Perhaps it was karma that when the O.C. Register’s editorial board tried to tackle Measure FF, a Nov. 6 ballot measure that will affect the residents of the City of Orange, they screwed up. They meant to take the Yes on FF position but they inadvertently took the No on FF position. Click here to read their amended editorial, which appears to have been written by the Yes on FF campaign.
Well, after much scrutiny of this ballot measure, I am backing No on FF. The developer who is paying for Yes on FF has really gone too far. I am generally all for property rights, but Yes on FF appears to be a total shaft to the residents of Orange. You can find out more about this measure on the No on FF website. Here are a few excerpts from their website:
Between 2006 and 2008 investors bought the 51-acre Ridgeline Tennis & Golf Club, the 110-acre Sully Miller Gravel pit and the existing 7.6 acre OPA horse arena. When they bought the property, they knew that only 20 acres of the total 168 acres were zoned for housing.
The Ridgeline Site
The 51-acre Ridgeline property is zoned recreational open space and was operated for decades as a swim, tennis and golf club for local residents with a basic but fun 9-hole golf course.
Here’s what the Ridgline property looked like when the current owners purchased it.
One Development Team -Two Properties
A year after investors bought the Ridgeline Tennis and Golf Club the same group of investors purchased the 110-acre Sully Miller gravel pit, also in East Orange, and the existing 7.6-acre horse arena across the street. When they bought the properties, they knew that only 20 acres of the total 168 acres were zoned for housing.
The Sully Miller Site
The Sully Miller gravel pits include 98 acres that have been designated for Permanent Open Space since 1973.
The gravel pits are adjacent to the closed county dump and Santiago Creek runs through the park.
The property also includes the riding Arena which was long operated as a public facility across the street from the gravel pits. The developers have a complicated plan to turn half of the arena over to a non-profit group to be named later
Our Local Constitution Under Attack
Three detailed comprehensive plans have been carefully crafted by dedicated citizens and adopted by the City of Orange and the County. These plans were developed with compromise between all property owners and established the rights and responsibilities of everyone.
The Orange Park Acres Specific Plan, the Santiago Greenbelt Plan and the East Orange Community Plan have protected the rural area of East Orange for over 35 years.
Now these plans, which are our local constitution, are under attack by speculators who wants to rewrite the rules for their own financial gain.
Do We Have Enough Parks in Orange?
The City of Orange does not meet the State’s minimum standard for parks, and has less parkland per resident than New York City. We have only 155 acres of developed parks plus 20 acres of a closed dump designated for future development. By state standards, and the City’s own reports, we are already short 160 acres of parks. We can’t afford to lose 51 acres of recreational open space without any plan to replace it.
To add insult to injury, the plan approved by the City is so convoluted that the developer is responsible for funding a non-profit to maintain a 3.6-acre horse arena. If he stops the funding, and the land ceases to be a horse arena, the land reverts to the developer.
Why Did the City Council Approve this Deal?
Historically our elected leaders have not been proactive on solving the park shortage.
The politicians in Orange have made bad deals with developers who profit from building homes. In exchange they ask very little in return. Instead of requiring land for local [ublic parks, as they can under the state law, they settle for less: a trail, a pocket tot lot, or a patch of land that they can’t develop because of steep hills or flooding. In new developments, like the ones proposed at Ridgeline and Sully-Miller, the parks are private, not open to the rest of Orange.
Orange politics has been significantly influenced by developers’ money. Just in the 2010 election, the Ridgeline developers contributed $40,000 to two PACs that then spent almost $40,000 supporting Dennis Bilodeau and Fred Whitaker. It appears the developer has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants who specialize in creating so-called grassroots group, pack meetings with their paid supporters, and flood the area with signs.
Is There a A Better Plan?
We are trying to reverse the bad decisions the Orange City Council recently made regarding the Ridgeline property. The Council changed the City General Plan and the zoning plan for 51-acres of recreational open space without any plan to replace the loss. This flies in the face of good land use planning.
Local residents have proposed a better plan which still offers the developers opportunities for highly profitable residential development if they replace part of the recreational open space that they are eliminating.
It should be noted that apparently notorious GOP blogger Matt Cunningham is the driving force behind the Yes on Measure FF campaign. That is of course another reason to vote No on Measure FF!
One more thing. Most of the Orange Council candidates have come out against Measure FF, as illustrated in this graphic: