Letters to the Editor
May 10, 2012

To the Editor:
Last night, the city’s council voted to reject the El Dorado Park Owners settlement offer and directed the staff to apply the current regulations that normally are imposed for any other project that may be requested in the city.
As we all know, for several years the owners of El Dorado Park have been accusing the city of demanding a CEQA study for their project to change the park status from a “senior park” to a “family/condominium park”, with the intent of preventing the change. On the other hand the city’s position has never questioned the authority of the park owners to make whatever changes they wish to make but, under the federal and state regulations, we must request an environmental study to see the impact of the change, this study is known as CEQA.
Throughout the years the park owners have filed lawsuit over lawsuit regarding this matter, and every single time the city has faught and won these lawsuits in court but with a huge legal cost.
On Tuesday, before the council’s meeting, the park’s attorney contacted the city’s attorney with a huge warning saying that if the council did not approve and accept the settlement offer, they would promise a long and painful legal road for the city. Unfortunately, this is not new. Throughout this process the parks attorney has threatened, pointed, fingers to the council, demanding special treatment and even tried bullying and intimidating the council so that their wish is approved. (Last night the park owners sent a court reporter into the meeting to record word by word who and what was said regarding this issue. A very classic intimidating technique).
The issue is very simple, for the last 3 years the city has invested about $360,000.00 in legal fees regarding this matter. The reality is that the city does not have the money to pay the estimated amount of $500,00.00 to $600,000.00 more to defend ourselves. So the obvious questions are: 1) Does the council have the courage to not allow to be bullied out? 2) Can the council do what is right regardless of the cost?
In spite of all this, the council voted 3-2 not to accept the settlement and to require for this project the same that we would require from any other senior project. In other words, the city will no longer allow to be bullied into accepting an unfair deal and decided to do what is right.
Unfortunately, in just a few days the council will seek to create the 2012-2013 budget, and our decision not to accept the parks settlement will affect the bottom line on a already dark budget process that we come into with an estimated deficit of between 2 - 2.5 million dollars. And, once again, the question is how are we going to get this money? I just don’t know. I am pretty sure that people are making fun of my statement last night when I said “we must start doing some bake sales to help pay for the legal fees”. But, what I know is that we have to make the right decision and the council had the courage to do so.
Whether it is the access to the gate for the running track, the pool, the park or the budget process, something I know is that the people of Fillmore are willing to stand beside what is right and I have no question in my mind that “together, we will find a way”.
A. Edwardo Gonzalez
Fillmore City Council Member