SAN MARCOS — Chris Orlando and his son, Ryan, are at a crossroads that few father-and-son duos face together.Call it ‘term limits’ — figuratively and literally. Chris Orlando is a San Marcos City Councilman in the final year of his last four-year term of office. Ryan Orlando, 18, is a standout basketball player at San Marcos High School, playing his final high school basketball season. Both are plotting their next steps. For Chris Orlando, the next step could be a run — for mayor, that is. For Ryan Orlando, it could be a walk — as in “walk-on,” the term for a nonscholarship member of a collegiate basketball team.But both of them are enjoying going through the transition together.“It’s really interesting, as I am considering my next step and watching him do that, the realization that we’re both figuring out what the next chapter is, is kind of cool,” Chris Orlando said. “My son has a strict ‘no pep talk’ policy, so we keep the pep talks to a minimum, but it is neat we are at a new chapter at the same time. It’s been good.”The Orlandos’ respective political and athletic journeys have virtually paralleled each other. The elder was elected in 2006, around the time that the younger first picked up a basketball.
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Cell tower again raises neighbors’ ire More trees will go up around tower in San Elijo Hills By Teri Figueroa
A cellular tower in the San Elijo neighborhood that has run afoul of city rules landed briefly in the spotlight again this week when the San Marcos City Council renewed its permit — but not before adding conditions and blasting the operator for past missteps.With the permit in hand, Crown Castle International Corp. can fix up a fading faux tree near the tower and continue operating there for another decade.But in strong language at Tuesday’s meeting, the council demanded some extras from the company, including an annual report regarding the amount of radio frequency emissions from the tower. The company also must add more real trees to help shield the fake tree from view, and city staffers must inspect the site each year.The finger-wagging highlighted tensions between cell tower providers and the people who live nearby.The San Elijo tower is on the same agriculturally zoned property where neighbors revolted in 2013 after learning a second tower was planned at the edge of the land that abutted their subdivision. That months-long battle made headlines and led the city to rewrite the rules for how many towers it would allow on a single property, eventually limiting the total to three. The City Council approved the second tower at the property in 2014, though the structure has yet to be built. Residents had unsuccessfully argued that cell towers be kept at least 100 feet from a property line. Many cited fears that the devices could emit harmful radiation, but — with little evidence to support those claims — federal law prohibits cities from considering such concerns. Cities can consider aesthetics, however, when deciding where the towers should be allowed.Fast forward to last fall, when a couple of neighbors who spearheaded that earlier battle asked San Marcos to refuse to renew the permit for the first tower, arguing the company had failed to meet previous conditions.They said a faux tree designed to mask the structure had deteriorated, and there were no other trees around to block their view of the tower.That cell tower was first approved in 2008 under five-year permit granted to T-Mobile. In fall 2012, Crown Castle spent $2.4 billion to acquire the rights to some 7,200 T-Mobile cell towers, including the San Elijo site.A few months later, in spring 2013, the San Elijo permit expired and Crown Castle failed to renew it — leading the city to eventually file civil litigation to get the company to comply. During that same time, the city also noticed that the fake tree hiding the cell tower had deteriorated, and demanded that it be fixed. After filing five incomplete applications for renewal, the company eventually provided the right information to the city, and the Planning Commission OK’d the new permit last fall. The city dismissed the suit, and Crown Castle paid the city $6,500 for its trouble. But neighboring homeowners appealed to the City Council, asking the panel to review the permit decision. The council heard that appeal on Tuesday. Councilman Chris Orlando made note of the legal clash before casting the sole vote against renewing the permit.“From my view, you haven’t been a good participant, and you haven’t followed your (permit provisions) that existed before,” Orlando said before his vote. He later added, “I am suspect that you will comply with them … or that we will be able to make you comply with them.”Councilwoman Kristal Jabara told the company representative that she understood that the company had acquired a large number of towers, but “this is what you do for a living, day in and day out.”“We do have a level of discomfort here,” she said, “and we are hearing a lot of excuses as to why it (permit renewal) wasn’t done properly.” John Dohm, a zoning manager for Crown Castle, told the council the company wasn’t making excuses, and had not shirked responsibility. He told the panel that no one was “sitting on their hands,” but rather the renewal process “just took a really long time.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Desmond Pressures San Elijo Hills Development Company on San Elijo Hills Town Center Development
Council member Chris Orlando invited HomeFed/San Elijo Hills Development Company to give an update on the status of the undeveloped portions of the San Elijo Hills Town Center. Paul Borden, President of HomeFed spoke before City Council on Tuesday evening. You can watch his recorded presentation here about 15 mins into the agenda. Here are our efforts to summarize the presentation and the exchange with The Mayor and Council Members.
Paul Borden started with some history. San Elijo Hills Development started developing San Elijo Hills in 1998. The Town Center was started in 1999. Albertsons was built in 2007, and the MarketWalk shops were completed in 2009. In 2011 and 2012, Chase Bank and Pacific Preschool purchased land and developed the respective buildings. Paul stated the remaining portions have been HomeFed’s “Achilles’ heel”.
Borden explained that HomeFed has looked at various mixes of retail, medical, office, live/work units. HomeFed has worked with two different agencies to secure a developer or builder. Borden spoke about the slowdown in retail and his resistance to bringing a big national chain. Borden spoke of his patience and support of the current retail and the San Elijo Hills Development Company marketing campaigns to encourage residents to shop locally.
Borden briefly mentioned that he has two developers/builders that are interested in developing the parcels and HomeFed is now in negotiations with those perspective developers/builders. He did not give specifics.
Mayor Desmond asked what is the status of completing the entire development of San Elijo Hills? Borden responded with the fact that there are roughly 3,300 approved units/homes with 150 units/homes left to build-out. Borden estimated they are 85% to 95% complete with San Elijo Hills. Mayor Desmond responded “The time is now to build out the Town Center. People have bought into the dream.” Borden responded: the residents of San Elijo Hills are our biggest supporters and they have purchased multiple homes in our community and sold homes to friends etc. Mayor Desmond responded with “Get it going, get it done.”
Borden explained this is a project of pride for HomeFed and they would like to keep the standards high and they did receive the feedback from the residents who were not looking for 40 more residential units in the Town Center. HomeFed just could do the “Just build it and they will come concept”.
HomeFed did not volunteer any specifics on the two negotiations they are engaged in. Council Member Jabara pressed this issue and Borden responded with: they’re looking at a mix of residential and retail and no longer interested in building the approved parking structure. It sounded like they are looking at 9-12 row homes and up to 13,000 SQF of retail but Borden said the retail will not work. HomeFed would like to keep the quality of spaces and construction on par with the rest of San Elijo Hills.
Council Member Orlando stated “I’ve been involved in this project for a very long time, but we now have roofs and we now have traffic it’s been 14 months since your last plan was presented in a San Elijo Hills community forum and you’ve been silent with the public and residents”.
“Residents have seen significant retail go up around them. They ask how are they able to get that done?” Council Member Orlando felt the shops are doing well and it’s time to talk about “what is next”.
Borden again stated he was not supportive in placing a national brand and he was going to work with The City and possibly scale back their current entitlements. Borden stated he was willing to meet with The City. Council Member Orlando encouraged them to be receptive to more community input.
At this point the tension escalated the mayor said “Same old song and dance. Same story waiting for the perfect time, you guys made a lot of money in San Elijo Hills, you are still going to have ups and downs but I’m very frustrated. I will not vote to approve anymore parcel maps for San Elijo Hills residential units.” Borden responded “That is not helpful. I did not come here to get into an argument with Council”.
Council member Jabara stated you are 85% to 95% built-out, the roads are impacted, the schools are impacted, residents see large new anchor tenants nearby in La costa and they are frustrated. Borden said we hear you, maybe we need to scale back maybe we need to be more flexible, we just can’t build retail and have it sit vacant.
Mayor Desmond removed item 8 from the Council consent calendar, this was a final map approval for tentative subdivision map for Phase 5 units 8 and 9 (48 Lots) of San Elijo Hills near Double Peak park and the water tower.
Listen to the video recording of the meeting here the Town Center discussion starts at 15 mins: http://www.san-marcos.net/index.aspx?page=34
The next General Municipal Election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 4, 2014 for the expiring terms of Mayor Jim Desmond, Councilmember Kristal Jabara, and Councilmember Chris Orlando. San Marcos City Council will hold a special meeting August 20th, at 1:00 pm. to consider canceling the November election and appointing of incumbent candidates for four year terms, because no other candidates have signed up to run for election.
The last 48 hours have been difficult for the residents of San Marcos. It has been gut wrenching to see our ridgelines and hillsides, the city’s defining features, completely ablaze, knowing how many homes and families are at risk or displaced. The families that have lost their homes have their community’s deepest sympathies.
But in the last 48 hours, I have also seen and experienced many things that have me incredibly proud of our city – proud of our firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, proud of our city staff and proud of our community and its residents.
As the fires started in San Marcos, the city’s fire personnel, sheriff’s deputies, and city staff were immediately on top of the situation – even though many of our local resources were deployed to help with other fires in the region. The city’s Emergency Operations Center was open within minutes and preparations for major evacuations were started. This was an event our fire, sheriff and city personnel had planned for extensively.
As the evacuations started, I watched neighbors helping neighbors, making sure everyone knew it was time to leave and had a place to go. Throughout the evacuation, they continued to check on each other and keep each other informed through emails, texts, phones calls and social media.
At the evacuation center at Mission Hills High School gym, I watched volunteers, many who had been forced by the fires to leave their own homes, stream in with offers of help, and our local businesses send trucks loaded with food and supplies. I talked with seniors who had slept on cots, but were in good spirits, patiently waiting until they could go home. I saw kids who I knew were scared, but who remained calm and brave.
Throughout the event, I interacted with a city staff that was steady, in control and working hard to get their public safety teams the resources they needed, to help those that needed assistance and to get the public current and accurate information – working day and night even though many of them had evacuated with their own families.
The morning after the fires started, I shook hands with firefighters, who were exhausted and covered with grime, but couldn’t wait to get back to the fight. I talked with our fire chief, who knew every detail of the battle and was marshaling every resource he could to fight it. The coordination among federal, state, county and local agencies has been impressive.
We toured the burn area this afternoon. Seeing Cal. State San Marcos and the many homes that were saved surrounded by a moonscape of destruction underscored the heroic efforts of our first responders and those that came from our neighboring cities and jurisdictions to join the fight.
This emergency and the recovery that will follow are not over, but we will get through it and be even tougher after.
Cities that have faced devastating events have been described as strong. San Marcos is strong. After watching our firefighters, our sheriff’s deputies, our city staff and our community in action in the last 48 hours, I would add another the word to describe how I feel about our city: Proud.
Council Member – The City of San Marcos
Tuesday evening the San Marcos City Council approved a AT&T 35 foot – 12 antenna cell tower tree in San Elijo Hills.
The vote was 4-1, with only council member Chris Orlando voting against the cell tower. Orlando failed to convince his fellow San Marcos City Council members to kill the AT&T tower at this location and look at other options. This cell tower will be placed next to the shorter and smaller T-Mobile tower currently at this site.
Some San Elijo Hills residents were able to initiate some debate between the City Council and City Planners. A group of San Elijo Hills residents stressed to the City Council that if they approve this cell tower Verizon, who withdrew their permit to see if the AT&T tower is approved, will also be at this site creating a “cell tower farm” just over 100 yards South of the intersection of Twin Oaks and Double Peak Road fingered into a privately owned parcel and adjacent to current and future San Elijo Hills homes. San Elijo Hills currently has cell towers in the San Elijo Park baseball field light stations.
Read San Diego UT Article
Council Member Chris Orlando has been selected to represent the City of San Marcos at the Local Government Summit on Governance and Fiscal Reform in Sacramento on July 17 and 18. The historic summit meeting will be a forum where mayors, council members, county supervisors and school board members from across California can discuss emerging proposals to reform the state’s governance and fiscal systems.
Record state deficits, late and unbalanced budgets, and an inability to address the critical issues of the day – energy, water, education, health services and more – all point towards the conclusion that the state’s governmental system is dysfunctional. This crisis is due in large part to the more fundamental problem of over-concentrating decision making at the state level at the expense of true local priority setting and spending decisions.
One example of the dysfunction is that the state has taken upwards of $10 billion in city property taxes to help meet state budget obligations to schools since 1991, yet state spending on schools is among the lowest if not the lowest in the nation.
“I am honored to serve as San Marcos’ delegate to the Summit because there is no more critical issue at the moment than addressing governance and fiscal reform so our City can efficiently operate and meet our residents’ needs,” said Council Member Chris Orlando.
The two day summit is sponsored by the Cities Counties School Partnership, which is a collaboration of the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties and the California School Boards Association.
“The proposals to both seize and borrow money from local government to meet the state’s obligations are an indication of the state’s inability to govern itself,” said Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities. “The League helped convene this important event because it is imperative that local government leaders have a voice in helping reform our state system of governance to ensure a strong future for our great state and our grandchildren. Our three groups, the cities, counties and schools, are coming together because we understand we must work collaboratively to help restore a greater degree of local control and stability to our state government.”
We sent a few questions to Dean Nelson who is running for the San Marcos City Council on November 4th. Nelson, a longtime planning commissioner who ran for council in 2006.
What is your suggestion on school crowding in SEH as school district or SEH Developments sold off 2nd school parcel location to a now a stalled SEH fitness center project.
The question is more specifically directed to the school district since they are directly responsible for school crowding issues and conditions. If student enrollment doesn’t support the development of a 2nd school site, it would be important for the City Council to work closely with the SM Unified to assure that crowding conditions don’t occur in the future as a result of an unintended consequence of surrendering the 2nd site to another project. Since the City requires new developments to coordinate with SM Unified for the payment of school impact fees, it is important that close and coordinated work relationships exist between the District Board and the City Council.
How can the council help address aggressive cut through traffic in SEH that may increase with development projects like; Creekside District, and university area projects.
The City’s Circulation/Transportation Plan has always called for a street/roadway system that distributes traffic throughout the network. That network is nearly complete. Levels of Service have improved but there are still problem locations. There is no such thing as cut-through traffic on a major arterial roadway that has always been a part of the Transportation Plan.
What the City needs to do with the emergence of San Marcos Creek Specific Plan and the University District projects is to: 1. minimize the need for more vehicles by creating pedestrian friendly locations/developments as identified in the Creek Plan and is likely to be emphasized in the University plan and provide a local transit alternative that can be used by all SM residents and persons working in our community.
These days, there is more and more awareness of the need to provide longer range planning views and address sustainability in transportation, energy, water and environmental needs that meets today’s needs without sacrificing tomorrow’s future.
Are you supportive of the Ridgeline Proposition and Prop O?
I support the Ridge line Proposition, and I voted for it as a Planning Commissioner.
On Prop O, I am against it because I believe that ballot-box planning is bad idea. I do, however, support the initiative process whereby citizens’ voices are heard. This is much the same as the Walmart spot-zoning conflict, which directly affected the residents of San Elijo, a process where citizens were able to have their voices heard from the ballot box. As the Chairman of the Planning Commission at the time of the Walmart issue, it was fascinating watching democracy in action as the initiative process ran its course. I trust the voters to come to the right decision on Prop O as they did with Walmart.
What is your suggestion for applying pressure on SEH Development/Home Fed to complete the promised SEH towncenter development (center parcel that has no timeline)
The current national and global economic factors are likely to slow down the development of many projects until there is a restoration of public and marketplace confidence in our financial institutions. I see 2009 as a year of ups and downs with slow, sluggish progress, but some progress will happen. As the marketplace is restored, I will work with my fellow Council members as advocates pushing for completion of the town center area of SEH. That being said, I believe the builders and developers should be held accountable for the promises that they made, including the towncenter. Residents should “get what they paid for” and at this rate, it is not being delivered. I have heard from many residents of San Elijo that they were sold a false bill of goods. The downtown was a great selling tool, but has not come to fruition for the residents of San Elijo. Albertsons is a good start, but the town center needs to be finished. There should be a date certain for completion set with developers.
How can the City of San Marcos aggressively address forecloses that banks are not taking care of and are adding blight to San Elijo Hills?
As you may be aware Councilmember Chris Orlando brought this issue before the City Council recently, I support and will advocate for an ordinance that provides for bank-owned properties to be maintained so that future and existing residents are not affected by diminished property values due to poor property maintenance. Several cities, like Chula Vista and others, have recently addressed this issue through an ordinance. SM should do the same. I would also advocate for an aggressive code enforcement (the stick) and an outreach/education program (the carrot) approach to be done for local and regional financial institutions, realtor organizations and the San Diego Building Industry Association to raise awareness of our enforcement authority and work to collectively resolve the problem before it worsens.
The other problem that is occurring with some foreclosed homes is the issue of the mini-dorms. I support an aggressive City Attorney action to remedy any potential or existing problems before they escalate further.
Editors note all San Marco candidates are welcome to contact us to conduct an interview.