Saturday, January 31, 2009

Trees vs. Views

Over a year ago, I took a few pictures of Orpheus park. I took the photos because I was going use them to make the case that we should cut down some of the park's trees. Much more important issues came up and it was not until the Highway 101 tree issue surfaced that I went back into my archives for the old photos. I planned to pitch the idea of making a sacrificial offering to the arborists to appease them. They take the Orpheus trees and we keep the 101 trees.

Notice that the Orpheus park sign has a sunset on it. The most important intrinsic attribute of this park is the panoramic ocean view. It is perfect for sunsets. I'm sure the sunset potential of the location was recognized when the park was built. They even put in this really cool bench at the top of the knoll so you can sit and watch the sun go down.

The problem was that the city planted a bunch of trees right down the center of the view corridor. These trees obstructed the richest part of the horizon. The most important natural feature of the park had been crowed out by trees.

I am for cutting down the trees right in the middle of the park. Take a look at these photos. The first is from 2007.

click to enlarge photo

This photo is from last night. Drew was sitting in the tree right down the middle. Once his tree gets cut down the views will be awesome. Take home message: Kevin C. does not want to save all these trees. Keep that in mind as you read some of the following burning questions.
  1. Does the city really have an agreement to keep the neighbors' views unobstructed?
  2. Since when does the city record important and costly agreements in their head instead of on paper?
  3. Was the public, or even the council, ever aware of the agreement?
  4. The neighbors were given some seriously valuable rights with the "agreement". What did the city get in return, and why on earth was that trade not documented? Was there something to hide?
  5. WHO has the authority to give the neighbors a view easement? I'd want the council to be involved in setting perpetual land use agreements.
  6. Why on earth did the city pay for the tree removal? Why not have the neighbors getting the fifty thousand dollar views pay to remove the trees?
  7. Since when does Dan Dalager care about the property values of park neighbors?
  8. Isn't Stocks famous for telling people that if they want a view they should have bought their neighbor's property to protect it?
  9. If there really was an agreement, why on earth wasn't that considered when the park was designed. Why were trees planted where they would encroach into the view easement?
  10. Is Barth micromanaging by questioning the process that resulted in the city paying to cut down its own trees for the benefit of the neighbors (who have no documentation of their view easement)?
  11. Do Jerome or Dalager ever question city hall management processes? When they do, is that micromanaging? There is a huge valley between oversight and micromanagement.
  12. How much is this protest costing taxpayers?
  13. Who obtains a VERY VALUABLE view easement without having it recorded? (Again, why the hell not? Was this just another good ol' boys agreement?)
I am fine with the end result. How this all went down has an odor that no one other than Barth seems interested in trying to eradicate.


  1. There is something very wrong at city hall. Dalager, Stocks, and Bond don't give a hoot to protect the sunset views of all the homes east of I-5 in Cardiff. Hundreds of homeowners will lose their views when the Hall property lights go on every evening. A hundred homes at $50,000 each in lost worth means $5 million of property values will be confiscated.

    Phil and the boys did a very special favor for certain people at Orpheus Park, similar to the very special favor done for David Meyer and Barratt American on the Nantucket project, and again with the vote on the David Meyer appeal on the Planning Commission denial of his Bahlmann project on Saxony.

    This reeks of deceit, dishonesty and malfeasance. Teresa Barth is right to make this an issue. It is hardly micromanaging. We have a huge problem.

  2. Annon 8.16

    My thoughts exactly. What friend of Danny, Jerome or Jim lives in those condos? It must be a reasonably close associate since the "agreement" was verbalm many years ago and with ex-city employee and Parks/Rec Director Dave Wiggington.

  3. This smells like a friend of Danny D. check it out, its time to Send Danny Packing.

  4. I understand that Mayor Houlihan personally talked to the neighbors and approved this tree's removal - IS THIS TRUE.

  5. No. But I heard that Danny Dalager was going to personally cut them down himself until he was scold be the City Manager for trying to do their job.

    Danny was trying to get revenge on the squirrels

    That sounds more believable.

  6. Our City's Biggest Liability IssueFebruary 01, 2009 8:18 AM

    This is the issue the City Council needs to agendize in the next month. They sold out our future last year and are bankrupting our City.

    EDITORIAL: Pension reform effort worth serious look

    By North County Times Opinion staff | Sunday, February 1, 2009 12:10 AM PST ∞

    As bad as the state budget crisis is, there's probably more misery to come, in part, from the demands public employee pension funds will make on both state and local government budgets.

    Public employee pension funds across the state (and, in fact, across the country) are wheezing like leaky steam engines.

    As of Jan. 28, the California Employees Pension Retirement System's asset portfolio stood at $176.8 billion ---- some $72.7 billion off from the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2007.

    So that almost certainly means the CalPERS warning last fall of sharply increased rates for its participating governments in 2010 will come true ---- taxpayers will be on the hook to support overly generous retirements. By this, we mean a variety of plans that allow some public employees to retire after 30 years with checks equivalent to 90 percent of their final wage rates.

    And since state and local governments are saddled with a constitutional requirement that once granted, public employee pension benefit cannot be withdrawn from current employees, and since irresponsible governments (and we have a pot full) gave away the farm, we have a problem.

    Two solutions come to mind.

    One would be to address the issue with each public union as its contract comes up for renegotiation (or reopen them all in face of budget calamities). This is a tough, in-the-trenches strategy with dubious prospects of any taxpayer relief.

    The second solution is contained in an initiative proposal being pushed by former Assemblyman Keith Richmond, R-Northridge.

    Called the Public Employee Benefits Reform Initiative, the measure would rein in pension benefits for new employees to 60 to 67 percent of replacement income when Social Security benefits are included. It also would increase the retirement age with full benefits to 55 for police and firefighters, to 60 for other public safety workers and to standard Social Security retirement ages (65-67) for other workers.

    This kind of move would push government employees only a little ways toward where most private sector employees have always been.

    Even when American businesses still offered defined benefit plans (many don't now and make contributions into 401k plans and the like, shifting the risks to the employees), most retirement models assumed that a person needs income of about 60 percent of the working wage to make it.

    Why should the private sector retirees ultimately have to live poorer to pay for the privileged public sector?

    Taxpayers want to know.

  7. ad hoc decisions, secret hand shake/back room agreements, favoritism, self-dealing, lack of transparency, breach of fiduciary duties...

    It looks like the Council is back in session.

  8. Since my name was mentioned in a previous post about this issue, I would like to share the Marion Ross story. In 2003 Marion Ross (Happy Days mom) wanted the City of Encinitas to grant her a height limit of 29'6", instead of the City's 26' height limit, so she could add a second story on her vacation home located on Montgomery in Cardiff. The next street up is Oxford, which is the street I live on. 7 neighbors views would be affected by this request. My only whitewater view would be entirely obliterated. Kerry Kusiak was the planner and came to see all of our views that would be affected. At that time, the estimated property value DECREASE to us would be $50,000 if this variance was allowed. To make a long story short, she won. 7 neighbors appealed the Planning Commission's decision to the Council at that time. We were told that property values could not be used as an argument for our request that she remain at the legal 26' limit. The Council gave her the 29'6" variance by a 3-2 vote. To add insult to injury, she didn't even get a view, just a vaulted ceiling that she had wanted. So, I don't quite understand how these condo owners got their request granted with the property value request. Seems odd to me.

  9. Good questions,Kevin. Thanks, for bringing them up but since two of the three boys just got reelected I don't think they will answer anything.

  10. Shady backroom deals go down all the time at City Hall. Someone converts their garage to living and builds a second story on top of it (all with no permits) and next thing you know code enforcement OKs it with a soft slap on the wrist. Next case a guy buys a house with an addition from the 1950's that he can't verify is permitted and code enforcement makes him demolish it. Both on Neptune.
    Something stinks bad enough for the DA to investigate or at least some reporters from the daily rags to sniff around. The city has a vendetta against the euc's and wants them down just for our misery.
    Let's all go to the next council meeting and demand that they spare the euc's and develop a plan to save them.

  11. The euc's are coming down to make way for moving the center median. Ask Norby the 101 coordinator what is going on.

  12. My question is for Councilwoman Barth - Do you favor a citywide view ordinance? If so, does that also include the cutting down of trees that block such views?

    Please don't continue to play both sides of the fence!

  13. Teresa's point is, since it's a PUBLIC PARK, paid by our tax dollars, the public should have some say as to what goes on there, especially when the landscaping undergoes such a drastic change. Seems like a reasonable request to me.

  14. As an ongoing 'observer' of Orpheus Park from its very inception...maybe I should say 'conception': I did throw a fit over the quasi-greek 'theme' that was originally planned, replete with a 'temple-type' structure and a water element (a la Salk Institute)...but, I digress. I can blame only The City, The City, The City, and, oh, THE CITY for our current fiasco : 1)The softscape plan by the landsacpe architect was obviously weak from the beginning, 2) The City allowing donated trees (by volunteers) to be planted helter-skelter in The Park after the final landscape plan was in place. Many were 'mysteriously' broken, disappeared, or were removed over a period of years. Many of these were on the north side of the Park, near the condos, and others were in the lower level of the Park, below the swale. 3)Incredibly BAD landscaping maintenance (contracted by The City) for years and years and years, (specifically: continual out-of-season pruning, and routine 'topping' of the trees)causing them to grow abnormally tall and bushy, and further obscuring views from the upper park and everywhere else as well. 4)lastly, and perhaps most pertinent: the 'verbal' agreement with Coast Point Condos....could this have been with with Bernard Kiffman, the Developer, and all 'round thorn-in-the-neighborhoods-side? Kiffman apparently seduced the City by partially funding a crappy, second-rate 'parcourse' on Paul Ecke School grounds. Do you see any remnant of that parcourse today? The so-called 'verbal agreement' should have terminated with the demise of the parcourse (if EVEN considered to be a viable 'agreement' at all).. That would have settled this issue once and for all. Basically for 18+ years the City has continually dropped the ball on Orpheus Park....they need to be held accountable.

  15. A correction and a vague recollection : Developers name is HELMUT Kiffman (my error). And I vaguely recall Kiffman/Developer of Coast Point Condos wanting to put the parcourse IN Orpheus Park (hmmmm a City-maintained 'Complex Amnenity'?). I believe there was a contribution of around $3,000 to it's development. So, basically, The City sold out for $3K.

  16. Christy Guerin is still around and still working behind and with the boys. Don't forget her sticky fingers and good old boy attitude toward taxpayers.

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