The councilman doth protest too much, methinks, (with apologies to Shakespeare.) This applies to Councilmen Ed Gallo and Mike Morasco, Deputy Mayor John Masson, and Mayor Sam Abed in their insistence that their decision to deny an appeal made by Councilwoman Olga Diaz and The Springs retirement facility of the Planning Commission’s decision to approve building a water treatment plant at the corner Ash and Washington had nothing to do the with age, affluence or ethnicity of the neighbors to that proposed plant. Those neighbors disagree. A resident of The Springs, Geri Teutsch told J. Harry Jones of the San Diego Union Tribune: “The other place had lawyers and they had money. . . Now (the city is) hitting the lowest level, people in the winter of our lives and you figure we can’t fight this. We don’t have monies left. Our monies are poured into here. Most of us living here just hope our money outlasts our rent.”http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/sd-no-escondido-protest-20160927-story.html
The “other place” Ms. Teutsch spoke of was the Chaparral Glen development. I wrote about this previous decision in May of last year. https://ablueviewescondido.com/2016/05/25/water-matters/ and https://ablueviewescondido.com/2016/05/18/another-property-rights-dilemma-for-abed/
The discussion began with a presentation by the city staff. I find I tend to zone out a bit during these presentation, as any details I need can be found on the City’s website: https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/agendas/Council/2017/1-11-17CCAgendaPacket.pdf But, one thing stated by staff in response to the appeal grabbed my attention. Staff affirmed that Reveal Escondido Creek was not a formal policy document. I suppose this is correct, but it seems a shame to ignore a policy that could dramatically improve Escondido’s quality of life. http://escondidocreek.org/current-projects/reveal-escondido-creek/ Reveal Escondido Creek envisioned a park and open space.
By my count, nineteen people spoke against building the project, and four, for the project.
Russell Nakaoka, manager of The Springs agreed that the plant must be built, but it would be incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood in this location. The city should find another location. He noted that even though the Planning Commission had approved the project without dissent, many of the commissioners had concerns about better landscaping, but had put no requirements for such landscaping in their approval. Once built its possible use to enhance the Escondido Creek project would be gone forever.
Most of the speakers against the project recognized the need for the plant, but felt this location would be inappropriate.
There was concern about the storage of chemicals. A resident of The Springs, Alfred Roebuck reminded the council that only five years before there had been a major spill of sodium hydroxide at the water treatment plant near Dixon Lake. Randal Roberts listed some requirements for workers in such water treatment plants—no beard (so masks can be tightly fitted,) no contact lenses etc.
Springs resident, David Dryden was especially concerned about the storm water pond that was a part of the project—a part that was not always included on plans shown to the residents. “Old people matter” he declared.
Bob Serrano, owner of the Round Table Pizza on Ash across the street from the proposed location opposed the project. The restaurant had been there since 1979, and many youth sports teams were patrons.
Barbara Takahara, Marilyn Gallegos Ramirez, Chris Nava, and Consuelo Martinez all expressed their concern about the lack of public outreach made by the city to all the residents. Takahara had asked the city why notices had not been sent out in Spanish—because there is no law requiring such notices, she was told. “You can do better” Martinez scolded. Martinez noted that the public works storage yard availability in lieu of the Ash/Washington location had been glossed over at the planning commission meeting. She felt the Council should not gloss over that site, all possible sites should be considered by the city.
A surprising opponent of the project is long-time city resident Arie DeJong. He goes swimming at 6:00 am every day, and it was at the pool that he first found out about the project from Barbara Takahara, who also swims at that hour. What is really needed, he insisted, was low cost housing.
Delores McQuiston reminded the Council, that over ten years ago, the Council had received an offer of $2 million from Hi Tech Hi for the property. Had that money been invested it would be worth $5.06 million today, and the city would have a world class charter school. Abed and Gallo had both been on that Council. It was a terrible decision. Abed’s hope that what is now the public works storage yard will be turned into a technology park is a pipe dream. She added the existing technology park now had a hospital, power plant, and brewing company. (Guess that constitutes hi tech in Escondido.)
The sole resident of The Springs in favor of the project Marshal Byer, noted that only 20% of the projects units would have a view of the project, and that any noise from the new facility would be drowned out by the traffic noise. Another neighbor of the project said he felt it was a much better use of the property than more apartments, or liquor stores. His wife spoke next, agreeing with his position. Ed Grangetto, representing Escondido Growers for Agricultural Preservation asked the Council to deny the appeal, stating that the longer it took to get treated water to the farmers, the less likely those farmers would be able to stay in business to buy the water.
Diaz began the council’s discussion. She encouraged he colleagues to seriously consider the public works storage site. An advantage of that site, besides being in an area that is non-residential, is that it is near the confluence of Reidy and Escondido Creeks. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to extend those purple pipes to carry water to the farmland north of Escondido? She responded to Grangetto’s concern by noting that the proposal would probably be held up by litigation—the fastest solution to getting water to the farmers would be to build the plant on the public works storage site.
McQuiston’s comments about Hi Tech Hi evidently got under Gallo’s skin. He insisted the property had been appraised at $5 million at the time and Hi tech Hi’s offer was way under that value, adding that Hi Tech Hi had had spent $5 million to purchase property in San Marcos. I remember now that that was about the time that Marie Waldron (an intellectual equal to Ed Gallo) proposed making landlords I.C.E. agents. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-escondido-council-approves-illegal-immigrant-2006oct05-story.html Abed and Gallo both voted for that boondoggle that was struck down by the courts, costing Escondido a ton of money. I remember now that it was rumored that Hi Tech Hi was negatively influenced by that rental ordinance decision. Gallo claimed that the argument that the low-income and Latino nature of the area made it more likely to be chosen was B.S. http://www.cbs8.com/story/34242086/neighbors-fight-water-treatment-plant-plan-in-escondido
Masson said he appreciated the comments that had been made, but, building a Costco or Home Depot would have a much more harmful effect on the neighborhood. The public works storage yard was the most valuable property the city owned he claimed. He too was insistent that the decision had nothing to do with income levels or social injustice. That was “crap”.
Morasco noted that in all of the 49 years he had lived in Escondido, that site had been vacant eyesore, much more deleterious to property values than the plant would be.
Abed said he understood the comments that had been made, but that the residents and council all shared the same goal of doing what would be best for the city. The suggestion that the plant’s location had anything to do with the affluence or ethnicity of the affected residents was just political talk. He pressed City Manager Graham Mitchell to explain how thorough the city had been in its outreach to citizens. An uncomfortable Mitchell responded that they had held two workshops and had met with several residents individually. Abed then insisted that the public works site was much too valuable to be used for the water treatment plant. He insisted that one day there would be a hi tech business park that would provide 1,000 jobs paying an average of $75K per year.
And so the appeal was denied, the four men voting against the appeal, Diaz for the appeal. No surprises there. These four men may actually believe that they aren’t being socially unjust. They would have you believe that the pressure from affluent residents did not influence them any more than pressure from less-affluent and Latino residents, but their actions make it apparent that is not the case.
The treatment plant is just the beginning. Once that has been built, the area will be considered quasi-industrial. Planners will say about other projects, “Oh, let’s put it over by Ash and Washington, that already is an industrial area.” This is not about whether people at the retirement center have good or bad views, this is about what will become of that part of town. If people don’t fill the Council chambers for the next planning meeting and the next Council meeting, much more will be lost for Escondido.
I just don’t get the issue, I lived next to a Hyperion plant in Los Angeles and it was not really a big deal, I would say the old egg ranches in Harmony Grove smelled worse than any water treatment plant. We need the water and you place a plant in a location that has the least land value and that location fits the bill.
We don’t need more low income housing, Escondido has plenty already, that is why we have Prop S, because of all the cheap apartments that were built, we need more businesses that pay well, not bodegas, tattoo pallor’s, and check cashing like we have in that area. That guy from Round table should be thrilled to have the plant, because he will have a busier lunch crowd, not to mention water treatment facilities always have security, which is a lot better than having gang bangers hanging around the canal and vacate lot.
While I am not a big fan at selling water to farmers at a reduced rate they should pay what we all pay, it is still better then flushing it out to sea.
The issue is pretty clear. When the affluent folks in Chaparral Glen objected to the plant, they were given what they wanted, when the less affluent old folks in The Springs objected, they were ignored. All the Latino neighbors, even less affluent, weren’t even notified. One of Escondido’s greatest assets is its farming community–that gives so much green, CO2 absorbing area around Escondido. The current city council often gives subsidies to members of the Building Industry Association in the form of reduced or waived developer impact fees–passing on the cost to Escondido’s taxpayers, while destroying natural habitat and farmland that adds so much to our quality of life. I’m all for supporting farmers to keep the groves around Escondido. But, the public works storage yard is a much better place for this plant–it is already industrial, and next to Reidy Creek. Abed’s notion that the area will become a technology park is a total pipe dream.
I don’t doubt what you say is true, but the reality is voters will always have more say than non voters and when you look at the last election it is pretty clear what part of town has more voters. Ed Gallo was elected in the most heavily rigged Latino district in Escondido because no one could vote.
As for farmers, while I have many a friend that farm, I wouldn’t classify them as the greatest asset to Escondido, they relay on cheap labor and cheap water to make money, no difference than Walmart relaying on cheap labor and city concessions, but at least Walmart pays minimum wages and overtime, unlike farmers; just for the record I am against developer concessions as well.
The reality is simple, a water treatment plant is better than a vacant lot, the area and land is just not that valuable to build anything else, and at least the people that work at the plant will be well paid.
If you cannot appreciate the value of the farms in and of themselves–adding to our quality of life, then I think your values are such that I cannot relate to them. But, as a matter of fact, if Escondido doesn’t find a use for its treated sewage water, then it will be required to increase the size of its outfall into the Pacific–at a cost of billions. So, selling this water to farmers saves the city considerable money.
I like farms and I like farmers as long as they pay what everybody is paying for recycled water then I am all for selling them water, I just don’t think that farms and farmers are sacrosanct and deserve some special deal, especially when you see how they exploit poor Latino pickers by paying them by the bushel or ton of fruit instead of an hourly wage that I would have to pay. Drive through any farm town in California and see the impact, sure its looks bucolic as long as you don’t look at the shanties that the pickers live in, or look at the test scores of the local schools or see how the local church has a mile long line of people every Sunday for the food hand out, which happens in Escondido.
I say build the water plant were it is cheapest, sell the recycled water to anyone at a market rate and what ever is left pump it into lake Hodges, DIxion, or Wohlford.
Be sure not to complain about farms when your mouth is full. I grew up on a farm in Imperial Valley, my family still owns it. I agree that farm workers should be paid more–are you willing to pay more for food? The fact is the farmers will be the main users of the recycled water. I think the poverty rate among farm workers is no worse than the poverty rate in urban areas. We need to have a better safety net for all our citizens like they do in the 13 countries that have a higher standard of living than the USA–where Keynesian economics is practiced–what the Republicans falsely call socialism.
SoCalBaker. No one is arguing whether we need the plant but rather where to put it. Why would you want it to be put into the middle of a neighborhood when it could be put into the appropriate industrial area? That community needs to be lifted up not turned into the next spot for all the things the wealthy parts of town don’t want.
So what you are saying is that a vacant lot with a chain link fence and graffiti is better as long as you can stick the water treatment facility in a so called “wealthy part of town”. The reality is that nothing of real value will be built on that land because the incomes of the area don’t justify it, maybe medical offices, but now the hospital has moved I doubt that, so you will be stuck with a vacant lot.
No, that’s not at all what I said. I very clearly said that the plant should go on the public works storage yard, next to the gravel yard. The best use for that lot would have been the Hi Tech Hi, ten years ago that some of the current council was too shortsighted to agree to. Plus, they didn’t want to cause their good ole boy buddy, Dennis Snyder. any heartburn of competition for his charter schools. Now the best use would be a park that would enhance the Escondido Creek project.
A park, on a busy intersection. Have you been to Washington Park or Grove Park, as soon as the sun goes down the gang bangers and drug dealers role in, you have now just made another area for the EPD to patrol, not to mention the additional cost of maintenance. Why is a park better than a Water Treatment facility with landscaping and security and well paying jobs.
As a Keynesian you should welcome government investment in a blighted area, because of the multiplier effect which will boost aggregate demand of the community. A Water Treatment plant will have a greater multiplier than a park which any proper Keynesian should recognize and applaud.
I disagree. The park would be part of the Escondido Creek Park–which could be reclaimed, like the Los Angeles River.
Saying that this is a social justice issue is silly. Escondido needs a water treatment plant. If the plant is not built at Washington and Ash it will have to be built elsewhere in Escondido. Wherever it’s built the same concerns will be raised.
If the plant is not built at the location under consideration, something else will be built there. A strip mall, apartment building or gas station would have its own negative effects.
The architect’s renderings of the outside of the plant are attractive enough – certainly nicer than the backside of the Walmart that’s there on the other side of the creek. If you go around Escondido, city-owned buildings do not look bad at all.
FWIW, I live at the Springs and the plant would be visible from my apartment.
It’s now in litigation–will be delayed for years probably. Much better to put it where the storage yard is–could be done immediately. What’s silly is Abed’s pipe dream of a high tech. park. Never happen.