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Letter to the Editor: Don't Ignore the Carson Street Landslide Problem

Resident and local school teacher Sarah Creeley writes about the Carson Street Landslide.

Dear Editor,

There is a landslide on in Hercules that has been a problem for many years.

This landslide threatens peoples' homes,  including that of the Vogele family.

The Vogeles'  are good people. Augie Vogele and his parents, Billy and Barbara built our school garden at Hanna Ranch. 

Matthew Vogele is serving our country in Afghanistan. This family deserves our city leaders'  full support. 

There are city safety ordinances related to public nuisance that are not being enforced. I hope this public nuisance safety violation will be treated seriously, and the Vogeles' family home can be saved. 

On November 11 there was a meeting with Patrick Tang, John Macguire, Billy Vogele and HOA representatives. This was a good first step. Now a plan of action must be made. I urge everyone to imagine that the the home at risk were their own family home. Would anyone feel that waiting for month after month, for over two years, is an acceptable response?

I hope that all of the leaders involved with solving this problem will treat the Vogele family the same way they would like to be treated if the threatened home were their own. It's way past time, please do something,  


Sarah Creeley

Carol December 08, 2011 at 07:44 PM
@ Annie - i see your point and agree - i will say that I am not saying that the city does not have any blame - they may, BUT it has to be proven. In order to sue a city - you are going to need a very clear paper trail, which seems to be virtually impossible after so many years - if it was that easy, it would have already been done.
Susan D.Keeffe December 08, 2011 at 08:54 PM
"....your credibility is in the crapper..." . Excuse me?
Giorgio C. December 09, 2011 at 02:04 AM
Annie, Two reasons: 1. One pot of money. Everyone has an interest in this, understandably so. 2. People might possibly be trying to protect folks caught in an awkward situation. We are all human after all. And it is a small town. I do not like putting our city employees on the spot, but I never heard back from them, either. When it comes to Quality Improvement, it is best to keep the focus one that is positive and not blaming anyone. It is a delicate dance where you have to create an atmosphere-environment where no one is afraid to admit mistakes, IF they happened. We call it "lessons learned." We divert resources to where they are needed. We learn from mistakes. Blame no one and move forward. If we had an atmosphere that was more open, then no one would have to sue anyone and we would give each other pats on the back, fix the problem, and move on. When, instead, some believe we are not permitted to question and seek answers, then the tone turns more negative as mine has because then I advocate suing the city. I'm all for returning this to a more positive, constructive if everyone else it, too.
Giorgio C. December 09, 2011 at 02:52 AM
Billy, What's the best way to make sure Carol has the answers to all questions she has? I can still put up a webpage for the Carson St. situation, complete with a time-line. Your call.
Giorgio C. December 09, 2011 at 05:26 AM
I don't trust anyone who doesn't volunteer answers and the city has not volunteered answers. So, using the Public Records Act, I will begin requesting documents relevant to the city's housing quality assurance plan. I do not know more about quality than anyone else, so I can only assume that some folks here are intentionally shielding the city from accountability. I have some thoughts on why one would be motivated to do such. A poster here went on to describe the other lawsuits and faulty development in the city of Hercules. We have just gutted our code enforcement staff at the same time we have undertaken large development projects. As a taxpayer, I do not want to have to pay the cost for any litigation 10 or 20 years from now. I just want to see evidence of some basic quality assurance. So far I have not. Quality problems will repeat themselves if not properly addressed the first time. I, personally, have an interest in this matter, so will continue to seek answers. Yes, I agree, we have all tediously repeated our concerns to ad nauseam. Consumer Reports: http://www.inspectorpaul.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/consumerreports.org-shoddy-home-construction-1-04.pdf
Billy Vogele December 10, 2011 at 04:41 AM
Carol: You are full of so much baloney. You make no sense whatsoever, and you contradict yourself. SHAME ON YOU! for repeatedly hanging this red herring on me. I, more than you have full right to complain; this slide is behind my house, not yours. You say that "The board cannot just assess a large sum of money because they want to - it has to be agreed to by the members." So did that same rule apply when dictator Billy was on the board? Or where the rules different then and I, lock, stock, and barrel decided on my own to sell everybody out? Your argument is ridiculous!
Giorgio C. December 10, 2011 at 04:58 AM
Jeffrey, 1. Regarding the recall candidate, your logic dictates that a liar is better than....someone who was asleep at the wheel? I'd feel better with Don Kuenhe on the council than his replacement until his replacement proves otherwise. You gotta be kidding. 2. Regarding the investigation, I am requesting standard protocol. If our city staff cannot afford to do the job right, then God help us. Mistakes shall be repeated and the tax payer shall pay for them.
Billy Vogele December 10, 2011 at 05:40 AM
Jeff: Nope to you. So how do you define city and the citizens who live in it? Anybody who doesn't live in an HOA? So HOA members who live in this city are not Hercules citizens? You make no sense.
Billy Vogele December 10, 2011 at 05:49 AM
Susan: Let's start with, Chapter 10. Nuisance Abatement Sec. 4-10.01 Purpose. Pursuant to Government Code Section 38770 et seq., the City Council establishes, as an alternate to procedures otherwise provided for by law, procedures that may be used for the purpose of abating a public nuisance. It shall be a violation of this Chapter for any person, firm, partnership or corporation owning, renting, leasing, occupying or having charge of any premises to permit a nuisance as herein defined to exist. (Ord. 252 Div. 1 (part), 1987) Sec. 4-10.02 Public Nuisances Included. The provisions of this Chapter shall be applicable to any nuisance defined as a nuisance by any City of Hercules ordinance, section of the Hercules Municipal Code, resolution of the City Council, statutes of the State, or by the conditions or activities set forth in Section 4-10.04 of this Chapter. (Ord. 252 Div. 1 (part), 1987) Sec. 4-10.03 Owner’s Responsibility. The owner of the property or properties in question remains liable to the City for violations of duties imposed upon him by this Chapter even though: (a) An obligation is also imposed on the occupant; or (b) The owner has, by agreement, imposed upon the occupant the duty of complying with this Chapter. (Ord. 252 Div. 1 (part), 1987)
Billy Vogele December 10, 2011 at 06:01 AM
Susan, cont.: Sec. 4-10.04 Nuisance Conditions. It is declared a public nuisance for any person owning, leasing, occupying or having charge of any premises in this City to maintain such premises in such manner that any one or more of the following conditions or activities are found to exist: (a) Land, the topography, geology or configuration of which, whether in natural state or as a result of grading operations, excavation or fill, causes erosion, subsidence, or surface water drainage problems of such magnitude as to be injurious or potentially injurious to the public health, safety and welfare or to adjacent properties; (b) Buildings which are abandoned, partially destroyed, or permitted to remain unreasonably in a state of partial construction; (c) The failure to close by means acceptable to the City, all doorways, windows and other openings into vacant structures;
Susan D.Keeffe December 10, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Billy, Thank you for posting the part of the ordinance. The part you posted states clearly the owner is responsible to the City not the other way around. I repeat my question, what did Patrick Tang tell you regarding how the Nuisance Ordinance specifically applies to your situation?
Carol December 11, 2011 at 01:08 AM
@ Billy - I see you have come back to the thread. Call me whatever you like Billy. Silly, ridiculous, whatever makes you happy - it will not change the facts. I tried to help numerous times. I asked a lot of questions, most of which you refuse to answer or answer with nasty remarks. That's ok - I get you are frustrated. But that does not change the facts. One fact is above you say that :"So did that same rule apply when dictator Billy was on the board? Or where the rules different then and I, lock, stock, and barrel decided on my own to sell everybody out? " - YES, because as a board member you and your other board members at the time signed an agreement - that I AM CERTAIN did not require the approval of the entire membership. It was not voted on by your association as a whole. The BOARD made that decision, and signed the agreement. So yes Billy - that one is stays straight on your lap. Do you deny this? 2) Are you going to deny that the association ask for a vote on a special assessment in 2000 to fix the hill - and that the membership voted it down? 3) Are you going to deny that in 2009 or so that the association has a meeting about 233 Carson and the lawsuit and at that meeting - the attorney for the association said that once the membership voted down that special assessment that essentially that means you deal with the damage as it comes?
Sarah Creeley December 11, 2011 at 01:20 AM
Hi Carol, I think doing nothing is not an option. I appreciate that you have lived with this for awhile. Are you advocating doing nothing about this landslide?
Carol December 11, 2011 at 01:29 AM
continued... 4) How do you think your HOA is going to pay to fix the hill to save your house? Do they have the money to fix the hill? 5) Do yyou understand that short of a lawsuit, there is no way to force your association to fix the hill? Even if the city tries, they would have to enforce it. That will be a very difficult endeavor. And one which I am certain your HOA would vigoursly defend. 5) Please tell me exactly where I contradicted myself because - I cant find it. The contradictions come from you and you cannot put that on me. If your association had the money to fix the hill, I think they would. Can the hill really be "fixed".
Carol December 11, 2011 at 01:29 AM
I question why your board agreed to a settlement without first talking to an engineer about the area to which you were settling on. Unless you can prove that you did that, then your credibility is at stake - not mine. You are correct. I do not live there. But there are many many people who do, many of which are new to the area, and many of which have no idea what transpired before. BUT YOU DO KNOW BILLY AND YOU ARE NOT BEING FORTHCOMING. That does not mean knew owners are exempt from the problem - only that they are now in this mess with you. You do have some culpability, even if it was done under your best intentions. Sometimes "the road to hell is paved with good intentions" Are you going to respond or disappear fro the thread until you can come up with some more nasty remards. For once Billy, answer the questions.
Carol December 11, 2011 at 01:52 AM
And one last thing - how come the city or the courts did not force your association to fix the hill when it took out 233 Carson? The same situation and same rules apply...
Carol December 11, 2011 at 02:12 AM
@Sarah - lived with what? I do not live in that development. What exactly do you want to have done? I have said numerous times that the only option available to that association is a lawsuit. No one can force the HOA to fix that hill unless it is done via a lawsuit, OR the association votes on a special assessment to fix the hill. I have also explaioned that this has already happened and been voted down. In order to have a lawsuit - you need grounds. As of right now, Billy has not incurred any damage to his home, it is just "looming". It is not a great situation for anyone, but it is where they are at right now. What do you want his HOA to do knowing there is no money, and no possibility that they would approve a special assessment? Do you realize how long of a process that is? And, it cannot even be started until Billy has damage (let us all hope his home stays in tact - no one wants to see Billy's home get damaged - under any circumstances) It seems to me the HOA tried already to do the right thing and the members said NO. What now?
Sarah Creeley December 11, 2011 at 04:24 AM
Hi, Carol- I'm sorry. I jumped to the conclusion that you lived in the affected area.
Giorgio C. December 11, 2011 at 05:32 AM
Some more questions that I have that no one else probably cares about, but that I'll ask anyways: Did the city approve of the v-ditches? Was city approval required? If so, was this deemed acceptable mitigation by the city? The city approved of the original development. Was that the last time the city had any role-authority in this matter? Was there no requirement for any permits for the v-ditches? At a later date, the city recommended a retaining wall. Why didn't the city recommend a retaining wall sooner, when the v-ditches were decided on? Was the city "invited" to provide consultation after the v-ditches failed? Or did the city have a defined responsibility to get involved? Just wondering.
Carol December 11, 2011 at 05:58 AM
@ Sarah and Giorgio Sarah. No Problem. It is a heated issue and one which I want full disclosure. @ Giorgio - I cannot answer your questions, but in regards to the v-ditch, probably the answer is no - the city had no knowledge and the HOA needed no authorization, since it could be deemed as "landscaping". But you can look into that further as I am not an expert. At that time Giorgio I know for certain that Billy had knowledge and understood the implications, what I cannot understand is why you continue to defend him? But be that as it may, I am ok with that. I know the facts. Not sure what recommendations the city may or may not have made - AND I am not even sure why at this point it matters. The bottom line is for now that it is not the cities responsibility, it is the HOA. Until they are sued, you, Billy and all have no case.
Jeffrey Boore December 16, 2011 at 07:24 AM
"Asleep at the wheel" is a very flattering description of the arrogance, hypocrisy, and incompetence of Don Kuehne. I watched him take the petition for his recall, an instrument of democracy, that was presented to him at a city council meeting, and tear it up and throw it against the wall in a show of contempt for the people of Hercules. I can think of no act that better symbolizes what was wrong with our former city council and their disregard for the will and well-being of our citizens.
Jeffrey Boore December 16, 2011 at 07:30 AM
@Billy Vogele - You say "nope" to me, but I don't see where I'd asked any question, so I don't understand what you mean. I further don't understand how you get any of what you are saying from anything that I have said. What could you possibly mean when you think that I said something about Hercules citizens being only those who don't live in HOAs? What??!!! How do you get that from anything I've said? I repeat my criticism that you seem to lack some fundamental reading comprehension skills. Or is it that you prefer to obfuscate rather than engage in the real debate that you know you must lose since you have no real case to make?
Jeffrey Boore December 16, 2011 at 07:37 AM
@Susan Keeffe - I am seeing the trend that has been pointed out by several other people, that Billy Vogele rants and lashes out, then throws around a lot of irrelevant information like this text about Nuisance Abatement which has nothing to do with this landslide, and then refuses to answer any reasonable questions or clarify what he really wants to have done. I think that he knows that he has no real arguments to make and just wants to lash out in frustration.
Aazoba Yuzuki December 27, 2011 at 07:08 AM
so no litigation against HOA yet? seems like the members need to step it up against the HOA
Carol December 27, 2011 at 05:14 PM
@Aazoba, my comment above was not meant to help the members STEP IT UP against the HOA. There was litigation a few years ago - hence the settlement of $1800 per household. Billy cannot do anything until he has damage. And thus far, he has none. The other homeowners in question bought those homes with full disclosure of the hill and its potential landslide issues. They cannot sue the HOA. Also remember that the HOA IS THE MEMBERS - so in effect they are suing themselves - all members pay when the HOA is sued.
Ani December 27, 2011 at 08:05 PM
From reading the majority of the posts, its seems as if this keeps going around and around in a circle. If the city is liable and is being uncooperative, then the HOA needs to take action via lawsuit to make the city respond ie. nuisance or "general plan" violation. If the city is not a partner to this, then the HOA is wholly responsible and therefore the members. The HOA owns the hill, it is responsible for whatever happens, whether they take action now or wait for the determining final slide and destruction to take action. They may have to file bankruptcy if HOA cannot assess its members. However, that in the end will not let the homeowners off the hook, I would assume. Just my thoughts. I live in a CID and would love the city to take care of anything the HOA can't/won't but it doesn't work that way.
Jeffrey Boore December 27, 2011 at 08:41 PM
@Ani - I agree with you, but I want to add a few minor points: Some people keep saying things like "IF the city did something wrong . . ." but so far no one has presented one shred of evidence that the city is in any way liable. The burden of proof is on those who want taxpayers' money to pay for this private matter, not the other way around. The city is under no obligation to prove that they didn't do anything wrong other than by responding to requests for information. I don't think that the HOA can sue the city to take action via nuisance laws. There has been a request that the city enforce such laws against the HOA, although it seems clear from what has been said here that nuisance laws are (as the name suggests) about barking dogs and untended lawns, and that a house-crushing landslide is far more than would be covered as a "nuisance." The HOA will not be bankrupt until there is a lien on every house for their full market value. I would guess that to be on the order of $100 million, so their assets are significant.
Ani December 29, 2011 at 01:14 AM
@Jeffrey Thank you for a reminder that the HOA can lien its members. I am not sure that they would need to have a vote by the membership for the assessments IF they receive a bill or claim against the HOA which its insurance did not cover.
Billy Vogele January 06, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Carol: What's to deny? I still don't understand your point. What role did I have to play in the matter in 2009? Please answer. What do you know about agreements and who signed them? You better get your facts straight. You said that you are not in this HOA and thereby haven't been involved in its matters, so whatever information you are getting has to be scuttlebutt. Right now there is a nuisance on my street and the city needs to step up and address the matter. Sec. 4-10.04 Nuisance Conditions. It is declared a public nuisance for any person owning, leasing, occupying or having charge of any premises in this City to maintain such premises in such manner that any one or more of the following conditions or activities are found to exist: (a) Land, the topography, geology or configuration of which, whether in natural state or as a result of grading operations, excavation or fill, causes erosion, subsidence, or surface water drainage problems of such magnitude as to be injurious or potentially injurious to the public health, safety and welfare or to adjacent properties; (b) Buildings which are abandoned, partially destroyed, or permitted to remain unreasonably in a state of partial construction;
Giorgio C. June 03, 2012 at 04:44 PM
The city of Antioch has hired outsiders to help them address vacant (nuisance) housing in order to ensure compliance with city codes. Is this something Hercules needs to consider? http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_20769986/no-takers-antioch-blight-fighting-position-so-city


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