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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Manny and the Trabuco Canyon Water District (board)

     Background: the Bauers moved to Trabuco (Live Oak) Canyon in 1977. Manny Bauer was appointed to the Santa Ana Mountains County Water District board in about 1978. He served on the board until the end of 1996.
     At some point—probably about 1988—the board changed the district’s name to the Trabuco Canyon Water District, evidently because the original name inspired some to suppose, erroneously, that the district is associated with the city of Santa Ana.

Based on a conversation held on August 5, 2011

     Roy: When did you join the water board?
     Manny: We started living out here (in Trabuco Canyon) in 1977. I’d say I joined the board in about 1978 and then served on it just under twenty years.
     Bob Heerdt was on the board, but he never showed up to meetings and so they were actually having trouble achieving a quorum. So, on the night of their normal meeting—it could’ve been a Wednesday—they came up to our place. They asked, “Are you a U.S. citizen?”
     Well, yes.
     “Then we want you on the water board.”
     How come?
     “Some of our members never show up, and so, some nights, we can’t officially meet.”
     It wasn’t just Bob. Another member named Mueller tended not to show. So that’s how I got on that five-member board.
     Roy: so you were then appointed?
     Manny: yes, I was then appointed by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.
     Roy: So, after that, you ran in elections?
     Manny: Well, no, I was usually unopposed, and so there were no elections [at first]. (Manny begins to explain that “Charles Wall” really wanted to be on the board, but then he is interrupted. His name comes up later.)
     Roy: Who was on the board at the time that you joined it?
     Edith: Ted Storm.
     Manny: Well, yes, but he came later. When I first got there, Mueller, who lived on Canyon Creek (the church road, down the street) was a member. Also Bruce Bennett [Math Professor at UC Irvine and, ultimately, a close friend of the family; he died in 2003], who, at the time, was living down in Trabuco Oaks (the village).
     Edith: his place there was terrible.
     Manny: yeah, when he finally moved out, the place just fell over.
     Manny: Leonard (Schwendeman) was a member then, too. And Gill Leach. And of course Bob Heerdt.

Bob Heerdt and his uncomfortable dog
[We first got to know Leonard when he graded our property in 1975 or 1976. He became a friend. Leonard, his wife Evelyn, Edith, and Manny were pretty tight right up until Evelyn and Leonard’s deaths. As I recall, Leonard was over 90 years old when he died, which was only a few years ago.]

     Roy: What was it like, serving on the board in those early years?
     Manny: my goal was to make sure we kept up with progress, the latest developments. None of us wanted [population] growth; we wanted as little growth as possible. But then this “trailer park” proposal came up, and that was a real threat. The idea was to build “affordable housing” just on the other side of the ridge from our place. 350 units! They cleverly brought in senior citizens from the area, promising them a free lunch. They’d claim we were discriminating against the elderly by not cooperating with the proposal. The truth is, if we were to approve it, they were gonna use over half of our district’s entire water supply, even though they hadn’t paid for it. This would have greatly increased the burden of the people already living in the canyons.
     That particular development proposal was a big struggle for me.
     Manny: at one point, one of the Baldwin brothers (Al or Jim) actually sued me for failing to support a (the?) proposal. He was suing me for something like a million dollars in damages. I told him, “Hey, you’re only suing me for a million? Why not five million?” Why do you want that?, he asked. “Well,” I said, “then I can brag to my friends.”
     Nothing ever became of it.
     One pair who came to us with these proposals, they were flagrant alcoholics, so they were pretty easy to deal with. They’d show up drunk.
     Those were minor battles.
     Roy: What else do you remember about serving on the board?
     Manny: I always had an easy time with numbers, the math. Working with conversions, that sort of thing. But other board members didn’t always understand that stuff.
     Roy: In the 90s, you were voted out of office. How did that happen?
     Manny: I lost by a small number, maybe 100 votes or so. The guy who ran against me—Matt Disston—he was a real opportunist, a politician. He was a guy who spoke with “forked tongue.”
     I guess I could have been more aggressive with my campaign, but the climate on the board was changing. The board was increasingly dominated by yuppies. Robinson Ranch and Trabuco Highlands (on the other side of Trabuco Creek) had been developed, and some of those properties were expensive.

November 05, 1992 Election
Trabuco Canyon Water District 
G. Manny Bauer*: 1,677 (40.9)
Charles R. Wall*: 1,266 (30.9)
Sam S. Porter: 1,153 (28.1)
November 07, 1996 Election
Trabuco Canyon Water [District] 
Jim Haselton **: 1,873 (37.1)
Matthew Disston: 1,669 (33.0) [Disston lost in '94 after being appointed to the board]
G. Manny Bauer *: 1,511 (29.9)
     An asterisk (*) denotes an incumbent candidate; a: dagger (**) denotes an appointed incumbent.

     Roy: So you went from a canyon with a few scattered individual homes to large and expensive housing developments?
     Manny: Yeah. Out here (in the canyons), maybe only fifteen or so homes have been built in the last thirty years.

Leonard Schwendeman &
his big chicken
     Roy: Did your friend Leonard remain on the board?
     Manny: No, he got voted out early on. As soon as things started getting sophisticated, issues were way over Leonard’s head. He was just a local rancher, and you couldn’t tell him anything.
     Roy: Weren’t you President of the board for a while?
     Manny: Yes, for one or two terms. I recall I had to deal with some hostile people, hostile crowds, who showed up to meetings.
     Also, we were very progressive in a way. We used fancy mechanisms in dealing with bond issues. I recall that our attorney, Alex Bowie, explained that what we were doing had never been done before. We wanted to reduce the interest we were paying. That involved buying back as many bonds as possible and then going in at a lesser rate. We had new bonds paying off at twice the usual speed. It was all perfectly legal, of course.
     Another interesting things the board did concerned sponsorships of other cities. A city—maybe it was Mission Viejo, I don’t recall—would come to us, saying they’d been turned down by all the usual boards in pursuing whatever it was, and so they came to us because we had a good reputation. And so we sponsored them. People came out of the woodwork screaming, “You can’t do that! You’re a water board!” In the end, we prevailed.
     Roy: As a board member, did you receive benefits?
     Manny: Well, we were paid. We’d get $100 per meeting, which wasn’t much when you considered all of the homework you’d have to do.
     The only other thing we got was health insurance. Some—for instance, Charles Wall—were pushing for giving lifetime medical benefits to members who’d served for fifteen years, but I opposed that. We did go with an arrangement that allowed us to get coverage while in office. Also, we would be allowed to participate in insurance after office that we ordinarily would not qualify for. It was with Kaiser. We still paid, of course. So, if I ceased being a board member, I could self-pay and have health insurance. That’s what we’re doing now.
     This was a case in which my opponents on the board and other critics of mine actually agreed with me. They supported my approach.

     (Roy: I point out that, ever since the Bell scandal, there have been endless stories about City Councils and Boards getting huge perks and salaries, taking advantage—usually away from prying eyes—and cashing in.)

     Manny: we didn’t do any of that.
     Roy: What’s happened on the board since you left it?
     Manny: There’ve been some problems. The board fired the general manager, Bruce Bonner. They had to pay him off with a year’s pay, and that was an expensive decision. And they replaced Bruce with a board member!
     Roy: Sounds like an ethics violation at least.
     Manny: Yeah, it probably wasn’t illegal, but it didn’t look good.
     They didn’t like the new manager, so they gave him early retirement, and that turned out to be very expensive too. People have asked me to get involved again, but I really don’t want to. I’ve done the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, the Board—I think I’ve done my part. [END]

I’ve found some old articles that may shed light on some of the issues mentioned above:

• Santiago Canyon : Developer Sues District Over Water Allocation (LA Times)
August 26, 1986
   The owner of a nursery who wants to build a 230-home development in Santiago Canyon has filed a lawsuit against local officials, claiming that they refused to agree to furnish enough water for the project.
   Morton W. Herrmann, owner of Herrmann-Jensen Nurseries Inc., 19812 El Toro Road, El Toro, also claimed in the suit that the Santa Ana Mountains County Water District has in effect condemned his land by refusing to provide the water.
   Herrmann's lawsuit alleges that the board lacks the authority "to implement a no-growth policy."
   Board President Gunther M. Bauer denied that the district was attempting to discourage development. When the county Board of Supervisors adopted a general plan for development in 1976, water officials decided to allocate its existing supply as if that development had occurred, Bauer said. Herrmann, like any other developer, understood that building at a greater density than the general plan allowed meant he had to find water elsewhere, Bauer said.
   "Water districts have a mandatory duty to provide water," said Teresa M. Ferguson, lawyer for Herrmann. She said the water board never formally enacted the allocation plan, which earmarks for Herrmann only enough water for 18 houses. Herrmann's suit asks for $10 million in damages.
   Ferguson said less water will be used by the residential development than the nursery now uses.
• Santiago Canyon Landowners Ask to Join New Water District (LA Times)
November 06, 1986
   Landowners in the Santiago Canyon area asked the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission on Wednesday to dismantle a rural water district that they say is unfairly blocking development of their land.
   The property owners want to withdraw from the Santa Ana Mountains County Water District and join another one. Susan Trager, an attorney for the owners of the 75-acre Herrmann-Jensen Nurseries Inc. on El Toro Road, said that they want to build 230 homes there but that the district has told them it can allocate water for only 90 homes. The nursery owners have sued the district, claiming inverse condemnation. They asked for $10 million in damages.
   The water district's attorney, Alex Bowie, told the commission that the district had recently undertaken steps to purchase more water and that the commission should not act on the property owners' request.
   Trager called the district's recent actions "a lot of smoke, a lot of doves, a lot of words . . . but not one commitment or promise that water will be obtained."
   The commission postponed a decision for a month.
• Water District Facing Loss of Big Development LA Times,
April 2, 1987
   The Local Agency Formation Commission took the first step Wednesday toward transferring a major residential development out of a water district accused by some developers of blocking their building plans.
   The commission removed the 1,000-acre Portola Hills development at the edge of the entrance to Trabuco Canyon from the sphere of influence of the Santa Ana Mountains County Water District.
   Commissioners warned that they will consider removing other developments as well at a July 8 hearing.
   If residents of Portola Hills, a Baldwin Co. development, agree to switch to the Irvine Ranch Water District, which is next to the Santa Ana Mountains district, and if LAFC and the Board of Supervisors approve, the Santa Ana Mountains district will lose a major customer for its water.
   Baldwin Co. officials said the Santa Ana Mountains district was slow in providing a permanent source of water for their development.
   Jess Senecal, a lawyer for the water district, said that if LAFC lets the developers select which water district they want to join, the commission "is going to turn into a Price Club for developers" at the expense of residents already receiving water from the district.
   Santa Ana Mountains district officials said they believe that Portola Hills residents will vote to remain in their district. The officials said they are taking steps to add to the district's sources of water.
• Settlement Proposed in Ranch Water Dispute LA Times,
March 4, 1988
   A settlement was proposed in the dispute between the Santa Ana Mountains County Water District and the owner of "Porterville," the 300-acre ranch where 35 low-income families live in trailers and shacks.
   The district has cited ranch owner Sam Porter for connecting water pipes from his own water meter to 14 trailers and shacks on the property, a violation of district rules. The district had ordered Porter, who serves on the water district's board of trustees, to pay $33,600 to install meters on each or face cutoff of all water to the ranch.
   Porter was given until Thursday to come up with a compromise plan that would satisfy the district.
   District general manager J. Fred Sims said Porter's lawyer, Susan Trager, presented a plan in which Porter would pay a $200 connection fee for each home in violation and evict all the tenants in Porterville within 14 months.
   The remaining water district board members, who will receive copies of the proposed settlement today, would probably accept it "with some slight revisions," Sims said.
• 'Porterville' Figure Still Does It His Way LA Times,
March 16, 1990
   A year ago embattled contractor Sam Porter had his wagons drawn and was hurling well-aimed verbal potshots at county building inspectors, fellow board members of the Trabuco Canyon Water District, mega-developer William Lyon and anyone else who sought to meddle with his unconventional ideas.
. . .
   One of the more "difficult" of his ideas was embodied by "Porterville," an enclave of ramshackle huts, boxcars and abandoned buses that came to be occupied by several homeless and low-income working families on Porter's 280-acre Trabuco Highlands ranch.
   County health and fire officials said the structures did not meet building codes and ordered the settlement closed.
   In addition, Porter was accused by his water board colleagues of illegally hooking several of the structures in Porterville to a single water meter. They sued him over it, and it came to be known as the Trabuco Water Wars.
   There was also the matter of Porter's long-running dispute with developer Lyon, who is building upscale homes on a ridge overlooking Porter's ranch. Porter claimed that the Lyon Co. reneged on a promise to build a road to his hard-to-reach hilltop home--a promise made, according to Porter, in return for his dismantling the unsightly shantytown….
• District Refinances Mello-Roos Bonds LA Times,
April 16, 1994

• Trabuco Canyon Water District Charges All Wet LA Times,
July 10, 1994
(Letter to Times by Matthew Disston, a director of the district. Disston was appointed to the board some time before this time but did badly in Nov. of '94, losing his seat. In 1996, Disston will campaign hard and get 158 more votes than Manny, ending Manny's tenure on the board.)

• Water District Plan Approved by Judge LA Times,
July 16, 1994

• Water District Will Get Panel's Advice LA Times,
August 2, 1994

• Rites Saturday for 'Porterville' Figure LA Times,
Sept. 5, 1996
   Fresh flowers, black ribbons and handwritten messages now adorn the locked gate that Sam Porter spent his last years fighting.
   The gate, which separates Porter's Trabuco Highlands Ranch from an adjacent housing development, has become a memorial to his life and his ideals.
   Known as colorful, boisterous and opinionated, Porter, 68, died Sunday, a week after breaking his hip during a fall on his beloved 233-acre ranch, said his wife of 23 years, Jeanne.
. . .
   The assortment of trailers, shacks and abandoned boxcars in which the families lived became known as Porterville, and as many as 85 families lived there during its peak. The shantytown was opposed by county fire and health agencies as well as local residents and developers.
   Jeanne Porter said Porterville, which was abandoned about two years ago after more than a decade of clashes, was probably her husband's greatest accomplishment….
* * *
• Trabuco Canyon Water District: History (From the district website):
   In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, TCWD was mainly a community of summer homes. Water sources consisted of two wells, earthen reservoirs for collecting rainfall runoff and small wells and springs. During the summer and fall, as well as during drought periods, there often was not enough water.
   In 1961, a group of resident pioneers pursued annexation of what is now the TCWD boundaries to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). These founders included: F.L. Schwendeman, Frank Waer, Nicholus West, Leonard Schwendeman, Grady Glenn, and Roy Head. Roger Howell and Alex Bowie as attorneys for the District set up the legal structure of the District. The early pioneers organized a special election for October 16, 1962 with a vote of 98 to 2. The election authorized bonds in the amount of $1,575,000 to purchase water capacity and construct pipelines and facilities.
   Five cubic feet per second (cfs) capacity in the Santiago Aqueduct was purchased from Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC), from MWD's supply, and necessary pipelines were constructed. Since 1984, the existing treatment plant and booster station were reconstructed and modified with initial capacity of 300,000 gallons per day (gpd) and later expanded to 3,000,000 gpd.
   The District has not always used all of its capacity, so it has, from time to time, used that extra capacity to assist other water districts. This sharing benefits both districts and is common among water districts.
   In 1988 the District obtained 4 cfs of water in the Allen-McColloch Pipeline. This capacity is conveyed to the District via the South County pipeline. The capacity exists at an inter tie to provide a total of 10 cfs of capacity.
   In 1984 the District, in conjunction with the Robinson Ranch development, built a wastewater treatment plant with a capacity of 250,000 gpd. Expansion of the plant to 850,000 gpd was completed by 1992. The District purchased an additional 125,000 gpd of capacity in the Chiquita Wastewater treatment facility.
   Completion of the Trabuco Canyon Water District's Master Plan in 1999 has aided in the District's planning for the future. Additional treatment facilities, reclaimed water storage and domestic water sources are planned and will be developed to ensure the District's capability to service its customers through build out, projected for 2030.
• More on Leonard Schwendeman


Re the Trabuco Canyon Water District LOGO: c. 1996, the district had hired a graphic artist to work up a new logo. The artist was pursuing the image of an oak tree in particular, but that wasn’t working. (Possibly, Manny's colleague, Charles Wall, had brought in an image of an oak tree that was wanting.) Manny remembered his own business card, the graphics of which Annie had created, focusing on an image of an oak tree. "Why don’t we do something like this?" Annie happened to be around about then, and so she sketched a rendition of that oak tree over an arch upon which it was to say, “Trabuco Canyon Water District.” That sketch was given to the artist, who traced the image and modified the arch, which became a blue-green circle. He/she added a seagull and placed the verbiage below the tree. Voila. (Says Annie snippily, "What does a seagull have to do with Trabuco Canyon?")

These two cards, created by Annie, are of about the same vintage as the logo

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