January 20, 2006

Dear Editor,

I was surprised to learn that homes in the Leona Quarry are being sold since the Conditions of Approval and the Settlement Agreement have not been fulfilled as yet.  Perhaps they will have been by the time I write this but as a primary member of the lawsuit, Dorsey et al vs City of Oakland, I have been stonewalled by the City Planning Department for information regarding finalizing the settlement agreement conditions and likely face the expense of having our attorney file an injunction with the Superior Court.

There are some specific issues that still must be resolved.  Many months ago the City and the developer approached us to accept a change in the agreement regarding the conservation easement.  This perpetual open space is to be enforced by both the City and the to-be-established Homeowners Association.  The developer and the City Attorney's office signed the settlement agreement that stipulates this and now they want to back out of the enforcement.  This was an important part of our settlement as the city has failed to enforce open space agreements with residents in the past, most recently evidenced by the sale of the surrounding open space in the Leona Heights area to a private individual who now wants to develop the area for residential use.  We cannot in good conscience agree to changes in the settlement agreement regarding this and insist that the City and the developer establish the homeowners association to be a co-grantee of the open space as they agreed to do.

The settlement agreement also prohibits the development of any additional housing units.  Recently, the City sent a notice of design review for 23 homes on the ridge, when the actual number approved was 19.  The city is now claiming that the additional units aren't really part of the original development, but cannot explain where the new EIR to approve these 4 additional units is filed.  The City is also apparently allowing the developer to violate the EIR in regards to the setback for these 19 homes on the ridge of the quarry, along Campus Drive  The EIR states that these homes will have a "100 foot rear building setback from the top of the slope" ostensibly to address the concern about landslides and the instability of the site.  The planner assigned to this project was unaware of this requirement as he told me the homes will have the standard requirement of 20 feet (!).  Attempts to have the Director of Planning, Claudia Cappio, confirm for me that this is not a violation of the EIR have been ignored, despite a conference call promise from the Director, to myself and District 6 Councilmember Brooks.

On a minor, yet annoying detail to the quarry development, is the destruction of the Burckhalter Park entrance that was part of the EIR to increase access to the development.  The developer reconfigured the driveway entrance to the park but replaced the torn out concrete sidewalk with uneven, cheaper blacktop.  This is a blight that has yet to be addressed by the City, despite complaints.

Finally, we are requesting from the City details from the developer regarding the costs incurred to maintain the detention pond during the heavy rains that have occurred these past 2 winters.  In other words, since the developer will be able to walk away after the homes are sold and the burden of upkeep of the drainage, erosion control, and slope stability will fall upon the quarry homeowners in the form of a Geological Hazard Abatement District (basically an assessment or property tax) we need to know how much it has been costing.  It is imperative that the City of Oakland be fully informed about how much work it takes to do these things, as we residents see round-the-clock activity of many workers trying to get the detention basin cleared of debris, re-covering the slopes with black plastic and fiber pads, etc.

This expense is going to be ultimately on the City of Oakland if the GHAD cannot tax those townhouse owners enough annually to cover the costs.  One hopes that those who have already purchased these $700,000+ homes really read the fine print about their homeowner association dues and their special property taxes.  If I had more hours in my day I would be tempted to stand at the entrance to the quarry with copies of the settlement agreement and the GHAD to keep my new neighbors informed of their real purchase.

Maureen Dorsey
4700 Greenly Drive
Oakland, CA