In what is most likely the last major action of his tenure as a Redlands elected official, current City Councilman/former Mayor Paul Foster this week joined with his colleagues in giving Diversified Pacific go-ahead to convert roughly 6.1 acres of the remaining 8.8 acres of the historic T. Y. England Grove Estate into a 28-unit residential subdivision.
The rush was on to have what had turned into a controversial project proposal voted upon while Foster, who announced in September that he will depart from his position after the first council meeting in January, remains in office, since he not only represented a certain vote to approve the project, but has exercised a Svengali-like hold over other members of the city council, in particular Eddie Tejeda, Denise Davis and Jenna Guzman-Lowery, with regard to land use decisions. When combined with the reliably pro-development vote of Mayor Paul Barich, that circumstance translated into a 5-to-0 vote in favor of what Diversified Pacific and its two principals, Jeff Burum and Matt Jordan, insist will be an asset to the community.
A contingent of Redlands residents, including ones intent on preserving the few remaining vestiges of the city’s heyday at the center of what was then the nation’s primary citrus-producing region, are unwilling to see the England Grove eradicated, and have indicated that they will take legal action challenging the council’s Tuesday night vote.
In September, Foster, who was first elected to the city council in 2010 and in recent years has become a virtual functionary on behalf of the development industry, announced he would leave the city council as of the first council meeting in January 2022 and move to Camino Island in Washington State. At the time Foster made the announcement, the council had twice delayed taking action with regard to the project Diversified Pacific refers to as the West Palm Development.
The West Palm Development confines itself entirely to property at the corner of Palm and Alvarado avenues in Redlands once owned by Thomas Y. England, where in 1891 he began cultivation of naval oranges. The grove itself involved a gravity-fed irrigation system, and in 1893 England set within the grove a home in the Victorian style, which included a carriage house immediately behind it. England had also established on a portion of the property facing Alvarado Avenue a Queen Anne cottage. In 1914 the Victorian home at 301 West Palm Avenue was altered by a subsequent owner, Guy Hunter, into a prairie style home.
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.
In the late 1940s and the 1950s, then into the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and into the Third Millennium, the vast number of agricultural properties in Southern California other than in Imperial County were graded and replaced 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 a succession of the city’s elected officials for more than 60 years were supported with political donations from the development community and in return embraced aggressive development and the wholesale removal of the city’s once ubiquitous orange and lemon trees, a dedicated group of Redlands residents managed to stir up enough support among the city’s voters to put into place substantial controlled growth regulations in the form of initiatives approved during municipal elections – 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, in 1986, Redlands voters passed Measure O, which 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 applied with the city to convert six of the England Grove Estate’s 8.8 acres into 32 2,000-to 2,600 square foot homes on what were mostly 6,200-square-foot lots. The approved number of residences was reduced, ultimately, from 32 to 28.
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.
Burum and Jordan intend to bulldoze more than 90 percent of the grove and its irrigation system. The original England home facing Palm Avenue, the carriage house behind it and the England Queen Anne cottage on the property facing Alvarado Street are to be preserved, along with roughly 57 of the navel orange trees that produced fruit marketed for decades under the Pure Gold label.
Early in the process of the City of Redlands’ evaluation of Diversified Pacific’s development proposal for the England Estate property, 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 was to be separated from the surrounding area by entrance and exit gates and how the gates 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 commissioners’ collective misgivings with regard to some of the issues pertaining to the development proposal, those concerns 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.
The prospect of the obliteration of the grove and its gravity-fed irrigation system, one of the three last remaining gravity-fed watering systems in the state, animated local historical preservationists against the project. Additionally, residents living in proximity to the England Estate, faced with the prospect of having a subdivision with seven units to the acre in a neighborhood where the density is not that intense, were galvanized into opposition as well.
A coalition of residents, 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 considered the matter.
According to McClendon, the city was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, as it had not carried out a full-blown environmental impact report for the project. Diversified Pacific and the city had not consulted with nor included other agencies in determining what type of environmental document to prepare, and he asserted 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. Disagreements among experts and analysts who had examined the development proposal with regard to environmental impacts and the destruction of the historical assets the project would entail necessitated, McClendon maintained, that a comprehensive environmental report be compiled. 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, McClendon set forth.
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 said the property had been zoned for residential use. Pitassi said the grove no longer had any commercial viability. Pitassi said that in the current social and developmental milieu, the 6,400-square foot-to-7,400-square foot lot sizes were appropriate and fully acceptable. Pitassi said Diversified Pacific had compromised by choosing not to build more than 40 two-story homes on the property as Redlands’ zoning code would have allowed. “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.”
The city council delayed making a decision that night.
On September 7, the city council once again took up the project, and that evening’s agenda gave the panel’s members the option of voting for or against receiving and accepting a socioeconomic cost/benefit study prepared for the proposed project, approving a tentative parcel map for the project, approving a conditional use permit for the project, approving a tentative tract map for the project and consenting to two variances relating to the setbacks for several of the homes. Curiously, the agenda did not mention any consideration of the mitigated negative declaration. At the hearing for the project that night, the council considered the analysis staff and the city attorney had done of the issues raised by McClendon on July 20, noting that Development Services Director Brian Desatnik had consulted with Diversified Pacific and believed that it was not necessary to carry out the comprehensive environmental impact report McClendon had insisted upon, but was instead recommending that the city recirculate the mitigated negative declaration to the public. The council therefore held off on considering the socioeconomic cost/benefit study, the tentative parcel map, the conditional use permit, the tentative tract map and the variances, endorsing instead the recirculation of the mitigated negative declaration, with the intent of bringing the matter back for reconsideration in November. That action was endorsed by Paige H. Gosney, an attorney representing Diversified Pacific.
Later that evening, Foster announced his forthcoming departure from the city council.
The project was agendized for consideration by the council at its November 16 meeting. The agenda, however, while referencing the socioeconomic cost/benefit study, the tentative parcel map, the conditional use permit, the tentative tract map and the variances, made no mention of the mitigated negative declaration. After McClendon pointed that omission out to the city, Mayor Paul Barich directed that the council not conduct the hearing on the issue, postponing the matter.
On two occasions in November, Burum, who had grown resentful of the entrenched resident resistance to his Palm Avenue project, went on record, speaking to the Sentinel, and defending the undertaking as one that embodied the most realistic and practical strategy for preserving the historical structures that were of such importance to preservationists.
“We have done the best that can be done with that property,” Burum asserted. “The only way for anyone to save the historical nature of the estate is to buy the property and use the surplus land to build something that can be marketed and sold so you can use the money to save the historical structures, the two houses and the barn. There is no one in the community that can do that.”
Thereafter, the city scheduled the hearing for this week, on December 7. While the agenda that was posted did make reference to the consideration of the mitigated negative declaration for the project, in the notices sent to the nearby property owners, the city again omitted mention of the mitigated negative declaration. Once more, McClendon contacted city officials on the day of the meeting to inform them that the city had again committed an “error so egregious” that it would “preclude you holding a public hearing tonight on the project and approving it.”
With more than four months having elapsed since the council had first considered the project and with Foster’s date of departure to what is to be his new home on an island in Puget Sound only a month away, the city was running out of time and opportunity to consider the project under considerations wherein its approval would be guaranteed. Accurately, it turned out, McClendon in the same letter delivered to the city early in the day before the meeting was held on December 7, wrote, “However, I am realistic enough to expect that, by now the pressure the applicant is applying on you to approve its project is so great that you will disregard my caution and approve it anyway.”
Upon the meeting commencing, the members of the city council made no bones about their disapproval of the resident opposition to the project.
Mayor Barich said, “It’s amazing how people, they want to say they want to preserve this, want to preserve that. But I don’t see any writing any checks. Everyone who came up here and wants to preserve it: ‘Why don’t you write a check? Donate to the [Redlands] Conservancy and have the Conservancy buy it and take care of it.’ But I don’t see anybody coming up and saying, ‘Okay. We’ll want to kick in $2,500, $5,000 apiece, so let’s get everybody to buy from the developers, and the Conservancy can preserve it.’ But telling the taxpayer to preserve it, a grove that’s over 100 years old, that doesn’t produce like it’s supposed to produce, and anybody that knows anything about agriculture – and I get this from Mr. Jacinto [Larry Jacinto, a local farmer], there’s no money in citrus any longer. That’s why on the west side – in my district – they’re planting avocados, not oranges any longer. Unfortunately, oranges… are no longer practical. I like the project. I think that it will fit the neighborhood. This is my town. I’m going to do what I think is best for my town. And I think this project, as long as we were able to preserve part of the grove – and what is it? – we’ll be able to preserve both houses. That’s big.”
Foster said, “Many of those of you that are upset about this project are living in homes that are sitting on property that was the original grove. So, for you to come and say that this private property owner shouldn’t be able to move forward with his project is really quite disingenuous. You have your piece of Redlands so nobody else should have it? That’s simply not right. That’s just not fair.”
Councilwoman Jenna Guzman-Lowery weighed in, suggesting that since the estate was built on property that was stolen from Native Americans by white men, it might not be worth preserving.
“You know, I understand the history of Redlands is important, but we’re also not native to this land, and there are people who came here before us that we also decimated their structures and their cultures, and so it’s hard for me as an individual with an indigenous history to hear the conversations around this without recognizing whose land we’re actually on,” she said.
Councilwoman Denise Davis said that after so many delays it was time for the council to approve the project.
“We have already talked about this at length over several meetings,” Davis said. “This has been a long process and the developers have worked with the community in many ways to amend this project from how it was initially proposed, and we’re not going to make everyone happy, that’s for sure. There are two sides to this conversation, as we know tonight, but what I’m thinking about, voting for the project, we’ve had a lot of important conversations how California is still in a housing crisis, we need more housing, how this is a private property, and yes, we all hate to see the destruction of the groves.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the project.
On Wednesday, the Sentinel spoke with McClendon about whether Save The Grove will contest the project approval.
“Oh, yeah, most certainly, there will be a legal challenge,” McClendon said.
There will be no surprises in the lawsuit that will be filed, he said, as the legal grounds for contesting the project approval were laid out in precise detail in his letters to the city relating to the project and his public statement at the July 20 council meeting.
The approval given to the project was fatally flawed in that the city had allowed Diversified Pacific to carry out the environmental certification by means of a mitigated negative declaration, he said.
“It is a low threshold to demonstrate that a comprehensive environmental impact report was required,” McClendon said. “The loss of the historical assets on that property is the most egregious example of the shortcuts the city allowed.”
Councilman Eddie Tejeda told the Sentinel after the meeting that the approval given to the project was a compromise that balanced conflicting interests.
“I didn’t like that we approved those homes to go in where the orange grove is,” Tejeda said. “I hated that. But that’s not the way a decision on a development proposal is made. As long as the development process wasn’t negligent, we met our responsibility.”
Tejeda said, “I don’t think it is the best that could have been done, but I think the calculation was saving the historic home on Palm Avenue plus saving the other historic home and leaving the other structure intact and committing to at least keep the view from Palm Avenue from being as impacted as it could have been was enough.”
Tejeda was not able to resolve the controversy over the reports that Diversified Pacific was able to swoop in and purchase the property at a cost well below both its market value and what two sets of preservationists had offered for it.
“I do not know how much the developer paid for that property,” Tejeda said.
He shunted aside suggestions that the city could have utilized the authority granted it under Measure O to preserve the property. Measure O was approved by Redlands voters in 1986 and provided for an initial $7.2 million bond issuance to make purchases of existing orange groves in the city so they can be preserved as open space. So far, the city has used Measure O to take possession of 16 groves, totaling roughly 200 acres.
“If the city had the money, we could buy it, but it is also our responsibility that we buy the property at market rate,” he said. “If the landowner wants to sell the land at above market rate, we can’t buy properties that are overpriced. We have to make sure the properties we do acquire are purchased at the market rate.”
Tejeda did not say whether he considered the $267,046 per acre that Diversified Pacific paid for the property to be below, at or above the current market rate.
Whatever the case, Tejeda said, the Heeney family was not opposed to the grove being converted to homes.
“The owner never moved to put that property into a historic district,” Tejeda said. “They sold it to a developer. They knew that it was going to be developed. We never received a letter from anyone who said they sold it to a developer and he promised to leave it as it is. No one who owned that property sent a letter saying they were opposed to the development.”
Tejeda continued, “I do know that if I were the developer, I would want to know how many houses I could put on that property before I bought it. Developers purchase property that is zoned to fit their interest, and basically the only way people can stop a certain property from being developed is an overwhelming community demonstration that they are not for it.”
In the case of the development of the England Estate, Tejeda opined, the community opposition was not sufficient to prevent the project from proceeding.
After the initial round of opposition to the project expressed this summer, Tejeda said, the city moved to recirculate the study for the mitigated negative declaration. There was insufficient follow-through by the project opponents with regard to the recirculation of that document to justify denying the project approval, Tejeda said.
“The only thing that came back was from the residents who live next door to a historic property who said they didn’t want the property developed,” Tejeda said.
He made no reference to the multiple letters sent to the city by McClendon prior to each of the subsequently scheduled hearings for the project, and he did not acknowledge that McClendon had been designated by the members of Save The Grove, a group of preservationists 350 strong, to speak for them.
Tejeda shrugged off the suggestion made by many of the England Estate Development project’s opponents that Diversified Pacific should have undertaken its project on available vacant property in the city elsewhere that had no historical assets on it.
“They took a property that had a lot of historical value to it,” Tejeda said. “I am aware that the developer’s original plans were for more houses than what was approved and they agreed to a reduction of the number of houses to satisfy people who were against the development of an historic property who wanted less houses.”
Preservationist sentiment of the city’s residents played only a minimal role in the final land use decision, Tejeda said. Anyone who advocates preservation for the sake of preservation in Redlands is outgunned, the councilman suggested.
“If it is zoned properly, I can vote against it, but the likelihood of my colleagues doing the same is pretty small,” he said. “You can vote your personal feelings against certain types of projects, but that is not a realistic approach. We are elected so that when a project comes before us, we ensure it goes through the appropriate processes. The city council does not do the analysis. We don’t go out to direct staff or the planning commission. They make their analysis and they document it. We make the determination that they did go through the right process. If we find there is a public benefit by the way the property is to be developed, we approve the project. If not, we deny it. I understand the development process a lot better than when I was first elected. We have to follow the development standards, as such.”
Tejeda said in making his decision in favor of the project he relied in large measure on input from city staff.
He considers himself an open-minded independent thinker who nonetheless considers carefully the input of others, particularly city staff, he said. Tejeda indicated that he places a higher degree of stock in what the city’s own professionals say than those who are crosswise of City Hall.
“I ask the city clerk,” he said. “I ask the city manager. I ask the city attorney. I do listen to what community members put forward. Then I ask city staff.”
He had considered what McClendon had written in his many letters to the city, Tejeda said.
“City staff responded to me that it was not accurate,” he said of McClendon’s assertions that the project approval process was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act. “People say I should have or I could have voted against the project based on the variances the developer requested, but if the developer didn’t get the variances, they would not have been able to develop the project,” the councilman said. “I think they tried to leave most of the property unaffected. That is just my opinion. The council is not here to stop developers from developing. I don’t think the developers get everything they want. They are obviously going to want to make a profit. How much of a profit is something they find out when they go through the development process. They may want to do all sorts of things with the property. In the end, staff tells them the way they can do that.”
Burum, Jordan and Diversified Pacific cooperated with the city, Tejeda said.
“If I had seen a developer sticking to their guns and not changing, I would definitely have voted against the project,” he said. “Whether I will vote for a project or against it depends on many things. It depends on how a developer is reacting to those community sentiments. It depends on whether they are following through with the requirements of the planning process in place. Whenever there is a hot button issue on development, what I want to know is how is the developer reacting. How are they taking what is being said? I ask to see if they are acting in good faith. If they are not acting in good faith, that says a lot. I don’t just vote on what comes before us at the council. I always view the planning commission meetings. I make myself aware of how the developer is interacting with staff, with the planning commission. If they are reacting to what is being said, I understand they are acting in good faith. If they follow the process, that matters.”
Tejeda addressed the perception that he and the council are being dominated and led by Paul Foster, that Foster is in some fashion intimidating or extorting him to go along with him, that Foster is beholden to the development community in a way that is contrary to the interests of the city’s residents and that Foster is on the take as a recipient of bribes or graft from the development community.
Tejeda acknowledged that when he was running for the city council in 2016 and immediately after he was elected, he cast himself in the role of an alternative to what had long been the status quo in Redlands, and that included Foster.
“I think when you are on the outside, it may look like something that is different than what it is when you are on the inside,” he said. “I guess that feeling, that notion, that I was somehow going to be the outspoken dissenter was viable and valid. It was based on my being new to the council and the votes I cast initially. You have to remember, I was elected in a way that had not been done before. Before that, the members of the city council all used to come from what is now our District Five. There was no council representation for the people on the north end. I was at odds with the rest of the council only because of that. I am primarily hearing that complaint [that he had sold out and had not remained true to the principles he had campaigned on in 2016] over what occurred after I was elected in 2016. I was never in opposition to anyone. I basically wanted a seat at the table. I was there to engage in cooperation, not to be a lightning rod. Collaboration is something I always wanted to do. Initially the perception was I was going to be a lightning rod and consider what those on the outside were saying, and that would create friction among the council members and absolutely demonstrate that I was representing those who had previously been disenfranchised. My heart was behind that. I will admit that initially after having been elected I did not want to see the development of Live Oak Canyon.”
But the idea that he was a Molotov cocktail-throwing revolutionary ready to take on Foster and the rest of the Redlands establishment was plain wrong, he insisted.
“I sincerely wanted to be that representative, but once I was there, I began building an understanding of how the council worked,” he said. “I will admit to you I was new to government, and I opened myself up to that person [Foster] to explain how the process worked and why they view the council and its work the way they do.”
Foster, it turned out, Tejeda said, is a very decent and well-versed guy who became something of a mentor to him.
“He explained his priorities to me and what he should do as a councilman, based on his relationships with others that he had developed over the years he had been there,” Tejeda said. “He is very knowledgeable and very experienced. I did not know he was an assistant city manager. I only knew that he had worked in human resources at Kaiser [Permanente].”
Tejeda was unable to say where it was that Foster’s professional rather than political municipal experience had taken place.
“I can’t remember exactly,” Tejeda said with regard to which city had employed Foster as an assistant city manager. “I did not archive that in my personal memory. He explained all of that to several of us council members.”
Tejeda said he put very little stock in the recurrent reports that Foster has proven such an indefatigable advocate of the development community because he is taking bribes and kickbacks from those whose projects he supports.
“Suspicions are what they are,” Tejeda said. “If you disagree with someone, you are going to try to point to things that support your opinion. I would have to see evidence of that in order to believe something that I find hard to believe.”
Tejeda pointed out that when Foster and the council had taken a position in favor of high density and intensive development in downtown Redlands earlier this year, Foster had pretty much refuted reports that he is on the take when he was confronted by those who questioned his conclusion that allowing development that in some cases will reach 100 residential units to the acre is in the best interest of the city. Foster, Tejeda said, dared anyone to prove that he had not honestly arrived at that conclusion.
“He told everyone, ‘If you don’t like the mall action the city approved, find a lawyer,’” Tejeda said, quoting Foster. “He strongly believed in the action the city took in regard to the mall project was correct. He put it out there. People applauded him for doing that,” Tejeda said, omitting, rather unreflectively, that those who were lauding Foster were members of the development community.
In what is most likely the last major action of his tenure as a Redlands elected official, current City Councilman/former Mayor Paul Foster this week joined with his colleagues in giving Diversified Pacific go-ahead to convert roughly 6.1 acres of the remaining 8.8 acres of the historic T. Y. England Grove Estate into a 28-unit residential subdivision.