costa's hummer

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lousy Neighbors

I am spitting bullets right now.  Did you ever have a crappy neighbor that thought that they were so important and so all powerful that they basically did anything they would ever want to or could get away with?  Well, we do and unfortunately this bully is a quasi - governmental agency. San Diego State University to be exact.  They administer the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve at the end of my road (Willow Glen/North Stagecoach Ln.) in Fallbrook, California.

I live in a valley at the end of a steep river gorge, two miles out on a dirt road from the nearest adjacent street.  Coming home on the very narrow dirt road, perched high above a river Saturday night, I noticed a massive trailer partially obstructing the road.  Fortunately I could get around it.

The next day I drove to work  and noticed a small bobcat bulldozer cutting into the tow of the slope of the road near the trailer. I drove to town and  waited for my wife to join me for breakfast with two other couples at Le Bistro.  She called at eleven pretty frantic, the trailer was completely blocking the road with no idea when it would be cleared.  I told her to hike out and at one point she slipped, but was helped by the trailer crew.  I saw one of the biologists waiting in his truck observing as we met on the west side of the trailer.  Unfortunately for the rest of the residents of our valley, they were trapped all day without an ability to exit.  If there had been a fire or medical emergency, they were toast.  I got a call from a resident in the evening that the trailer was finally out.  People on the paved section of Willow Glen told me that they had an interminable wait as well following the thing out of the valley.

I fired off the following letter to the local paper yesterday and cc'd the Biologist in charge of the program, Dr. Matt Rahn.

I have lived in the Willow Glen/Santa Margarita Watershed for the last
twenty eight years. For the first two decades the local residents had
an excellent relationship with San Diego State University, the
stewards of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. We rode our
horses through the preserve, hiked it's trails, policed it for trash
and miscreants and sampled it's many treasures. About eight years
ago the policy changed and we were denied any access to the preserve,
shutting us off from the trail system.

This weekend the University took it upon itself to move it's large
trailer out of the valley. With no notice to residents, either oral
or written, access and egress for the families that reside in the
rural area completely stopped for over seven hours sunday while they
coaxed the cumbersome beast out of the valley. We live in a steep
river canyon. If there had been a fire or medical emergency, the
results would have been tragic. The University should have known full
and well the extent of our hardship this weekend because the same
circumstances existed when they moved the trailer in approximately six
years ago. The paved sections of our road are now coated with oil and
the trailer movers took it upon themselves to bring in a small dozer
to undercut the side slopes, all without a permit, of course. But I
guess if you are a government agency, you can pretty much do anything
you want to.

As it turned out, my wife had to hike out of the valley yesterday, at
one point actually sliding down a portion of the hundred foot
cliff. David, one of the on site biologists sat in his car and
watched when I rescued her. The behavior of the University is far
from neighborly, definitely irresponsible and borders on the despotic.

Dr. Rahn called and apologized and said that he would try to meet with me today.  But upon showing up at my gallery, rather than being contrite, he and his bellicose henchman said that they had sold the trailers, they were not their concern any longer and that their lawyers said they were under no ethical or legal obligation to deal with our concerns.  I asked him why none of us had any sort of notice and he said that that was a mistake.  I pointed out that he should have foreseen the problems that they caused because they had similar problems bringing the damn things in six years ago.

The real kicker was that he said that we would have to undergo the same battle not only this weekend but on two more weekends because there were three more trailers sold that would have to be similarly moved, but that we should be happy because they would now have a new office location on the property.  I asked him what the beneficial effect of that stunning piece of news would be and he sheepishly admitted that there wasn't one.

I have asked him for the contact numbers for his lawyer, his dean and the new buyer but have not yet received any info.  Regretfully things got so heated and threatening that I had to ask them to leave my store.

I don't know where to take this thing now - I am trying to contact lawyers to see about getting  a quick injunction, will contact the county supervisor's office, the highway patrol and the county about their non permitted grading.  Other than that we are now hostages.  God forbid there is an event that requires emergency attention.  I have gone to bat for these people before in their battles against Liberty Quarry but I am through now. Their employees speed through the valley and pretty much act as if they own it. We are powerless against their muscle. Fear government.


Carrie Repking said...

I guess I should feel better about our newer neighbors with their ever-increasing household members causing the sewer leach line to overflow and stink, the battered full length trailer in their back yard with tattered American flags in the windows, the seven loud dogs, unneutered spraying cats, loud swearing and altercations, and dirt bikes running up and down the street at all hours. The worst part ever is they have cement gnomes.

Blue Heron said...

You got me with the cement gnomes - if you went postal that would certainly be grounds for justifiable homicide.

Anonymous said...

Two words-pit bull. (no lipstick-I hope)

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert, Leslie,

I believe that the reason that the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve was closed off from the public was due to the State of California request. It had to do with liability and I am also aware that there was a huge vandalism problem. I personally saw one of the homes that had been purchased for the purpose of eventually turning it into a "Cultural Center" for the public. This house was "trashed" and, you could tell, it had been (and in places still was, a "beauty"...lots of exquisite handwork.) Could have been kids? homeless? who knows...that said....

I know Dr Matt Rahn to be a man of great integrity and someone who cares deeply about the Reserve and keeping this area safe from any harm. I don't believe for a moment that he would knowingly put people in danger. Not knowing the facts firsthand (naturally) I could only ask the question, "WHO owned the trailer that had to be removed from the property? It seems unlikely that it was SDSU. If it was not, who would have had the responsibility to notify residents? WHO moved it? I am just throwing out questions I don't know the answer to.
I can see how the residents could be incredibly concerned.
Please keep one thing in mind, Robert, before urging this to be an incident to appear in the local paper; This is such a "sensitive" time for the University having to deal with the Liberty quarry project and possible harm that could come to the reserve from it. Dr Rahn has (literally) his "hands full" right now and is doing his best to protect the Reserve.
Please consider this.


Anonymous said...


If you have read my other e mail to you please consider everything I said.
I (obviously don't nearly have all the facts) but, knowing Matt Rahn as I do,
I would ask you to sit down with him and talk. He is a good man and an honest one. Please don't get the University involved in a "legal" issue right now...this is a critical time.


Blue Heron said...


You have evidently not been around the area for very long. There were never any houses or structures to vandalize besides Henderson's place until a relatively short time ago. Vandalism was very minimal prior to their grand mobilization about 8 years ago.

You say Dr. Rahn is a man of great integrity. I think I must have met an impostor. I met a squirmy bureaucrat who initially offered a half hearted apology, which quickly morphed into a total abdication of any responsibility for any of the recent problems that the University has caused. You can't bring an oversized vehicle into the valley, use it for a number of years and then sell it, and then say that the buyer has full responsibility for the problems caused by it's disposal.

You want me to be sympathetic to your plight and the real problems that will be caused by a quarry, but are totally insensitive that a number of families will be forced in or out of their homes for three more weekends while these trailers are moved offsite. I had a heart attack in June. What if I have another one and an ambulance can't reach me?

All we asked for was to be treated decently, written notification would have been a minimal step. I do not enjoy being bullied by a 2000 lb. gorilla and will do everything in my power to bring light to their crappy behavior.

Robert Sommers

Anonymous said...

Holy bureaucratic entrenchment, Batman! The Bat Kleig is lighting up the sky. So let's go git um!

Blue Heron said...

This from the Village news this morning:

Willow Glen residents upset with movers

Andrea Verdin
Staff Writer

Thursday, December 4th, 2008.
Issue 49, Volume 12.

Willow Glen residents say they were “trapped in their homes” when the narrow two-mile dirt road leading into the canyon where their homes are located was blocked by a trailer last weekend.

The trailer that caused the traffic problem was being pulled out of the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve, which lies on the San Diego/Riverside county line between Fallbrook and Temecula.

The reserve, established in 1962, is comprised of 4,344 acres that encompass a five-mile stretch of the Santa Margarita River, making it the longest stretch of protected coastal river in California.

San Diego State University’s (SDSU) field stations program administers the reserve that provides protected sites for research and education of Southern California ecological systems.

According to Dr. Matt Rahn, the SDSU Director of Outreach at the Field Stations Program, the program had a mobile home building measuring 60 feet x 60 feet on the property that they used as a base of operations.

After purchasing an additional five acres for the reserve, which came with pre-existing structures, SDSU decided to relocate the base of their operation from the southwestern corner of the reserve to this newly acquired land, which was in a more centralized location.

Since they would use structures that were already in existence on the five-acre parcel, they put the mobile structure up for auction. Once sold, the mobiles had to be disassembled into four separate pieces – 20 x 60 feet each, in order to be moved out of the reserve.

Residents said Willow Glen Road was blocked for “up to five hours on Sunday,” as movers began towing the first mobile section out.

“With windy, dirt roads, mistakes tend to happen,” said Rahn. “In this case, unfortunately, one did. [The driver] did the best he could to keep people and traffic moving.”

Not only were residents upset with the road being closed, but they were also particularly upset at the fact that they were not informed that there was going to be any type of road closure for the weekend.

Residents said the closure left them with no way of exit, except for a poorly conditioned single track road through the reserve that is not maintained for traffic and could only be traversed with a four wheel drive vehicle.

When neighbors confronted Rahn about the situation, they said he informed them that the reserve was not responsible for the trailers once they left the property. Rahn said they warned the purchaser of the challenges involved in moving the trailers, citing the experiences they had when moving them onto the property six years ago.

Robert Sommers, one Willow Glen resident, said he found the action in moving the trailer without any type of notification, and the lack of claim to responsibility, to be “irresponsible and borders on the despotic.”

“We are going to do whatever we can to try to stop them from moving out the other trailer in the next few days,” said Sommers. “We’re looking for a land use attorney, and are going to contact [County Supervisor] Bill Horn about this.”

“If there had been a fire or medical emergency, the results would have been tragic,” Sommers said. “I guess if you are a government agency, you can do anything you want to.”

Stephanie Boren, another Willow Glen resident, was also stuck at home on Saturday because of the road blockage, and had to wait until the mobile section was moved to the side of the road to get out of her home. On Sunday, however, she was unable to drive up the road at all, and her husband had to use a 4-wheel drive vehicle to leave for work through the reserve.

Sommers said he believes he and his neighbors are within their rights to try and stop the trailer move because of the fact the movers brought in a small dozer to “undercut the side slopes without a permit.”

David Haroldsen, who purchased the trailers, admits he “may have been lax” contacting the neighbors about the trailer move, and said he “is sorry for the inconvenience it caused.”

“We’re just trying to move the trailer without anyone getting hurt, and we didn’t expect it to take as long as it did,” he said. “At the most, we had a three-car wait, and the most they waited was 15-20 minutes.”

Haroldsen also said his men did not use a dozer for grading, but used a “pick and shovel” to move some ground to free the trailer when it got stuck. He also stated there was no need for a permit to pull the trailers out of the reserve.

Haroldsen said he has left fliers at all the neighbor’s houses concerning another trailer move this weekend, which he believes will take “no longer than four to five hours” this time around.

What's interesting to me is threefold -

There are a multitude of people in the valley besides myself who saw the bobcat dozer working - so either he's lying or wasn't there.

no flyers were sent to my house.

the county feels a bit differently about there need for a permit. Will see how it shakes out.