Anton Butano - An Example of How the County Does Things
Right around when the Advocates for Arden Arcade organization was formed, the massive apartment complex on Butano (by the curve west of the fire station) was proposed by a developer who is a friend of (AKA donor to) the District Three County Supervisor at the time. The proposal turned out to be something of a catalyst for the Advocates in that it embodied so much that is wrong about how the County does things. From the get-go, it was easy to tell the County had decided that the project was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Every bit of citizen input was sternly rejected. Laws were ignored - trees were cut down in defiance of the Migratory Bird Act, CEQA was poo-poo'ed, mitigation for damage done was allowed to take place 25 miles away. The site's extraordinary opportunity for mixed-use was brushed off. The County turned a deaf ear to concerns about traffic at the Butano/Cottage/Flowers intersection. The County tuned out concerns that nearby Kaiser Hospital was not necessarily available to future residents who were not Kaiser health plan members. Anyone who dared to challenge the project's justification, approval process or design was vilified as a whining NIMBY. Executives from public agencies who can't find our community on a map lied in public testimony, claiming the site was pedestrian-friendly and well-served by transit. Despite the public pointing out that nearby Cottage School was a district-wide K-5 Montessori school with a waiting list as long as your arm, the project's spokespeople and County staff alleged it was a neighborhood K-6 school for which volunteers could easily be found to accompany children walking to and from school. The County ignored public testimony that the nearest elementary schools were at least 2 miles away via dangerous streets with incomplete sidewalks. The County disregarded the even longer, even more dangerous pedestrian routes to Encina High School, the designated grade 6-9 facility serving the site. Rather than require the buildings to have solar panels, the County agreed with the developer that the flat roofs of the buildings were "solar ready". Responding to the developer instead of the requesting public, the County declined to require elevators for access to the upper floors; wheelchair-bound residents were limited to apartments on the first floor. As built, the project does indeed obstruct traffic views at the Butano curve and fulfils a niche as subsidized housing (whereas the developer had declared its role was for "barista" housing). Perhaps out of embarassment that it had failed to leverage project approval as a way to provide a sidewalk on Cottage from Butano to Cottage Park, the County built a small asphalt berm to create a kind of pedestrian walkway between the traffic lanes and the drainage ditch. Six years later an actual sidewalk is under construction.
While the project provided housing that everyone agreed was needed, it did so without consideration of a larger vision for the community and in complete defiance of input from the impacted community residents. Still, as discovery in a court case about the project revealed, it showed the County that the local citizens were organized and formidable - hence the County Supervisor refused to entertain a development request to convert one of the office buildings across the street from the project into a storage facility. The pages below provide some documentation.