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  • Tuesday, August 14, 2012

     

    Ridgeline and Peralta developments become political hot potatoes

    Ridgeline and Peralta developments become political hot potatoes

    With less than 3 months until the election, a coalition of concerned citizens in Orange are coalescing and organizing around two politically explosive development issues in the City of Orange that could impact the November elections. The Ridgeline development in the Orange Park Acres neighborhood could play a major role in the election of two city council members and a new mayor, while on the other side of town the Orange Unified School District former Peralta School site (closed in 1985) next to the Village at Orange center at Meats and Canal streets, could play a role in the election of two OUSD trustees and change the balance of power on the split school board.

    Ridgeline site opponents organize
    After neighborhood opponents to the 53 acre Ridgeline development lost zone changing votes at the Orange City Planning Commission, then at a May Orange City Council meeting, and the then the final vote at the June 14th Orange City Council meeting (which included a controversial “revision” clause that would allow the arena land to revert back to the developer), a group called Orange Citizens for Parks and Recreation began collecting signatures and filed a court case based on a 1972 Orange Park Acres low density amendment added to the Orange Park Acres Specific Plan. After lossing the initial case, the group appealed.

    The two mayoral candidates, Jon Dumitru and Tita Smith, where on opposing sides of the 4-1 vote to approve the zoning changes needed for the development. Dumitru voted to approve the zone chane plan while Smith was the lone vote against it. Orange Park Association President Tom Davidson vowed to fight the council vote with a referendum. Ridgeline opponents wanted the developer to keep the once recreational center for the community as open space, or at the very least they wanted the developer to deed the city 7.6 acres of land, without restrictions, that includes the long time community horse arena. In the end however, on Tuesday July 12, opponents turned in over 12,000 petition signatures (well above the 7,100 needed). After the signature verification, the Orange City Council will have to rescind its approval, or schedule a referendum election. Either way, the June 14th City Council votes of Smith and Dumitru are bound to play a role in the November election. Smith was the lone vote against the development, while Dumitru joined the majority in approving the development.

    For more information CLICK ON: Orange Needs Parks

    Peralta site opponents organize
    At the July 26, 2012 Orange Unified School Board Meeting, neighborhood opponents to large scale development on the former Peralta school site long being used mainly as the private recreation Super Sports center showed up at a meeting. At the meeting the OUSD Trustee where to select from three developers for the site: City Ventures; Fairfield Residential; and Peralta Apartment Partners. While the process to deal with Peralta as surplus had been going on since 2008, the neighbors at the July 26th meeting claimed to be broadsided by the scope of the plans for the site.

    At that meeting before the agenda item to select the developer, five neighbors representing the neighborhood spoke before the OUSD Trustees during public comments. Their long list of concerns included: the loss of open space; parking and traffic problems associated with hundreds of proposed apartments; property values; and school overcrowding. Representatives of two of the three developers also spoke, including Kent Hawkins the current lease holder of the Super Sports site’ Hawkins who told the neighbors that change was coming. Hawkins investment group called Peralta Apartment Partners includes familiar Greater Orange businessmen Bill Carthcart, Pat Fisy, David Luzzariga, Greg Mc Cafferty, Bob Olson, Steve Sheldon, and Jack Selmar.

    Immediately after all the public comments, the discussion turned to the Trustees. Orange Unified Trustee Dr. Deligianni in an unprecedented move, asked to be recognized and read from a prepared text citing reasons for selecting the gated 400 plus apartment proposal of the Peralta Apartments Partners as the developer. Deligianni then made a motion to select Peralta Apartment Partners as the developer. Board President Tim Surridge asked for a second to the motion and in an agonizing moment of looking around, Deligianni, who lives in the neighborhood, saw her first and only substantial motion in four years on the board die for lack of a second from any of her board allies.

    After the Deligianni debacle, OUSD Trustee Kathy Moffat gave an impassioned speech on keeping the land open for future needs of OUSD which received thunderous applause from the audience. Moffat then moved to reject all three developers. Her motion was seconded by her ally Trustee Diana Singer who spoke about her concerns on the process to select a developer which she characterized as “flawed”. Her long list of concerns included that fact that the trustees were not allowed to take the bid proposals home to study.

    In discussion on Moffat’s motion, both OUSD Trustee Board President Tim Surridge and Rick Ledesma spoke to defend the process. Ledesma (who was the instrumental force in getting to this point in the decision about Peralta) countered that the process was not flawed and recounted the legal steps that brought the Board to this point. Ledesma also explained that the rational for moving forward was to create a greater income stream for OUSD from the property. Surridge and Wayland echoed the points that Ledesma made. In another surreal Deligianni moment, the trustee that was first to move to select a developer, now announced that she would be supporting Moffat’s motion because “all the neighbors” were against the development. In the end, Moffat’s motion to reject all the developers was voted down 4-3 with Moffat, Singer and Deligianni voting to support the motion and Surridge, Ledesma, Wayland and Trustee John Ortega voting against the motion.

    After the defeat of the motion, Surridge then made a motion to select Fairfield Residential as the developer citing their experience. Ledesma seconded the motion. As the trustees discussed the motion, the neighbors in the audience began to get loud and shout questions at the board, as others in the audience asked to have the opportunity to speak. Surridge went out of his way to be understanding with the angry audience as it grew more unruly as he almost lost control at several points. While he threatened to adjourn (which other presidents have often used), Surridge never quite was pushed to that point. In speaking against the choice of Fairfield, Singer tied the firm to the Ridgeline developers. In the end, the motion to approve the Fairfield as the developers to work with the city in getting the zoning changed passed 4-3 with Moffat, Singer and Deligianni voting to against the motion and Surridge, Ledesma, Wayland and Trustee John Ortega voting for the motion.

    In an interesting side fact, Orange Mayorial candidate Jon Dumitru was waiting outside the Orange Unified Board Meeting after the July 26th meeting to talk to Trustee Deligianni. (Editor's note: An /O/N/N/ member at the meeting saw Councilman Dumitru waiting outside the Board Room and call to Dr. Deligianni as she exited and engaged her in conversation. Please see the Councilman's explanation on his waiting outside the Board Room that night in the COMMENT. section)

    Having organized by passing out fliers to the neighborhood, the Peralta opponents quickly organized a website and meetings. They have Orange Councilman Denis Bilodeau concerned about the density and have OUSD Trustee Candidate Bob Ausmus running against Trustee Dr. Alexia Deligianni joining them in opposing the change in zoning. The group’s next meeting is Wednesday August 15.

    For more information CLICK ON: PERALTA BLOG

    Comments:
    Your comment about waiting for Alexia is misguided. I was waiting for Alexia, Rick, John, Tim and Mark. I was there gathering signatures for nomination paperwork for my race to serve as the next Mayor of Orange. It was a by chance that the hearing was the same time period as nominations. But thanks for including me in your story
     
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