open space that were necessitated by putting the lots on properties too small to accommodate them vis-à-vis the city’s developmental standards, the project applicants’ lack of communication with the surrounding neighborhood, as well as Diversified Pacific’s request for a reduction in lot size, and the project’s impact on historic resources. Despite the commissions’ collective misgivings with regard to some of the issues pertaining to the development proposal, those were deemed to be relatively minor and the panel overall appeared to be philosophically disposed toward allowing the project to proceed, so much so that in choosing the two members of an ad-hoc subcommittee to make a fuller study of the project before reaching a final conclusion, it consented to appointing commissioners Karah Shaw and Steve Frasher to that subcommittee. This generated skepticism throughout the community, as Shaw is a real estate agent, and some felt this could constitute a conflict of interest in that she stood to profit were she to get the listings on or serve as a broker on the home sales within the Redlands Palm subdivision.
Following the May 11 and June 8 planning commission meetings, Diversified Pacific submitted a revised plan for the project, which removed the private access gates and the cul-de-sac, such that what had formerly been proposed as a private street went all the way through the project and connected to Alvarado Street. The removal of the cul-de-sac reduced by three the locations where there were front and rear yard setback variances. Other substandard setback variances remain as part of the project. Ultimately, at its third meeting regarding the project, the planning commission, after considering the input of the Frasher/Shaw subcommittee, on June 22, 2021, voted 5-to-2, with Dr. Angela Keller and Matt Endsley dissenting, to recommend that the city council provide the project with a mitigated negative declaration with a proviso that roughly 56 of the trees would be retained and a kiosk would be erected that would recite the history of the England Estate and its significance to Redlands. The commission voted 6-to-1, with Keller dissenting, to grant the variances allowing yard size limitations and reduced setbacks on some of the lots.
Given how precious many in the Redlands community considered the England Estate to be, utilizing a mitigated negative declaration as the means to provide the project with its environmental certification was considered to be a faux pas, one that stirred up even greater resistance than would have otherwise been the case.
According to McClendon, the city was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act because it had not carried out a full-blown environmental impact report for the project, given the sensitivity of various issues relating to the development of the historic and still-functioning agricultural property. One shortcoming in the environmental certification process, McClendon pointed out, was that the developer and the city had not consulted with nor included other agencies in determining what type of environmental document to prepare, and he said the city should have touched base as well with those agencies during the preparation of the so-called initial study for the mitigated negative declaration, even if an environmental impact report was not completed.
Furthermore, McClendon maintained, disagreements among experts and analysts who had examined the development proposal with regard to environmental impacts necessitated that a comprehensive environmental report be compiled. To make a negative declaration and ascertain there were no significant impacts and bypass the requirement for a full environmental impact report, McClendon said, the city had to consult with all agencies in the state with responsibility pertaining to the issues at play in the development. He asserted that the city had failed to make such consultations. The documentation upon which the mitigated negative declaration was based, “was not sent to the state clearing house,” McClendon said. “It was not properly distributed.”
McClendon argued that the destruction of the historical assets the project would entail imposed a mandate that the full-scale environmental impact report be conducted.
The point was further made that the listing of the 8.8-acre England Estate as a privately-owned historic resource subjected the property to a requirement that the historical assets be preserved in context, requiring that the two homes, the carriage house, the groves, their gravity-fed irrigation system and the surrounding wall be kept intact, and that any permanent changes to the exterior or setting of a designated historic resource be done in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Historic Properties.
The estate’s grove qualified as prime farmland, McClendon said, and the mitigated negative declaration did not provide adequate disclosure of that.
According to McClendon, the mitigated negative declaration for the project would not stand a legal challenge.
The city council convened on July 20, 2021 to consider the project. Neither Burum nor Jordan was in attendance at the hearing, though they were represented by Peter Pitassi, an architect from Rancho Cucamonga who has done other work for Diversified Pacific.
Early in the proceedings, before the public weighed in, all five members of the council disclosed that they had private meetings with representatives of Diversified Pacific.
Pitassi emphasized that the project as proposed would preserve the England Home and the carriage house, which were to be sold off to someone who would restore them, and that the England Cottage would be preserved as well.
Pitassi reminded the city council that “This property is private. It is privately owned. It’s been zoned for this use for many, many, many years, going back to 1955.”
In addressing how it was that Burum and Jordan had been able to underbid the entities seeking to preserve the property by $1.65 million and still walk off with the property, Pitassi said, “The property was on the open market for sale for over ten years. There were attempts made, as I understand it, by the conservancy to purchase it. The sellers for reasons known to them were not able to come to an agreement with them, and consequently it continued to be on the market when we entered discussions with them, and we were able to complete a transaction, closing escrow in June of 2019. The Heeneys were struggling with the grove. That’s why it was on the market. Unfortunately, commercial viability of the grove simply wasn’t there any longer.”
Pitassi dismissed objections to the project relating to the size of the lots and the density of the homes to be built.
“The minimal lot size for this project proposal is 6,400 feet and the average lot size is over 7,200 square feet, which is very common for subdivisions within this community and many, many communities,” Pitassi said. “In fact, in some communities, it would be considered rather large. We believe the yield and land plan for this site is appropriate.”
Pitassi said the zoning in the area would allow over 40 homes to be built there and that Diversified Pacific had chosen not to build two-story homes, though Redlands’ zoning code would have allowed the company to do so.
“We’ve gone to some significant effort to be as sensitive as we can be to the conditions around our property,” Pitassi asserted. “We think we have a project that will be very beneficial to the community and the neighborhood.”
According to McClendon, the residential properties in that area of Redlands are of a different character and are located on larger lots than those Diversified Pacific is set upon constructing. In this way, McClendon intimated, the development proposal consists of spot zoning.
McClendon offered various descriptions and definitions of spot zoning, culled from historic references and legal cases relating to land use, virtually all of which decried it as a practice that negatively impinged on the quality of life of those within the communities where it has been imposed. Three of those definitions referenced it as “the antithesis of planned zoning.” One reference stated spot zoning conferred upon those favored by it “preferential treatment.”
One definition McClendon offered for spot zoning stated it was “an island of property with less restrictive zoning in the middle of properties with more restrictive zoning.”
Mark Ostoich, an attorney representing Diversified Pacific, rejected McClendon’s characterization of the Palm Avenue development project as one involving spot zoning.
“Approval of variances is not spot zoning,” Ostoich wrote in a letter to the Redlands City Council dated November 15, 2021. “Leibold McClendon & Mann [McClendon’s law firm] contends that the development standard variances being considered by the city council amount to illegal spot zoning. Contrary to Leibold McClendon & Mann’s position, the city has the authority to grant a variance, upon making certain findings:
• That there are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applicable to the property or to the intended use that do not apply generally to other properties or uses in the same vicinity and zone;
• That such variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right possessed by other properties in the same vicinity and zone district, but which is denied to the property in question;
• That the granting of such variance will not be detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to the property or improvements of others in the vicinity; and
• That the granting of such variance will not adversely affect the general plan of the city of Redlands.
These findings will have been made based on substantial evidence and approval of the requested variances will not create spot zoning.”
Furthermore, in his November 15 letter, Ostoich stated, “The initial study/mitigated negative declaration was recirculated through the state clearinghouse and no state agency submitted comments. Leibold McClendon & Mann claimed that the City of Redlands violated the California Environmental Quality Act because it was required to recirculate the initial study/mitigated negative declaration through the state clearinghouse as part of the public review period. Inasmuch as no state agency was required to issue a permit or approval in connection with the project, we do not agree that the city was required to circulate the initial study/mitigated negative declaration through the state clearinghouse.”
Ostoich also asserted “The conversion of prime farmland by the project was addressed in the initial study/mitigated negative declaration. Contrary to Leibold McClendon & Mann’s assertion, the initial study/mitigated negative declaration includes an extensive discussion regarding the conversion of prime farmland being caused by the project and correctly concludes that the project would not have a significant impact. As substantial evidence in support of the conclusion, the initial study/mitigated negative declaration includes the California Department of Conservation Land Evaluation and Site Assessment model that is used to determine whether conversion of prime farmland caused by a project would result in a significant impact. Application of the Land Evaluation and Site Assessment model to the project leads to the conclusion that the loss of 7.19 acres of prime farmland on the project site is less than significant. Therefore, the initial study/mitigated negative declaration properly addressed the conversion of prime farmland.”
On July 20 and again on September 7, the city council considered the project, each time postponing a decision. This week, the matter came before the city council once again. It was widely anticipated that the city council on Tuesday night, November 16, would reach a consensus on whether the project should be given go-ahead. Ultimately, however, the council demurred, with the item being removed from the council agenda just as the meeting was about to start. The cancellation of the hearing was recommended by city staff, Mayor Paul Barich said, indicating he as the council’s presiding officer concurred. No comment from the public was permitted.
For Diversified Pacific, the further delay on the decision is not an encouraging sign. Councilman Paul Foster, the most pro-development of Redlands’s elected decision-makers, has announced that he will leave the council effective the first week of January 2022. Foster is a reliable vote for the Palm Avenue project, and represents the ability to influence the other members of the council and to intimidate Councilman Eddie Tejada. It was widely assumed he would be able to induce if not the entire city council then at least a majority thereof to vote in favor of the project. If the vote on the project is delayed beyond his leaving, what formerly appeared to be certain passage of the project becomes dicey.
Burum told the Sentinel, “It is our hope that the Redlands City Council follows the recommendation of the city staff and the city attorney, and approves our project. My partner [Jordan], who lives in Redlands, is an active member of the community and he recognized Redlands’ need for quality single story homes on smaller lots on the south side of town. Smaller lots are more efficient to maintain with less maintenance and less cost. These are ideal for those that have decided bigger isn’t always better, particularly in retirement. There are many people in the neighborhood who would love to see our community built and we hope the city council agrees.”
Burum rejected the insinuation that his project would result in a loss to the city and residents of Redlands.
“As developers, we help make communities better,” he insisted. “We are hoping the city council will see the project for the effort at quality historical preservation it is. The truth is we have proposed to renovate three historic structures. We are going to renovate and preserve a large historic home, renovate the other existing historic house, and restore the old barn and keep the citrus trees around the main house and on the main corner of the development. What we are doing is the only way to save the historical nature of the property and bring it back to its old glory. The proposed new homes are going to be built and designed in the architectural style that is consistent with the period of the original homes. We have Brett Waterman, who has impeccable credentials as a preservationist, working with us.”
Burum said he both understands and respects the sentiment and pride behind the effort at historical preservation in Redlands, but said those so committed needed to be realistic in their expectations and with regard to the financial constraints that development companies and landowners must work within.
“The Palm property in Redlands has neighbors that believe in preserving all the orange trees to leave the grove intact,” he said. “I support their feelings. We have listened and changed the proposal several times to make it better for the community.
“I serve on the board of a national historic preservation company and we are constantly trying to come up with the funds to rehabilitate and maintain historically meaningful structures,” he continued. “The hardest thing to accomplish is to come up with the money. We generally struggle to find a business incubator for each property, one that will generate the funding for repairs and maintenance enough to save and preserve these historical structures.”
Burum said, “Without a reliable long-term funding source to rehabilitate the structures and maintain the property on an ongoing basis, these structures and trees will become a community eyesore. The watering of the trees will stop, and they will die more rapidly, and the roof leaks will destroy the main house and the barn more quickly than most realize. Where is the community benefit from watching a historical property decline further? No matter what happens to the grove, what I do know is my firm will still be a good citizen trying to do the right thing one community at a time. My partner Matt and his wife Jill will still live in Redlands, where they raised their children, and have participated in community events since the day they moved in.”
Burum told the Sentinel, “We believe we have met all the requirements under California Environmental Quality Act guidelines to receive a mitigated negative declaration from the city to go forward with our plan to save and preserve the property into the future.”