A strip of land just 60-inches wide and 190 feet long in the Temple Hills Neighborhood generated heated debate Tuesday before the City Council, which voted 3-1 to abandon the historic footpaths little known outside the immediate area.
Council member Toni Iseman dissented and member Kelly Boyd recused himself.
The issue, though, was greater than so-called Public Way No. 2 as some 30 residents spoke their minds on pathway access, historical integrity, safety and property rights. The abbreviated walkway in question allows access between Bayview Place and Canyon View Drive and is one of four such paths in the neighborhood designated by the Orange County Board of Supervisors in the early 1920s.
Homeowners Douglas Cortez at 789 and 791 Bayview Place, and Michael and Stephanie Webster at 904 Canyon View Drive asked the city to abandon the pathway. “This abandonment is all in the public benefit, this was never intended to be used as a public walkway,” said local attorney Larry Nokes, representing the applicants.
Staff pointed out that under the existing path lies a sewer system, which restricts public improvements. Safety is another consideration, as the existing route follows a 32 percent grade, which at one point includes a 10-15 foot drop-off near Bayview Place. “This is an extremely narrow and steep public way,” said resident Phillip LeBlanc.
Proponents of the city’s abandonment of the right of way spoke of the impossibilities of ever bringing the footpath up to current standards. “Back in the ‘20s this might have been a great idea, but now we are in a different environment and this is a liability,” said resident Bruce Donenfeld.
Echoing this sentiment, Mary Lou Teschner said, “this is a pathway that can never be completed; it really is the pathway to nowhere.”
Opposition to the abandonment was equally vocal with residents defending the public’s use of the existing paths, and suggesting possibly improving them. “I took these paths to school every day,” said Alex Olson. “I am against abandonment; the Temple Hills pedestrian pathways are little treasures of our town,” he said.
Opponents cited the pathways as a forerunner of current mandates to make streets accessible to those on foot as well as cars. “I have enjoyed walking the paths for years, but we don’t have as a city a comprehensive plan to get people down to the streets,” said Carol Olson.
Residents suggested improving the path by constructing a stairway system to assist with traveling down the grade. “No damn way. It is impossible to construct a stairway especially with the sewer,” said resident Robert Lawson, a structural engineer.
Some residents interested in preserving the city’s right of way talked about the continuity and public benefit of the pathways. “These footpaths represent value to our entire community,” said Becky Jones. To which Arnold Hano said, “I can’t imagine Becky Jones is wrong. Council don’t search for exceptions; abandonment is prohibited by city law.”
“By choosing not to abandon, we are preserving a historical network,” said Ron Chilcote.
“How can the public interest be fulfilled by abandonment,” asked Barbara Metzger of Village Laguna, a community organization with a mission to preserve city’s character.
The majority of council members supported abandonment. Councilmember Rob Zur Schmiede also asked city staff and neighborhood residents to restart an effort to identify a system of walkways in Temple Hills.
“There is never going to be a public way on No. 2,” said Mayor Bob Whalen. While Councilmember Iseman indicated that, “there should not be a pathway, but we have to look at all areas and options. I have received emails 10 to one supporting the paths,” she said.
Correction: The headline “Temple Hills Pathways to Fade Away” in the Oct. 9 edition incorrectly implied that more than one Temple Hills footpath will be abandoned as a result of a City Council decision. Only one pathway is involved.
Modifications to Mozambique
Also Tuesday, the council retroactively reviewed improvements already made at Mozambique restaurant which apparently violate permit conditions, rejecting a request by owner Ivan Spiers to add outdoor speakers and light up a flagpole all night, but approving a change of terms for valet parking.
Spiers requested to add exterior speakers to the rooftop deck and the outside patio, a point which brought disfavor from residents and Councilmember Iseman. “Ivan has done so many things right to be neighborhood friendly,” said Iseman. “Uplighting for one bothers me, and noise is a major concern for neighbors. This becomes a nightclub not a dining room with that exterior noise,” she said.
“We have not had any complaints about noise, because the sounds emanating from Mozambique are lower than the ambient noise coming from South Coast Highway,” said Nokes, who also represented Spiers.
City staff voiced concern that increasing the charge for valet parking by the restaurant would discourage use, leading more patrons to park in nearby residential areas. Mozambique is stipulated to provide free valet parking Sunday through Thursday and charge $3 Friday and Saturday until 9 p.m.
“Mozambique though has been charging $6 from 10 a.m. on for over five years; it has not been a deterrent,” Nokes said.
Kate Nemann expressed her frustration with city officials. “How can the council approve a flagpole that is already there? The city is not tracking the CUP (conditional use permit). The speakers are already up outside. The city is sending a mixed signal,” she said.
Mayor Bob Whalen was equally troubled. “The process is in place to come to the council to ask for permission not ask for forgiveness,” he said, a reference to the existence of outside speakers and $6 valet charge, both apparent permit violations.
The final unanimous vote allowed a non-illuminated flag after 10 p.m., a $3 valet charge for parking until 4 p.m., and prohibited exterior speakers.