Saturday, December 8, 2012

Today's Good News: Thank You from a Neighbor

Lawson Valley Confidential co-conspirator Shelly--or rather her dog Xena--has been having some nasty run-ins with coyotes lately. After a recent pack attack, Warrior Xena has been even more intent on extracting her revenge, so when she spotted some coyotes while on a walk this morning, she took off, leash and all, to chase them. Thanks to several neighbors who were passing by, a possible tragedy was averted. Shelly's thank-you follows:

To the following compassionate people who took time out of their day on a Saturday morning to help us find our wayward dog, Xena, we wish to express our most heartfelt gratitude. 
To the man in the truck pulling the boat on Dirt Rudnick who stopped to give a ride to a frantic and desperate husband who must go home and admit to his wife that he has lost her dog: thank you, we are grateful. Much time would have been lost making the long walk home. We found her tangled up in the brush and caught fast by her leash, but she had not strangled because we found her in time. 
To the woman on the motorcycle who freely offered to go off-road into the brush, take the high point and scan until Xena was found: thank you, we are grateful for your kindness and generosity. It was a great comfort to have another set of eyes broaden the search. 
To the white truck that stopped in case assistance was required. Thank you for caring.
It is uplifting to know that there are good people in the world, but it fills our hearts to know that such people are our neighbors. Thank you. 
Shelly, Michael & Xena

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Response to Raftery's Far East Editorial

(Disclaimer: I have not read the book [though I did order it yesterday]; some of my photos are featured on the site and in the exhibit.)

It was with great disappointment that I read yesterday’s editorial about The Far East Project in Miriam Raftery’s East County Magazine. I have long been a supporter of Raftery’s work in this one-of-a-kind online publication, so it was with an especially heavy heart that I saw her dismiss another unique attempt to give East County a voice.

The Far East Project, headed by Justin Hudnall and funded through a small grant from the San Diego Foundation, resulted in a website, book, exhibit, and readings focused on East County. Hudnall hopes to continue the project (sans funding), expanding to oral histories and multimedia accounts from residents.

Raftery’s headline sums up her position: “FAR EAST PROJECT PRESENTS SKEWED AND OFFENSIVE VIEW OF EAST COUNTY.” You can read the other 3,000 words for yourself; I will attempt to reply with fewer.

The crux of Raftery’s argument is that the project is rife with East County stereotypes, that it is “filled with ugliness,” “devoid of inspirational value,” and “culturally insensitive,” among other sins. Since she refuses to link to the website or present more than a handful of carefully selected images, she also asks us to simply take her word for it.

What Raftery fails to mention is that every single contributor is a resident or former resident of East County. The Far East Project isn’t a case of outsiders bashing the region; it’s an attempt (albeit limited) to give first-person voice to some of the insiders. To that extent, Raftery is ridiculing the very population she claims to defend.

One gets the impression that Raftery went into the book and exhibit intent on that ridicule. She interprets every word, every image negatively. Mention a hooker? Oh, that’s bad! (Never mind the poetry of the writer adding dimension to a character that I guess Raftery would just as soon remain hidden.) A photograph intended to show the unanticipated beauty of a late-winter snowfall is described as “a deer with a broken-off antler.” First of all, it’s not a deer; it’s a fake plaster garden deer and just one element of the photograph—tellingly, the only element Raftery focuses on.

Raftery writes, “Efforts should have been made to reach out to local publishers and photographers to assure balance.” I’m not sure why Raftery thinks the views of publishers and established photographers are more legit than those of local residents, but the statement itself speaks to her misunderstanding of the project.

In addition, Raftery overlooks that Far East is a fledgling effort: it’s new, the organizers are young, there’s no template to follow, and they had only a year to complete the work. Was the project overambitious? Perhaps. Would we be better off had it not even been attempted? No way.

Raftery also glosses over the distinction between journalism and a creative endeavor such as the Far East Project.  Far East was intended to present individuals’ perspectives; by definition, such accounts are situated and limited. I’m guessing, but I doubt that anywhere in the proposal or other associated materials did the organizers suggest that this project would result in a comprehensive 360-view of the region. 

I do agree with Raftery on one key point: the quality and breadth of the project could have been enhanced with a broader range of submissions. Publicity of the project was thin. A resident of East County, I found out about it only through a friend who was on the mailing list for the San Diego Foundation. I don’t know what outreach attempts were made by project organizers—small ads in some local publications would have no doubt elicited a response that went beyond the arts community. 

However, I do know that as soon as I found out about the call for photographs back in September, I immediately posted about it on the Lawson Valley blog (which is probably read by all of three people) and contacted Raftery  (whose publication is probably read by thousands) to let her know. She indicated that she would definitely publicize the event. Unfortunately, that never happened.

I hope that Justin Hudnall and others who worked on the project, contributed submissions, or otherwise helped out will not be discouraged by this one negative response. Indeed, Raftery’s editorial suggests that more, not fewer, perspectives are needed in the region. Let’s get to work.

Correction: Although I searched East County Magazine for an announcement regarding the call for photos and didn't find it, that was my failure. Raftery did in fact run a story on the project: My sincere apologies for the oversight.

(Postscript: I attempted multiple times to post a version of this response in the comments for the article, but despite trying two different browsers, was unable to do so. Probably just a glitch.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fire Fee Update: Recommendation from Jacob

There has been much talk and discussion in our backcountry about the new state fire tax. Supervisor Jacob has just sent these comments and suggestions regarding the tax:

"County Supervisor Dianne Jacob advises residents in her district to pay a new state fire tax now being levied on tens of thousands of local homeowners, but to do it under protest.

"In recent weeks, many rural and semi-rural residents of District 2 - a sprawling region that includes the bulk of the San Diego County backcountry - have started to receive bills asking them to pay the state up to $150 annually for each habitable structure on their land. Approximately 400,000 people in the region will be impacted by this tax.

"Jacob has long opposed the tax, saying it stems from the state's failure to adequately fund Cal Fire. "It's blatantly unjust and borders on cruel that the state would hit homeowners up for more money when they already pay property taxes to help fund public safety programs and, in many cases, special local fees for fire protection," she said.

"She noted the county also spends $15.5 million annually to augment rural fire protection. More than $10 million of that money goes directly to Cal Fire.

"The supervisor recommends that those receiving the tax bill:

  1. Pay it within the 30-day due date and write "UNDER PROTEST" on the notation line of their check. Make copies of the check and send the original with the bill.
  2. Go to and click on the link labeled "Petition for Redetermination." Fill out the petition to formally challenge the fee.
  3. Send a copy of the petition and a copy of the check to these three addresses: Fire Prevention Petitions, P.O. Box 2254, Suisun City, CA, 94585; Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, P.O. Box 944246, Sacramento, CA, 94244; and the Board of Equalization, P.O. Box 942879, Sacramento, CA, 94279.

"All three steps must be completed should any lawsuits prevail in overturning the fee and should the court order the state to issue refunds."

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Fire Fee

By now, you should have received a heads-up notice about the fee, if not the bill itself. The fee, levied on property owners in high-risk rural fire areas, is intended to shore up the state's depleted CalFire budget (only one budget among many shriveling in the state).

As someone who just lobbied—hard--for the passage of Prop 30 to save California public education from imploding, I feel ambivalent about the new fire fee.

Do we want less firefighting capabilities? Of course not. Should a select group of property owners be targeted? That's a good question.

Most challengers use the “this is an illegal tax” argument: Because the fee can be interpreted to be a tax, and because it wasn't passed by a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, it is therefore unconstitutional. Additionally, they point out, many rural residents already pay fire taxes, so the fee is a tax on top of a tax.

If you're an anti-tax type, these arguments are pretty compelling. I'm not though: I think paying taxes is the patriotic thing to do; it's what holds us together as a society; it's where we look beyond our immediate interests to the greater good.

But here's the thing: I think this fee is taking a very different position. In effect, it is saying that if you live in the backcountry, where many wildfires start, you've got to pay the bill. And that's just plain wrong.

As the Cedar and Harris Fires showed us, what starts in the backcountry doesn't necessarily stay in the backcountry. (Remember the directives to evacuate Del Mar?) And what used to be country is now town—the back keeps getting pushed back.

If anything, rural residents provide a huge service to our suburban neighbors: we are quick to spot and report fires that would otherwise smolder and make their way to more populated areas. As a result, fire towers are now quaint artifacts. Why pay a fire watcher when you have hundreds of residents on high alert during the fire season? And the fire that gets doused in, say, Dulzura, is the fire that didn't destroy your home in Eastlake.

Wildfire in California is a statewide issue, not one limited to a select population. As with education, if a statewide solution is necessary, all Californians should step up.

I'm not sure the below resources agree with my sentiments, but if you're interested in fighting the fee, here are some places to start:

Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s letter to constituents

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Voting in the Dark

"Voting in the Dark" is not a metaphor or philosophical statement (though there could be places to go with that . . .). If you visited our assigned polling place after 5 pm today, you know what I'm talking about.

Below is an email I sent the Registrar of Voters. If you had a similar experience, please do the same--they are very responsive!

Sent: Tuesday, November 06, 2012 7:48 PM
Subject: Cal Fire Lyons Valley Station Polling Place
I voted this evening and wanted to share some concerns about my assigned polling location. The people working there were great; the polling site was not.
Lyons Valley Station is along a stretch of Skyline Truck Trail where vehicles regularly drive 60 mph (or more). Worse, the station isn’t on the road; instead, it is back a ways. Other than a small sign depicting a fire engine, there is no signage indicating the location of the station, and it is not visible from the road. (The yellow and black “polling place” signs are very hard to see in the dark.) As a result, it is difficult to find and dangerous to enter and exit this location, especially with the fast traffic.
Once I located the station, I was further dismayed to find that I had to park a distance from the polls in pitch darkness on uneven dirt. I almost tripped more than once making my way to the station. Leaving was also difficult as the “parking area” wasn’t really designed for entering and exiting vehicles—there was no room to turn around, so it took some creativity to get out of there without taking some trees along.
Finally, there was no marking of the exit. Since there are several off-shoots from the entry, it was confusing to figure out how to leave. I waited until headlights sped by on Skyline so that I could tell which route to take.
Again, I want to emphasize that the people working the polls were lovely; they did an excellent job. But I do hope that this site will not be used again, or at the very least, more provisions will be made in consideration of the location and darkness.
Name and address

Friday, September 14, 2012

Photographers: Help Tell East County's Story!

The San Diego Foundation Arts and Culture Program announces a new opportunity for local photographers. So Say We All has issued a call for photos for The Far East Project, a print/multimedia anthology and performance, comprised of curated personal narratives, interviews and histories from across San Diego’s East County communities and their residents.

So Say We All seeks images that best capture the soul of East County as you see it. Submissions may include scanned family photos, portraits, landscapes of places or other subjects. Whether you shot on an expensive SLR, used your cellphone’s camera or opened up the photo album and started scanning, you can contribute to their mission to create a living people’s history of San Diego’s East County.

Chosen entries will be printed and displayed at showcases and galleries throughout the fall and winter of 2012 as part of El Cajon and La Mesa Centennial celebrations, Far East performance showcases, and future print publications.

This year's deadline is Sunday, 07 October. See for more info and guidelines.

Lawson Valley, let's represent!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Report on Jamul Dulzura Community Planning Group Meeting, 28 August 2012

First of all, let me apologize for the delay on this update. The meeting coincided with a very busy period in my day job; I plan to have other posts up in a more  timely manner.

I know that most readers are probably interested in the outcome of the Lawson Creek Farms, LLC issue. Thank you to those of you who showed up and/or wrote in. To those who couldn’t make the meeting for one reason or another, I encourage you to attend at some point. It’s essential for us as residents to become familiar with how decisions are made in our neck of the chaparral and to get a sense of our role in the outcome.

Here is the short version of the meeting’s outcome regarding Lawson Creek Farms: The project has been scaled back to 13,512 square feet. According to the Planning Group, the process is at least one and a half years out, and no final decision will be made until that time.

Before providing the long version, I’d like to mention a couple of other items that were on the agenda. Most of us know about the current bridge work on Lawson Valley Road just west of Montiel Truck Trail. According to project manager Jill Bankston, another bridge improvement is in the works, this time east of Sloan Canyon. The project will probably be presented to the Planning Group next year.

The second item was a cell tower planned for Skyline (I think—I still haven’t managed to identify the site). Adjacent residents had some concerns about noise (from the air-conditioning system necessary for the tower), possible health effects, and how construction crews would access the site.  According to Planning Group member Dan Kjonegaard, per the federal government “health is not an issue” with cell towers. Another key point is that the sound limit at a property line is 65 decibels (dB). That’s about the sound of a normal conversation from three feet away (like those annoying people at the table next to you at your favorite restaurant) or the volume of piano practice while you sit next to the pianist. In other words, not a big deal if you have to sit through it just for a dinner or visit with Aunt Sally. But 24/7? Something to think about.

At any rate, Lawson Creek Farms was of course the big draw, and several folks showed up to speak on it. First, though, were comments from Planning Group member Jean Strouf, who reported that the project had undergone a major downsizing and that applicants were waiting for community feedback before proceeding. In short, said Strouf, there would be no indoor arena, nor would there be pastures. The original plan of housing 32 horses had been reduced to 20. Concerns about water, rig size (necessary to transport that number of horses in an evacuation), fire and environment would be addressed.

Next up was Ralph Tavares, project architect. He said that changing the indoor arena (with a cover) to outdoor (without a cover) decreased the project size by 30,000 square feet. Tavares also said that the living quarters (in the second story of the large structure) had been removed.

Kjonegaard and Strouf went to the property to talk to trainer and resident Ann Judd. Kjonegaard pointed out several issues of which the owners, architect, engineer, and Judd were not aware:
·      Water: There are two wells on the property because the first didn’t produce. Kjonegaard suggests a hydrology study.
·      Storm water/ waste water drainage: Horse waste cannot be allowed to flow into the creek, so there should be a drain-off plan in place. (Later in the meeting, architect Tavares confirmed that no such plan exists.)
·      Fire evacuation: For Lawson Valley, there are few choices: the main road or a poorly maintained trail that would hardly handle horse trailers. Kjonegaard suggested that the applicants speak with someone at the local fire district about procedures for sheltering in place.

The revised plans include the first floor of the barn at 9,785 square feet and a second floor at 3,727 square feet, for a total of 13,512 square feet for the primary oversized structure. In addition, a separate 2,800 square foot outside feed storage building is planned.

Planning Group member Randy White asked about the purpose of the second floor. Trainer Ann Judd said that is was originally intended to be half living space, half storage, but now it was all storage. Interestingly, those who attended the Open House in July were told variously by Judd that either workers or Judd herself would be using the living space. At the meeting, however, Judd indicated that space had been intended as guest quarters for non-resident owners the Tatars.

Planning Group chair Michael Casinelli asked about the groundwater issue: Would they truck in water? Drill a new well? Judd mentioned having tanks for “extra water” in case of fire but didn’t indicate where that water would come from. Tavares said something about storing water during the “rainy season” but again did not explain how that would be accomplished. Tavares also mentioned drilling a second well (there are already two wells on the property) and something about a “storage well,” though what that might actually be is unclear.

Planning Group member Steve Wragg asked if there was a vector control plan for flies. Tavares said there is no plan.

Wragg then asked how much water a horse drinks per day. To the surprise of many, Judd said, “Not much. About three gallons a day.”  Planning Group member Yvonne Purdy-Luxton looked up the information on her smart phone and reported more accurate figures: In 70 degree weather, a horse consumes about 10-12 gallons of water per day; in hotter weather, consumption increases to 20-25 gallons per day.

The first community member to speak, Jacquelin Hancock, elaborated on these figures. Twenty horses consuming twenty gallons a day is 400 gallons a day, or 146,000 gallons per year just for equine drinking water. (Water for bathing the horses would of course add to this figure, which also doesn’t include human use;  the average household uses around 350 gallons per day or 127,400 per year.) Hancock also explained why water is such a serious issue for Lawson Valley: rather than being on a water table, Lawson has “fractured access.” One person can have a successful well while their next door neighbor can drill repeatedly only to meet with failure.

Several other community members (Lynn Vaugh, Shelly Owens, Leslie Yoder) spoke, echoing Hancock’s concerns and adding traffic, water contamination, environmental damage, and fire safety and evacuation to the list of problems the project could create. Owens revealed that Judd herself had admitted that the property was unsuitable for their purposes. Yoder remarked on the applicants’ frequently changing answers to questions and hoped that with further education from the Planning Group, the Tatars might reconsider their plans.

In addition, letters from local residents Wendy Collins, Jordi Capdet, and Byron and Ron White reiterated these issues. Collins pointed out that a neighbor’s well had gone dry. Capdet remarked on the number of auto-related deaths in the valley. The Whites expressed their opposition even if the project were reduced to 13,500 square feet (which is still over twice the zoned size) and stated that previous attempts to maintain an orchard on the property failed due to lack of water.

One resident, Kim Beales, wrote in favor of the project, saying that more horses in the valley would lead to better trail management for everyone. (Beales is apparently unaware that these show horses will never set hoof on a trail.)

Other community members had questions for the Planning Group and applicants. Rob Henry asked what provisions were planned for the handling of horse waste.  Member Kjonegaard again stressed that the drainage issue must be addressed per the Health Department. Joan Kouns asked why the project didn’t require a major use permit and full environmental impact report. Members Kjonegaard and Strouf said per new rules outlined in the county’s Tiered Equine Ordinance, the project is not large enough to warrant those requirements.

Planning Group member White indicated that with the further testing and preparation necessary for project approval, the process is at least 18 months out.

Planning Group chair Casinelli said that tonight’s meeting was intended to be informational, and no action would be taken.

Member Jean Strouf, apparently taking to task some community members who spoke, said she feels that people should be able to do what they want with their land as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.

I couldn’t agree more with Strouf. Zoning ordinances, building codes, indeed even Planning Groups exist to ensure that individuals and businesses do not harm the community with their actions. As was made clear in the numerous comments of both local residents and Planning Group members, without proper oversight, the project at 3131 Rudnick does have the potential to hurt the area and the people who live here. Far from playing NIMBY, local residents welcome new neighbors to Lawson Valley; in fact, several people who spoke at the meeting are recent arrivals. We all have the same goal: the preservation and continued vitality of the community for everyone who calls Lawson Valley home.

Our last poll asked, “Should the county permit the construction of a 44,000 square foot structure on Rudnick Drive?” The results were one “yes” vote, 19 “no” votes, and two “other” votes. Unfortunately, the comments made for the “other” votes are not visible on the blog, but those voters wrote, “Not if it is a business as the rest of us can't even have a small granny flat,” and “Hell NO,” bringing the total of “no” votes to 21.

Please take a moment to vote in our new poll.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Update in the Works

We attended the Jamul Dulzura Community Planning Group meeting last night and will have an update posted for you this weekend soon. Thanks for your patience!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Planning Group to Hear Lawson Creek Farms, LLC, Tuesday: Will They Hear You?

High voltage power lines running through the most fire-prone acreage of the county? It could never happen, right? Wrong. We now have Powerlink and a governor intent on "crushing" any opposition to the project.

Wind turbines with blades the length of a football field going up on public land and Indian burial grounds, killing wildlife and disrupting the lives of local residents? Not in a million years, right? Wrong. Talk to anybody from the town of Ocotillo, where the destruction is ongoing.

A water-guzzling enterprise being approved for an area dependent on diminishing well supplies? Yeah, that could be us.

An agenda posted today (see below) confirms that the Jamul Dulzura Planning Group will address the issue of Lawson Creek Farms' administrative permit request for a 44,000 square foot oversized structure this coming Tuesday, 7:30pm, at Oak Grove Middle School Library, 14344 Olive Vista Road, Jamul. (For background on the controversy, see our previous post.)

Fortunately, we community members also have an opportunity to be heard. Yes, speaking in front of a group can be nerve-wracking, but the consequences of staying silent could be far more uncomfortable and long lasting.

According to Janet Mulder, Secretary for the JDCPG, the procedure for presenting at the Jamul Dulzura Community Planning Group is very simple. Typically, slips to request time to speak will be available at the desk in the library where meetings are held. The meeting will start at 7:30, and community members are encouraged to fill out the slips and bring them to Janet as Secretary. At the beginning of the meeting, there is an “Open Forum” during which people can address items not on the agenda for a maximum of three minutes. In this case, Lawson Creek Farms is on the agenda, and as the JDCPG addresses each item, the members of the Planning Group normally speak first, presenting the information they have researched, and then it is opened up for public input. Again, speakers are given three minutes each to address their topic.

Needless to say, maintaining a courteous and professional demeanor is essential. We are not against anything or anyone; we simply want to share our concerns, informed by an awareness of on-going issues and our experience living in the backcountry. If one speaker raises an issue, there is no need for others to repeat. It is sufficient to simply state that your concern has already been expressed.

After all testimony is given, the chair may call for a motion to approve or disapprove the project, or he may send it back to a sub-committee (which can be made up of both members and community) for further study.

If you would like to express your views but can't make the meeting, please contact Shelly at 445-9919 or Joan at 445-3724, or send us an email at We'll make sure your voice is heard.

Tuesday August 28, 2012
Oak Grove Middle School Library
7:30 p.m.
3. APPROVAL OF AGENDA for AUGUST 14, 2012 and minutes for July 24, 2012 regular meeting
4. OPEN FORUM: Opportunity for public comment on any item not on the agenda, 3-minute time limit
5. General Plan Update Zoning Cleanup 2012, report from BOS meeting 7/25/12 – Michael Casinelli reporting for Dan Neirinckx
6. MUP12-014, AT&T Cell Site, located on Skyline T.T., east of Campo Rd., APN 519-210-37-00, property owner, Chris Buckel – Dan Kjonegaard
7. AD 12-018 – 3131 Rudnick Drive Lawson Valley – Lawson Creek Farm LLC – Osman and Lillian Tatar – Horse training and stabling facility, Ralph Tavares, applicant – Jean Strouf and Dan Kjonegaard
8. Review of project public notice requirements – Michael Casinelli
9. POD 08-006 – Site Implementation Agreement – Steve Wragg
10. Hollenbeck Canyon Wildlife Area/Honey Springs Ranch – Randy White
11. Jamul Indian Village Casino Update

Saturday, August 4, 2012

We Are Eligible! $2000 Powerlink Fire Safety Grants, Community Meeting

Many Lawson Valley homeowners are eligible for SDG&E Powerlink Fire Mitigation Grants of up to $2000. But the timeline is very short: applications are due in two weeks, 17 August 2012.

Grant money can be used to fire-harden your home and/or create defensible space. It can also be used for certain purchases like electric generators or sprinkler systems.

You'll find more information and online grant applications at To  request an application packet by mail, call the Powerlink Grants Office at 619-722-7512. 

An informational meeting will be held this coming Tuesday, 7 August, at the Deerhorn Fire Station, 2383 Honey Springs Road, at 7:00 p.m. Please bring a chair, as seating will be limited.

Sample map of eligible Lawson Valley properties:


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The 44,000 Square Foot Question: How Big Is too Big for Lawson Valley?

Last week, several residents were surprised to receive a letter from the Department Of Planning and Land Use (DPLU), dated 12 July 2012, regarding a familiar neighboring property. According to the letter, owners of the parcel at 3131 Rudnick Drive, Osman and Lillian Tatar, plan a horse farm on the site of the former Rancho El Coyote. (County records show the property owner as Norma L. Tatar, but Osman and Lillian are listed as permit applicants.)

What could be more at home in sleepy, peaceful Lawson Valley than a horse farm? Well, a lot as it turns out. There are horse farms (properties with several horses owned for personal use), and then there are Horse Farms: large-scale breeding and training facilities designed to turn a profit.

According to the DPLU's "Notice of Proposed Administrative Permit Application," the Tatars have requested a permit for an "oversized structure," encompassing horse stables, an indoor arena, and living quarters.

So how oversized is it? Current zoning ordinance limits an accessory building on a property of this size to 5,000 square feet. The Tatars' request: 44,013 square feet. To put this area into perspective, it's approximately the size of a Best Buy store (before they began downsizing) or the Ralphs in the Rancho San Diego Town and Country Center. No other structure in the vicinity even comes close.

And that's just the main structure. Also planned is a detached storage building of 2,800 square feet. These structures are in addition to the existing residence of 3,121 square feet and as well as current outbuildings. An outdoor arena is also in the works.

The Tatars claim that all of this construction is for the benefit of their teenage daughter, a competitive equestrian who owns 22 horses, and so when a roadside sign announced an "Open House" at the property, several local residents attended to welcome a new neighbor and to have their concerns about the project addressed (as promised by the signs).

What they learned is that the Tatars have not been and would not be in residence. Instead, a company, Lawson Creek Farms, LCC, would be headquartered there. It seems that the property is to be a place of business only and was never intended to be the Tatars' home. While the project will no doubt serve the daughter's needs, the design appears to be a large-scale horse breeding and training enterprise.

Incidentally, records indicate that the Tatars also own another company, Novi Industries, Inc. While the relationship between that corporation and Lawson Creek Farms, LCC is unclear, they share the same Spring Valley address for agent for service of process.While state records locate the business address of Novi Industries, Inc. in Texas, they show 3131 Rudnick as the official address of Lawson Creek Farms, LCC, again underscoring the property's status as a business.

Appropriately enough, the open house guests were greeted not by the Tatars but by Anne D. Judd, the horse trainer living on the Rudnick property. Also on hand to address questions were structural designer Ralph Tavares and civil engineer James Draper. (Lillian Tatar and her daughter also attended, but questions were referred to Judd, Tavares, and Draper.) Unfortunately, these company representatives were not able to answer many questions and those that were answered only increased concerns. They confirmed the size of the 44,013 square foot facility, including a 36-stall stable, indoor arena, and two-story centerpiece with upper level apartment. These facilities, as well as the 2,800 square foot storage building, will be sited at the front of the property near the main road. 

According to Section 7358a, an administrative permit may be granted only provided

That the location, size, design and operating characteristics of the proposed use will be compatible with adjacent uses, residents, buildings or structures with consideration given to:
1. harmony in scale, bulk, coverage and density,
2. the availability of public services,
3. the harmful effect, if any, upon desirable neighborhood character,
4. the suitability of the site for the type and intensity of use or development which is proposed and
5. any other relevant impact of the proposed use.

The project proposed for 3131 Rudnick Drive fails to meet these criteria. As a result, neighbors have requested that DPLU schedule a public hearing on the matter. In the meantime, the issue is on the August 28, 2012 Jamul/Dulzura Planning Group Agenda.

Some of the concerns to date:


Water is a major issue, as many residents have suffered from diminished rates and/or have had their wells go dry. This parcel is known to have such issues. There are two wells on the property, the second one drilled after the first failed. Prior owners have admitted that the second well was not as productive as they had hoped. Ms. Judd and Mr. Draper confessed to being ignorant as to the gal/min rate for the working well, saying no testing had been done.

Nevertheless, the company plans irrigated pastures, and in addition to the many gallons of water horses drink a day, show horses must be frequently bathed. The water use for this project appears to be above and beyond normal residential use and certainly unsupportable by the scant natural resources available.  

As locals will attest, Lawson Valley Road is a winding, narrow mountainous road and has many points along the route with poor visibility due to hairpin turns. This road is the only access road available to residents. When large vehicles come around a bend such as a bus or truck, oncoming traffic must often stop in the road to allow the larger vehicle to pass. At night, the road is dark.

Much of Rudnick Drive, where the property is situated, is unpaved and poorly maintained, with numerous and dangerous ruts. Brush also encroaches on the road, causing it to narrow further at points. Residents who walk their dogs or ride their horses on that road are vigilant since many vehicles traveling that road drive at unsafe speeds on loose decomposed granite while attempting to circumnavigate the ruts. On this already marginal road, Lawson Creek Farms, LLC may increase traffic, particularly in the form of multiple horse trailers, hay trucks, etc.


Given the singular access point described above and its limitations, any attempt by Lawson Creek Farms, LCC to evacuate 36 show horses could result in road congestion at a very inconvenient time.  When asked what the company’s plan was for evacuating 36 horses in the event of a fire, Ms. Judd responded that in an emergency they would acquire two 15-horse trailers. (A 15-horse trailer is a minimum of 48 feet long, 13 feet high, and 102 inches wide, requiring a tractor-trailer style truck such as a Peterbilt to haul it.) In order to fully evacuate Lawson Creek Farms’ projected 36 horses, there would have to be multiple trailers or multiple trips on the road.

A lot of horses require a lot of hay. Hay is known to spontaneously combust due to a number of factors and is an ever present danger ( Due to the water issues on the property, the limited access and the distance the fire department must travel on an unimproved road to respond, as well as the tinder conditions of miles of surrounding brush, a hay fire at this address could prove devastating to the community.


The water supply in Lawson Valley is restricted to private wells, vulnerable to contaminates, such as nitrates. In other communities where a horse ranch has been in operation, this kind of contamination has been an issue due to the copious animal manure and fertilizers used in the pastures.

Lawson Valley is a rural community, and residents who call it home enjoy living where the sidewalk ends. The farming aspect of this little community--whether having chickens, trading between neighbors of home garden produce, or enjoying an evening horseback ride--is part of the fabric of Lawson Valley. Locals admire the independence and pluck of those neighbors who have a home business and are successful.  However, they make a distinction between the small, home-based business of a neighbor and a company that buys up property to use strictly as a business without regard as to the suitability of the property for such a venture or even the interest of its neighbors. The influx of such a business would irrevocably and forever change the complexion of Lawson Valley and sets a dangerous precedent for surrounding communities.

Please let your voice be heard at the Jamul/Dulzura Planning Group meeting on Tuesday, 28 August 2012 at Olive Vista Middle School Library - 7:30 PM.

And stay tuned for news on the DPLU public hearing regarding this issue.