Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Orpheus Saga

Link to NCT article


The developer, Robert Barelmann, has scrapped his Orpheus Avenue plans even though, in May, three of five planning commissioners endorsed his application to rezone the site from open space to commercial, and his plans to build an office building there.

Dozens of opponents objected to the plans ---- controversy that Barelmann noted in his letter of withdrawal submitted late last month to the Planning and Building Department.

"For my wife and I, there has been no experience more humbling and challenging than the process to rezone the Orpheus (property)," he wrote. "Land is a precious asset for the city, community and landowner, and for that reason we certainly attracted quite a bit of attention."

I attended the big meeting about this rezone last month, just about every person who lives on Orpheus showed up and packed the council chambers. The casual observer might wonder what the fuss was about. After all, are we not for private property rights?

Here is how I see it, for starters that property should have never been sold to a private party. Some of the planning commissioners said that fact was neither here nor there but I disagree. The land was willed to the county by the widow that owned it. She wanted it to become permanent public open space. Apparently the odd shape of the land baffled our city, they can't make a park out of anything but nice flat land or something (my award winning architect wifey had a good laugh at this).

The city sold it to Mr.
Barelmann (part of a strange land swap deal that I don't even want to get into). Mr. Barelmann proposed a medical/dental building of all things. Now, this was his big mistake. That little section of Leucadia, despite it being next to the freeway and a gas station, is basically a slice of country. It's a little two lane road that weaves down into greenhouses and a quaint neighborhood. A busy medical office building would be a poor fit. I would think that the street improvements he would have to pay would have been a deterrent but I guess not.

The issue here of course is not a dental building, it is rezoning. This project would open Pandora's box. I suggested to some Orpheus residents that if this rezone went through then they should all petition to have their land rezoned for commercial use. Why shouldn't every Orpheus land owner become the proud owner of an office building?

Do we want to start cherry picking rezones in this city? Are we really going to start nibbling at all our Leucadia neighborhoods?

If we look past the fact that it was completely immoral to violate a dead woman's last dying wish I would probably would have supported Mr. Barelmann if he wanted to build some small, interesting studio apartments for students or young couples to rent out. A small humble project probably wouldn't have attracted so much resistance. But nooooo, every developer in the area just has to push their luck. I call this the Southern California Wannabee Rockstar Syndrome. The Eckes are currently suffering a bad case of SCWRS.

Conclusion? For one thing, DO NOT will your land to the government. They will not respect your wishes.

The next move? The city should refund Barelmann's money, get the land back and build a dog park. Arf.

edit-This comment sums up what I meant in my last sentence:

Anonymous said...

Square one would mean that the taxpayers get back the million or so dollars that barelmann got for the unusable land, on top of the Orpheus land

Now please stop sending me angry e-mails, ha-ha!


  1. The city should refund Barelmann's money?
    Barelmeann already got way too much money. JP you should have your audience look into the shady land swap deal.

  2. Reread 1984, Brave New WorldJuly 07, 2005 3:17 PM

    My understanding is that the land swap in this case was for property that was not able to be developed, either because of grading problems, or due to Environmental Impact concerns. The La Costa Ave. property was probably very near the lagoon, an area already impacted by flooding and over development. In fact one new "McMansion" is going up right on the North side of the street, directly over the lagoon. It's awful to contemplate.

    The Orpheus dillema is simalar to the Pacific View controversy. The Pacific View property was willed to the county also, specifically for school grounds and open space, for the playground, fields, etc. Suddenly (or not so suddenly) the Encinitas Union wants to be in charge of developing, paying expensive consultants, architects, property managers, to build "to what code permits," which according to the City & the School District is a mixed use commercial development.

    The point is, this was another property willed to the "government" for very specific public uses. Citizens beware. Our public servants are trying to take away our inalienable rights, to make us sacrifice the common good for the greedy benefit of a privileged few.

  3. I should note that by refunding I also mean that we should all go back to square 1. Barelmann gets the "unusable" property back and the city gets the Orpheus land.

    No blood, no foul?

  4. Square one would mean that the taxpayers get back the million or so dollars that barelmann got for the unusable land, on top of the Orpheus land


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