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  • Friday, September 14, 2012




    As OUSD Trustee Mark Wayland changes sides...


    In a dramatic 4-3 vote, the Orange Unified School Board voted against the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement contract with the developer they had selected less than two months ago, Fairfield Residential LLC at the Thursday September 14th OUSD School Board meeting.

    In the two months since the selection of the developer, a broad based coalition of some of Orange’s most celebrated neighborhood activist, along with present and former political elites and up-in-comers joined with residents in the Peralta adjacent neighborhoods to apply political pressure during a contentious election cycle. Orange Unified Trustee Mark Wayland, who faces a neighborhood activist in his November re-election bid, provided the fourth vote to the original three Trustees who voted in July against the selection of Fairfield Residential as the exclusive developer for the former school site. Voting for the contract was OUSD Board President Tim Surridge, and Trustees Rick Ledesma and John Ortega.

    At their July meeting, OUSD Trustees Kathy Moffat and Diane Singer voted against Fairfield after the motion they sponsored to reject all of the developers was defeated. They were joined by OUSD Trustee Dr. Alexia Deligianni after her original motion to have another developer, Peralta Apartment Partners be the developer died for lack of a second (CLICK ON July Meeting). Deligianni also faces an opponent in November. At the September OUSD Board meeting Trustee Kathy Moffat cause a stir by accusing Surridge and Ledesma of getting developer campaign contributions. At the September meeting, Save Peralta members again addressed the OUSD Board before the vote with a variety of issues. The Peralta neighborhood residents cited crime statistics from other Fairfield developments, questioning the legal language in the contract and again repeated that they were blindsided by the process.

    The Save Peralta Property group almost appeared out of nowhere and quickly mobilized the neighborhood, creating a website, canvassing neighborhoods with flyers, holding weekly meetings, and inviting city and school district candidates to appear before there group. They also forged an alliance with the Orange Park Acres group sponsoring the No vote on Question FF and were quickly able to get two candidates to step forward to run in the school board election just days before the filing deadline. The coalition building, political savvy and organizational skills rivaled and paralleled the 2001 Orange Recall for good reason, the Peralta adjacent neighborhood is full of many of the same activist who worked diligently to recall four trustees eleven years ago. Three of the replacement Trustees from that winning recall effort are still are on the Board, Kathy Moffat, Rick Ledesma and John Ortega. However, the intervening years since the successful recall has more than strained the relations between the three.

    In an irony lost on many, one of the outcomes of the Orange Recall that was one of the first priorities of the new school board elected after the recall was to sell the Barham Ranch site. It too was slated for a future school site. Environmental and open space advocates who were part of the Orange Recall coalition wanted the Barham Ranch land to be protected as open space, which is what eventually happened to the land. However, the road was a rocky one. That included a judge in 2003 ordering the then OUSD Board to record all of its Closed Sessions for years after it was determined that they had illegally discussed the land deal in violation of the Brown Act in 2001. Then Trustee Robert Vivivano also opposed giving up the property for much the same reasons listed by Moffat over the Peralta property. The OUSD land was eventually joined with the rest of the Barham Ranch lands as part of the Santiago Oaks Regional Park. Barham Ranch Day is still celebrated in the park annually in March.

    The biggest political looser in the struggle over the developement of the Peralta site appears to be Rick Ledesma. Ledesma worked since 2008 to steer OUSD into developing properties that had been declared surplus. Political fallout from what many activists in the community saw as an attempt to thwart the will of the neighborhood may still be seen in November. With the reelection of Wayland and Deligianni, they will have four more years to go through the process again. Meanwhile, the Save Peralta Group is not going away as they plan on creating a neighborhood association to be a watchdog of the site and area.

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