BHGC, An Unmitigated Disaster Waiting To Happen.

Today, Brea Matters again addresses the recent vote by Council to assume title of the BHGC (Brea Hills Golf Course).

Red DiceWhen I launched Brea Matters in October 2011, a key catalyst was former City Manager Tim O’Donnell’s favorite definition of leadership, “Leadership is disappointing your constituents in increments they can absorb.”

Long ago ingrained as the management mantra of Brea’s Council and Staff, it has proven to be sadly accurate in it’s premise.

How Much Have You Absorbed?

In ten years, I’ve lost track but in recent times we’ve “absorbed” the disappointments of the 1976 Paramedic’s Tax, the 1991 RDA bond refinancing that produced a $50 million unaudited slush fund, the loss of the Gateway Center – a prime city asset, loss of the Yorba Linda Police contract, reorganization of the Brea Fire Department.

Plus the mismanagement of Landscape, Lighting & Maintenance Districts (LL&MD) and Community Facilities Districts (CFD), Tiered Water Rates, and these self explanatory fiascos: Koreagate, Madrona, Rock Garden, unfunded pension debt and Brea Envisions

Council and staff count on our short memories and propensity to forgive. Next Tuesday they will once again rely upon their old mantra to get them off the hook one more time.

Misdirection, Misinformation and Misconceptions.

The first thing you’ll be fed is a litany of useless historical “facts” designed to lull you into a dull sense of inattention. Detailed descriptions of the “parties” involved, clarification of the original intent of the title exchange and justification of redesigning the course into substandard quality.

They’ll try to justify the ridiculous $80/yard excavation fee as a basis to project future mitigation fees. Everyone put your calculators away. We’re missing one important factor in the equation, without which no accurate projection is possible. They have no clue exactly what the remaining unmitigated condition of the BHGC is, how many acres… how many yards of “dirty dirt”… remain after the admitted partial mitigation done to save Chevron $13 million in additional costs.

The BHGC: Permitted Uses, Prohibited Uses.

We’re told, by the City Attorney, that permitted uses include a golf course or other outdoor recreational use, and the addition of a community or banquet facility. Prohibited uses include residential development, hospitals, clinics and medical offices.

So, does “permitted” mean legal and “prohibited” mean illegal? These terms have been tossed about as equivalents and they’re anything but!

City Attorney Boga stated that, with certain permissions, the city could do whatever they wished with the property. Permissions from OC Healthcare Agency, US EPA, Birch/Kraemer LLC and Union Oil.

He failed to mention that, assuming getting all of those permissions was even remotely possible, that Chevron would be absolved of their requirement to maintain the parking lot and the city would assume the responsibility.

Plus, changing the BHGC to a non-park use requires voter approval of Brea residents. Really?

When Is Our Voice, Our Vote Obligatory?

BHGCDid we get to vote on whether we were willing to trade the $8 million In Lieu Fees for the eventual title to a semi-toxic stripped down golf course worth, at best $5 million? No.

Did we ever get to vote on whether we believed the city, in addition to routine municipal responsibilities, should be free to commercially compete with all manner of local businesses? No.

Did we get to review the detailed legal documents and agreements required to effect this transfer of title and vote whether we supported the transfer with all of its complicated and fiscally threatening limitations? No.

One member of Council, for reasons I still find incomprehensible, was recused and the four remaining members of Council voted unanimously to take ownership of this white elephant.

Have You Absorbed Enough Yet?

I have! And if response to the prior blog and commentary on the Brea Buzz is any indication, many of you have reached total saturation as well.

You’ve got about two days to make your thoughts and concerns known to Council before they launch into their dog and pony show to justify the unsupportable vote they cast two weeks ago.

Juked out of simply putting their propaganda on the city website, thereby giving it the full weight and credibility of the interwebs, they’re stuck making it look like a formal report Tuesday evening.

Luckily Matters From The Audience follows this sugarcoated attempt to justify after the fact… so those of you with the chutspa are welcome to step up to the podium and give these folks a piece of your mind.

7 thoughts on “BHGC, An Unmitigated Disaster Waiting To Happen.

  1. Rick,

    The metaphor suffers, to be sure, but reading your alarms, is no ‘Chicken Little’, as they are ‘canary in the mineshaft!’ Years ago, I actually attempted to perfect my golf swing at the driving range on Birch. Anymore, I drive by, making my way to my Church in Yorba Linda, if not to my dry cleaners nearby. It has always been a pleasant sight, as such.

    Reading your commentary suggests to me that its future is up for grabs. I’ve long harbored a fantasy that someday I would dust off that long-ignored bag of clubs and hit a small bucket of Birch Hills balls. I guess I won’t have that fantasy to muse and bemuse with much longer. More’s the pity.

    Keep up the fine work. I am sure that many appreciate it, even more than I do.

    • Doug… “Canary In The Coalmine” – a more fitting metaphor but, as the canary gives up their life in the process, a little scary.

      No one with an ounce of honesty can project with any sense of accuracy what the future holds. Not with the lack of information we’re faced with today. Staff and Council can make crap up ’til the cows come home… it’s still crap.

  2. The pattern of deception going back over 40 years is unmistakable. I’m shocked at how much we’ve “absorbed” and think it’s about time to sweep the lot out into the street.

    I actually used to think Gallardo was a pretty straight shooter. Not so much anymore.

  3. Rick, This weeks Council meeting was a charade. The city put on a pretend show and tell on the Birch Hills mess, and when I read into the record two paragraphs from my lawyer about the blatant dangers of this deal to the city, and residents, not just chemical wise, but financially also, not a peep from council or staff.

    But low and behold, the “sixth” Council member, Bev Perry, came trotting up to act like she was still on the Council, saying she had read all the 330 pages, and they “all looked fine to her”. How reassuring that one of the FOUR people that voted to retroactively expand our pension liabilities 17 years ago feels so “good” about this! Let’s be real here!

    Her judgement is flawed when it comes to complex financial matters and becomes completely BOFFO when related to anything she ever voted on or was on Council when originated. In this case, her fingerprints were all over the HORRIBLE deal to allow Chevron to DUMP this TOXIC WASTEHOLE on all of us in exchange for: La Floresta ($300,000,000+ profit to them), Union Plaza ($50,000,000 profit to them at least), 97 condos ($20,000,000 profit to them) and who knows what else.

    And what did we get?

    A lifetime of water bills and staffing a mini golf course, formerly known as Birch Hills. I’d normally end by saying “thank you”, but this is so personal and offensive, I can’t.

    • Dwight… Following the vapid “report” made by Bill Gallardo and Terence Boga which drew only a couple of softball questions from Council and the challenging comments from your attorney during Matters from the Audience – I expected to see Council put on the brakes and finally set about to perform the due diligence they’ve obviously failed to do thus far.

      Fat chance. Mayor Marick moved immediately to the next item on the agenda without so much as a glance at other Council members to see if they had any closing remarks. Crickets. Apparently feeling completely vindicated they arrogantly dismissed public input and moved on.

      You’re comment has moved me to publish the entire list of concerns provided by your attorney. Watch for a new blog before the day is out.

  4. Rick, as explained in the city staff’s post-approval clarification of the Birch Hills GC acquisition, it was the last part of the various divestiture transactions involving the former Unocal Chemical Plant site, that included La Floresta, Union Plaza and residential development north of Union Plaza.

    This divestiture by Chevron as the parent company started in the mid 1990’s after the closure of the plant. Likely the early negotiations between the city and Chevron included donating the GC to the city under Quimbly in lieu of Chevron having to pay public park development fees that developers normally have to pay.

    The city probably anticipated the golf course would be fully remediated prior to its transfer to the city, but an objective standard of remediation was not put in writing for whatever reason, even though the city approved all of the the land use changes related to all of the divestiture transactions well knowing the GC transfer would also happen.

    Fast forward more than 20 years later to the present, remediation is partial and EPA use restrictions remain in perpetuity to keep the contamination in place. Many years had passed and the city and Chevron couldn’t finalize the acquisition, and then there was a quick rush to approve the acquisition despite Mr. Manley’s powerful and compelling plea.

    If I had to guess, as we may never know due to the Brown Act, the deal was finalized after Chevron agreed to keep the most contaminated part of the GC ie.,the parking lot.

    What a deal.

    Loss of park development fees and having to share the responsibilities and liabilities of maintaining a contaminated site forever is not my idea of an acceptable corporate donation by a major oil company which likely made more than a tidy sum selling the other properties.

    You and Dwight deserve much credit for bringing this to the attention of the Brea residents.

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