Santa Paula Planning Commission: Foothill Peck Specific Plan TM5475

By Sheryl Hamlin

History of the Project and Multiple Ballot Measures

Municipal land use and development are codified in a General Plan, sales which is updated periodically, sale as required by law, stuff and also by state, county or municipal voter initiatives. Development proposals in the Adams Canyon have been presented to the voters on numerous occasions in recent history.

In November of 2000, Santa Paula voted 4035(yes) and 3368(no) passing the SOAR (Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources) initiative per the county.

In November of 2002, a special election was held for a proposal to develop thousands of homes and a golf course in Adams Canyon. The LA Times reported here giving the arguments from both sides. The vote count was 2174(yes) and 3873(no) per the County Recorder’s office with voters rejecting the huge expansion in Adams Canyon.

In June of 2003, an election again brought this parcel to the voters, but only as a subset of the previous Adams Canyon project. Measure A “Urban Growth Boundary Measure” passed 1247 (yes) to 981 (no) allowing 79 homes on the 32 acres of land by enlarging the City Urban Restrictions Boundary (CURB) boundary. Below is the site plan for the 79 homes at the northwest corner of Foothill and Peck Roads.

siteplan

In June 2006, a reduced version of the Adams Canyon project with 495 luxury homes and a golf course was introduced on the ballot. It failed 2467 (Yes) and 2736 (No) per the county records. The LA Times reported on the project as “hundreds of mansions”. The city of Santa Paula hosted a blog to elicit comments from citizens.

In May 2007, Adams Canyon development proponents proposed another version of a development concept for the Adams Canyon (Measure A7). The LA Times reports it as a victory for “luxury housing” in Santa Paula. The voting results per the county were 1267 (yes) and 771 (no) in a very small turnout.  According to the LA Times, the plan was described as: “495 large homes on lots averaging 12 acres, a 200-room hotel and spa, and an 18-hole golf course.”

It is clear from the commentary and on-line editorials from the era that the 2006 and 2007 measures were promoted as projects with 495 luxury homes. However in actuality, there is a small piece of language that changes the formula:

text_32acres

When asked about this paragraph, the assistant Planning Director Stratis Perros said via email “the 2007 Measure did not exclude the Foothill and Peck project from the overall Adams Canyon Expansion Area. Therefore, the 79 homes will come out of the 495 homes set aside for Adams Canyon.”

So in actuality, the voters in both the 2006 and 2007 elections were voting on 495 minus 79 homes or 416 luxury homes with 79 densely sited townhomes previously approved per the 2003 site plan NOT 495 luxury homes as promoted.

Contrast the density of the 79 homes approved in 2003 with the current Google Maps view of the adjacent low-density luxury development to the west of Peck and Foothill. In the Google Maps image, the proposed area is on the left.

map_foothil_peck

In March 2013, LAFCO split votes on the wisdom of adding Adams Canyon to Santa Paula’s sphere of influence. Later in 2013, the Planning Director Minsk recommended formation of a Specific Plan in order to solidify Santa Paula’s claim that the Adams Canyon is in its Sphere of Influence. The final EIR for the project dated July 2014 can be found here.

From the minutes of the February 24, 2015 Planning Commission Meeting, the project’s effect on previous voter initiatives is noted as follows:

As submitted, the project will amend the General Plan Land Use Map by changing the land use designation of the project area from existing Adams Canyon Expansion Area to proposed Tract Map 54 75 Specific Plan.

In other words, the Specific Plan for the 79 homes will override any planning for this parcel related to luxury development in Adams Canyon. In fact a Specific Plan is a planning tool commonly used by developers to override many city codes such as building heights, density and setback, as this project does.

The staff report of February 24, 2015 Planning Commission meeting, when the item was continued, describes the project as follows:

The proposed 79 single-family homes at Foothill and Peck represent the first phase of development in the Adams Canyon Expansion Area.

From the city’s General Plan map and the ballot for the Measure A7, the Adams Canyon Expansion Area can be shown as including the parcel for the 79 homes.

Stratis Perros, the assistant Planning Director, reported on the following:

  • The council previously approved changes to the intersection of Foothill and Peck to improve safety in response to the numerous citizen comments from the February 24, 2015 Planning Commission meeting.
  • The county had numerous concerns including the 14 acres adjacent to the project, the designation of fill areas for the 700,000 cubic feet of fill to be removed from this “cut and fill” project, and said their April 6th letter contained 10 areas of concerns
  • The project requires further action which includes city council approval and county discretionary review
  • Ventura County Pollution control asks for conditions

Consulting City Engineer Randy Toedter rebutted the following objections of the county:

  • He says the 14 acres will be decided by LAFCO, but he disagrees with the county saying there is no environmental problem (the county says there will be maintenance and water required)
  • Three fill sites in the Adams Canyon have been identified, but may not all be necessary. He did not say if the applicant had permission to use these fill sites.
  • Dirt removal to the three sites will be on bad roads in the canyons.
  • Geotechnical studies have been “extensively reviewed” by the EIR team.
  • There will be special status for Animals and Plants
  • Grading rules and water to be codified
  • The city and county will define and monitor mitigation measures

The Planning Commission asked the following questions:

  • Commissioner Demers asked about excavation on the southwest corner of the site, which is a parcel owned by a different entity. The consultant says there is an agreement but does not know why it is needed.

The applicant’s representative Mike Piszker, an attorney, spoke next. He said that he had been working in Santa Paula since the 1980’s and urged approval of the project saying the grading and drainage would benefit the area because they will stabilize the hillside and prevent flooding along Foothill Road because of the oversized retention basin which is planned for the project. The Mitchell’s have granted a grading easement which will blend the topology.

The commission decided to reopen the public hearing because there were so many who had come to speak.

Public Comments at April 28, 2015 Planning Commission Meeting

Public comments included the following:

  • Mr Dalo, who spoke at the February 24th meeting, said he opposed the project on grounds of pollution, water use, noise and landslides saying it is incompatible with the north, south and west sides of the site plan.  Although Del Investment did the project to the east, each project is different. Santa Paula has a responsibility to its residents.
  • Ms. Fullbright, Principal of Blanchard School, spoke to the potential “alarming” impacts of trucks down Peck repeatedly during construction with fumes and potential danger to students and parents who pick up children nothing there is already of backlog of traffic at the ingress/egress to the school with the current traffic level.
  • Ms. Wade, who lives at the corner of Foothill and Peck was concerned about traffic and her house again being hit. The city has installed an unsightly guard rail in front of her house.
  • Two speakers gave their time to Mr. Main, who lives on Foothill Road. Mr. Main stated he has extensive experience with grading and stated that uphill grading is dangerous. The pollution exceeds standards by 400%. Water used during construction for dust control is not mentioned in the EIR. What is the source for this water? People near the project will be highly impacted by gases.  700,000 square feet of fill is only one-way, he said, and that there will actually be twice the number of trips due to returns. The project does not conform to the General Plan Hillside Estates designation. There is an “ancient slide” on the property, which experts say should be left undisturbed because it could reopen. A 20’ retaining wall requires lots of engineering and has problems, as evidenced by the wall at the hospital. He said the EIR shows the project is “not in conformity” with one exception after the other. He asked if the owner could sell the property and transfer the permit.
  • Mr. Fox on Munger Drive expressed concern about ingress and egress from his area, air quality and particularly spores released from disturbing the ground where many school children and residents are outside playing. He said the lot size is too small with too many homes.
  • Mr. Morenos, a parent of a student at Blanchard, spoke to safety concerns due to truck traffic on Peck.
  • Ms. Rose, the Assistant Superintendent of SPUSD, spoke reminding the council of the district’s detailed letter about truck traffic on Peck.
  • Mr. Flemming, resident of Munger, spoke of pollution, traffic and the disruption of the scenic, rural area.
  • Mr. Band of Peck Road spoke of property damage caused by massive trucks vibrating the homes on Peck Road. The previous proposal of 32 homes was not approved. He mentioned alternate routes for trucks including Beckwith Street and Briggs. He also noted that Peck is recently repaved, so why ruin it with hundreds of truck trips and heavily loaded vehicles?
  • Ms. Sotero of Town Court said her backyard faces Peck and it is already too noisy.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Grumping of Foothill cited health issues, asthma and said the project was out of scale with the surrounding areas. The project should be reduced and built in pieces. Foothill and Peck is a magnet for collisions. What is the traffic level now and during construction?

Commissioner Questions

Commissioner Somers asked for the location of the three locations in the canyons for the disposal of the cut material.  Mr. Perros replied saying there are three sites identified north of the development and that there will be no trucks going down Peck.

Commissioner Robison asked about Option 6. Answer: the county likes canyon areas for disposal and no use of city streets.

Commissioner Demers asked about the 14 acres to the north and the restoration of the streets. Answer: the 14 acres to the north are part of a 138 acres parcel which is in receivership and said there is a grading easement to use the 14 acres. Streets will be restored and the canyons “revegetated” after destruction of existing plant life from dumping.

Another question was asked about the Peck and Foothill intersection to which Mr. Perros answered that a reasonable condition of approval would be substantive changes to the intersection, as well as a traffic study and a light. Below is the wall of a home at the south east corner of Foothill and Peck which has been hit numerous times.

peck_disaster_wall

Mr. Demers asked about the zoning, lot size and if there is an alternative to reduce the density. Mr. Perros said the 2003 Measure A approved the 80 homes and that this project is consistent with the General Plan. Note that several of the speakers disagreed with this latter point.

Mr. Robinson asked about water use in construction and if the retention basin will control flooding. Mr. Perros answered affirmatively to the retention basin question and said that construction water would be delivered by trucks filled from local hydrants which are metered, so the builder will pay for the water.

There was NO discussion about the Governor’s recent Executive Order on potable water use for outside purposes, which could apply to the trucks’ use of the potable water from city hydrants. This SHOULD BE verified.

Mr. Robinson asked if the 20’ retention wall would be visible? Mr. Perros said the wall would be at the top of the fill and that houses will hide the wall. 

There was NO discussion about the heat generated by such a wall, the potential dam created by such a wall or the view of the wall by the homeowners within the project.

Below is a picture of the retaining wall in back of the Santa Paula Hospital showing its relation to the size of objects adjacent to it. This 10 foot wall appears to be concrete with a veneer of stone blocks with rows of landscape piping, on top of which is a 5 foot fence. So the proposed 20’ retaining wall will be 5’ higher than this 10’ wall with a 5’ fence. How far away from the highest row of homes will the 20’ wall be and how will the heat effect be mitigated? How will it be landscaped? What is the view of this wall from inside the project?  This question can best be answered by requiring the developer to produce a three-dimensional walk-through of the entire project using CAD software, so that the full of effect of this massive wall can be understood and views of the project can be seen from all sides. What will prevent a dam of water from forming behind the 20’ wall?

hospital_wall

Commission Robison posed a rhetorical question about stopping development because it is unhealthy and said the county needs to step up to this intersection problem. Mr. Perros said the county has responsibility for this intersection and there are no new on-ramps which would be available for this project.

Mr. Perros next reiterated that the city council, county and LAFCO must still approve this project.

Chairman Ikerd said he opposed truck traffic on Peck and that hillside living is challenging. Mr. Perros said a haul route could be included in the motion.

Mr. Demers moved to approve with six conditions:

  • Recommend annexation of the 14 acres
  • Irrigation of 14 acres must be included
  • No off-site disposal of dirt
  • No Peck Road transfer
  • Developer must fund “substantial” improvements to Foothill and Peck intersection
  • Re-vegetation must be to the highest standards.

The motion was seconded. However the assistant City Lawyer, Mr. Kettles, asked to recess to study this motion.

The meeting resumed with a reformation of the motion by Mr. Kettles:

  • Recommended annexation of 14 acres and those be part of the project
  • No haul trucks on Peck during grading
  • Developer will work with county to funds more stop sings and warnings to slow outbound traffic (east bound toward Peck)
  • Re-vegetation for canyons will meet counyy standard (highest tier)

The motion passed unanimously.

====================================================

Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.  Ms. Hamlin’s blog Stealth Fashion  and  technology product ‘ Plug and Play Webmaster’.

Get Citizensjournal.us Headlines free  SUBSCRIPTION. Keep us publishing – DONATE

*Scroll down to post a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *