Commentary: County Public Works Ripping off Stevenson Ranch Residents

Posted on: 10/17/2016 00:00

Over the last year, I have written a number of critical commentaries on the state of the landscaping in the Stevenson Ranch community. It has not improved. In fact, it has deteriorated further and there has been a complete lack of leadership or action to correct the problems. Instead everyone is finger pointing—laying blame on each other instead of finding a viable solution.

In the meantime, the landscape maintenance district (LMD), which is operated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (DPW), continues to syphons off at least 40%, if not more, of resident’s fees on an ineffective administrative structure. In essence, DPW is taking the LMD fees and not providing the level of service that is called out for in the contract. The LMD has been in breach of the contract since at least the beginning of 2016—they are ripping off the community. There is no other way to say it if the DPW LMD is taking fees but not providing the level of service that was contracted for—it is theft.

The Stevenson Ranch Community Association (HOA) for its part is charged with managing that LMD contract and has done little to correct the situation over the last eighteen months plus other than offer up excuses and throw blame. And of course, the HOA has thrown away more of resident’s monies on ridiculous signage that states drought tolerant landscaping will be installed along the Stevenson Ranch Parkway mediums in September, 2016. What an embarrassment.  

Someone at the HOA should at least cross out the 2016 on all those signs and write in a question mark or the year 2020—better yet just remove the signs. What a joke!

 The HOA board appears to have a weak backbone on taking decisive action. There is a clear inability for the board to make those tough decisions. Instead, the board has sent toothless letters attempting to get traction from the LMD, which has already proven its incompetence in maintaining the landscaping in Stevenson Ranch. Oh, and the HOA sent another letter to the City of Santa Clarita expressing that it may be time to annex—an action that the HOA has no business doing as a mutual benefit corporation. Instead of pretending to be a quasi-governmental group they should put their collective energies into solving the landscaping problem. But then again, all that residents seem to be hearing are excuses as to why the HOA board can’t solve the matter instead of employing some out-of-the-box thinking to get the problem solved.

 The reality is that stronger action is required in this situation—legal action for starters since the LMD has breached the contract for the Stevenson Ranch district. What is happening now is that the LMD, under the management of the DPW, is stealing the landscaping fees and not providing the services that they were contracted for in the Stevenson Ranch community. Maybe the residents need to break with the HOA and get a law firm to handle this matter on residents’ behalf as a class action lawsuit since the HOA is not upholding its fiduciary obligations.

 Instead of throwing money away on signage in the community, as the HOA has done, why not start a campaign to shame Gail Farber, the Director of LA County Department of Public Works, into managing this LMD properly. Go right to the top and try the “trickle down” theory and to help it along throw some money away on a mobile billboard with her photo on it and have it parked outside the DPW headquarters downtown. If she can’t get this issue corrected, then maybe the County Board of Supervisors should be looking for a more competent director to lead DPW. At least that might be more effective than the insipid signage the HOA has placed around the community.

 By the way, if you live in Stevenson Ranch and are as fed-up with the horrific state of the landscaping in the Stevenson Ranch community, here is the contact information for Gail Farber: gfarber@dpw.lacounty.gov , PHONE: 626-458-4002. As residents of the community, if you care about the landscaping and don’t want to continue getting ripped off send an email or call Ms. Farber’s office. At the very least, you’ll get to hear more excuses.

The saddest part of all this is that one of the most valued member of the HOA Board, Don Whaley, has quit. This is a guy that has done an outstanding job for the last two decades helping to manage the HOA, and all as a volunteer. He has reduced HOA fees at least twice during his tenure and has kept the HOA on a strong financial footing during that time. The Stevenson Ranch community has lost an invaluable volunteer over this landscaping debacle—that is a travesty and a total loss for this community.

 The LMD fiasco has gone on long enough. The county has breached the contract and the Stevenson Ranch community needs to take over the LMD and manage it through the HOA with all the LMD fees being used for that purpose. Residents will get much better value for the fees with that arrangement and the community will be restored to esthetic beauty of days gone by.

Annexation is also a possibility. The County staff has recently indicated their ambivalence as to whether the west side communities stay in the county or not. That may be music to the City of Santa Clarita’s ears but they have to realize that it will still be a negotiated annexation and the LMD issue is now front and center.   

Where is the local paper or radio station in reporting on all this? Nowhere. They are navel gazing at who will be on the next most popular list or glad-handing one another on suppressing and/or distorting the local political news. Cue the music for ‘Our little town…’

Dave Bossert-- Commentary

Dave Bossert is a community volunteer who serves on a number of boards and councils. He is an award winning artist, filmmaker, and the author. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The SCV Beacon.


karim kamal - 2 years ago

I am very interested in what you wrote. I am presently suing a certain number of people from the County of L.A, board of supervisors, the DPW, including Gail Farber, and two DPW engineers for violation of the RICO act, obstruction of justice, fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, violation of my constitutional rights. The case # 17-01986, titles kamal vs county of Los Angeles et al. I tried to have Gail Farber served but I just learned that she quit her job as the director of the DPW. Of course I came across your article. I am not surprised that Farber is involved in what you exposed. I am trying to locate her to have her served with the summons and complaint. If you have any info, please would you communicate it to me. I would greatly appreciate it. Karim Kamal.

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