By DAVID NAZAR of PBS SoCaL and NICK GERDA, Voice of OC
Los Alamitos officials and residents, along with Cypress activists, are taking aim at the Cypress City Council, arguing that a proposed truck terminal is leaving them with traffic and pollution impacts while Cypress reaps the tax revenues.
Because the truck terminal was pitched as senior housing during a successful ballot initiative in 2012, the project is also drawing accusations of bait-and-switch tactics used by Cypress leaders. There are also rising questions about the lack of disclosure of developer campaign contributions.
Cypress city leaders continue to argue over the future of the 33-acre property, which lies along the north side of Katella Avenue near the Los Alamitos Race Course.
One of its developers, San Francisco-based Prologis, has said the truck terminal is a responsible project that will help expand the city’s business community.
Opponents, which include many local residents and Los Alamitos Mayor Warren Kusumoto, countered that the project would increase traffic and pollution on what is already one of the region’s most congested thoroughfares.
Additionally, a group of Cypress activists are now accusing Cypress city officials of misleading voters and are questioning the lack of disclosure of a developer’s campaign donations to Cypress City Council members.
This land is at the corner of Katella Avenue and Enterprise Drive next door to the Cottonwood Christian Church and the Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress.
It used to be part of the famed Los Alamitos Golf Club, where Tiger Woods practiced in his youth.
Sacramento-based developer Christo Bardis owned the property in the 1990s and bought it again in 2005, ultimately partnering with race course owner Edward Allred.
In June 2012, Cypress voters increased the land’s value by approving a ballot measure that upgraded the property’s zoning from community services and facilities to a planned business park.
Then in December, a few months after the zoning change, Bardis sold the property to Prologis, an international logistics company.
Bardis sold the land for $30.6 million, with $2 million paid upfront, according to terms disclosed in public documents.
Prologis then proposed building a distribution center and warehouse on the site, with original plans calling for 127 truck bays.
David Rose, an activist with Cypress Citizens Preserving Open Space, said residents in his city were duped when they approved Measure L, the ballot initiative to change the land’s zoning.
He cited the wording of the ballot initiative as an example:
Shall the ordinance approving the amendment to the Cypress Business & Professional Center Specific Plan allows additional uses, including market-rate senior citizen housing, assisted living facilities, professional offices, including medical services, and mixed-use commercial, in a planning area adjacent to Katella Avenue with related General Plan amendments and a zone change be adopted?
Rose said voters expected some sort of senior facility, not a truck depot.
“I know most residents felt completely deceived by it. I mean even on the city attorney’s analysis, he just excludes totally that they were in negotiations with an industrial use, and on the plan it still states that it’s a senior center,” Rose said.
Bardis said there was no bait-and-switch maneuver because he had intended a senior citizens project on the site until those plans fell through after the election.
“I never heard of Prologis until after the election was over. I didn’t even know they existed,” Bardis said.
“We identified the proposal as a number of things including an elderly project. There was no deception intended to the public whatsoever.”
Campaign Finance Connections
Before and after the campaign for Measure L, a series of business entities connected to Bardis helped finance the campaigns of three Cypress City Council members.
Those entities, many of which are registered to the Sacramento headquarters of Bardis’ development company, contributed to a political action committee called Quality of Life PAC.
Campaign records show that the PAC distributed cash to support council candidates, both through direct contributions and by paying for mailers and signs.
More than $18,000 supported Councilman Doug Bailey in his 2006 campaign, $6,500 went to Councilman Rob Johnson in 2012 and $2,500 was steered to Mariellen Yarc in 2012.
In total, the support amounted to at least $27,000.
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