La Loma Hills Project Vote Rescission Will Keep Colton Revolving Door Hidden

Next Tuesday, the Colton City Council will vote to rescind and repeal its denial of Modern Pacific Homes’ request to construct a residential subdivision in La Loma Hills which in one application consisted of a cluster of 79 homes and in an earlier permutation 86 homes, such that the company will be given clearance to build 86 homes. 
A contingent of La Loma Hills residents opposed the project beginning with its December 2015 introduction. They said the project would confine itself to densely packed homes on a small portion of the 242.8 acres in La Loma Hills Modern Pacific principal Scott  McKhann had tied up, leaving open the possibility that McKhann would subsequently move to develop other portions of the 242.8 acres, such that piecemeal he would saturate the entirety of La Loma Hills in houses. The planning commission conducted seven meetings, workshops and/or hearings relating to the project, culminating in its February 23, 2021 approval of a version of the project entailing 86 homes on 49.39 acres. Prior to that, in October 2020, nearly five years after the project had been first proposed, the city council altered the city’s hillside development standards to allow for the clustering of homes on land with a 15 percent slope when the previous slope percentage needed for clustering was 20 percent. Under that standard, the planning commission’s approval of the project had been given. 
On April 6, 2021, the city council voted 5-to-1, with Councilman Kenneth Koperski absent and Mayor Frank Navarro dissenting, to uphold an appeal of the planning commission approval that had been lodged by the La Loma Hills Alliance. Modern Pacific thereafter revamped its proposal to 79 homes with an increase in the minimum lot size from 5,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet
On July 6, 2021, the Colton City Council considered and rejected the revised version of the project, with Councilmen David J. Toro, John Echevarria, Luis González and Ernest Cisneros prevailing, Mayor Frank Navarro and Councilman Kenneth Koperski dissenting and Councilman Isaac Suchil not participating. Thereafter, on July 28, 2021, McKhann and Modern Pacific sued the city, alleging the city had unfairly denied the project, violated the Housing Accountability Act, violated the Subdivision Map Act and engaged in inverse condemnation.
According to City Hall insiders, the council’s upcoming vote on April 19 is a “done deal” which will settle the lawsuit on terms favorable to Modern Pacific, including the city covering $50,000 of Modern Pacific’s legal bills for pursuing the lawsuit, while allowing the company to pursue the project and leave open its ability to develop other parts of the 242.8 acres in the future.
City officials said they had hope the acceptance of Modern Pacific’s project will stave off threatened action by the California Department of Housing and Development under the authority granted it by amendments to the state’s Housing Accountability Act made in 2019, nearly four years after the project was first proposed. A February 10, 2022 letter from the Department of Housing and Development referenced the city’s 2021 rejection of 79-lot and 81-lot alternatives of Modern Pacific’s La Loma Hills project.  
Settling the suit will further spare the city the embarrassment of revelations relating to a “revolving door” at City Hall by which city officials are rewarded for their advocacy of projects or contracts which come before them while they are serving in their elected capacity and are hired by the companies that received those approvals or contracts after they leave office. Mayor Navarro more than two years ago publicly acknowledged that he encountered representatives of Modern Pacific and former Mayor Richard DeLaRosa during a lobbying session promoting the project. DeLaRosa has not made a public denial of having been employed by Modern Pacific but has reportedly told some city officials privately that he was not working for Modern Pacific in a paid capacity. He has not explained why he was advocating on behalf of the project.
-Mark Gutglueck 

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