MT. SAN ANTONIO COMMUNITY COLLEGE’S FACILITY AND BOND SPENDING CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM HALTED BY A JOINT EFFORT OF COMMUNITY RESIDENTS AND THE CITY OF WALNUT

Los Angeles, CA (March 16, 2017) – Two lawsuits filed over two years ago (March 24 and 25, 2015) by United Walnut Taxpayers (UWT)** and by the City of Walnut, ended on Tuesday, March 14, when Judge Chalfant of the Los Angeles Superior Court, in a lengthy forty-nine page decision, found that Mt. San Antonio Community College (Mt. SAC)

  • Has a pattern and practice of violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental law in the implementation of its facility master plan construction program, and
  • SAC has improperly sought to avoid complying with City of Walnut ordinances

UWT originally filed suit in the Los Angeles Superior Court based on claims Mt. SAC violated CEQA, local development rules, and was intending to illegally spend Measure RR school bond funds when Mt. SAC’s Board of Trustees approved a contentious $48.5 million 2,300 space parking structure project.  UWT also sued on claims that Mt. SAC unlawfully passed a resolution purporting to exempt the parking garage project from City of Walnut zoning ordinances and had a general pattern and practice of avoiding legally required environmental review for its facility projects.

In an unprecedented legal battle between a dedicated taxpayer group, United Walnut Taxpayers and the largest single campus community college in the United States, Mt. San Antonio Community College, the taxpayer group achieved a monumental environmental legal victory. This marks the first time that a community based taxpayer organization has achieved such a large and sweeping victory against the Mt. SAC Board of Trustees.

This is a victory for the Walnut community and a step in the right direction towards the preservation and protection of our environment, and ultimately, the quality of life in Walnut.

As a result of the UWT victory the Mt. SAC Board of Trustees has abandoned the construction of a 5-story parking structure planned within 125 feet of a residential neighborhood making the UWT claim moot.  However, should Mt SAC revive the parking structure project once again, UWT will seek new and appropriate legal review.

Additionally, as a result of the UWT victory, a planned Mt. SAC off-campus 11 acre solar generating facility project in midst of the residential community will be required to start a new CEQA process. If the new Mt. SAC CEQA review is legally compliant and unchallenged, the court ruled that Mt.  SAC will then be required to obtain hauling and grading permits from the City of Walnut.  If the new Mt. SAC solar generating project CEQA review is deficient, UWT will seek new and appropriate legal review.

Separate and apart from CEQA compliance, if substantial issues of public safety surrounding the planned off campus residential neighborhood solar generating facility are not properly addressed in the hauling and grading permit process, the City is required to deny Mt SAC’s  permits according to UWT.

Regarding CEQA, on March 14, 2017, Superior Court Judge James Chalfant made the following findings against the Mt SAC Board of Trustees:

“The EIRs do not address the details of the specific projects, they merely lists the projects that are part of the Facilities Master Plan. See AR 181-183. These are all characteristic of a programmatic EIR, not a project-specific EIR.”

“Mt. SAC must prepare and circulate initial studies to responsible agencies (at an appropriate time) as projects come up for an actual decision on design and implementation.” “The District was required to, at minimum, prepare and circulate an initial study for each of the Solar Project and the Parking Garage Project to determine whether the individual projects would cause significant environmental effects not examined in the Program EIR. Contrary to this requirement, the District did not properly prepare and circulate initial studies for those Projects.” “There is no evidence that the initial studies were presented to the Board or any responsible agencies. The District failed to proceed in the manner required by law by failing to properly circulate initial studies for the Parking Garage and Solar Projects.”

The judge further ruled, “United Walnut‘s Petition against the District is granted in large part. The Parking Garage Project is moot and United Walnut‘s claims concerning it are denied. For the Solar Project, the District failed to proceed in the manner required by law by failing to properly circulate initial study. The District also is required to comply with the City‘s grading ordinances in constructing the Solar Project. Finally, the District has a practice of preparing Program EIRs which can be used for tiering, but are not project-specific. Because it uses programmatic EIRs, United Walnut is entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief that Mt. SAC must prepare and circulate initial studies to responsible agencies (at an appropriate time) as projects come up for actual decisions for design and implementation.”

The Superior Court has ordered that Mt. SAC must rescind its approvals and start over with timely CEQA review that is fully vetted to the public and other state and local resource agencies.

The lawsuits have caused Mt. SAC’s major facilities projects and its Measure RR bond spending program to come to a screeching halt.  Its plan to spend over $83 million to build an entire new stadium and athletics center is also currently wrapped up in a similar legal battle between the same parties and UWT contends the writing is on the wall how Mt. SAC’s handling of the stadium and athletic projects will also suffer defeat for the same reasons as its prior ones.

Attorney for UWT, Craig Sherman commented that, “This has been a long time coming and we are absolutely thrilled to see that the court agreed with substantially all of our claims and arguments.  When we began this fight 2 years again, we warned Mt. Sac that its bond spending and environmental review programs were a mess and were shutting out public input and blatantly violating many laws.”

UWT President, Layla Abou-Taleb stated “Ultimate responsibility for the actions of Mt. SAC rest with the Board of Trustees. In many cases the Mt. SAC Board never approved or requested ‘initial studies’ or the required ‘alternate studies’ a requirement of CEQA.  If any monies have been wasted or substantial repair or improvement delays have resulted that is the responsibility of the Mt. SAC Board of Trustees.  Mt. SAC CEO Dr.  Scroggins takes ultimate direction from the Board, which voted to approve the legally challenged projects despite repeated pleas by UWT to follow the CEQA requirements.”

 

“Our primary goal was to get Mt. SAC to consider concerns of the community for its large scale projects on the outskirts of its campus because they are highly impactful and affect the quality of life in the entire Walnut community.   We’ve been calling on Mt. SAC to sit down with the community, talk to the community, and create a balance with their needs and the community needs. Hopefully, that is where we are now, however, only time will tell whether Mt. SAC will change its errant ways” stated Layla Abou-Taleb President of UWT.”

UWT has demonstrated that a small but dedicated group of community residents can make a difference on important issues of protecting the environment and public safety.

 

** UWT is a public benefit corporation formed to preserve and protect the quality of life in the City of Walnut.  It includes over 500 local community members, has affiliated support of three residential communities and multiple business associations.

Court Tentative Ruling March 14, 2017

 

 

Court granted UWT Preliminary Injunction stopping Mt Sac construction of the Solar Farm!

Congratulations Walnut, the court today granted UWT a preliminary injunction stopping Mt SAC from proceeding with the Solar Farm.

Court also denied Mt SAC’s motion for an injunction on the city’s ‘Stop Work Order’ on the solar.

What this means is that Mt SAC cannot start work on the Solar project until the issue is resolved through trial.

We continue to press Mt Sac to do the right thing and save Walnut’s scenic beauty. Mt Sac has better environmental options such as carports over their extensive surface parking. This option is about half the cost of their proposed solar farm and provides shaded parking for students and staff.

Let’s hope Mt Sac starts considering what’s best for Walnut as well as for their students!

Yes We Can Walnut – News Flash – Scroggins Must Go – Read New San Gabriel Tribune Article

By Mansfield Collins

Today was a milestone for the City of Walnut and UWT in our fight to save one of our cities last remaining hillsides, Grand and Amar/Temple, the gateway to Walnut. My family and I have lived in Walnut 29 years. Like most of you, we see this hillside everyday and appreciate its natural beauty and the unique open space natural habitat character it gives to Walnut. It is a relaxing sight to view as we drive southbound on Grand from the 10 freeway into Walnut. It has been undisturbed since 1948. Neighbors tell us about Roadrunners, bobcats, hawks and other rare species that can be found there. Now, Mt Sac CEO Scroggins wants to bulldoze it and place hundreds of solar panels in plain view for all of Walnut to gasp at. Well today, 50 plus residents participated in a protest rally at the solar site to tell Scroggins to relocate the solar farm on campus to carports and rooflops.

The press appeared. Attached are some excerpts.

———————————————————————————-

About 35 residents protested a hillside solar farm proposed by Mount San Antonio College by marching onto campus on Monday and demanding the college president’s resignation.

“We have brought the community to you because you have failed to come to the community,” said Layla Abou-Taleb, leader of United Walnut Taxpayers during an extraordinary confrontation with President William Scroggins just outside his office. “It is time for you to step down.”

The crowd stayed for about 20 minutes, shouting “Scroggins must go!” and demanding the college reverse its position on building the solar project, which the residents say will lower property values, cause glare and destroy a natural hillside habitat.

After distributing 50 letters to residents of Snow Creek on Stonybrook Drive, Regal Canyon Drive and Buckskin Drive on Friday, saying grading of the natural hills would begin Monday, the college reversed itself and indicated it had placed the project on hold. Since the city of Walnut and UWT had taken the college to court over this project and a proposed five-story parking structure (which the court placed on hold last year), the college said it wanted to wait until after the results of a court-ordered mediation session beginning Nov. 17.

“The work on the solar project is on hold pending the mediation,” Scroggins told the angry crowd who gathered inside the plaza at Founders Hall, the administration building. When told some earth-moving equipment would be moved onto the east side of campus by next week, residents and members of UWT called it a trick and said they wanted zero work done until the judge decides the case.

During the tense confrontation, Scroggins was asked by a member of the group if he would be willing to reconsider the location of the solar farm, something residents say should be put atop campus buildings and on carport structures. After first saying it was not up to him but to the college board of trustees, he said: “No direction has been given by the board or by me,” promising that the college is going into mediation with an open mind.

Before the march, about 50 protesters stood beneath the site on Grand Avenue waving placards and shouting slogans. They were joined by City Manager Rob Wishner, as well as council members Mary Su, Eric Ching and Andrew Rodriguez.

Wishner said a city stop work order, along with assurances from the captain of the Walnut Sheriff’s Station of enforcement, had an effect. The city contends the college must pull permits for the project, but the college says it is exempt.

“I am hopeful we can put this dispute to bed,” he said.

Wishner said he understands the residents concerns about Mt. SAC growing, with 60,000 students, adding to noise, traffic and environmental degradation to the small city. “Now with about 60,000 students, it is beginning to have a quality of life impact on the community,” he said.

He chastised the college for not doing a better job working with residents and City Hall. What was usually a positive relationship has degraded these last two years, officials and residents said. Abou-Taleb puts the blame on the president, there for the past six years. “Scroggins always wants to have it his way,” she said.

Read the full article at:
http://www.sgvtribune.com/environment-and-nature/20161024/protesters-confront-mt-sac-president-to-protest-solar-farm-demand-he-step-down

The relationship with Mt Sac has been bad ever since it hired Scroggins. We do not trust him. The Judge has ruled against him more than three times. Nevertheless, his actions are consistent with the mantra, “dam the torpedoes full speed  ahead”. He just doesn’t care. He is responsible for an unprecedented period of bad relations with Walnut. His assault on Walnut is without conscience. He has a complete disdain for Walnut and community input. He is wasting our taxpayer dollars on legal fees instead of classrooms. This was avoidable had he tried to be reasonable. He is wasting taxpayer dollars on “solar farms” by as much $5 to $7 million dollars because our expert says that’s how much would be saved by putting solar on carports and rooftops. The solar farm looks like there is a hidden agenda why waste millions of taxpayer dollars! Follow the money. It is time for us to demand his resignation. We need CHANGE at Mt Sac. We need a true neighbor, a true partner working to create respect and balance for Mt Sac and Walnut. That will never happen as long as Scroggins remains as CEO. It is time. The time is now to demand his resignation. Otherwise, Scroggins will continue to poison relations with Walnut while continuing to destroy the quality of our life. One man should never think he has the power or authority to do whatever he wants and whenever he wants and to whoever he wants. If you agree, please email the Mt Sac Bd of Trustees and tell them that we are fed up and Scroggins must go!

Dr. Manuel Baca, Ms. Rosanne Bader, Ms. Laura Santos, Mr. Jay F. Chen, Dr. David Hall, Ms. Judy Chen Haggerty, Esq., Mr. Robert Hidalgo at cnelson@mtsac.edu. If the trustees will not act, we need to push for term limits and elect some trustees who will seek a fair and reasonable balance with Walnut. Not one of the seven trustees lives in Walnut.

There were many new faces that participated in the rally today. More information about UWT can be found at this link. http://savewalnut.org/. United Walnut Taxpayers is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit Public Benefit Corporation formed to preserve and protect the quality of life in the City of Walnut. All donations are tax exempt. We raise money to defray the costs of our legal fees required to protect the quality of life in Walnut. To donate click on the donate tab or send your donations to;

United Walnut Taxpayers

P.O. Box 1665

Walnut, CA 91788

A group of neighbors got together initially to oppose a 5 story parking structure planned by Mt. SAC, to be built within 125 feet of their homes. We quickly realized that Mt. SAC had many more projects that could negatively impact the quality of life in the City in terms of traffic, safety, pollution, noise, and aesthetics. What started out as a neighborhood concern became a Citywide community concern, and United Walnut Taxpayers was formed. Please support us. We need your help. We are planning another event. Please attend city council meeting on Wednesday, October 26. Thank you for coming out today Walnut. We have only begun to fight!

INFORMATIONAL COMMUNITY DINNER

As you know discovering the misuse of bond money by Mt Sac has left UWT and the Walnut community very skeptical of school bonds.

Over the last couple of months members from our organization have been working closely with CALTAN (California Taxpayers Action Network) a taxpayers watchdog group to determine what would be necessary in a favorable bond for the taxpayers. We held a town hall like fundraising dinner that featured CALTAN attorney Kevin Carlin and the Assistant Superintendent Michael Hudson. Community involvement during this dinner was excellent. We participated in and attended a town hall held by WVUSD. We met individually with Superintendent Taylor and Assistant Superintendent Hudson. At every level of our meetings we stressed the importance of transparency and the right of Walnut residents to fully and adequately be informed on what they will vote for or against.

We wanted to ensure the following and they agreed:

1. There was a needs and assessment study conducted.
2. Amount of bond was reasonable (152 million) and addressed the needs. They listened to our earlier concern over a much higher bond of 300 million and reduced it.
3. There was a specific project list identified and committed to.
4. The project list was prioritized.
5. That contracts awarded from bond proceeds would be by sealed competitive bid process.
6. That proceeds from the bond shall be used only for purposes set forth in the bond measure.
7. That the district state anticipated total cost of borrowing for each series of bonds prior to issuance of bond.

These points are a few of the concerns we wanted to make sure the district addressed and implemented in the new bond.

After reviewing the draft bond project list and resolution presented to the WVUSD Board of Trustees, we are confident that the proposed bond reflects what’s best for Walnut schools and community.

We are pleased to announce that UWT board has unanimously agreed to endorse and act as a signatory on the bond measure. Furthermore, CALTAN, the taxpayers watch group, has also endorsed WVUSD bond!

We believe the model and example set by WVUSD is one that should be adopted by other school districts state wide.

We commend our superintendent Dr. Taylor and his staff for their transparency and commitment to community involvement.

Walnut is known for its high quality of education for K-12, passing a school bond that is favorable to the taxpayers ensures the community commitment to education. We do want the best for our children.

Ultimately the decision is yours.

In an effort to bring as much information and transparency to the community, UWT will be hosting an Informational Community Dinner with  WVUSD superintendent Dr. Taylor as guest speaker to address all of your questions on Friday, October 14 at 7 pm at the Hibachi Super Buffett.

This is a great opportunity for community dialogue on the school bond and the District of Choice legislation.

Join us to get informed and have your voice heard.

Attached is the flyer with the details.

http://www.savewalnut.org/docs/2-Rev-October 2016 Dinner.pptx

 

Save the Date June 17, 2016

Summer Community Dinner Event!

 School Bonds the GOOD the BAD & the UGLY 

We are honored to have as guest speaker Kevin Carlin, the attorney representing taxpayers and organizations throughout California who recently obtained published appellate court decisions clarifying taxpayers’ standing to challenge illegal public contracts; proper school leaseback contracts and conflict of interest limitations applicable to consultants advising public entities.

Mr. Carlin will be speaking on:
1. Results of June School Bond Elections Statewide
2. Anticipated November School Bonds
3. The Correlation Between School Bond Campaign Donations And Contract Awards
4. Pending Legislation to Reform Non-Competitively Bid School Leaseback Contracts

Check out his website at http://carlinlawgroup.com/industry.html

We will also be updating you on the Walnut General Plan, and how you could give our City your input.

Tickets are $30 adults & $10 children 10 or under.

Come join us Friday, June 17,  7 pm at 

Hibachi Super Buffet at 1459 N. Citrus, Covina.

For tickets call 213 663-8927 or email requests to

unitedwalnuttaxpayers@gmail.com

Want clarification on school bonds, join us and get the word out to Walnut friends and neighbors!

This is a fund raising event for United Walnut Taxpayers, a non profit community organization.

Community Dinner Fundraiser March 4, 2016

We had a great turn out at the Candidates Forum.  Over 200 residents participated.  Feedback was very positive and those who attended were greatful for the opportunity to meet and hear all six candidates.

Our next event is our fundraising dinner on Friday, March 4, 2016.

Come and get updated on the latest happenings in our City and the litigation against Mt. Sac.

Join us for an evening full of fun and get to know your neighbors.

For tickets call 213 663-8927 or email unitedwalnuttaxpayers@gmail.com

Details on attached flyer

http://www.savewalnut.org/docs/March dinner flyer.pdf

Walnut City Council Candidates Forum

United Walnut Taxpayers (UWT)

together with

Chinese American Association of Walnut (CAAW)

co-host

Walnut City Council Candidates Forum

Moderated by Mr. George Lewis retired NBC Nightly News correspondent

Friday, February 19, 7-10 pm

Walnut Senior Center

21215 La Puente Rd, Walnut

All candidates running for City council will be participating!

Andrew Rodriguez , Betty Tang,  Eric Ching,  Bella Cristobal,

Dino Pollalis and Nancy Tragarz

Get to know the candidates & issues

YOUR VOTE COUNTS!

Candidate Forum Guidelines and Rules;

1) Moderator of the Forum – Moderator shall sort the questions and address them to the candidates.

2) Audience Control – Members from UWT and CAAW will distribute BLANK index cards and collect the questions on the index card and submit to the moderator. All questions must be written on index cards.

3) Question Format – Moderator shall pre-screen the questions for duplication and/or for similar subject/substance. Personal questions/attack will not be entertained.

4) Time Limits – Opening and Closing remarks for each Candidate will be allowed no more than 2 minutes each. The order of the opening and closing remarks will be determined by a blind draw. Candidates will be given no more than 2 minutes to answer each question.

MT SAC LOSES ITS BID TO DISMISS THE UWT LAWSUIT. JUDGE AGREES WITH FIRST JUDGE. PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION REMAINS

Once again Mt Sac failed to get our case dismissed in court Thursday!

UWT had a good day in court today. Not only did the court deny Mt Sac’s motion to dismiss, but also agreed to consolidate our case with that of the City (now that they have a new attorney). Court also granted UWT motion to amend our case to add the Solar project as well as the sham lease leaseback arrangements that Mt Sac had with Tilden Coil. Additionally, the court will consider our Brown Act violation that we brought against Mt Sac.

We couldn’t get the TRO on the Solar but the City now has the opportunity to pursue that.

What does all this mean? It means that this is the third strike against Mt Sac in a row!

It means that we are on the right track and are steadfast in our commitment to do what’s best for Walnut.

It means that along with the City we are in a very good position to insist that Mt Sac take into account its surrounding community and do what’s best for Walnut.

Another big victory for Walnut!

UWT Gala Dinner

Friday – December 4, 2015 @ 7:00 PM

Hibachi Super Buffet
1459 N. Citrus Ave., Covina, CA 91722
(626) 339-8898
http://www.hibachisuperbuffet.com/

Fundraising for United Walnut Taxpayers
United Walnut Taxpayers
P.O.Box 1665, Walnut, Ca 91788
Donations are Tax Exempt

Adults $30, Children (10 & under) $10
Tickets are limited call (213) 663-8927

End of the year celebration with neighbors and friends

Join us in recognizing Walnut City Council!

Get the latest update from United Walnut Taxpayers

Join the conversation at nextdoor.com
www.savewalnut.org
unitedwalnuttaxpayers@gmail.com

City’s Response to Mt SAC Solar Project

Attached please find the letter sent from the City to Mt. Sac regarding the Solar Project.

As you can see it is a very strong letter.

We have come a long way!  A year and a half ago most if not all of Walnut residents had no clue as to various projects planned by Mt. Sac. But when a group of residents started looking into the proposed parking structure they pleaded and cajoled the City to fight the 5 story parking structure that Mt. Sac planned within 120 feet of the Timberline development. Fortunately, the City council reacted to the resident’s demands and started looking into the matter and filed their own legal case.

The same is true with the proposed Solar project. United Walnut Taxpayers (Walnut residents), conducted our own study and exposed the tremendous negative impact this industrial Solar project would have on our City.  Again, when we shared this with our City officials they realized the magnitude of this project.

Unfortunately, Mt. Sac not only snubbed their nose at the community but at our City as well.  They refused to comply with City requirements and submit a Conditional Use Permit application as required by law.

I say all this in gratitude to all those countless residents that gave so much of their time, effort and money to study this project and present the facts to their fellow residents and our City officials.

We are where we are because we believed in our right to protect our City and we will continue to do so.  We will take this fight all the way to the CA supreme court if we have to!  We have a great attorney and the City has hired a great firm.

If Mt. Sac has any sense they would recognize that it’s a no win situation to fight the community and the City. They would recognize the importance of being a good neighbor.

We need to stand together until we make it through the courts or Mt. Sac starts thinking of our City as a valuable asset that they should preserve.

We need to your help in raising the balance of the attorney fees by the end of the year.  We are now a public not for profit tax exempt organization.  Your deductions will be tax exempt.

Please help us out to the finish line.

http://www.savewalnut.org/docs/City%20attorney%20letter%20to%20Mt%20Sac%20(1).pdf

Make your contributions online under Donate tab or make your checks payable to United Walnut Taxpayers, P. O. Box 1665, Walnut, CA 91789

Thank you,

Layla

President

United Walnut Taxpayers