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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

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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