Some Good News on Chatham: DTSC demands additional action on Creek cleanup!

And now for something completely different– GOOD NEWS on the Chatham waste site.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the agency in charge of oversight of the cleanup, directed the Chatham Group to propose options for removing the pollution from Felicita Creek.

In a letter DTSC March 17, 2015 letter to Chatham Group DTSC said that the The conditions of the Chatham Site 5-Year Remedy Review Report (RRR) to remove site-related contaminants discharging to Felicita Creek had not been met.  It states, the PRP Group “…only proposed additional surface water sampling locations.  Effective mitigation measures were not proposed.  Therefore, requirement No. 1 has not been met”

The letter goes on to state “The Update does not evaluate in detail the mechanism which would significantly reduce or stop the flow of site related contaminants to the creek.” and noted that in a recent meeting both the DTSC and the Regional Water Quality Control Board identified a number of sites and references where a variety of remedial techniques were used to address chlorinated plumes in surface water.

DTSC has required an Alternatives Analysis by April 2, 2015.

We offer our thanks to regulators at DTSC and the Water Board for this action to remove this pollution from our community.

ENU Comments on SW Sewer extension proposed to trench through Chatham Plume areas

Escondido Neighbors United (ENU) filed this letter today ENU Comments Sewer MND on the SW Sewer replacement project.  This project has potentially very serious implications for human health and the Chatham plume.  We encourage everyone who lives along this route to review and comment on this project. Comments due April 1.

Our concerns include these:
·         The route of the project is over 3.4 miles through neighborhoods and areas where the Chatham contaminated waste plume has been extensively documented.   This includes almost two miles of new sewer pipe down Park Drive and Felicita Road. 
·         This project will trench 14 feet into areas where groundwater and soil vapors are known to be at levels of 4-7 feet in some areas. 
·         The project does not propose any response plan unless groundwater is reached—a condition that, based on the data, is almost guaranteed along the 3.4 mile route. 
·         The potential to expose workers and neighbors to soil vapors could occur even in areas where groundwater is not reached and, again, with no plan or mitigation in place.   Many of these chemicals are listed known or probable carcinogens and reproductive toxins.
·         The extensive Hargis Studies were not consulted (only one map) and an initial discussion of the full extent of the relevant aspects of the contamination is not included. 
·         There is no assessment of health risks from or exposure to soil vapors.
·         They will only develop a plan to address contaminated groundwater if they hit it…which is almost guaranteed…thus leaving the site open for an unknown period of time.  They should figure this out in advance.
·         Trenching for new sewer lines in new areas runs the risk of acting as a french drain collecting contaminated groundwater and transporting it to other areas where the groundwater is not contaminated or facilitate the movement of it downgradient and toward the lake.   None of this is addressed in the document.
·         This project should be subject to an EIR or, at least, a full and complete analysis .
There are many additional other concerns that we list in our letter. 
Here are the links to the project.
Here is the notice Sewer Project Notice
Here is the  Draft Envl Document SW Sewer Replacement Mitigated Negative Declaration

Major new sewer line Project along Felicita Road, Park Drive, and Via Rancho Pkwy. COMMENTS DUE APRIL 1

There is a new major project in public review right now that many people may not know about but will impact all of us in SW Escondido.  The City is planning to lay new sewer lines and replace some old lines in under 3.4 miles of existing local roads.  This includes all of Felicita Road from Hamilton to Via Rancho and much of Park Drive.  The project will last 9 months.

The noticing was very limited and the comments on this project are due on April 1st.  Here is the notice Sewer Project Notice

And here is the  Draft Envl Document SW Sewer Replacement Mitigated Negative Declaration

This matters on several levels because these new sewer lines will set the stage for future annexations and will be dug into areas where the Chatham contaminated plume is present.

While it is good news that sewage lift stations that are currently at/over capacity will be shut down,  it is unclear from the document how much more capacity (read development) this action will allow.

It is of major concern to us that the trenching and excavation will happen in areas where the Chatham industrial waste plumes have been or are currently located.  The trenching will go at least 14 feet deep.  The city does not plan to develop the response plans for contaminated groundwater or vapors that might be released into the air until the project is underway– a significant failing of the draft document.   This could expose workers and nearby residents if not handled well.

We are also concerned this project is also a precursor to annexation of more areas.  A surprise revelation for many of us living in Southwest Escondido was that the Escondido General Plan includes many current county neighborhoods in Escondido ‘Sphere of Influence’ for the purposes of ultimately annexing us.   This was a shock for many county residents who thought our Escondido address was merely a convenient designation for mail etc…

Escondido Neighbors United will publish our comments once they are completed.  But, EVERYONE is encouraged to read and comment on this as well.  Bottom-line, there is not enough information in the draft Mitigated Negative Declaration to ensure that human health and the environment will be adequately protected.  More sampling and analysis needs to be done, response plans need to be developed and disclosed, and the document should be recirculated.

More soon.

Another Response to Mayoral Accusations–An Annotated and Referenced Community Editorial

During the Oak Creek public meeting last week, Sam Abed attacked, among others, two community residents, Fred Progner and Ron Forster, who had a Community Editorial published in the San Diego UT about our collective concerns about Oak Creek and Chatham.   SDUT Residents Seek Action

Today, Forster sent an annotated version of the Opinion piece with the references included. Annotated Opinion Editorial . Here is a text of the message accompanying the Annotated Editorial

Mayor Abed,
I had planned to attend the City Council meeting today to speak on public comment but was called away to a family emergency.  However, I wanted to respond to your strong statements about the accuracy of the OpEd my neighbor and I had published in the San Diego Union Tribune.  You stated that our community editorial was “50 to 60%” false, misleading, and inaccurate.   Since you never agreed to any of our requests to meet with you and did not ask us any questions when we presented, we don’t know what you think is incorrect. Please find a fully referenced and annotated version of the OpEd.   
Even though the vote is over, the issues remain.  We repeat our request to meet with you or any member of the City Council who has questions or would like to understand the issues better.  We thank Councilmember Diaz for being the only Councilmember who responded to our requests for a meeting.
We hope all will review these references since the statements in the editorial were accurate and well-founded.  Escondido Neighbors United has done our homework.  We have read the documents and, yes, we have comments about them.  That’s what a public process is. 

DeLano Responds to Mayor’s Accusations

Everett DeLano is a highly skilled, intelligent and competent attorney who is committed to helping communities protect and defend themselves.  He is the people’s champion.  He has been an incredible ally and friend to us during all of this.  Here is his response  posted at A Blue View  Response from DeLano and DeLano Please read it.
And, if any one out there needs a great attorney– DeLano and DeLano is the firm for you

One thought on “Oak Creek–Unhealthy for Oaks and Creeks

  1. Everett DeLanoMarch 10, 2015 at 9:28 am
    Near the end of the March 4th Escondido City Council hearing regarding a proposed 65-home development on land currently in the County and proposed to be annexed into the City, Mayor Sam Abed took it upon himself to criticize my firm and some of the good neighbors who had come out to express their concerns about the project.
    He called out aspects of a comment letter I had written a couple days earlier, decrying what he labeled as “complete ignorance.” Mayor Abed alleged my letter incorrectly claimed the City’s General Plan calls for a 50-foot buffer to protect wetlands. Yet City staff put that very language up for all to see – Escondido General Plan Water Resources and Quality Policy 6.8 requires “a minimum of a 50-foot buffer and setback for development.” City staff had claimed that the language also mentions an exception might be possible where wildlife agencies approve of a smaller buffer, but two things are problematic with that assertion: (1) the wildlife agencies have actually called for a 100-foot buffer and (2) even if the wildlife agencies had said a smaller buffer might work, my comment was still valid, since the General Plan clearly expects a minimum of 50 feet and the project has buffers as small as zero feet. He also asserted my letter incorrectly claims that the development would create an island of City land. City staff made the rather ridiculous claim that the land was not an island because one tiny corner of the project site will touch a tiny corner of existing City land. But again that does not make my comment incorrect. Merriam-Webster defines “island” to mean “an isolated group or area.” In this instance, the project, a gated community surrounded by County land, will create both an isolated group of residents and an isolated geographic area.
    But I wouldn’t even bother to write this if his only attack was on my work. Unfortunately, Mayor Abed next unleashed his vitriol on some of the good area residents who had taken so much of their time and energy to express their concerns. He reminded everyone of the applicant’s “property rights.” Of course, under both the state and federal constitutions, everyone has a right to express their opinions. He may disagree with those opinions, but they were completely within their rights to express them.
    Perhaps Mayor Abed was angry, since some speakers (but not the people he attacked) expressed concerns about a possible conflict of interest. One speaker said a consultant to the project was on his staff, and another speaker noted that he is listed in minutes from a City Council meeting several years ago as “Co-President” of the very applicant who was seeking project approval. But that anger could not justify his venom against the good citizens who were there in the hopes their voices would be heard.
    And here’s the worst part about Mayor Abed’s diatribe: earlier during the same hearing, he commended everyone (both supporters and opponents of the project) for being “civil.” He congratulated the speakers for not engaging in personal attacks. Yet like a cowardly bully, he didn’t ask me or the other residents about our statements when we were up at the podium. He didn’t give us a chance to respond or clarify anything he thought he might have heard. He waited until the hearing was closed, and then he engaged in personal attacks. In fact, when one of the residents stood up to respond, he pounded his fist on the dais and reminded him that the hearing was closed and his turn to speak was over.
    At one point he said my comment letter was “embarrassing,” but I think Mayor Abed was the real embarrassment that evening. It’s one thing to know you have the power to wield the mayor’s gavel and vote against the wishes of area residents. But it’s quite another thing to abuse that power and to abuse those good people who come before the City Council to express their concerns. Mayor Abed should be ashamed of himself.
    Everett DeLano
    DeLano & DeLano

Oak Creek passes City Council 4-1- A Blue View Blog tells the tale

Oak Creek was approved by Council at the Wednesday meeting.  The blog below pretty much tells the story.  We encourage you to join the blog A Blue View for Escondido.  Here’s the link   A Blue View Blog on the Oak Creek Hearing   There are many discussions going on right now about next steps.  More soon.


Oak Creek–Unhealthy for Oaks and Creeks

Wednesday’s City Council meeting pretty much transpired as expected, well, except that Mayor Sam Abed went off the rails more than usual. Even the usually non-committal reporter for the San Diego UT noticed: “Mayor Sam Abed thanked everyone in the chambers for their civility during the hearing. However, he also strongly criticized local environmental lawyer Everett DeLano for a letter he sent this week that Abed said was filled with untruths and was an ‘embarrassment.’ ”
“Strongly criticized” is an understatement—Abed was rude, very uncivil, and an embarrassment to the City.
The main item on the agenda was #10 OAK CREEK PROJECT ANNEXATION, TENTATIVE SUBDIVISION MAP, PRELIMINARY, MASTER AND PRECISE DEVELOPMENT PLAN, PRE-ZONE, GRADING EXEMPTIONS, SPECIFIC ALIGNMENT PLAN AND FINAL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT. The project, already approved by the Planning Commission, will build 65 homes on some 37.6 acres. One home per over half an acre—that doesn’t sound too dense, a considerable decrease from what the County’s or even the City’s General Plan would allow—as the developer, New Urban West’s spokesman, Jason Han, and, later, Councilmen Ed Gallo, John Masson, and Abed pointed out. But, considering that any home built in the County would have to have a septic system, which would usually require at least an acre, maybe not. To even build 65 homes would require a sewer system. These proposed new “multi-generational” homes ranging from a mere 3,300 square feet to 4,617 square feet, with four to six bedrooms, and corresponding number of bathrooms will be built on lots of around 10,000 to 12,000 sq. feet. It will be a gated community. It will build a public sidewalk along Felicita Road, and put in a “traffic calming” traffic circle on Felicity Road. It will save the seasonal Duck Pond, and allow public access to the pond—even install a bench to view the pond. Sounds delightful.
But wait—the project will also remove some 238 mature trees, including over 100 native Coastal Live Oaks. The developer has promised to replace these with 400 native trees and 1500 seedlings. All well and good, but a mature tree can nest many more birds than many immature trees. There will be a disturbance to the bird populations.
There were, by my count, about as many speakers against the development as for the development, but there were also about twice as many supporters as opponents in the audience. Both sides made some good arguments. Escondido Neighbors United (ENU) objected to the removal of mature oak trees, the presence of toxic chemicals under a part of the development’s land caused by a toxic plume that had originated from the Chatham Waste site. J. Harry Jones sums up the history of this site well: ENU members argue that the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) was much too optimistic in their assurances that the problem was not significant. . They also argue that the buffer zones between the project and the seasonal creeks on the property was not consistent with Escondido’s General Plan, and that the gated community would present a major barrier to wildlife. ENU presented an alternate plan for a development, a non-gated project with 41 homes.
Those neighbors for the development cited their belief that this development would slow down the traffic on Felicity. The sidewalk would make it safer for their children. The development’s site had been allowed to become a dumping ground and homeless camp, and the proponents were glad that would not happen again. I found it curious that neither these neighbors, the Council, nor the developer questioned why the owner of the land, Arie de Jong, was never criticized for allowing his land to become so blighted. The neighbors favoring the development really got to speak twice, since many had appeared in a video presented by Han during his time before the Council. New Urban West does do an excellent job of convincing the neighbors that their developments are just what their neighborhood needs. Their development in Harmony Grove is a classic case of their smarts in the public relations department. But, that’s another blog or two, or three, or five.
Councilman Mike Morasco led the parade of praise for New Urban West by the Council majority. He complemented those who had spoken on both sides for being so civil, then proceeded to claim that the opponents had stated as facts things that were not factual—without actually iterating what those non-facts were. He could not understand why a bridge over a creek would be a problem for wildlife.
Gallo heaped more compliments onto the pile begun by Morasco, admitting that as long as the duck pond was saved, he would be happy. He made his usual, somewhat incoherent, description of the real estate domino effect. He was absolutely certain that any project with a 3,600 page EIR had to meet all environmental requirements.
Councilwoman Olga Diaz questioned why the project had narrower wildlife buffer zones than required by the General Plan. She questioned why the land had been allowed to fall into a decline. She expressed her concern that the Council had never been presented with complete information about the Chatham Superfund Site. She was told that it was the responsibility of the DTSC to inform neighbors about the status of the toxic plumes, but she suggested that once the property was in the City, the City would bear some responsibility for such notification. She too complimented New Urban West, but felt there were too many uncertainties to vote for the project.
Masson chimed in with the New Urban West chorus of praise, claiming the project would actually reduce the risk of downstream flooding, concluding, that New Urban West knew the market, and the Council should not dictate to New Urban West what size of houses to build, or whether or not to build a gated community.
Abed started his comments calmly—observing that this may have been the most civil meeting he had ever had. He was very proud of his long association with New Urban West, noting that New Urban West set the example of what developers should do. Then Abed became a bit unglued. He said that the letter from attorney Everett DeLano was so full of inaccuracies as to be an embarrassment, then went so far as to advise people to avoid the Delano law firm. He went on to criticize an Op Ed by two members of ENU, Fred Progner & Ron Forster:, as being 50 to 60 % false. About this point in time, the opponents began to leave the chambers. Abed went on to beat the conservative mantra about property rights, and noting that ENU member Laura Hunter was against any development as far as he could tell. He preferred to ignore the fact that ENU had proposed an alternative development.

Of course the project was approved four to one. The good ole boys on the Council lived up to their commitments to the Building Industry Association. The last item on the agenda was the appointment of a white, male, general contractor to the Planning Commission. Business as usual.

Final Reminder: Council Meeting today 4:30.

Just a quick reminder that the final Council vote will be today at 4:30 at Escondido City Hall.

Here are some of the excellent letters that have been filed on this project

San Diego Audubon Society   and from our counsel Everett DeLano  DeLano for ENU
Thanks to all the people who have written and supported our efforts.
Our Media Release 
Escondido Neighbors United
An alliance of engaged residents working for the benefit of rural, urban, and natural communities in the Escondido Area.       
For Immediate Release:                                                      Contact:  Laura Hunter, 619-997-9983

Community to Oppose Oak Creek
Housing Development in Escondido

On March 4, 2015, members of Escondido Neighbors United (ENU) will join other residents and organizations to present their opposition to the proposed Oak Creek Housing Development at the final City Council hearing on the project.   They will urge the City Council, instead, to consider a less dense option called, Community Creek or defer decision until more is known about the environmental condition of the site.

Oak Creek is a 65-home, gated housing development proposed on farmland adjacent to Felicita Park and annexed from the County to the City.  The proposal will cause the destruction of hundreds of native oak trees and the dense development footprint adds to threats of erosion and runoff downstream where impacts are already severe.  County Parks Department’s concerns about potential impacts to Felicita Park have yet to be addressed.   
Escondido Neighbors United has been engaged on the Oak Creek housing proposal for many months.   ENU members have commented extensively on the project about impacts and concerns related to wildlife, oak trees, traffic, community character, waste contamination, air quality, water quality in the streams, water supply, and cultural resources, but improvements have not been made.  In fact, the project was changed to worsen the impacts  
Also troubling is that past sampling shows the Chatham plumes are under about a third of the Oak Creek site.  However, conditions cannot be fully known because the property owner refused access to technical consultants for scheduled testing of wells on-site.  One of the wells has measured multiple contaminants in the past so needs to be tested.  Soil vapors and groundwater pollution were found within the property lines and some of the new homes are proposed over plume areas.
ENU member and neighbor of the site Eva Salazar stated, “I request that no homes are built over the plume.  If this project is approved I don’t want my future neighbors to be in the same situation I am in, living on a plume of contaminated ground water wondering what toll this will take on my health”.
Although the State Department of Toxic Substances Control said the pollution is adequately characterized and will degrade given enough time, this contradicts facts on the ground.  The most recent monitoring shows pollution entering Felicita Creek at the highest levels to date, contamination has spread to new wells, and wells on the Oak Creek site were prevented from being tested.   A sister agency, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, disagrees that the contamination strategy is working.   
Oak Creek is also heavily reliant on constructed storm water features to address increases in runoff.  The City has stated that compliance with the storm water permit will ensure no downstream erosion.  However, on February 10, 2015 the Regional Water Board filed an official Notice of Violation against the city of Escondido for many failures to enforce the storm water rules. More information can be found here,
Escondido Neighbors United, will ask the City of Escondido to deny Oak Creek, require a less dense alternative, get serious about enforcing water runoff rules, and require remediation of pollution before annexation.
ENU members will also be advocating instead for consideration of Community Creek—A Balanced Option.  Community Creek proposes a reduced footprint and density alternative and appropriate conditions for consideration.  Community Creek achieves many benefits:
·         Protects more wetlands but allows development to occur,
·         Reduces negative impacts to the streams and avoids disruption of creek,
·         Reduces loss of native oak trees,
·         Better supports wildlife,
·         Protects clean water and prevents downstream erosion and impacts ,
·         Reduces traffic and needed infrastructure,
·         Enhances and integrates with existing neighbors, not isolates from them

Escondido Neighbors United (ENU) is a local community group active in the SW Escondido area working to protect the environment and local communities.  ENU is committed with preserving our community, environmental, cultural resources, Felicita Park, and quality of life of the neighborhoods in our area.   More information is at