By Amanda Frye and Mark Gutglueck
BlueTriton this week filed a lawsuit challenging the State Water Resources Control Board’s finalized cease and desist order handed down on September 19 curtailing the company’s diversion of water from the Strawberry Creek headwater springs located high in the San Bernardino National Forest below Strawberry Peak and Highway 18 for use in its Arrowhead Spring Water bottling operation.
The lawsuit comes after environmentalists’ seemingly interminable challenges of the water diversion by BlueTriton’s predecessors, Nestlé Waters of North America and Perrier, ones launched decades ago, resulting in the long-delayed methodical administrative hearing process carried out in 2021 and 2022 that formed the basis of State Water Resources Control Board’s action.
In its challenge, the company, which was formed some three years ago by Metropoulos & Company and One Rock Capital Partners, LLC, for the explicit purpose of acquiring the lion’s share of Nestlé’s Western Hemisphere water bottling operations, maintains that the State of California overstepped its water use regulatory and water rights adjudicative purviews, as codified in the state’s governmental and water codes. That challenge is being made despite a substantial back-and-forth and exchange of motions between attorneys representing the state water board’s enforcement team and BlueTriton’s lawyers in which the hearing officer conducting the 2021/2022 hearing made a determination during the administrative examination process that the state’s water regulatory authority extends to groundwater that manifests in surface flow.
Water originating in the San Bernardino Mountains and using the Arrowhead brand in one form or another has been marketed at least since 1909. Questions have long existed, however, as to whether the water rights originally claimed, attributed or granted to Arrowhead Puritas, the corporate predecessor to Arrowhead Spring Water, pertain to the current source of the water drawn at the 5,200-foot-to 5,600-foot altitude from Strawberry Creek in what is known as Strawberry Canyon rather than water drawn farther down the mountain at around the 2,000-foot above sea level on the grounds of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel.
In 1929, the California Consolidated Waters Company was formed to merge three Los Angeles-based companies that bottled and distributed “Arrowhead Water,” “Puritas Water” and “Liquid Steam.” The bottling operations, water distribution and administration of Arrowhead Springs Company, Puritas of California Consumers Company and the water bottling division of Merchants Ice and Storage were all administered by California Consolidated Waters Company. In August 1930, California Consolidated Waters, on the basis of a single pipeline permit that was not based on any water rights and without having obtained a diversion permit or any further valid authorization or rights, started diverting spring water from a single “bedrock crevice” spring in the San Bernardino National Forest along Strawberry Creek at an elevation of 5,600 feet. Subsequently, in 1933 and 1934, the company put in place tunnels, ultimately accompanied by holes and horizontal wells at or near the headwaters of Strawberry Creek in Strawberry Canyon. Strawberry Creek was noted in maps and springs studies prior to the diversion to be a perennial stream which was fed by abundant flowing headwaters springs.
The Arrowhead Water Bottling Company, under various names and corporate configurations, including divisions of Standard Oil of California and Rheem Manufacturing, continued to operate, drawing water from Strawberry Canyon throughout the 20th Century. In 1969, the Arrowhead Water Bottling Company was acquired by the Coca Cola Bottling Company of Los Angeles and in 1978, Chicago-based Northwest Industries acquired Arrowhead Puritas when it bought Coca Cola Bottling of Los Angeles. In 1982, Northwest Industries unloaded Coca-Cola Bottling of Los Angeles to Beatrice Foods. BCI subsequently acquired Beatrice in a leveraged buyout. While under BCI’s control, the U.S. Forest Service-issued Arrowhead Puritas water drafting permit in Strawberry Canyon expired, and the BCI-Arrowhead Drinking Water Company applied to extend the permit. In 1987, while that application was still pending, Perrier purchased the BCI-Arrowhead Drinking Water Company.
The then-pending water extraction permit renewal required a U.S. Forest Service review of the water drafting arrangement and its environmental/ecological impact, which the U.S. Forest Service then did not have the immediately available resources to carry out. In a gesture of compromise, Perrier was allowed, pending the eventual Forest Service review, to continue to operate in Strawberry Canyon by simply continuing to pay the $524-per year fee to perpetuate the water extraction under the terms of the expired permit. In 1992, when Nestlé acquired the Arrowhead brand from Perrier, it inherited the Strawberry Canyon operation and continued to pay the $524 annual fee without renewing the permit, which at that time existed under the name of the “Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water Co,” one that was never listed legally in corporate filings, but which operated under Nestlé Waters of North America, Inc. until it was acquired by BlueTriton Brands
Nestlé’s intensive water-drafting activity, which has long been decried by environmentalists, came under increasing fire as a statewide drought, which lasted for more than five years after it first manifested in 2011, advanced. In 2015, environmental groups were gearing up to file a lawsuit claiming the U.S. Forest Service had violated protocols and harmed the ecology of the mountain by allowing Nestlé Waters North America to continue its operations in Strawberry Canyon for 28 years after its permit expired. At that point, the Forest Service moved to make an environmental review. In the meantime, Nestlé continued its water extraction, pumping an average of 62.56 million gallons of water annually from the San Bernardino Mountains. Environmentalists lodged protests with the water rights division of the California Water Resources Control Board, alleging Nestlé was diverting water without rights, making unreasonable use of the water it was taking, failing to monitor the amount drawn or make an accurate accounting of the water it was taking, and wreaking environmental damage by its action.
Following a two-year investigation, state officials arrived at a tentative determination that Nestlé could continue to divert up to 26 acre-feet of water (8.47 million gallons) per year. Nestlé had gone far beyond the water drafting limit the company was entitled to, the State Water Resources Control Board said, and was actually drafting 192 acre-feet (62.56 million gallons), such that 166 acre-feet (54.09 million gallons) the company was taking on an annual basis was unauthorized, according to a report released on December 21, 2017.
In March 2021, Nestlé’s parent company, Nestlé S.A., a corporate conglomerate headquartered in Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland, sold its Nestlé Waters North America division, with the exception of its bottling rights to Perrier, to One Rock Capital Partners, LLC, in partnership with Metropoulos & Company.
Nestlé Waters North America existed as Nestlé’s operations pertaining to bottling drinking water in the United States and Canada, including eight of the leading water bottling operations in the United States. Upon the sale being completed to One Rock Capital and Metropoulos, Nestlé Waters North America was redubbed BlueTriton Brands.
Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water is among the most iconic of the brands now in the possession of BlueTriton. To the chagrin of the company, the California State Water Resources Control Board’s finalized determination on September 19 to issue the cease & desist order entails a finding that “BlueTriton does not have any water rights that authorize these diversions and uses.”
Numerous complainants, including Story of Stuff Project Executive Director Michael O’Heaney and local residents and whistleblowers Steve Loe and Hugh Bialecki among others, offered testimony before the state water board on September 19, urging its approval of the order. O’Heaney also submitted a petition signed by 25,000 global citizens gathered by his organization and corporate accountability campaigner Eko, formerly known as Sum of Us, calling upon the board to act. The petition stated that “one cannot sell what it does not own. And BlueTriton does not own, nor does it hold a right to, the water in Strawberry Creek.”
The cease & desist order the board approved was drafted by the board’s administrative hearings office, including Administrative Hearing Office Allen Lilly, who presided over a nearly year-long hearing that took place after BlueTriton appealed a 2021 tentative cease and desist order based on the findings of the State Water Board’s enforcement staff following an extensive investigation. In addition to prosecutors from the State Water Board and attorneys for BlueTriton, the Story of Stuff Project and multiple other complainants were able to introduce evidence and call witnesses during the hearings and to participate in a site visit to the springs in February 2022.
The order concluded that the water in question, because it originates from springs, even if it is intercepted prior to expressing at the surface, falls under the jurisdiction of the State Water Board, which by law regulates surface water and not groundwater. Further, according to the order, BlueTriton did not perfect an appropriative right to the water it removes and in particular, did not perfect a pre-1914 right, considered to be California’s inviolable gold standard in terms of water rights, as it has long claimed.
The order is silent on the removal of water from three of the spring sources BlueTriton taps at a lower elevation in Strawberry Canyon and allows the company to divert water from those springs to the owners of the Arrowhead Hotel property for riparian uses as the collection of environmentalists had made no challenge of those three diversions. Nevertheless, environmentalists have indicated they will importune the Forest Service to deny BlueTriton’s application for a new special use permit for its operation on public lands without proof of a valid water right.
On October 24, Blue Triton, represented by John Kinsey and Nicholas Cardella of the Fresno-based law firm Wanger Jones Helsley and Robert Donlan, Christopher Sanders and Shawnda Grady of the Sacramento-based law firm Ellison Schneider Harris & Donlan, filed suit in Fresno Superior Court, alleging “The State Water Resources Control Board’s September 19, 2023 Order WR 2023-0042 is the culmination of a calculated eight-year effort to expand improperly the State Water Resources Control Board’s authority over subterranean waters far beyond what California law allows. The final order ignores the undisputed facts in the record, as confirmed in the final order itself, and inexplicably asserts that rather than applying applicable and binding law, the State Water Resources Control Board ‘should treat’ BlueTriton Brand’s collections of groundwater, collected from deep underground, as surface water subject to the State Water Resources Control Board’s permitting authority. The final order invents an entirely new jurisdictional standard articulated for the first time in the final order, ignores the clear jurisdictional limits that the state legislature and the courts imposed on the State Water Resources Control Board’s permitting authority, ignores the unwavering pattern and practice of State Water Resources Control Board staff for decades, and essentially creates a new, ad hoc rule for the State Water Resources Control Board to determine how and when it will require a permit for diversion and collection of subterranean waters in California.”
The legal theory BlueTriton is pursuing in the case holds that there is a distinction in California water law between surface water and subsurface water and that the State Water Resources Control Board’s authority extends only over surface water and not to water drafted out of the water table or aquifer. Since the Arrowhead Water operation consists of borings, tunnels and adits which tap into subsurface water, according to BlueTriton’s legal team, the State Water Resources Control Board’s undertaking to apply a cease-and-desist order was illegitimate from the inception and the ultimate conclusion that BlueTriton had not established water rights to the water it is drafting in Strawberry Canyon within the San Bernardino National Forest is moot and therefore inapplicable, as only the U.S. Forest Service has authority with regard to underground water within its jurisdiction. Thus, the U.S. Forest Service special use permit bought for a $524-per year fee issued to Nestlé and subsequently to its corporate successor, BlueTriton, provides a fully proper, appropriate and both administratively and legally defensible basis to have allowed the drafting of that water in the past, at present and into the future, Kinsey, Cardella, Donlan, Sanders and Grady maintain.
An adit is a horizontal passage leading into an underground chamber for the purposes of access or drainage.
In the suit, Kinsey, Cardella, Donlan, Sanders and Grady seem to blur the distinction between the water drafted by BlueTriton and its corporate predecessors at the 5,600-foot level in the mountains from the water that was historically drawn much further down the mountain on the grounds of the Arrowhead Springs Hotel.
“The final order directs BlueTrion Brands to cease and desist from collecting the water that BlueTriton Brands and its predecessors have collected for more than a century. BlueTriton Brand’s water is sourced from horizontal boreholes and tunnels developed from 37 to 495 feet below the ground surface in Strawberry Canyon located within the San Bernardino National Forest,” the lawsuit states, “To be clear, the groundwater collected at the boreholes and tunnels is hydraulically connected to the surface of the earth, and thus classified as ‘spring water’ under Food and Drug Administration regulations. But under the Water Code and California common law, the legal classification of water for water rights and State Water Resources Control Board jurisdictional purposes is determined where the water is diverted and taken under control. The [California] Water Code expressly limits the State Water Resources Control Board’s permitting authority to ‘surface water… flowing in [a] natural channel,’ and ‘to subterranean streams flowing through known and definite channels.’ The final order ignores these express statutory standards and every other legal authority on the topic, and instead creates a vague new standard that would essentially render any groundwater that the State Water Resources Control Board deems to be ‘associated with’ the ground surface subject to its permitting authority.”
The suit makes no reference to that portion of the administrative hearing referencing Strawberry Creek within Strawberry Canyon existing as a flowing body of surface water before the addition of BlueTriton’s corporate predecessor’s horizontal boreholes, tunnels and adits.
According to Kenneth Petruzelli, an attorney with the California Water Resources Control Board, “A spring supplying a stream is part of the stream.”
The lawsuit further states, “Just as troubling, it appears this unprecedented new jurisdictional standard was developed in the course of prohibited ex parte communications by and among the State Water Resources Control Board members, its chief counsel, the hearing officers from its administrative hearings office, and certain of their respective staff members during multiple closed session meetings, which were reportedly conducted to ‘deliberate’ on the proposed order before and after the administrative hearing office issued it.”
The administrative hearing process under which the final cease and desist order was issued, according to Kinsey, Cardella, Donlan, Sanders and Grady, was inherently unfair because “the hearing officer then became an advocate for its proposed order expanding the State Water Resources Control Board’s jurisdiction over subterranean waters, materially revising the proposed order and responding to the comments on its proposed order with a 33-page document. This collaboration between the administrative hearing office and the State Water Resources Control Board violated the principles contained in the Administrative Procedures Act by having the entire process working toward a preconceived conclusion, Kinsey, Cardella, Donlan, Sanders and Grady maintain.
The U.S. Forest Service special use permits issued to Nestlé and subsequently to its corporate successor, BlueTriton, is only for a pipeline, while the removal of water requires a valid water right. The State Water Resources Control Board’s enforcement branch conducted a multi-year investigation and presented its findings at the multi-month hearing conducted in 2021 and 2022 that BlueTriton had no legitimate water rights in the San Bernardino National Forest Strawberry Creek headwater springs area at the approximate 5,600-foot elevation.
Despite hearing documents, legal filings and BlueTriton’s corporate predecessors’ documents confirming the 1930 date of encroachment in the National Forest within Strawberry Canyon, BlueTriton’s website states that “BlueTriton and our predecessors have collected water from Arrowhead Springs in Strawberry Canyon in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way for more than 125 years. BlueTriton will vigorously defend our water rights through the available legal process. BlueTriton continues to comply with all state and federal laws as they apply to our water rights in California. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the local communities near our operations.”
As to any continuing drafting of water from Strawberry Canyon, the company stated, “BlueTriton will comply with the order unless otherwise authorized by the courts.”
Steve Loe, a retired U.S. Forest Service biologist who testified during the hearings in 2022, told the Sentinel, “This is just more delay, delay, delay tactics. We have been watching this over and over for the 10 years we have been working to get water back in the stream.”
GridStor and Upland Reliability Project Holdings, LLC this week abruptly abandoned their long-in-the-making plan to establish the 120-megawatt standalone battery energy storage Upland Reliability Project in the Sycamore Hills district in North Upland.
Unclear is what factors, precisely, led to the two interrelated companies deciding to scrap the effort to establish the facility, which was intended to augment the state power grid with electricity collected from the local area’s rooftop solar panels and assist in the State of California in making a conversion from its dependence on fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. It does appear, however, that Upland Mayor Bill Velto’s testy relationship with California Governor Gavin Newsom may have given GridStor corporate officials pause, resulting in their decision to seek to place the project in some other location outside Upland.
While the project’s proponents, city officials, local residents and state officials all seem to agree that the project and the technology it embodies would represent a valuable addition to the community and is worth pursuing, there is concern that it would be ill-placed in its intended location proximate to an upscale residential neighborhood and that a bruising battle on that issue might trigger unwanted scrutiny of similar land use incompatibility issues in the city’s less affluent residential districts where for generations Upland officials had no qualms about locating hazardous, polluting and sometimes life-threatening industrial operations next to homes occupied by the city’s impoverished families and less well-off individual residents. Moreover, corporate officials with GridStor and Upland Reliability Project Holdings, LLC, who have consistently sought to cultivate positive relationships with the state’s institutional employees within those divisions such as the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission and the state’s elected officials, only recently learned about the bad blood between Upland’s mayor and California’s governor that has rendered the City of Gracious Living into a municipium non grata with Sacramento.
For any one, or perhaps a combination, of those reasons, Gridstor is not going ahead with the project.
Without any fanfare, GridStor, a Portland, Oregon-based company focusing exclusively on large-scale, standalone battery energy storage projects, last year began on its end preparations to construct what was initially to be a 120-megawatt capacity facility in Upland. A few of its corporate officers had one of its agents establish a Delaware Corporation, Upland Reliability Project Holdings, LLC, on September 15, 2022, based in an office in La Jolla, which then moved to tie up some property in Upland. It settled on available acreage in the Sycamore Hills district in northwest Upland, at a location relatively proximate to an existing power line corridor.
Somewhat stealthily, GridStor began the application process with the City of Upland, which accommodated the secretiveness of the project sponsor, as the company’s executives were hoping to eventually unveil the project and run it through the official approval process involving the Upland Planning Commission and ultimate approval by the city council in a compressed timeframe. Upland, for the most part, was able to accommodate this because the city’s community development director, Robert Dahlquest, and Upland Mayor Bill Velto go way back, more than 45 years, to when they attended Upland High together and were members of the Highlanders football team.
The project proposal was kept on the down low for close to a year. Last month, however, somewhat prior to when GridStor officials had hoped the planned project might become public knowledge, residents of the Sycamore Hills district, many of whom had paid in excess of $800,000 for their homes, learned that an electricity storage facility was being contemplated in their neck of the woods. This followed by some four months the revelation that the Upland Tesla dealership, which is located in the city’s northeast quadrant at 1018 East 20th Street, just west of the confluence of the 210 Freeway and Campus Avenue along the northern periphery of the Colonies Crossroads commercial subdivision, was contemplating and indeed had already begun grading 2.07 acres of city-owned property in the Sycamore Hills District, where it began constructing an open-air parking storage facility for its vehicles. This was done with the collusion of city officials and without any public disclosure, involving a lease agreement with the city that had not been ratified by the city council. Involving the city council in approving the lease, which should have taken place but did not, would have made the leasing documents available for inspection, cluing residents into what was about to occur. The land in question, comprising a 300-foot by 300-foot square approximately 80 feet east of Park View Promenade and set back from the residential dwellings to the south by approximately 145 feet and within the vicinity of other residential dwellings to the west, was zoned as open space. Sycamore Hills residents, concerned that the unannounced project which had not yet been given formal official approval by the city but nevertheless involved city officials in what appeared to be a bootleg operation presaged the transformation of the open area around their homes into a semi-industrialized/semi-commercialized zone, considered Tesla’s parking facility to be incompatible with their neighborhood. The contretemps that ensued resulted in the city canceling the lease with Tesla and making arrangements with the company to lease acreage at its corporate yard to store the cars there.
Late last month and early this month, as Sycamore Hills residents learned of the Upland Reliability Project and began inquiries into exactly what it was to entail, they again grew concerned that the city on the sly was seeking to infuse into their neighborhood industrial level uses that were incompatible, dangerous and potential sources of pollution. In short order, they learned of two incidents relating to high-density electrical energy standalone battery systems, one in Surprise, Arizona on April 19, 2019 involving a facility storing energy for Arizona Public Service Company and another in Chandler, Arizona on April 21, 2022 where electricity was being held in reserve for the Arizona Power Grid. Those incidents involved explosions and fires which narrowly avoided turning into catastrophic events.
The facilities in Surprise and Chandlers, ones with the approximate capacity to store four hours of electricity with an output of 10 megawatts of power, enough to power 2,500 homes, were less than one-tenth the size of the facility to be constructed in the Sycamore Hills.
Safety issues with the current design of standalone battery energy storage facilities are manifold. The three primary concerns are explosiveness, excessive heat resulting in fire and consequent soil and groundwater contamination that can occur when the ingredients of the lithium-ion batteries pour out and onto the concrete floors and either migrate through the concrete or wash out of facilities and onto bare land or ground when they are propelled by massive amounts of water used to douse fires.
Residents in the north of Upland were already having difficulties obtaining, or otherwise having to go to great expense to secure, fire insurance for their homes. An incipient movement to at least question the wisdom of allowing the Upland Reliability Project to be built that close to homes if not outright prevent it from proceeding until issues with the design of such facilities were redressed to eliminate potential hazards was under way earlier this month.
Intense scrutiny of the decision-making process at City Hall and the tendency of officials there toward keeping under wraps undertakings that will have an impact on those living within their shadow resulted in an informational campaign that did not end at the periphery of the Sycamore Hills neighborhoods or the Upland City Limits. GridStor corporate officials and state officials were included in the loop, which shattered the culture of concealment that was previously the watchword when it comes to development in the City of Gracious Living.
Last year, in exchange for some hefty political contributions or promises thereof, Upland Mayor Velto had signed on to be a primary sponsor of the effort to have San Bernardino County withdraw itself and its 20,105-square miles from the State of California. Many considered that move to be a deft political ploy, which would not only provide Velto with the financial wherewithal for his upcoming 2024 mayoral reelection campaign but appeal to local Republican voters who take a rather dim view of the Democrat-dominated state government.
That, however, involved a political trade-off Velto may or may not have completely thought through. While he doubtless will benefit in some fashion from his goading of state officials and Democrat state officials in particular, his effort to push his city and county into seceding from the state entails a steep downside. One of those downsides is that Velto is regarded by Governor Gavin Newsom in roughly the same esteem that Abraham Lincoln reserved in 1861 for then-Tennessee Governor Isham Green Harris. Similarly, virtually every Democrat in both the upper and lower houses of the California Legislature – the State Senate and the Assembly – not to mention the holders of statewide office such as lieutenant governor, state attorney general, controller, insurance commissioner, secretary of state and superintendent of schools found personally offensive and outright insulting the proposal to have the county’s largest geographical county comprising more than 5 percent of the state’s population disengage from their oversight. A substantial number of people – ones fond of muttering the phrase, “California: Love it or leave it!” – consider Velto an out-and-out insurrectionist whose state citizenship should be revoked. It is unknown, exactly, what price Upland and its residents are being forced to pay during the 2023-24 budgetary cycle in terms of state funding that would have otherwise come the city’s way had it not been for the mayor’s show of disrespect and disdain for the Golden State.
Within the last two weeks, the prime movers with GridStor – its CEO, Chris Taylor; its vice president of finance, Anna Astretsova; its project development manager, Corey Barnes; its executive assistant and office manager, Maylin Brennan; its vice president for policy and strategy, Jason Burwen; its senior manager for procurement and contracts, Nicole Carrigan; it controller, Steve Caspell; its manager of finance Joshua Chandy; its project finance associate Michaela Copenhaver; its engineering, procurement, construction and technical operations manager, Daniel Dedrick; its vice president for business operations, Anne Emig; its program development manager, Matrell Everett; its transmission and interconnections manager, Ayesha Fareedi; its senior financial planning and analysis manager, Nathan Fjeldahl; it director of development, Matthew Gilliland; its engineering, procurement and construction project manager, Adam Horvath; its director of analytics, Will Jolley; its solutions architect, Alex Krall; its general counsel and chief compliance officer, Ben Lackey; its project development manager, Jarred McGhee, its vice president of development, Kathryn Meyer, its vice president of mergers and acquisitions, Jack Murray; its senior manager of market analytics, Brett Rudder; its vice president of transmission and interconnection, Esteban Santos; its project engineering manager, Kaushik Seshadri; its vice president of marketing, Jacob Steubing; its vice president for human resources, Patricia Wortham; its senior associate for commercial and business operations, Tony Ye; its vice president for asset management, Paul Zovesoff; and its director of market operations Zhechong Zhao – have come to learn that Velto, with whom their company had been coordinating to make its next major stride in facilitating California’s goal to meet 50 percent of its energy needs with clean power by 2025 and 60 percent by 2030 before reaching the goal of 100 percent of the state’s energy coming from renewable, non-fossil fuel sources by 2045, is on the outs with the state’s major political figures. In the same timeframe, they learned that their company was about to be associated with the City of Upland’s reputation for repeatedly saddling unsuspecting residents living within residentially zoned areas with incompatible nearby industrial uses effectuated by variances, zone changes and general plan amendments. Sensing a public relations Donnybrook it could not likely sustain, GridStor withdrew from the project.
Upland City Councilwoman Shannan Maust, in whose 1st District the Sycamore Hills District is located, on the Upland Nextdoor application posted on Wednesday, “On October 25, 2023, GridStor submitted a written request to withdraw their application for a battery storage system project in the City of Upland. The request to close their project application was received and approved by city officials.”
By Mark Gutglueck
It appears that in relatively short order Colton Councilmen David Toro and John Echevarria along with Councilwoman Kelly Chastain are going to politically outmuscle Mayor Frank Navarro and Councilman Luis Gonzalez to allow CR&R to perpetuate the trash hauling franchise in the 16-square mile city of 54,911 population it and its corporate predecessors have had sewn up for thirty years ending in 2026. That extension will run the hold the succession of companies has had on the city another decade, until 2036.
Toro, Echevarria and Chastain have given indication they are purposed to roll the franchise contract over to CR&R once more despite widespread discontent with the level of service among the company’s residential and business customers in Colton, regardless of cost comparisons showing the company’s trash hauling industry competitors offer their customer’s lower across-the-board rates and contrary to the advice of Colton City Manager Bill Smith, who has recommended that the franchise contract be put out to bid.
Colton Mayor Frank Navarro and Councilman Luis Gonzalez are advocating that the city carry out a competitive bid process, which independent industry analysts have indicated would save Colton’s residents and businesses anywhere from $20 million to $25 million in 2023 dollars over the ten-year course of the 2026-to-2036 life of the upcoming franchise contract. That savings would be realized through either lower service rates to be charged by whichever of the competing trash haulers that manages to obtain the contract through the bidding process or by reductions in the service charges that CR&R would be obliged to make in order to maintain the franchise. Continue reading
The Apple Valley Town Council has put off until November 14 a decision on whether it will accede to Mark Maida’s proposal to convert 120 acres of property currently zoned under the town’s residential agriculture designation by which the property cannot be subdivided into anything smaller than two-and-a-half acre lots to estate residential zoning to allow him to construct 99 homes on the property.
Because Councilman Curt Emick was not present at its Tuesday, October 24 meeting, his colleagues opted to wait until he can participate in the land use decision, which will require, if Maida’s proposal is to fly, the granting of not only a zone change but a general plan amendment and another amendment to the town’s development code.
Apple Valley is famously known for insisting on half-acre minimum lots for its single-family residences, a policy which has prevented it from being caught up in the development frenzy that has beset many other county cities in the 35 years since Apple Valley incorporated in 1988.
At present, Apple Valley stands at 73.5 square miles, making it San Bernardino County’s second largest municipality geographically, two-tenths of a square mile smaller than Victorville, at 73.7 square miles the county’s largest city, and three-tenths of a square mile larger than Hesperia, at 73.2 square miles the county’s third largest city. Population-wise, however, Victorville with its 138,399 residents and Hesperia with 102,531 living within its confines, are significantly more densely packed with people than Apple Valley, which has a head count of 76,817. Continue reading
Mayor Acquanetta Warren and her colleagues on the the Fontana City Council on Tuesday, October 24 were met with a firestorm of protest over their consideration and eventual vote to confirm an ordinance initially approved at the October 10 city council meeting imposing regulations on street vendors. That demonstration of discontent and disdain spilled over from the council chamber and the grounds of the Fontana Civic Center to the street upon which Mayor Acquanetta Warren lives, resulting in the arrest of the protest’s organizer and his bodyguard by the Fontana Police.
On October 10, relying upon the sidewalk vending authority municipalities are granted under them by Senate Bill 946, including Government Code section 51038, the Fontana City Council gave first reading of an ordinance which augmented the city’s previously-adopted Fontana Municipal Code chapter 15, article XVII, entitled “Sidewalk Vending,” to regulate sidewalk vending within the city by adding sections 1-14, relating to obstruction enforcement consequences and 15-829, pertaining to impoundment. The new ordinance gave code compliance officers or inspectors, police officers, firefighters, fire prevention specialists or examiners authority to impound a sidewalk vendor’s vending cart, equipment, food and/or merchandise if a vendor selling food does not have or display a valid health permit or if a seller of merchandise does not possess a valid applicable sidewalk vending permit and a city business license. Food or merchandise can also, under the ordinance, be confiscated if the vendor, the vendor’s cart, goods or equipment obstruct private or public property, if the goods or merchandise are left unattended for more than 30 minutes, if the merchandise and cart prevent there from being a minimum of forty-eight inches of accessible path of travel on the sidewalk or if the items being sold create an imminent and substantial danger to the public. The ordinance confers upon the city “disposal authorization,” allowing officials to immediately dispose of impounded items that are perishable and/or cannot be safely stored. The ordinance authorizes the city to “dispose of any seized items held by the city for not less than 30 days from the date of impoundment.” Continue reading
The sentencing of former Assistant Fontana Police Chief Alan Hostetter has been postponed, pending the outcome of the rescheduled trial of four of his co-defendants.
Following a bench trial by Federal Judge Royce Lamberth, Hostetter was convicted on July 13 of conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of, and aiding and abetting in the obstruction of, an official proceeding; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; and disorderly or disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon, all of which related to his actions during the January 6, 2021 breach of the U.S. Capitol.
According to evidence presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office at trial, in the weeks leading up to the January 6th Insurrection, Hostetter coordinated with Russell Taylor, Erik Scott Warner, Ronald Mele, Felipe Antonio Martinez and Derek Kinnison to arrange travel from California to Washington, D.C. and attend the Stop the Steal rally and protest as part of a conspiracy to prevent Congress’ certification of the Electoral College outcome in the 2022 presidential election.
Taylor pleaded guilty in April to a conspiracy charge and then testified as a government witness against Hostetter at his trial before Judge Lamberth. Continue reading
The Needles City Council has elevated Patrick Martinez to the position of city manager, making him, at the age of 39, the youngest top municipal administrator in San Bernardino County currently.
Martinez was sworn in to replace his predecessor, Rick Daniels, earlier this month.
Martinez initially went to work with the City of Needles in 2017 as the director of development services. He advanced to the post of assistant city manager in 2021.
Martinez gravitated toward becoming a government employee at the age 25 in 2010, when he took a position as an intern analyst with the office of management consulting and training at the National Governors Association in Washington. D.C.
He attended Mt. San Antonio College and subsequently enrolled at the University of Southern California. Upon his graduation with a Bachelor of Science degree in public policy and real estate development in 2013, he found a paying position as an executive board member for the University of Southern California Trojan Real Estate Association, involving himself primarily in real estate development and urban planning. In 2014 he became a senior housing development consultant for the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, and held a similar post with the Perkins Design Corporation in 2015 to 2016. He was also the acquisitions manager for Mojoco Real Estate from August 2014 until June 2015. In 2016, he co-founded SP Global Realty. In 2017, just as he went to work in Needles, he was installed into an executive board position with the University of Southern California Alumni Real Estate Network and in 2019 accepted election to a one-year term as the chairman of that board. He remained on the board until he took on the assignment of assistant city manager in Needles.
Martinez has a California real estate broker license and boasts memberships with the Urban Land Institute, the California City Management Foundation and the California Association for Local Economic Development.
In addition to his public policy and real estate degrees, Martinez earned a master’s degree in urban planning from USC in 2015.
A registered Republican, Martinez is married.