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Editorial Bombed

May 22, 1988

Your editorial "An Explosive Problem" (May 8) does a disservice to the many residents of Tierrasanta who have worked with the city, federal government, Navy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the community since the tragic deaths in December, 1983, of two young boys who were playing with a live artillery shell.

Since that time, representatives of the Tierrasanta Community Council have worked to ensure that the approximately 1,400 acres of open space is cleared of its deadly World War II artifacts.

Your statement that "some residents of the neighborhood have argued against the (warning) signs, presumably over fears of lowering property values" is a misstatement of the facts. Had Times staff writer Jane Fritsch contacted the local community planning group prior to her extensive article on the Tierrasanta ordnance problem, as reporters previously assigned to the story by you did, perhaps her story--and your ensuing editorial--could have been more evenhanded.

The Tierrasanta Community Council's position against signs as a cure-all to the ordnance problem is not based on concerns about property values. It's a position based on a reasoned approach to the situation.

First, the Tierrasanta Community Council is not opposed to signs per se, but asks: Where would the city install such signs? At each of the more than 80 "formal" access points to Tierrasanta Community Council's canyons? Along the California 52 right of way? At the entry to Mission Trails Regional Park? In the community's three parks? At each of the seven schools? And how many signs at each site?

Then, what about the "unofficial" access points to the canyons? Is one sign behind each house adequate, or should the city install one every 5 or 10 feet?

What happens if homeowners remove a sign behind their home? What happens if someone steals the ordnance signs, as they do the "rattlesnake" signs? Who will pay the cost to maintain or replace the signs--the city or the community? These are the concerns we have about signs as the ultimate solution to our problems.

The Tierrasanta Community Council has worked with the city and the federal government to ensure that Tierrasanta is a safer place in which to live. We have stressed the needs for ordnance sweeps of Tierrasanta Norte prior to beginning development. We have also worked with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in its study on clearing the community of its unexploded ordnance. Final approval of the plan is expected shortly.

We have stressed the need for ongoing sweeps every three to five years to deal with shells bared by erosion, etc.

Finally, we have received assurances from City Manager John Lockwood that the annual visits by the Fire Department to local schoolchildren will continue. We feel the ongoing education program by the department is a critical component in making the community a safer place to live.

Your editorial's simplistic position that signs must be installed in Tierrasanta as a cure-all is just that: simplistic. You don't say how many or where they should be placed. The canyons in our community will never be 100% safe. Signs may well be part of the solution, but signs alone are far from the answer.

And let's get the facts straight. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' feasibility study estimates there are about 66,903 ordnance-related items in Tierrasanta, of which 263 are estimated to be hazardous, with a 95% confidence level. The local residents must never assume that the canyons will be 100% safe, but the image the media presents of more than 66,000 pieces of "ordnance" misstates that fact.



Tierrasanta Community Council

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