Green Valley Landowners Association
“Our mission is to preserve and enhance the rural character of Green Valley”
GVLA Newsletter and LWS Customer Update
The Unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. “
Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
This quote, some 238 years old now, may seem overly dramatic to the 810 households and a few businesses in rural California, fighting on their own; litigating solely with their own resources without the concern of our County or State, or Federal Government, to obtain redress of governmental actions affecting our water system. The Declaration of Independence is a reminder of our rights and responsibilities to our families, our neighbors, and those that will live here in the future. Rights are seldom lost all at once, merely progressively infringed upon. Those before us stated that it is our Duty at some point to intervene. What could be more important than our water supply?
The Center for Public Justice affirms that government should act in the public interest, treating all citizens fairly and equitably. Our Lakes Water System Class Action is in response to misguided and inequitable government policies and actions that infringe upon our most basic rights as citizens. Water is a basic necessity of life. Our lives and welfare depend on it; our home functions, safety, and investment in our homes require equitable policies for availability of water in both price and quantity. The availability of water for firefighting, and a viable system for delivering it, is our primary recourse to protecting our homes against fire, an ever-present danger in our area. The City does not test or
maintain the fire hydrants, ostensibly for fear of damaging the aged infrastructure or hydrants themselves, and will not cooperate with the Fire District to allow them to test it either. When available water quantities and associated costs become inequitable and unsustainable, our home values will plummet and our lives will be interrupted and solely focused.
The decision of the Vallejo City Council to sell the Lakes Water System to a private, investor-owned utility, threatens LWS system customers in several ways. First, despite the fact that our water rates are among the highest in the state, Vallejo’s own appraisal states that on sale our water rates will immediately jump 30%. Additionally, despite budgets over the past 22 years which have included accrual for replacement of obsolete system components and pipe, Vallejo has done almost none of this work; choosing instead to minimally maintain the existing pipes and components. Now, the cumulative cost of this deferred work appears to be over $30 million dollars in pipeline maintenance. Restoring the dams for Lakes Frey and Madigan to their original capacities would cost another estimated $36 million. This is equivalent to about $81,000 per household in additional debt service. A new buyer would initiate this work, with only the 810 Lakes households to pay for it. Where did the money, stipulated in the LWS rate budgets for replacement work, go over the past decades?
In the summer of 2013, Vallejo proposed to sell the Lakes System without the watershed land or reservoirs, stating that the buyer could purchase water on the open market. Apparently, Vallejo wants to retain the water within the Lakes watershed and reservoirs for its own use (or sale to others), and sell our (we paid for it) water treatment plant, and piping system, without a water source. Water costs on the open market have tripled since the drought began in 2012, rising from $140 per acre-foot to $425 per acre-foot. Had the LWS customers been using water under Vallejo’s concept, our water rates would also have tripled by now; over and above the other economic effects stated above.
The financial dysfunction of the City of Vallejo resulted in their bankruptcy filing in 2008. They somehow emerged from bankruptcy in 2012, failing to deal with their $165 million unfunded pension liability. Despite assurances that financial woes would not affect city services, it appears that Vallejo wants to sell the Lakes Water System for an amount estimated to be less than one years’ interest on their outstanding pension liability; leaving 810 rural customers who are dependent on the water system holding the bag for millions in liabilities. Additionally, due to the radically escalating water costs, we expect a loss of equity in LWS customer’s homes.
We have chosen to file a class action suit against Vallejo to protect ourselves from this proposed sale and its economic effects and have now moved this litigation into the California Superior Court to a three judge Court of Appeal panel. Our attorneys are confident that Vallejo is financially obligated for its own long term use of the Lakes Water System, which served the city its municipal water for a century until 1992 when the Vallejo City Council unilaterally voted make the rural customers wholly responsible for the entire Lakes Water System from then on, forever!
We will not be deterred: Vallejo appears to be legally wrong, morally wrong, ethically wrong, financially wrong, and managerially wrong. Vallejo is not a privately held business, but a governmental entity, and through our Class Action we intend to assure that the difference becomes abundantly clear to them. Their right to administer, and their very jobs, spring from the public. Vallejo has not acted as a servant of the public, nor does it treat the LWS customers as citizens. We are treated as subjects; ostensibly unable to vote, according to them unable to sue; unable to petition for redress. Vallejo has disavowed our basic constitutional rights. We will be discussing these issues and more at our October 14th meeting!
Bill Mayben, GVLA President
GVLA ATTORNEY STEPHEN FLYNN’S COMMENTS
“No one ever said suing the City of Vallejo would be easy.”
Following multiple delays and postponements Retired Judge Arvid Johnson issued a ruling on August 20, 2014 sustaining Vallejo’s demurrer to the GVLA’s class action complaint without leave to amend. Judge Johnson said that while the customers had “received the short end of the stick” there was no remedy for the discrimination because Vallejo is a city. The practical effect of the ruling was a dismissal of the GVLA’s lawsuit against the City.
Not surprisingly, the City of Vallejo claimed victory following the ruling. However, aside from the public relations, as a practical matter, even Vallejo knows this “victory” is only temporary.
Not wasting any time, the GVLA filed a notice of appeal the day after the ruling. The matter is now heading to the California Court of Appeals where an independent three judge panel will review Judge Johnson’s ruling “de novo.” A de novo review means the Court of Appeal will review the legal issues without any deference to Judge Johnson’s ruling. It is, in effect, a fresh start for the GVLA.
Despite the temporary setback, we remain confident in our position and confident that Judge Johnson’s misguided ruling will be reversed. We also know that if Judge Johnson had ruled in the GVLA’s favor, that the City of Vallejo would have filed an appeal. This case involves very complex factual and legal issues, and further delays and appeals – even to the California Supreme Court – may be in our future.
On October 14th, the GVLA and I will be discussing the lawsuit, Judge Johnson’s ruling, the appeal and the next steps at the Green Valley Country Club. I look forward to seeing you then. In the meantime, you can find more information, including the briefs filed by the GVLA, at my website, www.smflynn-law.com. Also, if you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to email me, Stephen Flynn, at email@example.com.
FALLS SCHOOL MEETING
Representatives of the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District will be holding an important community meeting on Thursday, October 30, 6:30 pm, in the Falls School Multipurpose building, 1634 Rockville Road, Fairfield (Green Valley).
A proposed preliminary site and landscaping plan for the 10-acre Falls School site will be presented. Guidance has been provided with GVLA input. The preliminary plan indicates a Planned Unit Development on about 9 acres, with 16 single-family residences. Approximately one acre of the site, including the existing multipurpose building and the present fire station, would bedonated to the Fire District. Neighbors whose properties are near the Falls School site have formed "Friends of Falls School" to advocate for an exceptional plan with single family home development that responds to site constraints and impact on the surrounding neighbors, and adds value to our community. Be informed! Plan to attend.
MIDDLE GREEN VALLEY SPECIFIC PLAN
A letter of unanimous support by the GVLA Board of Directors was submitted on July 17, 2014 to Solano County in response to their request for comments, and to make it perfectly clear, that GVLA continues to support the extraordinary Middle Green Valley Specific Plan. This letter expressed our support for the Recirculated Revised DEIR including (new) Option C, for water provided by SID/treated by the City of Fairfield as an additional optional source of potable water for the Middle Green Valley Specific Plan areas.
ROCKVILLE TRAILS PRESERVE
Nearly every week since May, docent-led hikes have allowed up to 15 people at a time to enjoy Green Valley’s largest open space area. Docent hikes will continue until final permitting of the property occurs and the parking lot is constructed. Wildlife seen in the preserve this year includes turkeys, wild boar, a bobcat and many birds. The cattle that serve as the grass mowers to reduce fire danger are typically always encountered on the hikes.
Contact the Solano Land Trust at 707-423-0150 and www.solanolandtrust.org for hike dates.
GVLA contact information * www.gvla.com
GVLA is a 501(c)4 registered entity with the state of California
4160 Suisun Valley Road #E240
Fairfield, CA 94534-4027
YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS ARE ESSENTIAL
SUPPORT YOUR CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT WITH YOUR 2014 CONTRIBUTION
Email ______________________________________ Telephone ____________________________
Thank you for your contribution to our projected legal expenses. Suggested contributions are the equivalent of one of your water bills, or more!
Checks are payable to:
GVLA c/o Lakes Water Fund
4160 Suisun Valley Road #E240
Fairfield, CA 94534-4027