ROLLING HILLS ESTATES — The news over there in the Empty Saddle neighborhood--you know, the place with the country roads and horses--is kind of confusing.
The way some folks tell it, there was a homeowners meeting last December where 22 people said they thought it was a real good idea to put in a bunch of cacti and rocks and big Western fence posts there on Rolling Hills Road where folks drive into Empty Saddle. Nothin' but weeds there, anyway. Only two of 'em said no.
But after the whole thing got the blessing of the City Council--it even agreed to pay half the bill--and the work was started, another bunch of folks got up this petition against the idea and got 35 people to sign it.
Now, the city is in something of a bind because it doesn't want to pay out the money if so many people don't like what it's going for.
The other night at the council meeting, one of the fellows in the first group--name's Morgan Blair, who was the president of the homeowner association when all this started--tried to clear everything up, because the homeowner group would really like the city to pay its share of the costs. That would come to about $3,000 since the whole thing's supposed to cost $6,000.
Blair said he went around to these same people who signed the petition, and about five more, and talked to them. And, he said, once they all understood it would be either this Western thing or nothing because it doesn't cost too much to put in or keep up, they agreed it was OK after all.
But the city people didn't buy it. They said these 35 people have said in writing that they didn't like it, so they told Blair to go out and get his own petition.
Well, Blair said he thought it was bad business to make an elected board of homeowners--after a decision had been made at an official meeting--to go out and get new petitions signed just because a few ladies who hadn't even attended the homeowners meeting had taken their own petitions around the neighborhood to get it stopped. Besides, a lot of the work has been started and about $3,000 of the homeowners' money has been spent.
But Councilwoman Nell Mirels, who's a schoolteacher, said she didn't see any big problem because there are only 53 homes in Empty Saddle.
"Each of you can take a few homes and go get names on petitions," she said. "It shouldn't take very long. All we want to know is do people want this or not." Mirels said the city has helped pay for a lot of these community entrances in the city--they really like it when folks make their neighborhoods look nice--and there's never been a problem like this. Back at Empty Saddle, Blair said the
whole thing made him very sad because for years they've been trying to get some beautifying going but every time they decided about something, someone got it stopped. He thought people wanted this one.
"Now I understand how small groups can stop activities," he said.
But Kim Sherman, one of the ladies with the petitions who is also on the homeowner board, said a lot more than two people didn't like the thing last December and that it was rushed through by a few officers who didn't give any other choices. "They assumed that because people didn't say it was horrible, they approved of it," she said.
Sherman said the cactus scene doesn't go with the neighborhood of "pepper trees, ivy and eucalyptus," and said people already have started to deface it. "There was a noose hanging one day from the cross beam, and R.I.P. was written on some of the rocks," she said.
All people want, she said, is for the work to be stopped so everyone can get together and decide on something better to have--maybe some greenery and a lighted sign that says "Empty Saddle."
'Rather See Greenery'
"I'd rather see greenery than 'brownery' myself," Blair said, "but we had to do something that keeps the costs and the maintenance down. It would be too costly to bring in electricity . . ."
Blair said there was something funny about the way the ladies got their signatures--that six of the names weren't signed by the real people. "Two of these people I know were out of town and the other four were in the same handwriting," he said.
Sherman 'fessed up that some of the signatures "were not valid in the legal sense," but she said the people whose names were used didn't like the entrance. And she said 17 more who were out of town when her petition was passed around also objected to the plan when they got home.
Way things stand now, no one's working on the desert scene but a lot more has to be done. The community sign's not up, and there's supposed to be a berm to hold in the gravel.
Blair said the new petitions will be taken around, but there's word that the new homeowners association officers elected a month or so ago may just forget about the project.