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Letter To The Editor: City Acted Improperly On RLP Issue

Patch reader David Shapiro weighs in on the Rancho Laguna Park (RLP) issue.

Editor, 

Recent posts on the Patch have attacked the people who filed the December

2011 lawsuit challenging Moraga’s claim that it was exempt from conducting an

environmental review before it transformed Rancho Laguna Park (RLP). They

claim the lawsuit improperly burdened the Town. In fact, the opposite is true.

The Town acted improperly when it ignored its obligation to conduct an

environmental review.

On December 15, 2011, the Town filed a notice claiming that a two-phase

development plan for RLP was exempt from any environmental review. Steve

Smith, a long time resident of Moraga, told Town officials that there were

protected species at RLP; they ignored him. Finally, as the 30-day period to

challenge the claimed exemption came close, Mr. Smith filed a lawsuit to stop the

planned development, and he received confirmation from two biologists that there

are protected species at RLP.

In response to the suit, the Town paid attorneys $58,237.28 to fight, rather

than conducting an inexpensive environmental review. Yet, after incurring those

legal fees, the Town withdrew its plan for RLP. It then spent $7000 on an

environmental review, which confirmed what Mr. Smith told the Town months

earlier – there are protected species at RLP. (The Staff Report for the May 9, 2012

Council meeting contains the report of the environmental consultants.) The

Council (voting 3-2) then adopted a plan proposed by a private soccer club

advocate to create a small enclosed dog park; the plan envisioned two soccer

fields. About 1800 Moraga voters signed a referendum to overturn that plan.

Despite this history, Ms. Mendonca still wants to create a fenced dog park

that would divide RLP. Phil Arth agrees with her.

Why? When she was a member of the Park & Recreation Commission in

2007, Ms. Mendonca advocated a plan to build multi-use sports fields at RLP, as

reflected in the Town’s Park and Recreation Department’s Master Plan, which

included installation of “synthetic turf sports fields in the existing turf areas,” and

a plan to “renovate the creekside as a natural area with restored vegetation.” (See

pages 17, 24 and 28 in the Master Plan at http://www.moraga.ca.us/dept/parkrec/

docs/masterplan111407.pdf )

It is misguided to attack Mr. Smith’s lawsuit, the lawyers who represented

him, and the candidates they support. The lawsuit did not burden the Town; it

vindicated the Town’s interests. If the Town and certain of the Council members,

including Ms. Mendonca, had acted responsibly, then the Town would not have

incurred legal and staff costs. Ms. Mendonca’s unequivocal rejection of any

compromise and her insistence on pushing Moraga citizens who have used RLP

for years out of RLP demonstrate that she is less concerned with representing all

Moraga citizens and more concerned with advancing the goals of the elite private

soccer clubs.

Everyone can share RLP now, while keeping the park as it is. The Town

has done a poor job of maintaining RLP’s turf, overwatering the lawn so that it is

muddy and unusable by people, ignoring the southeast corner that could be

cleaned up and used for a picnic or recreation area, and failing to provide adequate

signs and enforcement to make sure dog owners pick up after their dogs and

respect the limited dog hours. If those steps were implemented, the costs would be

low and the controversy would end.

Ms. Mendonca’s and Mr. Arth’s current position on RLP is inconsistent

with Moraga’s history and philosophy. If they are elected, we can expect

unnecessary expense and controversy.

David Shapiro

Moraga, CA

Nile Kinnick October 16, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Put a leash on your nasty dog. If you want your dog to run free, then move to Montana where there's plenty of open space.
Andrew October 16, 2012 at 09:18 PM
the only endangered species on my property are trespassers, politicians, and liberals.
2nd Generation Moraga October 16, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Free Mendonca - Fence the Dogs!
Valerie Sloven October 16, 2012 at 09:44 PM
This topic ranks up there with ''leafblowers". Enough already.
CJ October 16, 2012 at 10:08 PM
I like it! I am going to steal that line.
Nile Kinnick October 16, 2012 at 10:48 PM
and those annoying religious people who knock on my door and want to talk about God.
Richard Kline October 17, 2012 at 04:25 AM
For cripes sake, please stop. How many revisionist letters to the editor on this farce of a lawsuit can there be? This issue has gobbled up more than it's fair share of political mindshare in Moraga, time to put this on the back shelf and adress more important matters.
Chris Gerding October 17, 2012 at 02:10 PM
So here we have a Town government whose every candidate seems to agree that the road tax is desparately needed. And those who are getting high marks for "civility" by some political partisans are the same ones whose unaccomodative approach cost the Town $58K. All they had to do was spend $7 K. Chris, I'm with you in terms of cutting to the chase. Lets set aside the blow-by-blow on the whole dog issue. Simply put, this wasted $58K is a stark barometer of the decision quality used by the individuals in the town Council seats..... on all issues. There is a limit to the value of "civility" when accompanied by frank arrogance. The episode in general strongly suggests the need for a change in leadership. Please thus vote for Freeman and Wykle, and avoid Mendonca and Arth. Mendonca's "civility" comes without balance or consideration for significant numbers of her constituents, and Arth is indistinguishable from a warmed-over incumbent.
2nd Generation Moraga October 17, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Mr. Gerding, do you live in Moraga? If you don't, perhaps you should focus on YOUR town council issues...
margo October 17, 2012 at 04:17 PM
thanks David--great summary-- very precise and factual-- thank you!
Andrew October 17, 2012 at 05:23 PM
You didn't mention Mike "Jabba the Hut" Metcalf.
LDee October 18, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Well written summary of the facts. Regardless of your position. The farce of "civility" while showing an absolute unwillingness to accept any of the many compromises that were offered is ridiculous. Alternating nights is a good example. She could have resolved this early, efficiently, and effectively. This clearly shows the need for new leadership. Vote No on Mendonca.
Chris Gerding October 19, 2012 at 11:03 PM
No on Mendonca, indeed. Any pretense that Mendonca somehow combines "civility" with her blatant and demonstrated arrogance is just election BS. Real dollars were shamefully wasted on RLP. The Town had been told -- and had ample prior evidence -- that they had endangered species in RLP. The Mendonca Majority could have just stopped catering to the paid soccer crowd and spent ZERO. Or, assuming slightly less presence of mind, they might've just spent $7k to confirm the ecological assessment, then to learn that this wildlife resource was not to be messed with. Not satisfied to allow common sense to triumph, the Mendonca Majority knee-jerked this most unusual, grossly wasteful solution: Let's go blow FIFTY EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS on some lawyers, IN ADDITION to the $7K....all of which resulted in ZERO net action. That's right, let's ignore what eco-experts have already told us, then lets pay other experts to tell us the same facts we already knew....but just to show what "civility" is worth, lets burn an additional FIFTY EIGHT crisp new G notes. And when it's all over, we gained NOTHING for the public. So, no problem fixing the roads when Measure K passes, right? Well...not to scare all these Mendonca supporters...but there's a good chance it won't pass. Then what'll Karen do...burn MORE G-notes? Spin the its defeat as an attack on her vaunted civility at some breakfast or ribbon cutting? Mendonca- no plan, no clue-and no real civility, either.
Karen Lewis October 25, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I agree that, at this point, our remedy is at the ballot box.
Liz LeConte October 25, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Mendonca is certainly being crucified for her vote to disallow off-leash dogs in RLP. There are 5 members on the Town Council, so she couldn't have made this happen by herself. Did the other men who voted against off-leash dogs at RLP get a pass on this one? Or are they just not yet up for election? And what's all this about the "paid soccer" crowd? My understanding is that there has never been a plan to have formalized soccer fields for "professional" soccer teams. Practice fields on an as-needed basis, maybe, but not formal fields. That idea was brought out by the people circulating the RLP petitions, but subsequent inquiries have been answered that there was nothing like it on the table. I'd call it false advertising in order to get signatures. As to Arth, you should read his piece in the 10/24 Lamorinda Weekly (page A11). He was invited (along with Wykle and Freeman) to be interviewed by some RLP dog owners in order to determine which candidates they would support, based on the candidate's commitment to an off-leash dog park. Wykle and Freeman passed. Arth did not because he supports fencing off a part of the 8-acre park for the dogs so the park can be used by everyone at any time. It seems to me that fencing a portion of an 8-acre parcel is pretty reasonable for the benefit of all Moragans. Frankly, I agree with Chris Nicholson's comment on 10/16. "The ballot box is the remedy. Please pursue it in an honest, factual and transparent manner."
2nd Generation Moraga October 25, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Vote: Mendonca / Metcalf / Arth -- and take the park back from the raving dog partisans!
Douglas Home October 26, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Liz, it was Mendonca, Harpham and Chew that voted to ban off-leash dogs immediately without have any plan in place to do anything with RLP. That was where they showed their true agenda (finally) and made a critical mistake. Only Mendonca is up for reelection this round. The Specific Plan for RLP clearly shows a soccer field, bleachers and lights drawn in. Call me crazy, but I'd would definitely call that "a plan". Lastly, the fact that The Commons provides superior services to RLP in every way and does not allow off-leash dogs solidifies their agenda. Think about it. There is no other logical conclusion. These 3 are in cahoots with pay-to-play soccer clubs to turn RLP into a permanent soccer field. There is no other viable explanation.
Scott Bowhay October 26, 2012 at 04:54 AM
Ladies and gentlemen, a new website has now been loaded with the first wave of content expressing various groups disappointment with Mendonca's actions during her Town Council term, You will find that it is not just the "raving dog partisans" that have been disappointed...there's more to be posted over the next week. Please stop by www.stopmendonca.com
2nd Generation Moraga October 26, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Scott, you are crazy also!
2nd Generation Moraga October 26, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Douglas, you are crazy!
Douglas Home October 26, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Just curious 2nd Gen. If you manage to "retake the park from disgusting dogs"...what exactly do you plan on doing in it?
Douglas Home October 26, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Moreso, what do you plan on doing in it that you couldn't otherwise do at The Commons?
2nd Generation Moraga October 26, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Douglas, the DOGS aren't disgusting. I think spatial separation was and is a great solution to this issue. In regards to your question, I will enjoy the park with my wife and kids without worrying about an off leash dog who is being ignored by his owner running through our picnic.
Jose October 26, 2012 at 06:08 AM
Already voted. You are hosed Jose!...I mean Mr. Shapiro. StopMendonca.Com? Seriously? Seriously? Just vote and sit down.
Jose October 26, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Sooo elokwent!
Jose October 26, 2012 at 06:34 AM
Hahahaha. Andrew, is this you being nice? Articulate? Intelligent? Someone with a point of debate? Jabba the Hut was a disgusting, slug-like creature from a place and a time, far far away. By taking a cheap shot at someone who is 70+ years old and could kick your ass at 25, you enhance your position how? "I can insult a senior citizen who volunteers his time in public service." Congratulations, Andrew, you win Queen for a Day!!
Jose October 26, 2012 at 06:43 AM
Scott, I am only disappointed in your lack of support for elective, volunteer governance in a small town. If you lose the election, will you shut up and sit down and let the Town Council proceed with the Town's business? Or are you on a mission from Dog?
Karen Lewis October 27, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Three of the five councilmembers voted first, in Dec. to create a very small thin ineffective fenced-in area for the dog owners and their dogs. (i.e., not enough space to throw a tennis ball without hitting each other in the head.). The people who were to use it said it was not adequate for the purpose. Subsequently those three councilmembers voted to end all off-leash hours with no alternative solutions. Those three were councilmember Chin who's term is not up yet, coouncilmember Harpham who is not running for re-election and will be out shortly, and Karen Mendonca who is running for re-election. That is why the focus is on her re; this issue. (Others have different concerns about her.) Karen Mendonca was not open to discussions of compromises of any sort, be they re: hours, fences, days, etc. Perhaps you can understand the frustration this caused.
Jeanne November 01, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Arth also said that the town would not pay one dime for the fenced in park. Heather farms in W.C cost over 300,000.00 and Hap Magee cost over 400.000.00 In more than a year only 7,000.00 was raised for the play structures. The rest was paid for with WW money. Now that all the money is spent who is going to pay for this fence. Where do the dogs go until it is built?
Jeanne November 01, 2012 at 01:41 AM
For anyone not believing in the fact that the plan is to put in a sport field down at Rancho Laguna park, look at the picture at the top of the page. It is from the committee to put a sports field down at Rancho Laguna. I hope this puts an end to the argument. If not write back I will post more meeting note from the field committee. If this happens I'm going to love watching people who said it wouldn't happen when cars are parked up and down the street and picnickers no longer can even get in the park.

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