Item 18 of the Fullerton City Council Agenda for tonight (December 21, 2010) seemed innocuous enough. It made simple mention of “HAWKS POINTE DEVELOPMENT CONSERVATION EASEMENT”. It certainly sounds like a dullard.
As a licensed professional land surveyor and
resident, it is my business to understand what the council is up to and what it means for me and my family. Item 18, it simply peaked my interest. It is also safe to say that a lay person would likely not have been so intrigued. Fullerton
I downloaded and poured over the document which was labeled “Conservation Easement Deed”. Ok, so what are they doing, granting or accepting an easement??
Like so many instruments of this sort, the first recital directs the reader to exhibit “A” for the legal description of the encumbered property. And being a licensed professional land surveyor, the only type of professional authorized to prepare legal descriptions in
, I turned to exhibit “A”. At least I tried to… California
It appears that someone at City Hall neglected to include the now missing exhibit “A”. If you are not a surveyor, you may be wondering why this is a problem. It is a huge problem in that there are rights being transferred along with covenants, terms, conditions, and restrictions and it would be nice to know where these obligations began and ended.
Imagine walking into an escrow office and being asked to sign the documents. When you notice that there are pages missing, the escrow officer blows off your concern and tells you that the pages will be added later. A person with average intelligence would put the pen down and refuse to sign anything else until the documents were complete.
When item 18 came up on the consent calendar (that’s the part of the agenda which gets approved without discussion because f its routine nature) one well informed and conscientious council member, Bruce Whitaker, pulled the item from the consent calendar for discussion with staff.
When he asked the staff about the missing document, he was told that the description will be added later. That’s the same as negotiating the purchase of 40 police cars with all of the various options and warranties but without including the price tag. In both instances, you just don’t know what you are getting yourself (or your taxpayers) into.
Perhaps the next time Chevron shows up with a proposal for their West Coyote Hills property they simply omit a few key provisions which they can add later when they are ready to do so. Surely the council won’t object.
Had the staff brought the documents to the assistant city engineer, I believe the omission would have been caught and corrected prior to any decisions being made by an uniformed council.
The City Attorney was quick to note that the legal description would be added later. Would he buy and accept a deed with no property description? I think not.
One staffer, Alice Loya, stated that legal descriptions are more accurate but not as easy to read as a map would be. I beg to differ with respect to the accuracy of legal descriptions but I’m digressing from my pointed concern. The staffers seemed to get hung up on the mention of a missing map and just did not care that a key element to the agreement was missing.
How many other documents has the Fullerton City Council approved wherein key elements were missing because someone was too lazy or inept to provide the council with complete documentation? Maybe it is time for a forensic audit of the numerous fee and bond packages the council has approved over the past several years.
In the end, the Fullerton City Council voted 5-0 and agreed to the terms and conditions set forth without having any clue as to what land was covered by the terms of the agreement.
The action leaves the city and taxpayers wide open for a civil action in the future as well as a cloud of title on whatever property description is slipped into the deed prior to recordation.
With any luck, the OC Recorder’s Office will deny the request for recordation so that the city can get its collective at together.