About Our Opposition

The large corporate homebuilders and landowners involved in the Rancho La Habra project have spent considerable money to launch SMEAR CAMPAIGNS against our efforts to get La Habra citizens the RIGHT TO VOTE on Open Spaces.  They have hired high-priced lobbyists and PR agencies to launch attacks on us. They continue to mislead our neighbors about their intentions and ours.

They’re running ads with fancy pictures of parks and trails — saying anything they can to get control of this land, so they can make a profit. They’ve falsely said it’s a “done deal.”  They have threatened to sue the City.  They have even written complete fabrications about how protecting Open Space will lead to “a State Homeless Shelter or a Native American Casino” next to your house.  WHAT?  Yes, we said the same thing.  They’re just desperate.  They’re willing to say and do anything to extract their profits.

But MAKE NO MISTAKE, they’re just trying to SILENCE YOUR VOICE.  What’s worse?  They are trying to get the City Council to approve Rancho La Habra BEFORE YOU GET TO VOTE in November.

Please read our ballot measure, and you can be the judge.  We’re your neighbors who live here in La Habra.  We think your concerns are our concerns.  We think you’ll see right through all this nonsense. And most of all, we thank you for your support!

Myths and Truths

THE MYTH:  The Open Space ballot measure is only about the Westridge Golf Course.  This only matters to people who live in Westridge.

THE TRUTH:  If you ever drive down Beach Boulevard or Imperial Highway or shop nearby, this affects you! If you think our City is crowded and getting more crowded, this affects you! If you enjoy any of the few open spaces we have left in La Habra, this affects you! You don’t have to live near Westridge to be affected by traffic nightmares, overcrowding, and environmental harm this development will create.  Our ballot measure protects all Open Space within the City from being developed without a vote of the people.  That will protect and give a voice to EVERYONE.  And who knows… that next proposed re-zoning might be next door to YOU.

THE MYTH:  The Open Space ballot measure will invite a State Homeless Shelter or a Native American Casino into La Habra.

THE TRUTH:  This is just a COMPLETELY IMAGINARY SCARE TACTIC put out there by a losing developer.  We couldn’t believe it when we read this!  This is absolutely FALSE.  Read the ballot measure for yourself and decide.  It doesn’t have any provision even remotely referencing either of these.  In fact, it makes any taking of Open Space IMPOSSIBLE without the APPROVAL OF LA HABRA VOTERS.  Also, last time we checked, there is NOT a single Native American tribe reservation in the City of La Habra.  This is just silly!  This is just about as unlikely as saying the government could “take” the front yard next door to you and use it to build a toxic waste dump or a launch pad to blast rocket ships into space.  None of these could really ever happen!  WE know it and THEY know it too!  They’re just trying to scare you and silence the voice of the voters, since it might get in the way of their profits. 

THE MYTH:  The Open Space ballot measure has a hidden agenda.  Its proponents are using it to target the “approved plan” for the Westridge Golf Course.

THE TRUTH:  There is nothing hidden here!  We are interested in preserving Open Spaces and the Westridge Golf Course makes up nearly HALF of the Open Space in La Habra.  The very next project scheduled to take over Open Space is Rancho La Habra.  We’re not hiding that.  It’s right out in the open.  Unless the City makes a discretionary change, the only “approved plan” for the Westridge Golf Course is as an Open Space.  Anything else requires a major change by the City Council.  These kind of major changes are exactly what bring over-development, high-density living, traffic and overcrowding that affects City-wide quality of life – YOUR quality of life.  These decisions and their effects are so major, in fact, that we feel strongly that YOU should directly have THE RIGHT TO VOTE on all Open Space changes.  That is why your neighbors worked so hard to put it on November’s ballot.

THE MYTH:  The Open Space ballot measure takes away people’s private property rights.

THE TRUTH:  The ballot measure does the exact opposite.  It MAINTAINS people’s property rights EXACTLY AS THEY ARE TODAY with respect to Open Spaces, unless the VOTERS decide otherwise.  Just think about it… When you bought your house, you bought it with the residential zoning it came with.  Could you knock down your house and build a gas station instead?  No way.  The City makes you play by the rules.  You have to live with the zoning of the land you purchased, unless you ask the City to change it.  Do you think they would change it for you?  No way.  How about these developers?  If they buy a piece of land entitled as Open Space, why should they get to change it to something totally different?  Do THEY play by the rules?  No way.  They just give a bunch of money to the City and to Councilmembers campaigns until they get what they want.  That’s exactly what we’re trying to stop.  Greedy developers who buy Open Space must keep it as Open Space.  Those are the ONLY private property development rights they paid for.  If they want to change Open Space to something else, they MUST GO TO THE VOTERS, in addition to the City Council for approval.  After all maintaining the status quo of all the Open Spaces around you (unless you give approval otherwise) maintains your private property rights of enjoyment too.  Fair is fair.

THE MYTH:  Open Spaces attract the homeless, so we should develop all Open Spaces into something else.

THE TRUTH:  This is a bit of a nonsensical argument.  So ARE THEY SERIOUSLY SAYING we should get rid of all of our Open Spaces, just because a homeless person might decide to sit down there?  Does that mean we can’t have any public parks or any hiking trails, or any sidewalks for that matter, just because a homeless person might show up?  This is LUDICROUS!  In fact, since they’re making so much noise about the Westridge Golf Course, it’s interesting to note that as a private Open Space, it’s actually safer from homeless encampments today than it would be as a park or some other public space.  Why?  Because of trespassing laws and private property nuisance laws.  Anyone who comes onto private Open Space can be removed at any time if the Owner tells them to leave or if their use is a nuisance to other private property around.  That’s why the occasional horror story about a homeless encampment always happens in a public sidewalk or a flood control channel – never on golf courses.  So even by their own logic, since the homeless can’t camp out on a golf course to begin with, that’s not a valid reason to take Open Space away.  

THE MYTH:  The Open Space ballot initiative will undermine local control of planning.

THE TRUTH:  The Citizen’s Initiative changes nothing in the planning and approval process.  It does not take away the City Council or Planning Commission votes on project.  It does only one thing….  It ADDS one more required approval — by the VOTERS OF LA HABRA – if Open Space will be taken away.  Why are the developers working so hard to defeat our ballot measure?  That’s easy to see.  Today, it’s simple for then to court City staff and council with givebacks and campaign contributions in order to get favorable decisions rezoning Open Space.  It will be very difficult for developers to exert that same control over the people of La Habra.  That is as it should be.

THE MYTH:  The Rancho La Habra development will provide a great benefit to the City of La Habra and all its citizens to the tune of $2.2 million in net revenues over the next 10 years to help fund vital City Services.

THE TRUTH:  One might quibble over the actual dollar benefit, but the more important argument is HOW SMALL the benefit on an annualized basis and HOW GREAT the cost! The COST is consuming the largest remaining open space in the City, and all the traffic nightmares, overcrowding and environmental harm that will entail — forever.  The BENEFIT?  Even taking the developer’s numbers at face value, $2.2 million over ten years means an average of $220,000 per year.  That’s a tiny benefit to the City of La Habra.  The City Manager who has been negotiating behind closed doors for five years with these developers is paid a fully-loaded salary of nearly $300,000.  The entire project benefit doesn’t even pay this one salary!  The City definitely has a spending problem, but try as they might, even this developer’s money can’t cure it.

THE MYTH:  Rancho La Habra is a “done deal”.  The City Council has already made its decision.

THE TRUTH:  In order to proceed, the developer MUST get a zoning change from the City Council, which requires amending the long-term plans of the City (both General Plan and La Habra Hills Specific Plan).  These land-use plans are among the most important promises that a City makes to its residents.  If “the long-term plan” only serves as “the long-term plan” until the next greedy developer comes to town, what assurances do homeowners have about the future of their property?  The next zoning change might be right next door to you!  The voters must hold their elected officials accountable to maintain the integrity of these existing plans.  Our ballot measure will give THE VOTERS THE RIGHT TO VOTE before this or any other project takes away Open Space.

THE MYTH:  Everyone will have an equal chance to be heard by the City when it comes time for the City Council to decide the Rancho La Habra issue.

THE TRUTH:  The City Manager and his staff been working with the developers behind closed doors for over FIVE YEARS on Rancho La Habra!  The City wants the developers’ money to provide a quick fix to their budget woes.  They have been helping the developer to “dot every i and cross every t” on thousands of pages of Environmental Impact Report documents to ensure SMOOTH SAILING through the zoning change process.  If citizens simply wait until the day of the final City Council Meeting to be heard, they will each have less than five minutes to speak their mind.  How fair is that?  The developer had FIVE YEARS to make its case, but the citizens will each get less than FIVE MINUTES.  The Open Space initiative changes all that and gives the VOTERS the FINAL SAY on this and all other projects that take Open Space!  Please make sure the City Council knows you want the chance to vote in November, before they try to rush ahead with their vote on Rancho La Habra.  Please sign our petition today!

THE MYTH: There is nothing the citizens can do in the meantime to change the outcome on Rancho La Habra.

THE TRUTH:  We have something you can do.  We are your friends and neighbors – a grassroots effort from inside La Habra.  We wrote a ballot measure, which protects the LAST REMAINING OPEN SPACES in La Habra, from development without a VOTE OF THE PEOPLE.  The initiative does not prevent Open Spaces from being developed.  Rather it ensures that there must be a vote of the people before any of these Open Spaces can be taken away.  Since the City Council has demonstrated they do not know when enough is enough… the voters will serve as a final check whenever rezoning of open space is involved.  Due to budgetary constraints, the City made us wait nearly two years to vote on our ballot measure.  In the meantime, the developers have been trying to accelerate the Rancho La Habra approval – so it happens BEFORE we get to vote on Open Space.  So… how can YOU help make this initiative a reality?  Please sign our petition to tell the Council to wait to hear the voice of the people before deciding the Rancho La Habra question.  You can also volunteer to help Save La Habra by spreading the word to your neighbors, and helping us debunk these myths the developers are spreading.  

THE MYTH:  The question about the future of the Westridge Golf Club site isn’t whether it can continue as a golf course.  That’s decided.  The question is what will be built there instead.

THE TRUTH:  The Westridge Golf Course HAS NOT STOPPED operating.  Period.  It is true that the current owner is seeking a buyer for their property.  Another golf course operator could certainly buy it, and such potential buyers have at least surfaced.  However, when a homebuilder (who has the City Council in its pocket) can offer, say, FIVE TIMES the going land value as a golf course because of the ENORMOUS PROFITS resulting from building new homes, no golf course operator would ever be able to put in a winning bid to buy the property.  The only thing standing between the greedy developer and their purchase of the land? They won’t close on a sale until a ZONING CHANGE is granted by the City Council.  If the City denies the zoning change (which, with pressure from citizens, they certainly are able to do), the market price of the golf course goes back down to normal levels.  It will again within reach of other buyers who wish to OPERATE IT AS A GOLF COURSE or another Open Space facility, which is how it was zoned when it was originally purchased.

THE MYTH:  The golf course is closing simply because the game’s popularity is declining.

THE TRUTH:  First of all, the golf course IS NOT necessarily closing.  If it ever does close, the DIRECT cause will not be the declining popularity of golf.  The DIRECT cause will be that a greedy developer  DISTORTED THE MARKET PRICE of the land it sits on.  Have you ever heard the phrase “worth more dead than alive”?  When a greedy home developer comes to town and sets its sights on changing zoning for a piece of land, the business or golf course or park that sits on that land is immediately “worth more dead than alive!” If the golf course dies, it will be because the DEVELOPER KILLED IT!  How do we stop the killing? Tell the City Council they must DENY THE ZONING CHANGE and let the citizens vote on Open Spaces in November.

THE MYTH: Traffic will not be significantly impacted.  Or the impact is “significant but unavoidable.”

THE TRUTH:  We all know traffic has gotten MUCH WORSE in our community as these new home developments have opened.  What used to be a 5-10 MINUTE DRIVE down to the I-5 Freeway now takes sometimes 30-45 MINUTES.  How can this be?  Don’t all the developments have to study traffic impacts as part of their Environmental Impact Report?  Yes, they do, but the calculation of the traffic impact on the next home built is often very different than the cumulative effect that all these developments have over time.  While one development might have a small impact (which is what’s measured), it’s the “death by a thousand cuts” or the incrementalizing of each successive project that creates the reality of the TRAFFIC NIGHTMARES on the roads that we drive every day.  So… yes, the developers’ bought-and-paid-for traffic study cleverly says “significant but unavoidable impact” in a clinical and detached way so they can get their quick profits; however, WE WILL LIVE THE REALITY of the TRAFFIC NIGHTMARES they describe (and even worse than they describe) forever.

THE MYTH:  La Habra suffers from a “parks deficit” and this development will fix that problem.

THE TRUTH:  Through a well-respected law firm and land-use experts, La Habra residents have explained to the City, in writing, that its calculation of “parks deficit” is NOT CORRECTLY CALCULATED.  Time will tell if the City takes time to understand the errors in its ways.  Even though this argument is quite technical, the basic concept is not.  The developer wants you to believe that in consuming a NEARLY HALF of City’s remaining Open Space to build houses — if it SETS LITTLE SCRAPS ASIDE and calls them “PARKS” — that somehow they have drastically improved La Habra residents’ quality of life.  Their parks are never quite what they make them out to be.  In fact, this very logic is how the original Westridge project got approved.  Without the developer’s GUARANTEE of “giving back some land” as a golf course and Open Space buffer, the project never would have been approved.  Fast forward several years, and THAT VERY SAME DEVELOPER is ready to take THAT VERY SAME GOLF COURSE away.  Don’t believe their fairy tales.

THE MYTH:  A golf course isn’t Open Space that benefits the public.

THE TRUTH:  The truth is that today ANY MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC can go to Westridge and hit some balls in the driving range… or host a wedding or birthday in the clubhouse restaurant… or play a round of golf… or gaze from any number of vantage points at the endangered birds that nest there…  In other words, you don’t have to live nearby to use it or benefit from it.  IT’S NOT A COUNTRY CLUB.  However, because it’s not technically a “park”, so the developer misleads citizens by mincing words.  The truth of the matter is the following:  one developer plans to callously CONSUME THE CITY’S LAST LARGE OPEN SPACE to make a QUICK PROFIT, and justify it all by giving back MERE SCRAPS and calling them “parks”.  No matter how you slice it, this would result in a massive loss of HALF the Open Space in the City! Once the Open Spaces are gone, THEY’RE GONE FOREVER!

THE MYTH:  The developer will build conservation areas, including an upland wildlife viewing and educational area, which will be of great value to all the citizens of La Habra.

THE TRUTH:  We all know that developers’ promises always SOUND BETTER THAN THEY TURN OUT to be.  Need an example? Take a drive over to Risner Way and Idaho Street, and have a look at the Native American Educational Center (a public park) that THIS SAME DEVELOPER built as part of the original Westridge development.  You’ll find a gazebo tinier than many backyard patios, broken glass and missing artifacts in the display cases, and oftentimes a full complement of graffiti and trash.  Or if you need another example… hike up the Water Tower Nature Trail and Scenic Viewing Area that was open to the public when Westridge was built.  Actually, you won’t be able to get past the LOCKED GATE!  Because of poorly designed trails and security measures, the City no longer allows access to this trail.  Think twice before you believe these developers’ fairy tales.  The best way to predict the future is to look at the past.

THE MYTH:  The proposed homes aren’t really an overcrowding issue because they are “compatible homesite size and housing density” with adjoining neighborhoods.

THE TRUTH:  Notice how they always say “COMPATIBLE” and not “THE SAME”?  The simple fact is that the new homes will be BUILT ON SMALLER LOTS than the homes around them.  The developer’s plans even provide an option to build additional and still HIGHER-DENSITY MULTI-FAMILY homes as well.  Consuming Open Space to build more homes means, by definition, HIGHER DENSITY.  There’s no two ways about it.  And unless we all send a STRONG MESSAGE to our City Council, this will not be the last development of its kind.  The Valentia development just ADDED 335 HIGH-DENSITY HOMES at one of the busiest intersections in the City — Imperial Highway and Beach Boulevard.  More HIGH-DENSITY developments have gone up on La Habra Boulevard, Lambert Road, and elsewhere.  Portola Walk, Luna, and the list goes on and on.  Today, the Westridge area is the current site.  Tomorrow, it could be the Open Space right near your house.  At least with respect the development of Open Space, which by its very nature INCREASES DENSITY, the voters should have a voice in the decision.

THE MYTH:  The developer is acting responsibly and is “committed to providing a development that improves the city’s character and lifestyles of its citizens”.

THE TRUTH:  This is pure poppycock.  Lennar is the largest homebuilder in America, and its shares trade publicly on the NYSE.  Time has shown that large developers are motivated by one thing and one thing only… the QUARTERLY PROFITS they report to Wall Street from the homes they sell.  Do you think the corporate executives of Lennar live in La Habra?  Do you think they plan to buy one of the homes they’re going to build?  NOT A CHANCE.  They build the homes, collect the fat profits and bonus checks, and they’re off to the next project in the next City.  Maybe another golf course or a park, where they can pick up land ON THE CHEAP and get a quick zoning change.  THE BOTTOM LINE?  Neither the developer nor the City staff are acting in YOUR interest when it comes to these issues.  (In fact, the City Council is supposed to direct the City staff, but in this case, it often seems like it’s the other way around.)  YOU are the citizens of La Habra.  YOU elect the City Council.  YOU know what’s best for YOUR City.  YOU should have a VOTE ON THIS AND ALL FUTURE TAKINGS OF OPEN SPACE.