Mary Jane Olhasso emotionally revealed that she had recently submitted her letter of resignation as planning commissioner for the city of Temecula. “I’m not able to stay in this community because I can’t take care of my kids here. My husband has to work and I have to work,” she announced. Olhasso has long traveled from Ontario and found the commute to be too much of a burden to continue. “After 15 years in this city I have seen remarkable leadership from the council and staff. I encourage you to continue to raise the bar in design and preservation of Temecula’s unique features. Finally, remember who you are: a community that takes care of its own and has a deep sense of pride and citizenship. Thank you again for the opportunity to serve this wonderful community,” she read publicly from the letter she wrote to her colleagues.
Many in the community felt lucky to still have Olhasso sitting on the commission at last week’s meeting on May 18 as she expressed important views in an interesting debate that took place over a development plan to construct and operate a recreation facility for the Boys & Girls Club on Via Cordoba, generally located at the southeast corner of Via Cordoba and Via Coronado in Kent Hintergardt Park.
More than a dozen speakers stood up to express both the pros and cons of the development plan. Most of those opposed to the project maintained it was not the Boys & Girls Club itself they were against but rather the placement of the club. Several argued that the location would cause a high increase of traffic in the area, as well as an increase in noise for local residents.
Kathleen Smith, director of program services for the Boys & Girls Club, told the commissioners that traffic would be minimal since the pick-up and drop-off periods for parents usually lapse over a period of two to three hours, as parent work schedules vary. In addition, many of the children will be in close walking distance to the facility and vans will be available to help pick up children in the area. Therefore, she explains, the traffic conditions will be less congested than those in most school areas.
Yet many who opposed remained unconvinced. Several people recommended moving the project to Pala Park or the Temecula Sports Park, as those locations would be better able to handle the increase in traffic and there would be less of a noise effect to residents. “This could’ve been and should’ve been planned better,” said resident Lisa Whip.
Hubert Davis expressed his concern that the facility would be used mainly by people who lived outside of the community who preferred to drop their kids off at the Boys & Girls Club so they could go to Pechanga and play cards all night. “We don’t want people being bused into our neighborhood so they can roam around and have a professional day care center for workers. It’s about time people take responsibility for their own lives, stay married and take care of their families rather than dump them on everybody else in the neighborhood,” he said heatedly.
Michelle Arellano, president of the Boys & Girls Club, on the other hand, argued that the benefits of the club were life-lasting. “Every day we make a difference,” she said defiantly. “We have positive programs that are life-enhancing that teach kids skills and build their character to help them become outstanding citizens in the community.” She went on to add that being close to a middle school is a benefit for latchkey kids, as it keeps them out of trouble.
In agreement, Dennis Frank, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Southwest California and director on behalf of the board of directors for the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce, expressed, “It is absolutely essential that this project be built in Temecula.” He explained that the site location was chosen because the park was meant to assist the needs of the community, not just nearby residents.
After the public hearing was closed the planning commissioners voiced their disappointment at the bribe that was given to local residents to appear at the meeting. A flyer was given out that promised a drawing for gift certificates to three different restaurants as “motivation” for attending the meeting. Planning Commissioner Dennis Chiniaeff said in dismay, “To offer gifts to come and oppose something tonight is not something I ever would have hoped to have seen in Temecula, and I think the people who did it should be ashamed of themselves.” He added, “The Boys & Girls Club did play a large part in my life as a youth. I’m sad to say that the people who live in this neighborhood don’t appreciate what they have done for this community.”
Several times Olhasso had to collect herself as she voiced her opinions on the project. “I went to the Boys & Girls Club… and I am grateful for this facility. I attended the dedication of Kent Hintergardt Park and I remember that it was said Kent would be glad to hear the children playing in the park. And I don’t think Kent was biased against poor kids.” After a vigorous round of applause for Olhasso, the commission passed the building of the Boys & Girls Club unanimously.