August 29, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury 1998 Final Report: Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
Background | Findings | Comment
Background:

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD) is a public agency formed by voter initiative in 1972. Its boundaries cover a small portion of Santa Cruz County, Northwestern Santa Clara County, and Southern San Mateo County up to and including the Woodside-San Carlos area. The District’s 23 preserves under management range from 55 to 12,079 acres. They are open to the public during daylight hours 365 days a year.

The MROSD maintains patrols and makes visitor contact in the preserves. The Board is empowered to acquire land, through purchase or gift, for open space, park and recreational use. The District has the power of eminent domain.

The primary source of funding is derived from a share of total annual property tax revenue collected within the District’s boundaries. Other revenue includes Federal and State grants, gifts, and private donations by individuals and organizations.

The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury received letters of complaint concerning the operations of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Allegations were made in four specific areas of concern:

  • Board violation of the Brown Act by not announcing in open session what had transpired in closed session.
  • Complainant was not receiving announcements of the Board’s public meetings in a timely manner.
  • Poor management decisions and District procedures for the sale and purchase of surplus property.
  • Development of residential lots in Woodside.
Findings:

The Brown Act prohibits publicly elected board members from arriving at policy decisions and setting policies in private, unannounced meetings prior to a public hearing. All issues must be discussed and voted on in open, public session.

The Brown Act makes exception to this in matters concerning the purchase, sale, exchange or lease of real property. In order to obtain the optimum monetary remuneration for its constituency, the District may hold a closed session with its real property negotiator once it identifies in open session the real property which the negotiations may concern and the person with whom its negotiator may negotiate. If no action was taken in closed session, it is so reported in the open session.

The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury has found that the MROSD Board has strictly adhered to the Brown Act in all of its deliberations.

From the dated material submitted to the Grand Jury in this complaint, it was shown that public meeting notices and their attendant agendas were received by the complainant five days prior to District meetings. By law, the District is required to post, and have delivered upon special request of citizens, notices of all public meetings 72 hours prior to any such meeting.

The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury found that the MROSD mails public hearing minutes and agendas well in advance of the minimum time required by law.

The MROSD management practices and procedures were reviewed regarding land acquisition and sale of surplus property, and were found to be well delineated. Each purchase, sale, and lease agreement studied has a documented chronology, accompanied by substantial contractual details.

The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury found the District to have acted properly in its handling of the sale of surplus property. Their decisions on transactions enumerated in the complaint actually resulted in the District obtaining additional income.

MROSD’s purchase of the Teague Hill property in Woodside was completed in 1988 with the understanding that the District could not afford the total purchase price without recapture of a significant portion of the initial cost. Two parcels of approximately 35 acres each were created by the District in the portions of the 624 acre property closest to existing development. The District retained open space easements for local trail access through the development areas to the preserve.

The San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury found the sale of lots for residential development shows no evidence of illegal or improper management. The sale was handled in compliance with the District’s General Requirements and Procedures for Disposition of District Real Property. In fact, the subsequent sale of these two parcels for residential lots allowed the District to apply the revenue from sales toward purchase of the Phleger estate.

Comment:

The allegations and complaints leveled against the Midpeninsula Open Space District were found to be specious and without foundation. The District is well administered and adheres to its responsibilities as spelled out in its charter. The District is advised by this report.

 

© 2014 Superior Court of San Mateo County