Do You Know Wayne Wedin?

An open letter to HB school officials

Are you people nuts? Do you read the newspapers? Do you read your own board-meeting agendas?

I'm talking about an obscure item on page 57 of your Oct. 3 meeting agenda. It passed 4-0 (one member was absent from the meeting), but then again, the agenda showed that just about everything passes 4-0, so I doubt if you'd remember it. The item was a "contract adjustment" for an organization called Wedin Enterprises. The item says Wedin will make $38,625 for unspecified consulting work to be completed through Nov. 19, 2001.

I know Wayne Wedin has been doing consulting work for Ocean View School District (OVSD) since the mid-1990s, but do you have any idea what kind of trouble you may have brought upon yourselves with this seemingly innocent vote?

Do you even know who Wedin is?

People familiar with OVSD politics have told me the answer to both questions is no, that it's common practice for the board to rubber-stamp whatever Superintendent James Tarwater wants. And he wants Wedin.

Since you probably don't even remember the Wedin contract, here's a brief refresher:

Wedin is a redevelopment consultant. Tarwater brought him in to work on the proposed Warner-Mesa elementary school for the Bolsa Chica mesa. That school would serve whatever development the Koll Co. ends up planting on the mesa. Since the California Coastal Commission has succeeded in cutting the project to barely 65 acres, it looks like that school will serve a measly 350 students, making it by far the smallest K-5 school in the OVSD.

Of course, this being a Wedin project, there's almost always a potential catastrophe waiting in the wings. This time, it's the school's placement on the Bolsa Chica mesa —straddling the Newport-Inglewood earthquake fault.

The fault line, if you recall, crosses Bolsa Chica as it winds through Huntington Beach. And, if you'd also recall, California law prohibits building or operating a public school near—never mind on—an earthquake fault. Between Wedin, who has been consulting on school issues for 20 years, and the board, you'd think someone would be up on education law. The Newport-Inglewood fault has already disrupted plans by the Newport-Mesa School District to build an elementary school on the bluffs of Banning Ranch.

The money to pay for this disaster waiting to happen comes from two other Wedin projects: the Rancho View and Crest View school redevelopment projects. You must remember these. Rancho View school, near the corner of Beach and Warner, will become a Lowes Hardware supply center. Crest View, located near Beach and Talbert, will someday be home to a Wal-Mart. The Wal-Mart project has already spawned one voter revolt, in the form of Huntington Beach's anti-Wal-Mart Measure I. That measure failed in March, 56 percent to 44 percent.

Economists might call Wedin's modus operandi "creative destruction." It's considered a basic tenet of capitalism: before you build the new, glitzy stuff, you have to demolish the old. Rancho View and Crest View served older, working-class neighborhoods. They are miles from the more glamorous cookie-cutter Seacliff developments along the coast that have grabbed the city's attention. Your school district, by going along with Wedin's redevelopment schemes, is damaging these neighborhoods with increased noise, traffic and pollution, in exchange for a few hundred thousand dollars a year in lease payments.

Documents we obtained through the California Public Records Act show Wedin has done everything from collecting development proposals to advising the school board on how to choose between competing big-box retailers. In fact, these records—which didn't seem to affect you at all—show Wedin advised you to choose Wal-Mart for Crest View, even though two other proposals promised the district far more in lease payments.

If all this is beginning to ring a bell, it's because Wedin has done it before. In February 1981, barely one month after retiring from his 15-year career as Brea city manager and redevelopment-agency director, Wedin went to work consulting for the Brea-Olinda School District. During the next four years, Wedin made $323,000 in consulting fees for a project remarkably similar to his current work for OVSD: demolish one school and then build commercial development on that site to pay for a new school at a different location. That plan would have worked beautifully, had the site for the new school been something other than an abandoned oil field—a site never tested for environmental damage and toxicity.

Concurrent with his work at Brea-Olinda, Wedin consulted on LA's now infamous Belmont Learning Center debacle. That school—at $120 million, the most expensive high school ever built in California—remains unused and unfinished, due to environmental contamination.

Bottom line: get rid of him now, while you still can.

 
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