November 2009 home page


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Lawsuit Frivolity - Justin Kulongoski
Pickens Suit in the Union-Tribune - John Kerridge
City Sued Over View Restoration - Larry Brooks
The Little Hershell that Could - Jim and Bernadette Watkins


Lawsuit Frivolity
Justin Kulongoski | 10th Street

October 6, 2009
Dear Mr. and Mrs. T. Boone Pickens:
Please withdraw your frivolous lawsuit against the City of Del Mar. It is wasting the valuable resources of our cash strapped city, which could be spent on much more important projects than defense from a vindictive lawsuit.

Del Mar’s Trees, Scenic Views, and Sunlight framework preserves the character of our City and provides a fair process by which the encroachment of views may be arbitrated. You (actually your lawyers) spent time at 5 City Council meetings making your case and you lost.

Do not use your wealth to provide an unfair advantage to dismantle an important and successful City process, the loss of which would degrade the quality of life for us all.
Justin Kulongoski, 10th Street

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Pickens Suit in the Union-Tribune
John Kerridge | John Kerridge, SP Editor Emeritus, Member Planning Commission

Some of you may have read Logan Jenkins’ column in the 27 September Union-Tribune about the lawsuit that Madeleine Pickens is bringing against the City of Del Mar. Like me, you probably noticed that he (a) insinuated that our view ordinance was designed to be favorable to “longtime residents,” and (b) claimed that the “common sense” approach to resolving the issue would be for the opposing parties to “sit down over cocktails” and forge a compromise.

(For new readers, a neighboring family, the Gaylords, sought relief from view blockage caused by vegetation on the Pickens property, and invoked the city’s “Trees, Views and Sunlight” ordinance. On 10 June 2008, this case was heard by the Planning Commission, which found unanimously in favor of the Gaylords. That decision was appealed to the City Council who declined to hear the appeal.)

The view in August 1999. These two photos are on file at City Hall and are public documents.
December 2007. After the Pickens moved in, they put in more plantings and installed unpermitted fixed cement umbrellas.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Planning Commission that heard the case.

After reading Jenkins’ column, I wrote to him pointing out that the ordinance (a) is not biased in favor of certain residents vis-à-vis others, but reflects the concept that when homeowners pay money for a property with a view, the value of that view is factored into the sale price of the property, so they should have a reasonable expectation that enjoyment of their view will be respected as an integral part of their property rights; and that the ordinance (b) includes just such a “common sense” sit-down as he proposes, though not necessarily with cocktails. (In fact, the Gaylords had followed precisely the city-mandated mediation approach to the issue.)

Jenkins’ response to my letter can only be described as disappointing. He ignored, let alone addressed, the issues outlined above. More important to him, apparently, were his self-appointed role “to highlight absurdity” and his view that “this piece of hilarity was too rich to pass up.”

In other words, he “don’t need no stinking facts,” if there is an opportunity to snark “elitist” Del Mar.

So much for “fair and balanced” when it comes to Logan Jenkins and the Union-Tribune. What can we do to improve this situation? Not much, though writing letters to the U/T cannot hurt. But a better approach may be to make a hefty donation to the Sandpiper, so that at least some people get to know the real facts of this matter, and others.

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City Sued Over View Restoration
Larry Brooks | 9th Street

Madeleine Pickens, of 2808 Ocean Front Ave. and wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, is suing the City of Del Mar et al. for “arbitrary, capricious, and unconstitutional action” in “retroactively imposing landscaping requirements.”

The et al. appendage is defined in her petition as “The City Council of Del Mar; and DOES 1 through 10, inclusive.” Her petition goes on to exclaim that “the true names” of DOES 1 through 10 “are not known to Petitioner” (please note that the names of Lynn and Charlie Gaylord are not included as Respondents, contrary to the allegations of Logan Jenkins in the U-T that this is “the filthy-rich embroiled in a comic opera”). Her petition goes on to state that she “is, and at all relevant times was, an individual residing in the City of Del Mar.” What determines residency? A driver’s license? Voter registration? Title to a $35,000,000 vacation home?

I digress! In her very obfuscating petition, Ms. Pickens acknowledges that she “believes” the City granted the previous owner permits to build 2808 Ocean Front “provided that he conform to specific building requirements.” Further, she acknowledges that these requirements included DRB 95-23, which stipulated the height of the landscaping in question. What is the life of these requirements? Can an owner add a room not shown in the permit after some time has elapsed? Can an owner allow landscaping to grow in violation of these requirements after some time has elapsed? If the requirements are not given the same life as the property in question, what is the purpose of the requirements?

In addition to DRB 95-23, there was a pending application filed with the City under the Trees, Scenic Views and Sunlight ordinance (TSVSO) against the previous owner for restoration of the view lost because of changed landscaping. This application was disclosed to Ms. Pickens about a week before the close of escrow, she claims, in spite of its having been filed much earlier. Perhaps, the application should have been disclosed in the beginning of the real estate process. But being aware of these requirements before the close of escrow, why did she then close escrow?

Ms. Pickens’ legitimate recourse is with the previous owner of 2808 Ocean Front for not disclosing (as required under state law) in a timely manner the conditions of DRB 95-23 and the TSVSO application. Her case is not with the City, the City Council, and DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, for enforcing the rules.

Lastly, why doesn’t Ms. Pickens know the names of the City Council and the DOES 1 through 10, inclusively? We are a community of less than 5,000 people, including many part time residents with vacation homes. Ms. Pickens proclaims in her petition that the members of the Planning Commission and the City Council acknowledged pre-existing social relationships with the Gaylords (intimating some bias?). Maybe if she had such relationships with the community and more importantly, her neighbors, this litigation would not be necessary.

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The Little Hershell that Could
Jim and Bernadette Watkins | Grand Avenue

Those who live near the train tracks may have noticed the train whistle or horn had gotten louder and longer in duration this year. Much louder and much longer, sometimes on the south bound train starting at the bridge north of town. Like the weather, everyone talks about it, but no one does anything. Well, Hershell Price did, he called on the powers to be and local residents and got the job done. Almost in days, the volume is down and the duration less- THANKS HERSHELL. Thanks for your efforts and our peace.

The Santa Fe 1964. From the Sandpiper Archives.

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