Although the San Diego police and fire departments have said that Ontario Avenue is not needed, Fox Canyon Neighborhood Association's president Jose Lopez maintains that traffic in the neighborhood demands it. "Ontario Avenue has been promised to us since 1911," Lopez tells me. "We need it especially in the mornings and afternoons to clear traffic at John Marshall Elementary and Waldorf Schools several blocks away." However, the location of the schools makes that difficult to understand.
On March 21 another organization, Friends of Fox Canyon, brought before the city council an appeal to the "environmental determination" for the park-road project. Only the adequacy of the document was before the council. Councilmembers were not supposed to comment on the merits of the park, the road, or both in combination.
Before the meeting, city attorney Mike Aguirre had written a memo advising Councilman Madaffer that he should recuse himself when the matter came up. Nevertheless, Madaffer expressed confidence that he could objectively participate. He said he wanted to make sure the environmental report was up to snuff.
In the appeal, Friends of Fox Canyon's John Stump maintained that the report fails "to consider how much road wash will enter the Auburn Creek when this road is opened and operated." South of the proposed road's site, the creek joins Chollas Creek, which flows into San Diego Bay. Stump also argued that the environmental document does not "analyze the impacts of resultant housing development directly from this project."
The council eventually agreed with Stump's complaint and upheld the appeal, which provoked Madaffer to join the fray. He argued that having now rejected the environmental document, the City was likely to lose the state parks grant. The council became alarmed at this prospect and decided to reconsider. After much discussion their solution was to reverse themselves, deny the appeal, and approve the environmental document. But council president Scott Peters added a proviso that those who supported the street would have to bring it back to the council later for approval and funding.
Along the way Madaffer expressed great frustration and, at last, let the cat out of the bag. If the street didn't go through, he said, not only would there continue to be too much traffic, but future affordable housing projects would be threatened in Fox Canyon. "There are incredible new affordable housing opportunities at the juncture of Auburn Drive and Ontario Avenue," according to Madaffer. The City, he said, could "replace some of the old, deficient housing in the area" with high-density housing. Heavy storms in the past have caused nearby Chollas Creek to overflow its banks and flood residents. Those affected could move to Fox Canyon's higher ground, allowing them to stay dry without having to leave the area. Ever since the Crossroads Redevelopment Area was established in his district, said Madaffer, he has planned affordable housing in Fox Canyon. One wonders whether he has also spoken with a developer about constructing it.
All this was fine and dandy -- except that Madaffer's redevelopment plans for the area have never been announced to the public. And as Donna Frye immediately pointed out, the environmental document then under consideration "does not have any discussion of the [housing] growth inducement.... And if that was the intention, then it needs to be so stated."
I ask Jose Lopez of the neighborhood association if he thinks new housing developments would go into Fox Canyon as a result of the road. "No," he tells me, "it's too crowded in the canyon already. There is no room for new building."
But Carolyn Chase foresees how it might happen. "It turns out that [Fox Canyon] properties are subject to eminent domain in the Crossroads Redevelopment Area," she writes in the Earth Times. "The very villagers for whom the park grant was designed could face eviction through the redevelopment process. The real rationale for the street is to allow new development that would add even more traffic to the entire situation."
Meanwhile, in an April 19 e-mail, John Stump writes to me, saying, "I filed suit in Superior Court today...to compel the city council to...provide due process in the Fox Canyon Park matter."