Saturday, November 10, 2007

The truth about Planning and Zoning

What's the point of Planning and Zoning when someone who follows the rules has his project denied, while his chief critic - and neighbor - asked for and got variances? Then tried to get the Planning Department to alter their records to support his complaint...see the links below. The Planning Commission should be ashamed of themselves.

Vigilante law on Dunes project

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands ...

In a republic we elect representatives to craft law and rules to guide us in our daily lives. My West Bay Dunes subdivision in Manila followed all the rules. We asked for no variances at all. The well-organized neighbors raised no valid issues, not one! Their main objective was to keep others from living around them -- “I've got mine but you can't have yours” types of self-righteous dictators.

Yet they were able to sway the planning commissioners to oppose it. That's vigilante law, not constitutional. What about all the people who wanted to live in these homes? Where is the justice in keeping them out? We are in danger of losing our republic from this selfishness.

... One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Write the planning commission at 3015 H St., Eureka, CA 95501 and let them know what you think!

Robert Riley

A witch hunt
More on the Witch Hunt..."This is not a NIMBY issue" WITH KHUM UPDATES
The Witch Hunt LETTERS collection & Dunes Forum notes
Which rules do you play by?
For those following the Manila/Riley project w/addition(s)
"Don't let others know I have contacted you."
Planning Commission tables controversial Manila subdivision decision
TS - Manila development withdrawn for revision


  1. It's this type of developer that sickens me.He doesn't get his way on a project because the neighbors have the nerve to stand up for themselves and protect their favored quality of life,so all he can do is come out and vilify them for standing up for themselves.
    Hey I like the proposal and think it's a good one,but the surrounding neighbors don't,so my thoughts don't matter.
    "self-righteous dictators"-what a hypocrite.He wants to take it upon himself to alter their lives for his own personal wellbeing to the dismay of everyone else who opposes his project.That's what a dictator does.

  2. Then I guess they ought to change their zoning rules, Mark. he followed them all.

    MIchael Fennell's project didn't. But he was granted a variance. Riley didn't even need to ask for a variance, but he was denied.

    You've followed the history of this - they accuse him of cutting trees on his property - yet three agencies who were called in found no violation. That didn't stop Fennell from continuing to try to get the Dept. to change their story to agree with his, to declare that Riley had illegally cut trees - and Riley has explained again and again what happened - and in addition, he pointed out that he had PLANTED some 150 trees.

    No - this time - this is about neighbors who want Riley to own the property and pay taxes on the property, but they want to control it and tell him what to do with it - while they do whatever they want on their own property.

    Maybe changing the rules can be the first order of business for the new Manila directors. Isn't Fennell now on there?

  3. Who's behavior "sickens" you, Mark? Fennells or Rileys?

    Riley has followed the rules, and neighbors have, in your words, "stood up for themselves" by spreading verifiable LIES about the projects.

    Go back and read the Towndandy article on it, its really quite sad what this guy is going through.

  4. FUCK you, Mark Konkler for not having the fucking courage to respond.

  5. Well you guys hate it when Lovelace uses laws to defend his postions.Riley probably hasn't broken any,that's beside the point.His neighbors don't want the project,that's a fact,like it or not.

  6. Hey MORON, the neighbors have LIED about the project. That's not my opinion. That is a FACT.

    ANOTHER fact you can count on is opposition to pretty much any project, anywhere.

    BTW, what the hell does WeeMark Lovelace have to do with this. I am talking of Michael Fennell, with his and the lies he has used to oppose the Riley project.

  7. Rose, while I appreciate your concern for whom you perceive as the underdog in this case, Michael and the rest of us opposed the development for legitimate reasons. If Michael had wanted to put 17 houses on his lot, I think – no, I'm sure – people would have spoken out also.

    Riley's poor reputation (earned over decades) and chronic pattern of misinformation certainly didn't help his case with the Planning Commission, but at the heart of it is the fact that the development didn't adquately address a myriad of concerns. There was no conspiracy; the Coastal Commission expressed similar concerns from the beginning. These neighbors who opposed it (in other words, everyone who lives on Peninsula Drive) rarely agree on anything, so to talk about this as though Riley was an innocent victim of some witch hunt is really off base.

    In fact, if you'd like to come out to my house, which is across the street from Riley's property, I'd be glad to show you around. Manila isn't quite the backwards trash heap you make it out to be, and the coming together of people to protect the neighbor isn't a sign of evildoing either. The project was a bad idea; all evidence supports that. The Planning Commission staff slacked by not recognizing that fact in a more timely manner – it's a shame it took the citizenry to point that out.

    (As far as the trees, I can't speak from first-hand knowledge, but the issue does repeatedly come up and was actually recommended for further investigation, but died somewhere in the bureaucratic process. I think the neighbors keep bringing it up because they have evidence that the trees were cut down illegally and can't believe nothing's been done. But again, I can't specifically speak to that, and imho, that's a separate issue from the misguided development proposal.)

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  8. Welcome, Jennifer. Before I start I want to make it clear that I have tremendous respect for you - though there are many things we do not agree on. I have said before that I do not doubt your sincerity or your position. I think it would be the same wherever you find a proposed subdivision - the concerns about traffic, etc.

    I do not extend the same respect to Mr. Fennell and Kalaki, whose path is quite clearly shown in the various emails and documents.

    But what really gets me is that he brought in the full army - the Salzman forces. That's what really got me to follow this case. I'd been hearing about it for months before that, though.

    The fact remains that Riley's subdivision was not outside the zoning, he asked for no variance. He set aside a huge portion of the land for wetland mitigation. He even offered the land as a donation. He hired an architect, designed a green project... what more can you ask of a person?

    No - this looks like what it is, Kalaki wanted to buy the land and didn't get it, and he set out to make life miserable for the man who did buy it.

    Your honest concerns not withstanding.

  9. I want to say also that if a project like that cannot make it, no project should - and you and your neighbors should get the zoning changed so that the rules are clear to all potential buyers of any piece of property on Peninsula Drive - that they will not be allowed to build houses. This abitrary changing of the rules isn't fair.

  10. "that they will not be allowed to build houses."

    Building houses is fine! Lots of people have been building/remodeling and it's great – really pretty-ing up the neighborhood. But there's a big difference between building a few houses and putting a relatively huge development completely out of character of the neighborhood in an environmentally sensitive area. That was the problem.

  11. Oh no, I wrote a lengthy response and it disappeared!

    I'd rewrite, but I'm on deadline for the Eye and need to get back to work.

    I will re-gather my thoughts later. Thanks again for the opportunity to dialogue, Rose.

  12. When you have time - I'm curious to know what number of houses would be ok. Personally I don't think lots should be smaller than 1/3 of an acre.

    That way people have enough ground to put in a garden, a shed, and have room to breathe.

    It was a sad day when they went to these postage stamp lots with the County pushing for high density developments.

    If I remember correctly, Riley has 8 acres, with 5 set aside for wetland, necessitating the homes being close together on the remaining portion.

    The sad truth is that it takes a certain number of houses to offset the excessive costs of regulation and mitigation, not to mention the hiring of an architect of John Ash's stature, and still make a profit, enough to make it worth your while for all the grief.

    If I'm off on those acreage numbers, I'll come back and correct them later.

  13. Town Dandy, NCJ 4/19/07

    "Through no fault of its own, the Journal seems to have gotten itself into the middle of a nasty spat between two Manila neighbors concerning a proposed new building development in that seaside community. Having done so, we now find ourselves in the tedious position of having to adjudicate their dispute.

    Here's the rough timeline: On March 8, we published a story about the new mega-development being proposed in Cutten. On March 15, a bunch of people wrote in to register their opposition to the Cutten development. On March 29, R.S. Riley wrote in to deride the March 15 correspondents as a bunch of NIMBYs, and to say that such types are opposed even to his eco-groovy Manila development. On April 5, Michael Fennell wrote to say that Riley's development is not eco-groovy at all, and listed several particulars to back up his case. Last week, Riley came in to challenge three of Fennell's published facts.

    Pine trees. In his letter, Fennell stated that Riley was "caught cutting mature beach pines on [his] property prior to submitting [his] development plan." The implication was that this was an illegal act, and in a follow-up call Fennell asserted that it was.

    In fact, it was not. The tree-cutting incident was covered in the Arcata Eye at the time. The story from that paper described how officers from the county's code enforcement unit had been called to the scene and had issued a stop-work permit for "possible" violations, but had later determined that no law had been broken. The trees were not, in fact, "mature," at least by the definition adopted by the county. In our phone conversation, Fennell insisted that code enforcement had simply been too busy to prosecute Riley, but this is not the case. No law was broken.

    Sand. In his letter, Fennell mentioned that the Riley plan involves "bulldoz[ing] the dunes (about 650 large dump-truck loads)." In fact, the great majority of the sand removed from building sites in the Riley proposal will be used to restore historic dunes on the property, according to engineering plans that have been submitted to the county. Only one "large dump-truck load" of sand is scheduled to be removed from the site.

    Density. Fennell, speaking for the community, said: "We welcome any new housing that ... maintains the half-acre minimum standard." (Half-acre-minimum lots are standard for the area's zoning.)

    Riley's plan calls for 17 homes on 8.5 acres, which pencils out to one home per half-acre. However, those proposed homes will be scrunched into one corner of the property so that the rest of the parcel, which consists of sensitive wetlands, may be protected as open space. This kind of thing is the purpose behind "planned unit developments." Trevor Eslow, a planner with the county's Community Development Services division, assured us Tuesday that these kind of trade-offs -- smaller lot sizes for preserved open space -- are not entirely uncommon.

    In fact, just last year there was another Manila developer who did a somewhat analogous deal with the county. His name is Michael Fennell. Last year, Fennell wanted to subdivide 3.7 acres, 3 acres of which was wetlands or pine forest. Fennell built three homes on the other seven-tenths of an acre, with the county's blessing. According to Eslow, the lead planner on the project, one of the lots was only 15,000 square feet in size -- about .35 acres, well below the standard he sets for Riley's development. The subdivision was arranged in that way to ensure that the property's sensitive habitat would remain in single ownership.

    In our conversation, Fennell maintained that small parcel in his project was not his choice. "It's not something that I needed, it's not something that I wanted -- it's something they [the planning department] came up with at the 11th hour," he said. And though a similar planning logic may be driving Riley's development, Fennell insisted that there were still lots of reasons to oppose his neighbor's project.

    You want more? The Humboldt County Planning Commission will consider Riley's development at its regular meeting on Thursday, May 3."

  14. Hypocrisy, Michael Fennell is thy name.

  15. Please excuse the delay – finding time to post between jobs and kids isn't easy.

    Also, I am having some weird issues with Blogger moving really slowly – or more likely, it's Suddenlink-related – but it's making commenting exceptionally difficult. In fact I will post this so it doesn't get lost, and then write more.

  16. OK, another point to clarify is about Richard Salzman. "Clarify" may not be the right word, as I have no idea if other people consulted him or tapped into his mailing list or whatever. I do know that I have no respect for the man after the whole letters incident, and would not claim him as an ally despite our common politics.

    I also know – because I was at both the neighborhood meetings and the Planning Commission meetings, and helped draft the final letter given to the PC – that this effort was initiated by and followed up on by a group of neighbors (most of whom have their own complaints about each other!) who would be directly affected by the project. I never saw or spoke to anyone (about taking concrete action) who wasn't one of my neighbors – people around the county expressed interest and opinions, but the work of opposing the project was strictly our ragtag group of folks who would have to live with the results of a bad development.

    Triple posting might be bad form, but I think it will be easier to read if I break this up.

  17. To answer your question, Rose, the developable part of the land is 3.5 acres, so at 1/3 acre, that would be 10 houses. I took another look across the street and tried to imagine that scenario. I'm neither a landowner nor planner, so 10 still seems like a lot to me from a visual impact and environmental standpoint. However, if Riley had gone for 10 moderately sized homes, he probably would've been able to get the project approved.

    If it mattered solely what I think, I'd guess four houses, tops. Mostly this is based on gazing across the street and mentally fitting houses on that lot in a way that they match what's already around. As much as one can do that sort of thing. My opinion regarding development is also admittedly colored by growing up in SoCal and watching what unchecked development does to a place (Palmdale, anyone?). So I'll always err on the conservative side when it comes to exchanging land for buildings.

    (This is so weird; I'm having to post twice to make the comment show. Hope it's working on your end.)

  18. Finally, to restate our concerns succinctly – and the Planning and Coastal Commissions seemed to agree – I will post our final letter to the PC.

    1. A development of this size will:

    degrade the existing rural character of the neighborhood

    bring an unacceptable and hazardous increase in traffic to Peninsula Drive

    damage the sensitive habitat of the dunes and wetlands (the property is on a Beach and Dune Overlay parcel)

    and set a dangerous precedent for coastal development in Humboldt County.

    2. The project is referred to as being on 8.5 acres, but only 3.5 acres of this parcel qualify for development.

    The other five acres require special protections, as they consist of environmentally sensitive habitat.

    Talk of donating those five wetland acres to the Manila Community Services District as a way of mitigating damage is redundant, as the board doesn’t want them and the wetland acreage is already protected.

    President of the Board of Directors of Friends of the Dunes – and local geologist – Bill Weaver has clearly stated that group’s opposition to the project.

    The Coastal Commission stated that the findings necessary for development have not been met.

    3. While we acknowledge that the legality of prior tree cutting on this property by the applicant is still being investigated, his request for a retroactive cutting permit only underscores how questionable this removal was.

    A 1993 map of a prior development proposal clearly shows tree habitat in the areas that are now cleared from his cutting.

    In April, county enforcement officer Jeff Connor sent an email to Supervisor John Woolley regarding the cut trees. In this email, Jeff Connor states that some of the stumps – in direct contradiction to Mr. Riley’s claims – were about two feet in diameter and that when he asked Mr. Riley about the firewood that Riley was supposedly chopping the trees for, he was directed to an abandoned residence. He says he thinks the issue has been waiting action in the Planning Department and that's why no enforcement has yet come about.

    This matters because more trees will need to be cut for this development to take place, and, as Mr. Riley has said he will be attempting to sell the property, this issue should be settled before any land transfers hands

    4. We are not opposed to sensible and fair development. We simply ask that any development on that parcel happens with the same restrictions other property owners have been held to.

    Do not approve the PUD.

    Houses must have a 75-foot minimum frontage requirement.

  19. Jen,it isn't OK to claim ignorance on the tree issue and let it go. It is a lie. 10 houses across the street from you is the issue. Admit it. 10 houses won't alter the shit hole char-i-cature of Manila,even if they are nice homes with eco-groovy owners who will most likely become your good "buds". Smoke'em if you got'em. This is the worst kind of back door,good old boys deal. Conservancy,planning,supervisors,MCSD,coastal commish,all pissed that they can't steal this property too. Add your friends Woolley and Fennel caught red handed in a conspiracy and Jen your case is the one that stinks to high heaven. You'all butter won't melt in your mouth enviro sweethearts that claim equality in the zoning and planning process just won't take your fair share of growth next to your little piece of sand logged heaven. HIPPIE-CRITS!

  20. Perhaps 1:51pm should consider working with Riley on developing the same project in their backyard if it's so wonderful.It seems that more and more,Riley is just out to get his neighbors if anything else.
    Jen,don't let these people get to you,and continue to stand up for yourselves like you've been doing.

  21. And thus my point, mresquan - change the zoning, then. Let everyone know that the neighbors will not allow you to build even if you are not asking for any variances, let people know what the rules are.

    Jennifer mentions 75 foot frontage - most houses in McKinleyville don't qualify for that - I'd venture that the houses in Windsong don't meet that - and Windsong was touted as the great new white hope for development...

    My question is - will they let the man build 12 houses? 10? 8? 4? 1? Or none? Looks to me like he ahs already compromised to a very large degree. What will it take to satisfy Michael Fennel and Aryay Kalaki?

    Maybe the neighbors should raise the money and buy him out, then they can make it a permanent reserve. But he won't have to pay the property taxes.

  22. "Perhaps 1:51pm should consider working with Riley on developing the same project in their backyard"

    Konkler, you are an absolute farking moron.

    Riley is trying to build houses ON HIS OWN PROPERTY.

    Property which doesnt qualify as being Jen Savage's or ANYONE ELSES "backyard"

  23. Except Rileys.

  24. mresquan,when did it become a bad thing to make a profit,have a dream,build cool houses? What's with ass h%#*s like you? If you think it should be buildt somewhere else you help make it happen.I'll bet you aren't doing much for free. Jen you need to turn away from jerks like this because the minute you don't follow party line it will be off with your pretty little head too.

  25. #4. Jen will you support #4. ?

  26. The only thing that will satisfy KommieLaki is when all decession is in the hands of him and his comrads.

  27. anon said,"If you think it should be buildt somewhere else you help make it happen."

    I don't think it should,and apparently I'm not alone.Perhaps some other property owner has expressed interest in modeling his project,I don't know.

    "when did it become a bad thing to make a profit?"

    When it involved screwing your neighbors in order to do so.

  28. Great mresquan you finally tell the truth. It's hard to get the truth out of poison control freaks like you but with steady work even you can be cracked. It shouldn't be buildt anywhere. All your phony poison is out of the bag. Did you read it Jen? This is the crap that is swaying nice folks like you into screwing YOUR neighbor. Not the other way around. Have a real talk about the number of units,etc, that's fair but turn away from the zealots trying to stop all developement ,all economy but their own.

  29. Well, Mark, I guess to my mind screwing your neighbors is setting up a meth lab, derelict cars sipping out onto the street, abandoned trailers with grass growing through the floorboards, and pit bulls tied upfront to keep the "customers" that add to the traffic on your street in line.

    It isn't applying for a small sudivision that complies with zoning and building code requirements. And from the sound of it, those houses are supposed to appeal to higher net worth buyers, not likely to be bad neighbors... You may not like it, but that is what zoning is supposed to take care of. If it can be arbitrarily changed - as it has been recently - then what is the point of zoning?

    Or - screwing the neighbors might be putting in an adult "Teen Challenge" facility. On that you and I do agree.

    Comes back to this - if you aren't going to allow Riley to do the project, buy the land or exempt him from property taxes, since he will be forcibly giving over his lands to become a reserve for Aryay and Fennell.

  30. anon said,"It shouldn't be buildt anywhere. All your phony poison is out of the bag."

    Well,like I said I personally like the project,and if I lived there I'd probably support it.I live closer to my neighbors here than they would to theirs with that project.But the Manilla residents in vicinity to the project apparently don't.Seems that you like being a control freak when it comes to the urge to control their surroundings.This isn't a private property rights debate here,this development will certainly have an affect on all surrounding properties,the neighbors realize that,so they are doing what they can do.
    Like it or not,Jen has very valid reasons to support her position,yet you choose to attack her character.Great.
    And Rose,I think that we both can expect a zoning change to be on its way.

  31. No one is attacking Jen's character. We're attacking yours mresguan and fennels and kalikies. You seem to want to take sides to try to make yourself look reasonable. Your position is simple bull shit. There are many members of the Manila community that love this project and many that don't. BFD. Follow the rules just like fennel did. But that would be fair and in the free peoples republic of South Manila that's just not OK.

  32. By your reasoning, mresquan - most of the communities in this County would not be here - I believe I included in my posts about Riley's case a letter to the editor he wrote - Journal I think - talking about growing up here and the subdivisions, Sunny Brae, for example, growing into communities all around him...

    BUT - and this is more for Jennifer than you - IF you are so against high density development, how do you, or DO you, support Mark Lovelace's vision for the community which is called INFILL. High Density projects, and no getting to live out in the country because that would be called "sprawl."

    Cutten comes to mind. If those neighbors don't like it, then what?

    Should we just shut down all building anywhere? And damn the people who want to buy a house?

  33. QAnd, no, mresquan, it isn't what the nieghbors want that matters, it is the zoning. That is there to protecf BOTH parties.

  34. Let's take the bogus argument that MarkyMark Konkler is using and take it to the reasonable conclusion that one would absofreakinglutely have to come to using his ahem - logic.

    Mark's addled mind seems to come to the conclusion that the neighbors must approve a project for it to be acceptable.

    Carrying that out to the logical extreme, if I happen to be the FIRST person out there, before anyone else got there, and I wasof the mind to oppose any other projects, then NOBODY ELSE could develop anything, because ME, being the "neighbor" am against it.

    Let this sink into you brain, Konkler. VIRTUALLY EVERY DEVELOPMENT has opposition. MOSTLY FROM NEIGHBORS.

  35. I'll give Jen the benefit of the doubt one more time,only. If she buys Lovelace,Konkler,Fennel,Woolley line of shit maybe she's not as innocent or fair as she is claiming to be. What's the straight dope on that issue Jen?

  36. Rose give nresquan a break in America we support differing views. Everyone has a right to be a damn fool.

  37. "There are many members of the Manila community that love this project and many that don't."

    Then perhaps it should be decided at the ballot box.
    And yes Rose,I support infill development.This project would pass the test of effective infill development in my book,the Cutten proposal doesn't as the traffic issues and lack of non-vehicle transportation use make it a difficult sell.The Cutten project contains retail development amongst other things,so you can't compare the two.

  38. Somebody give Mark some tinfoil for his head.

  39. Mresquan writes: There are many members of the Manila community that love this project and many that don't."

    “Then perhaps it should be decided at the ballot box.”

    Are you freakin kidding me? You mean building a house should be subject to the votes of your neighbors? Ahem...that is why there is zoning. If you really believe that Mark you are a blithering scary idiot. I mean completely out of your gourd. No more dope for you!

  40. I believe the zoning is 1/2 acre minimum - that's pretty damn good. You sure as sh-t don't get that under ANYTHING coming out of the infill crowd.

    That said - if I am a million dollar home buyer - I don't want my nighbor's house 2 feet from my door, I'd rather buy the whole 8.5 acres with one house on it, have some privacy, room for some outbuildings, room for a dog, room for kids to play... I've never understood why high net worth buyers would go into these squishy little subdivisions.

    That doesn't change the fact that Riley's proposed planned unit development met the zoning requirements, included setting aside land, included "green" building elements - all things you would think his opponents would support... which leads back to this being a pissing match between some guys with a grudge - and that is exactly what zoning laws should be preventing.

  41. Rose,

    What are Riley's plans at this point? Is he appealing it to the BOS?

  42. Don't know. Truth is, I don't know the guy. Talked to him on the phone once when I started looking into to all this and he sent me some of his information... I would assume no matter what it will end up before the Board of Sups - in which case John Woolley will have to recuse himself. I would assume he will modify his proposal - perhaps with a new architect.

  43. What was the vote on the planning board


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