About UsRancho Vista Homeowners is a highly motivated, volunteer based, community-oriented group of Rancho Vista neighbors. This community is home to teachers, law enforcement, homemakers, and local business owners to name a few. The average household chose to live here because of the outstanding reputation of the schools, low crime, the lack of multi-family housing, and the above average quality of life.
Suddenly, there was the threat of a 96 unit apartment complex that would adversely affect hundreds of homeowners. A group of four neighbors incorporated in 2002 for the sole purpose of transparent fundraising, so the neighbors could hire an attorney. Carrie, a neighbor who handled the incorporation, moved out of the area early on, so our corporation was ultimately disolved by a member vote in 2003 after the apartment issue was over, and the corporate checking account was closed. Carrie was replaced as president by Will Aitchenson, and later on by Angie Costleigh, who remains our current president. Since abandoning our "corporate" status, we have been staffed by neighborhood volunteers who care about their neighborhood. For example, this website is hosted by one of our volunteers.
To get back to our formation, neighbors were not in favor of an apartment complex so close to single family homes, but these apartments would have been particularly insidious. The ingress and egress roads of the facility would have interferred with an existing ingress road, there was a hill just prior to the project limiting visibility, and there was a curve both before and after the project on both O-8 and Rancho Vista Blvd. Additionally, 13 single family homes would have been directly affected. The project construction started a meer 15 feet from their homes. In some cases, it wasn't even the back yards that the project abutted, it was the side yards. The parking structure would have been a meer 20 feet from the windows and sleeping quarters of the homes. Our group met with the developer, who would make absolutely no concessions whatsoever to try and minimize some of the dangers of the project.
Our budding association raised enough funds to hire a land use attorney. We found that under CEQA, we most certainly did have rights. The City had the right and the duty to turn down the project on the grounds of public safety. A rather detailed presentation was done, and we then had to face the political machine. Everyone told us we would lose. We didn't.
The Council members who gave us the 3-2 vote that led us to victory were Rick Norris, Mike Dispenza, and Richard Loa. We applaud the courageousness of these men. Our Palmdale mayor at the time had told us he would vote the project down, but he voted differently. Temporarily, our cause became a political reason to attack the three councilmen who sided with the community. The mayor later claimed that the city would be liable for $12 million in damages (a figure that could not be substantiated, nor did it ever materialize).
At of the end of 2003, when the $12 million in damages had not materialized, there was "talk" of a $2 million settlement. In the end, the city won in court and the decision to deny the project was upheld. RVHOA was right all along! The City CAN AND SHOULD deny projects that are dangerous to the community!
As Rick Norris has stated, "With the evident dangers of that corner, the first lawsuit regarding someone who was hurt or killed had the project gone in would have easily topped $2 million, making any future settlement, if there even is one, mere 'chump change' compared to the losses the City would have faced had the project gone in."
After this victory, the City of Palmdale, without prompting, had the foresight to return this property to single family status after the history of the parcel was uncovered.
There are many misconceptions about that piece of property. After the history of that project was researched, we found many interesting facts that even the City employees didn't know. That parcel was always "attached" to the Meadowcrest parcel as far as zoning. The Meadowcrest area was later increased in density, so to be consistent, the parcel on O-8 was increased in density so there would be some consistency. Forecast and Beazer then came in and decided they wanted to purchase the property and build single family homes. They did not want the small 6 acre piece due to its shape and size. So the Meadowcrest area was decreased in density again, but the City "forgot" about the small little island that was left. This left an island of inappropriate zoning. The City admitted that this was not a good thing, and they generally wouldn't allow this, but the developer was demanding his "rights" under the Rancho Vista Development agreement and the existing zoning.
Since the denial of the project in March, 2003, we have sought to help support the three brave councilmembers who did their job AND REPRESENTED THE CITIZENS OF PALMDALE AS THEY WERE ELECTED TO DO! They took the heat to do the right thing for our City. All of us owe a debt of gratitude to people who decided to represent the people, rather than one single developer. Also of note, Dispenza and Norris had received campaign contributions from the developer and then voted against him. A sign that these are men who cannot be bought by special interests. Also of note, the same people who are slamming these council members for representing "special interests" are clammoring to receive money from the exact same developer in their campaign coffers. Unfortunately, Rick Norris lost his council seat in an extremely close election. Mike Dispensa easily won re-election and Richard Loa, a supporter of governor Schwarzenegger, was given an appointment at the state level. He has since returned to private life in the AV.
Our neighborhood does not oppose development. We believe in responsible development that enhances a neighborhood. In our time as a group of neighbors we have met with developers who want to work with us to provide necessary services and mitigate problems that could be generated by their projects. Happily, we have found that not all developers put their bottom line completely above the residents' needs and concerns. Many of them are seeking "buy in" from the neighborhood.
During this fight, some politicians called us NIMBYs (not in my backyard). Yes, we are NIMBYs when it comes to irresponsible development, and we wear that badge with honor. We encourage all neighborhoods to be NIMBYs to preserve the way of life that they paid for when they purchased their homes.
In 2003, as neighbors, we supported adoption of a new alcohol ordinance to reduce irresponsible alcohol sales. Thanks in part to our efforts, the distance for alcohol sales was doubled near schools, places of worship, parks, and residential areas. There are also restrictions on new bars and restaurants that sell alcohol to insure that food is the primary source of sales. There is data to support a reduction in drunk driving and alcohol related deaths by adoption of this model ordinance.
We do not consider ourselves to be residents of the West Side. We consider ourselves to be residents of the entire City of Palmdale and believe our issues affect not just us, but the entire city. We respect the right of all neighborhood groups to exercise self-determination to help shape their community. In the process, we all will have a city we are proud to call home.
The lifestyle in Rancho Vista, California is many things. The lifestyle of this community is one that we are willing to preserve, so our children will grow up with an enhanced sense of community and community service.