Swimming pools approved long ago are in jeopardy in one O.C. neighborhood
Good morning. It’s Wednesday, Jan. 24. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter with a look at the latest local news and events.
Nearly 30 residents on one side of Rhone Lane in Huntington Beach were surprised in December when they received a letter from the Orange County Sanitation District saying the agency must access a 30-foot easement at the back of their properties where there’s a 69-inch wastewater pipeline, installed in 1959 when most of the area was farmland.
The neighborhood was developed after that point, and several properties now boast backyard swimming pools and other amenities that are hallmarks of SoCal living. As is required, they received the necessary permits from the city to move ahead with those improvements.
In the Dec. 1 letter from OC San, the affected property owners were given a list of encroachments that each homeowner had built on the easement that have to be removed. They were given until Feb. 1 to sign a settlement agreement that acknowledges the required removals, according to this news story by my colleague Matt Szabo.
Among the people Szabo spoke to was 79-year-old Frank Clarke, who has owned his Rhone Lane home since the early 1970s and who installed a swimming pool there shortly after moving in, having received the proper permits to do so.
Now, OC San is telling him the pool that has been enjoyed by his family for about a half-century has to go. So does the related pool equipment, pool decking, a block wall, wood fencing and landscaping.
Work has to be accomplished there to ensure the public’s health and safety, and prevent sewage spills that could be environmentally damaging, district officials say. The Miller-Holder Rhone Lane Sewer Easement Clean-Up is projected to start in September and run through December 2025.
Clarke has not met with agency representatives to sign the agreement that would result in the destruction of his pool.
“To me, somebody should have flagged [the construction in the 1970s] and said, ‘No, you can’t do it, because you’re on an easement,’” Clarke told Szabo. “The communication process should have been better. If I was Orange County San, maybe every 10 years send out a notice, ‘Don’t forget, part of your property is on an easement.’ But the first time I heard from Orange County Sanitation was with that December letter.”
A few doors away from Clarke’s home, Phillip and Andrea Rizzo are in a similar situation. They have an above-ground pool that was installed last year, a swing and a fire pit all on the back portion of their property on the easement. Their pool has a ramp behind it to accommodate their 19-year-old son who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound. Phillip Rizzo said the short notice they received about the easement work was “dirty pool.”
Cathy Monastra and her husband, Scott, have lived in their Rhone Lane home for more than 30 years. Like Clarke, they have an in-ground pool that would be affected by the cleanup.
“Affected property owners went to the Huntington Beach City Council for help.” Szabo reports. “The council voted unanimously [last] Tuesday night to ask for up to 120 days of more time for the residents. The next night, at the O.C. Sanitation District board meeting, the board agreed to offer at most a one-month extension, until the end of February.”
Cathy Monastra had a point when she said, according to Szabo’s report, “There’s zero consideration of us, because if there was, they would give us at least a couple of options. It’s not all or nothing. We built this [pool] for our kids, and we have four grandkids now that enjoy it too.
“We knew there’s an easement, but we didn’t know much other than that. Everything we’ve built has been permitted and approved, so we thought we were doing the right thing. If it’s approved [by the city], it’s like there’s a huge lack of communication between those two entities.”
• A Newport Beach man who ran out of a hospital earlier this month when a nurse tried to sedate him during a mental health episode is missing. Friends and family have been searching for Scott Breneman, 41, who is the captain and owner of West Caught Fish Co. in Newport Beach. He is described to be 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds. He has blond-brown hair and blue eyes. He was last seen leaving Huntington Beach Hospital on Jan. 7, wearing a green hospital gown with beige scrub pants and no shoes. Any readers with information on Breneman are asked to call the Newport Beach Police Department at (949) 644-3681 or text leads to Brenda Condon, with the nonprofit Cal Advocates for the Missing, at (858) 212-7503.
• Following a 2-year ban that was recently overturned by a judge, the O.C. fairgrounds welcomed back the Crossroads of the West Gun Show last weekend. The show was last at the local fairgrounds, which is state-owned property, in November 2021. That was before Senate Bill 264, authored by state Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine), a prohibition of gun shows on state land that applied only to Orange County took effect on Jan. 1, 2022. On Oct. 30 last year, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction overturning that bill and a companion one.
• The court battle between the state and the city of Huntington Beach over housing requirements continues, with the state winning one round last week. A lawsuit, brought by Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Department of Housing and Community Development, alleges the city violated state law by rejecting a plan to provide enough houses and apartments to meet the region’s expected population growth. But the city maintains the state-mandated regional housing needs assessment and its additional housing demands usurp Huntington Beach’s authority as a charter city, in violation of the California Constitution. A three-judge panel at California’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeal instructed a lower court Thursday that Huntington Beach’s status as a charter city did not stop the state from seeking a rapid hearing on its lawsuit.
• Speaking of Surf City, if you didn’t see the column about senior citizens “waging a revolution” against the conservative majority on the Huntington Beach City Council, written by L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez, it’s worth a look.
PUBLIC SAFETY & COURTS
• The man convicted last year in the 2018 explosion in Aliso Viejo that killed his ex-girlfriend has been sentenced. Stephen William Beal, whose handmade package bomb took the life of Ildiko Krajnyak was sentenced to life in prison plus an additional 30 years. Beal, 64, told the judge Friday during the sentencing hearing that he would always maintain his innocence in the case. In addition to killing Krajnyak, the explosion injured two others, a mother and her daughter who were also at the Magyar Kozmetika day spa co-owned by Krajnyak and Beal at the time.
• Dr. Grant Robicheaux, 43, and Cerissa Riley, 36, have filed a claim against Orange County stemming from their prosecution in a case that alleged they drugged and sexually assaulted multiple women. The case fell apart and ultimately came to a close when Robicheaux pleaded guilty only to gun and drug charges. There were no convictions for his partner.
• The trial got underway Thursday in the 2021 freeway shooting that killed a 6-year-old Costa Mesa child. The criminal trial for Marcus Anthony Eriz began Thursday. He faces felony charges for second-degree murder and for discharging a firearm at an inhabited motor vehicle, as well as a sentencing enhancement for causing death through the use of a firearm. The crime occurred on the 55 Freeway at about 8 a.m. on May 21, 2021. A bullet allegedly shot by Eriz in a road-rage incident struck Aiden Leos, who was in the backseat of his mom’s car on his way to kindergarten. Closing arguments are expected to begin this morning, then the case will be in the hands of the jury.
• And here’s a brief round-up of a few other court cases culled from City News Service over the past few days:
— A couple who live in the city of Orange pleaded guilty Friday to animal cruelty and a misdemeanor count of failing to care for animals. In 2019, 140 dogs were removed from their home by Animal Care officials. Both Edward Reitkopp and his wife, Giametta Reitkopp, were placed on formal probation.
— 54-year-old Kien Manh Do was charged Friday with a Jan. 5 hit-and-run collision at Harbor Boulevard and Convention Way that killed a woman in Anaheim.
— Jerel Mark Boykins pleaded guilty to killing his estranged wife in Laguna Hills on Sept. 14. The former U.S Marine, 32, was immediately sentenced to 35 years to life in prison for gunning her down at her home. After shooting the victim, Boykins drove to Camp Pendleton, where Marine personnel detained him and contacted sheriff’s deputies.
— A 29-year-old Santa Ana man pleaded guilty Friday and was immediately sentenced to 32 years to life in prison for killing his wife in May 2019 while he was out on bail on charges of raping her the previous year. Fernando Jaramillo Llamas was given credit for 2,216 days behind bars awaiting trial.
— Omar Velazquezhuar, convicted Nov. 27 of first-degree murder in the killing of his ex-girlfriend, 48-year-old Dora Maria Rosas Moreno, has been sentenced to 25 years to life. The crime took place in Irvine, where Velazquezhuar attacked his victim with a tire iron on Feb. 26, 2021. She died of her injuries in a hospital.
• The Chargers still seem to be interested in hiring Jim Harbaugh as their head coach. The L.A. Times reported Monday that someone speaking off the record said team execs were expected to meet with Harbaugh a second time. Harbaugh won a national title this month with the Michigan Wolverines. The Chargers, still headquartered in Costa Mesa, are seeking replacements for Brandon Staley, fired as head coach, and Tom Telesco, fired as general manager. On Monday they announced they’d interviewed Dawn Aponte, their ninth candidate for general manager.
LIFE & LEISURE
• This O.C. man is 81 and he recently completed a months-long, solo 2,341-mile canoe trip down the Missouri River: Bill Burke, the father of four, grandfather of 14 and great-grandfather of three, has been an adventurer for decades and he doesn’t show signs of slowing down. He has climbed the highest mountain on every continent, including Mt. Everest from the south approach at age 67 and from the more challenging north approach at age 72. In 2014, the government of Nepal named a mountain after him, Burke Khang, which is 22,775 feet high. Reporter Matt Szabo caught up with Burke between exploits to share the Costa Mesa resident’s story with our Daily Pilot readers.
• The woman who manages the Balboa Island post office is warmly embraced by the neighborhood’s residents. Locals who visit the post office on Marine Avenue, sometimes only to say “hello,” are enthusiastic about the service — and kindness — offered by Tiffany Nguyen. “She’s never been angry or frustrated, and I’ve never seen her complain about how bad interactions have been with any customer,” one patron told a reporter. “She’s always smiling for all of us.” According to this feature story, Nguyen has worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 27 years and has been at the Balboa Island outpost since 2020. “Every time I raise the flag I pray for this country,” said Nguyen, who moved to the U.S. as a refugee from Vietnam. “Now I have the freedom and appreciate all America. I love America, people are very kind, I wish I could hug everyone.”
• The largest traveling train show rolls into Costa Mesa next week. The Great Train Show attracts modelers, hobbyists and families, with hundreds of tables of model trains and accessories for sale, exhibits and activities for children. It will be making a stop at the OC Fair & Event Center, Costa Mesa Building, on the weekend of Feb. 3 and 4. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Tickets, payable in cash only at the door, are $13 Saturday (a ticket purchased that day is good for both days); $12 on Sunday. Free for kids 11 and under. Parking is $12.
• San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Assn. is gearing up for its kickoff event for the annual Fiesta de las Golondrinas. On Thursday, Feb. 1, from 6 to 9 p.m. the Taste of San Juan Capistrano will serve up offerings from 25 different restaurants and caterers at the San Juan Hill Golf Club
32120 San Juan Creek Road. Admission includes tastes from all participants and live music. Tickets, priced at $60, can be ordered here until Jan. 31.
• This weekend, actress-singer Lucie Arnaz will be perform at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Arnaz will present her concert, “I Got the Job! Songs from my Musical Past” on Saturday at 8 p.m. The theater is at 4242 Campus Drive, Irvine. Tickets range from $30 to $110.
KEEP IN TOUCH
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