Padilla: County Planning Commissioners Should Approve Tustin Senior Project

Fear is contagious. All it takes is for someone we believe to tell us we should be afraid. In my North Tustin neighborhood, fear has caught on like Ebola, and it’s killing a really positive and compatible use for an otherwise vacant lot.

Monday, the Orange County Planning Commission will have an opportunity to either accept fear and kill the proposed “Springs at Bethesda” senior living community or look fear in the eye and say, come on people – there’s nothing here to worry about.

Nothing motivates like fear. It’s built into our human DNA and goes off like a firecracker in our gut. Ordinary common sense and facts just don’t have the same power to get us moving like the prospect of eminent danger posed by, oh, let’s say senior citizens moving into the neighborhood. Forty-five years ago, when I moved to North Tustin I knew something was going to be built on the vacant lot adjacent to my property. More than 30 years ago, the North Tustin Specific Plan stipulated that the lot would be a school, a church or homes.

About 20 years ago, down the street on the corner of Newport and Seventeenth, developers proposed a shopping center and I was concerned that this commercial use would change the residential nature of the neighborhood, so I joined with my neighbors to protest and we eventually prevailed.

Eight years ago, because of my previous efforts in the community, I was contacted by Kisco Senior Living regarding preliminary plans they had for a top-notch senior living community to be built on the lot next door to me. I helped to arrange several meetings with my neighbors where Kisco presented the concept along with very early renderings. About 80 people attended the meetings and only one person expressed any kind of opposition.

Personally, I thought the senior living community was a great idea. Seniors are quiet; they don’t generate a lot of traffic, especially at peak hours. Single-family homes would be set 15 feet from my property line, and my neighbors would be able to peer right into my yard from the second floor. The Senor living community would be set 50 feet from the property line, protecting my privacy and would not generate noise from kids or teens.

Then fear set in. I don’t know what exactly prompted it, but suddenly the discussion changed from how to approach a residential community designed to accommodate the special needs of seniors to a litany of horribles based on fiction. People were incensed, outraged, afraid of what homes for seniors would do to the community.

A senior living community is not commercial development. The law is very clear that it does not set any kind of precedent opening the door to strip malls and other horrors. It is completely compatible with the residential character of North Tustin and with the significant mitigation and landscaping, it will hardly be noticeable. It will be quiet, beautifully designed, gentle on the eyes and a blessing to many seniors who want to live in the neighborhood they have loved for so many years, but need special accommodations to stay here.

One of the things the opponents like to tout is a so-called survey they trot out to show “overwhelming” community opposition to the project. I have walked my neighborhood and talked to every single household about what they think of the senior living community. I can tell you that people aren’t opposed to the senior community; they are opposed to a shopping center.

Yes, a shopping center. My neighbors fear the senior housing community will pave the way for a shopping center on the corner. Even though the Environmental Review and litigation both confirm that this is not the case, the fear continues. I don’t want a shopping center on the corner either. But creating a new neighborhood in our community designed for seniors instead of young families will not turn North Tustin into something it’s not.

I am hoping the Planning Commissioners will have the courage to see through the fear and get to the facts. Orange County has almost doubled in population since 1980 when the North Specific Plan was developed, and now has the third largest senior population in California. North Tustin has changed a lot since the 1980’s. This neighborhood can evolve to accommodate seniors and retain its unique residential character. We just have to put the fear to rest and move on.

Manny Padilla is a retiree living in North Tustin and is an active volunteer in Orange County Republican politics.

  • aristotle

    This is a great, well-designed and sponsored senior housing development that is needed for seniors to remain in Orange County. I don’t think that the bocce ball crowd will be too boisterous. This project gives the neighbors the quietest possible project for that site and they should cheer the development for how it will ensure quiet and make the neighborhood much safer. It would be hard to find a development that would create a lesser traffic count. It will and should be approved … unanimously!

  • LFOldTimer

    I see the Dioceses have dollar signs in their eyes and see a way to make a nice profit at the expense of the residents who bought property in a particular neighborhood for the peace, quiet and tranquil atmosphere. Don’t tell me that a rest home that size won’t invite unwanted noise. traffic and commotion. Especially a 3-story rest home. We didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. For awhile I attended mass at a Catholic church that caters to old people. One day I was thirsty and asked where I could find a drink of water. I was told the Church had no drinking fountain. I was stunned. A drinking fountain would likely cost no more than a couple grand. I guess they just let the old people dehydrate while coaxing them to donate a million dollars to convert the old Crystal Cathedral into the Christ Cathedral in GG? Oh, and the OC Business Council publication reported that the mastermind of all this, Bill Campbell, happens to be a civic leader in the Catholic Church and is active on numerous boards and committtees therein. ha. What a coincidence, eh? So I just read that the County Planning Commission supported the Catholic rest home today and it’s going back to the supes for a vote. I sure hope for the sake of decency that they strike it down. But my hopes aren’t high. In the end politics generally win, not civility or decency.

  • David Zenger

    I don’t know what this looks like now, but the last design was for a three story building with earth piled up against the ground floor walls to try to make it look like a two story building.

    Then of course, there was the spot zoning scam pulled by Bill Campbell.

    There was a lot of disingenuous stuff going on.

    • Rivett

      Is this the Manny Padilla who helped Bill Campbell run for Assembly? Why yes it is.

      The fear of other unanticipated and unwanted uses in North Tustin is completely justified, since it is now clear that no agreement and no Specific Plan is sacrosanct. Years of uncertainty and litigation can result from a single Supervisor’s whim, just as they have.

      There is so much more that could be said about this, but the first order of business is to have Supervisor Spitzer and the BoS can this project next month.

      • David Zenger

        Bill Campbell projects in the 3rd District had/have a rather disturbing way of never dying.

        What bothered me most about Campbell was his two-faced routine – as he gutted specific plans for the benefit of individual projects. Of course the County planning staff was completely devoid of professional standards and did whatever they were told by the CEO. The logical and linguistic gymnastics these people went through to justify Campbell’s desires was pretty bad.