Why is the We’ll Find Away Gateway Committee Irrelevant?

Why is Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley’s Project Review Committee for The Shopoff Group’s massive warehouse project planned for rural Cherry Valley irrelevant?

It’s not because nearly one half of the committee members are on the record against the spot zoning of the Shopoff property.

Spot zoning is the application of zoning to a specific parcel of land within a larger zoned area when the rezoning is usually at odds with a city's master plan and current zoning restrictions. The rezoning may be for the benefit of a particular owner, and at odds with pre-existing adjacent property owners.

It’s not because the committee has no authorization to recommend rejection of the spot zoning change from residential.

It’s not because public opinion from The Pass’s residents is overwhelmingly against the spot zoning.

The reason Marion Ashley’s committee is irrelevant is because the committee and their “recommendations” are irrelevant to County Supervisors Marion Ashley, Kevin Jeffries, John Tavaglione, Jeff Stone, and John Benoit.

Beaumont Unified School Board Trustees pay attention here before you decide to go around voters to implement “Vote By District” on March 31st.

The county is divided into five districts and voters are only allowed to vote for the candidate in their district. This means the residents affected by the spot zoning and the warehouse development in Cherry Valley can only vote for, or against, one of the three incumbent supervisors up for re-election in 2014, Marion Ashley. The other four supervisors are not accountable to the voters in Ashley’s district.

The way the game is played when you have representation by district, is each of the supervisors determines what happens in their home district and the other supervisors will defer their vote to the home district supervisor. If there is a controversial project in Ashley’s district such as the Shopoff project, he will ask his fellow supervisor’s to support the project. Ashley can go on the record against the project, he could even vote against the project, but only three of the other supervisor have to approve the spot zoning. If the other supervisors expect Ashley’s support on one of their district’s project in the future, they had better support Ashley this time around.

So, Ashley comes out publicly against the project but tells the others to support it. The others have no threat of voter rejection from Ashley’s voters who are the only ones impacted by the warehouse. The voters in the other districts probably have no idea what the Shopoff project is and probably wouldn’t care since it is not in their backyard.

The creation of the committee is designed by Ashley to drag out the process, appease the voters and temporarily quiet the opposition until it is too late. Once his re-election is not in question, he can move forward with the Shopoff project. The first meeting date for the committee has yet to be announced. Once the process begins, the committee will be slowly fed the information, heck the draft EIR (Environmental Impact Report) has yet to be released. Then there will be the final EIR and the mitigation measures to consider. This could easily be drawn out to the November election, but remember, Ashley could have the reelection locked up by June. 

What is the lesson learned from Liberty Quarry?

If you don’t remember the Liberty Quarry project in Temecula, I recommend you read this Press Enterprise article, LIBERTY QUARRY: Temecula sues to stop fast-tracking. And this Press Enterprise article LIBERTY QUARRY: Supervisors turn down mine, 3-2. Temecula’s own supervisor, Jeff Stone voted against the Quarry and Marion Ashley voted to support it. Actually, the County’s planning commission rejected the project 4-1. The supervisors were voting to overturn the Planning Commission’s rejection. Are any of you considering not voting for Ashley because of his decision to support a project involving environmental concerns in another district where voters were overwhelmingly in opposition to the project? I doubt it.

You want to see what is in store for the Shopoff project? Follow the Liberty Quarry Timeline

Notable quotes from Riverside County Supervisors about the Liberty Quarry project:

John Benoit (supported): “said he was guided by the basic principle that unless “clear and factual” harm could be proven to a project’s neighbors, then private property owners have the right to develop their land in accordance with zoning rules.” He told opponents: “While I have heard your heartfelt passions and fears, I believe they are fears of the unknown.”

Bob Buster (opposed): called the project “a Skechers model,” referring to the Moreno Valley distribution center that resulted in a net job loss instead of a gain.

John Tavaglione (opposed):“There’s no doubt in my mind this project will create jobs. At some point, no doubt, we’ll need the aggregate,” he said, adding that, in the end, “there are just too many uncertainties for me.”

Temecula's Supervisor Jeff Stone (opposed): said the quarry’s health and safety risks outweighed any “alleged” and “highly questionable” benefits.

I couldn’t find any quotes from Marion Ashley about the Liberty Quarry but he did vote every opportunity he had to support the project, unless he was absent.

You might say “wait a minute Lloyd, the majority of supervisors voted with the home district supervisor, Jeff Stone, to defeat the project”. True, but this wasn’t the end of the story: Read –Riverside County: Quarry changes Ok’d (Sept 25, 2012). This time there were 3 of the 5 supervisors (including Ashley) supporting reviving the project through fast tracking, skipping the Planning Commission’s approval, while Temecula’s supervisor still voted in opposition.

In the end, The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians purchased the Liberty Quarry property. “The announcement came as a surprise to residents and city leaders while many of them geared up for a new round of battles after the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to consider Granite Construction's request to fast-track a smaller version of the original Liberty Quarry.”

Don’t expect Morongo, a big supporter of Marion Ashley, stepping in to save the day like Pechanga. Considering Ashley's unwavering support of the Liberty Quarry, it is clear to me this has to be stopped before it gets to a council vote.

So What Now?

The purpose of this post was to show you that no matter what Ashley says or does publicly, it’s what happens behind closed doors that matters. The “We’ll Find Away Gateway Committee” is irrelevant. The only way this committee becomes relevant is for the members to sign their own resolution opposing the Gateway warehouse and to not be a part of the political game and resign from the committee. Resignation by the entire committee could have the greatest impact we could hope for.

Those of us who are working to stop this project should not waste time attending the committee’s meetings and the county should not waste tax payer money on this façade. There are too many important meetings upcoming that truly need our attention versus spending any time attending “We’ll Find Away Gateway Committee” meetings.

The next important meeting is taking place Wednesday, March 26 at 4:00 pm in the City of Banning Council Chambers located at 99 East Ramsey Street. The Technical Committee of the San Gorgonio Pass Water Resource Alliance will hold their next meeting. The starting time prevents many of us who work from attending. I hope those in Solera and the surrounding communities will make an effort to attend and ask for a resolution in opposition to the Shopoff project. Yucaipa Valley Water District manager, Joe Zoba, who has pledged to provide water to Shopoff, is a member of the committee.

On March 31, Beaumont Unified School District will hold a public hearing and then vote to adopt the “Vote By District” election process without voter approval. This will reduce the power of parents and the community to hold the entire board accountable. Then, not only county districts will be used in the political game, individual Beaumont schools will become the elected officials' pawns. This is not a Gateway crucial meeting but it will have a serious impact on our schools and the ability of parents to hold accountable our school board trustees.

No Way Gateway!