home | about us | vision | ecosystem | calendar | activities | gallery | contact | partners | español | donate | silverado film festival | arts & cultural center | walking stick storytellers guild


DESIGNATE the Grizzly Bear National Monument in Orange County, CA.

NEED Public Transit To & From Canyons in OC Mountains!

STOP OC Parks From Using Toxic Herbicides!

The canyon communities have been fighting to preserve the historic 320-acre Holtz Ranch in Silverado Canyon for over 30 years. St. Michael's Abbey proposes to develop a Monastery/Church/Sanctuary, Convent, Private Boarding School/Dormitories, Gymnasium/Athletic Facilities, Guest Cottages, Chapel/Cemetery, Agricultural Maintenance Buildings, and accessory gift shop, which threaten the Silverado-Modjeska Specific Plan, critical habitat for the endangered arroyo toad, cactus wren and meadowlark habitat, Native American archaeological sites, historic orchard, historic agricultural buildings, dark sky, road safety, air quality, and the overall quality of life for canyon residents. Measure M funds were almost used to acquire this property as permanent open space because OCTA recognized Holtz Ranch as a top tier property for its natural and cultural resource mitigation value. Now the county has reversed its opinion as a favor to St. Michael's Abbey, an exempt religious institution. The county has an opportunity to preserve the historic 320-acre Holtz Ranch as a natural and cultural landmark for the benefit of everyone.

St. Michael's Abbey Development Project EXPOSED:

1) St. Michael's Abbey hires consultants who work for large scale developers in Orange County:

  • Michael Recupero & Associates - paid consultant for St. Michael's Abbey, also worked for the Headlands Reserve, LLC., The Irvine Company, The Koll Company, The Bixby Ranch Company, Shea Homes, Lennar Homes, and Fieldstone. All of these projects have destroyed or degraded our remaining natural and cultural resources in Orange County, including Dana Point, Bolsa Chica, Irvine Ranch, etc.
  • Diane L. Gaynor (AKA Diane McCue AKA Diane Gaynor-McCue) - the representative for St. Michael's Abbey was interviewed by OC Register. She is EVP/Public Affairs for Roni Hicks & Associates, a privately held company located at 11682 El Camino Real #200, San Diego, CA 92130. Her company of employment has been in existence since 1979. Her company is tied to the development of the Rancho Mission Viejo in San Juan Capistrano, the Sully-Miller property in Orange, and the Holtz Ranch in Silverado. She lives in Carlsbad and has lived in Palm Desert and Lake Havasu, Arizona. She has a direct financial gain from the development of Holtz Ranch in Silverado as well as the other properties mentioned above.

2) Orange County ignores natural and cultural resource value of property:

  • Holtz is a major large mammal movement corridor for pumas, deer, etc. that was identified by Paul Beier.
  • Since 1977, 200 to 300 citizens in the canyons have spent +$250,000 to turn Holtz into a permanent conservation easement
  • There have been 3 past residential projects that were defeated by canyon residents because the County would not help
  • When the county does not act in favor of its 3,000,000 citizens to preserve the very last of its natural treasures, it’s the county not its citizens who should be objecting to such projects and finding ways to preserve the last wild lands for its citizens
  • The site features indigenous cultural significance (Tongva/Acjachemen), including bedrock mortars, small caves, significant grove of basket rush, and stories of arrowheads and other artifacts found throughout the property.

3) OC Planning staff want projects built:

Excerpt from Public Records Act (PRA) Request
From: Canning, Kevin
To: "Channary Leng"
Subject: RE: FW: St. Michael"s Abbey - USFW Letter Re Arroyo Toads
Date: Wednesday, May 01, 2013 10:39:08 AM
I can relate to the frustration of not seeing ‘your’ projects built. I can remember having that feeling
myself for a long time, but I got old (well older anyway) and the projects finally got built. It’s really
cool now to be driving somewhere and to be able to tell my son “yeah, that was my project over
You are just starting out, you’re going to be driving around someday and you’ll be passing ‘your’
projects left and right (or flying over them!)
Kevin Canning
Contract Planner
OC Planning
300 N. Flower Street, 1st Floor
Santa Ana, CA 92702-4048
phone: (714) 667-8847
email: Kevin.Canning@ocpw.ocgov.com
website: www.ocplanning.net
ü Please consider our environment before printing this email.
From: Channary Leng [mailto:channaryleng@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, May 01, 2013 9:53 AM
To: Canning, Kevin
Subject: Re: FW: St. Michael's Abbey - USFW Letter Re Arroyo Toads
Thanks. Well, now that USFW have stated in writing that they can't confirm presence of
arroyo toad, maybe St. Michael's Abbey will have a better chance of moving forward with
their regulatory permits! I would really like to see the new St. Michael's in my lifetime. I
still have yet to see a project I've worked on become developed. All of my central California
projects are entitled, but still no shovel-to-ground!
On Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 11:55 AM, Canning, Kevin <Kevin.Canning@ocpw.ocgov.com>
Just an FYI about your last big deal at OC
Kevin Canning
Contract Planner
OC Planning
300 N. Flower Street, 1st Floor
Santa Ana, CA 92702-4048
phone: (714) 667-8847
email: Kevin.Canning@ocpw.ocgov.com
website: www.ocplanning.net
ü Please consider our environment before printing this email.
From: Jimenez, Bea Bea
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 9:47 AM
To: Vuong, Richard; Moreland, John; Modanlou, Polin; Canning, Kevin
Subject: St. Michael's Abbey - USFW Letter Re Arroyo Toads
Please see attached letter from the USFW indicating that they cannot definitively confirm the
presence of arroyo toad on the St. Michael’s Abbey project site. However, given that arroyo
toads may be present in/near Silverado Creek, the USFW will continue to recommend arroyo
toad surveys for future projects proposed in the Silverado creek area.
Bea Bea Jiménez
Manager, Current & Environmental Planning Section
OC Public Works / OC Planning Services
Office (714) 667-8852
Fax (714) 667-7560
Email beabea.jimenez@ocpw.ocgov.com
From: hq1-104@ocpw.ocgov.com [mailto:hq1-104@ocpw.ocgov.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2013 8:04 AM
To: Jimenez, Bea Bea
Subject: Message from HQ1-104

4) OC Weekly exposes the truth:

5) In 1995, St. Michael's Abbey spoke out against a proposed development near their current facility. Now they are developing an inappropriate project of a similar scale on the historic Holtz Ranch in Silverado:

6) Holtz Ranch cultural history goes back to Native Americans:

"Initial contact with the canyon and what is known as the Holtz Ranch was first made by the native people, who used the site for seasonal hunting and gathering.

Francisco Soto, a Native American, was the first permanent resident of the canyon, arriving sometime in the 1850s. He established a home site and, knowing no law save that of possession, never filed a legal claim. He build himself a home of adobe brick that was situated at some elevation, ensuring warmth in winter and a cool space in summer. In 1892, the Southern Pacific Railroad resurveyed the property and removed Francisco Soto, claiming the Soto home site belonged to them. Thomas Hughes, a foremen with the Southern Pacific Railroad, and his family then became the legal residents of the property. He and his wife, Elizabeth, along with their son settled into the adobe structure build by Soto.

In 1894, Joseph Holtz, a native of France, came to Silverado Canyon and became interested in raising bees. In 1901, after spending many summers learning the bee culture, Joseph Holtz purchased 320 acres, known as a half-section of land, which included the former Soto/Hughes home. Joseph Holtz marred Mary Veigh of Orange in 1905, and the union eventually produced seven children. The Holtzes became farmers of wheat, barley, alfalfa, English walnuts, and a variety of fruit trees. The Holtz Ranch had the first dairy and creamery in the canyon, and the local deliveries were made by bicycle. In 1920, the 160 bee colonies belonging to Joseph Holtz yielded 13 tons of honey. In 1902, Joseph Holtz sold a one-acre parcel of the ranch to the Orange School District for $50 in gold. The Silverado School was established with the help of Holtz, who assisted with the construction of the one-room structure. The Silverado School continued to operate on the property until 1957, when a new structure was constructed on Santiago Canyon Road. The Holtz Ranch remained in the family until it was sold in 1999." Excerpt from Images of America: Silverado Canyon by Susan Deering, Arcadia Publishing

7) The Irvine Ranch Water District plans to install a new water pipeline to support the new development:

-----Forwarded Message-----
From: Paul Cook
Sent: Jan 9, 2014 12:39 PM
To: pswan@ix.netcom.com
Subject: Re: Fw: IRWD Activity on Silverado Canyon Rd?

Peer -

The survey work is part of the project to upsize about 8,200 feet of pipeline to provide adequate fire flow to the new St. Michael's Abbey being developed out there. This project was approved by the Board back on November 25, 2013; attached is a map from that Board package for your reference.

Let me know if you'd like me to get back with Mr. Robinson.

- Paul

8) Developer and county staff ignore cultural resource comments in Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR):

July 6, 2012

Channary Leng, Manager
Current & Environmental Planning
OC Planning
300 N Flower Street, 1st Floor
Santa Ana, CA 92702-4048

RE: St Michael’s Abbey Project Draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR)

Thank you for the opportunity to review the DEIR for the St. Michael’s Abby Project.  We are opposed to the proposed project because of the negative impacts to a rural environment that contains significant natural resources and because the project has the potential to destroy significant cultural properties. 

Based on our review of the report entitled “Phase I Cultural Resources Assessment St. Michael’s Abby Project we have the following concerns: 

(1) The determination that prehistoric archaeological sites are not present is based on an archaeological survey was not intensive or systematic and in many areas the vegetation was too dense to see the ground. 

(2) The determination by an Architectural Historian that the historic buildings do not have integrity and therefore are not eligible for listing in the California Register of Historic Resources may be valid, however, given that the Holtz Ranch was established in 1900 and includes an adobe structure, the project area should be evaluated by a Historic Archaeologist. There is a high potential for the presence of buried historic archaeological materials such as privies, wells and other buried historic features containing artifacts that would meet criterion D of CEQA Guidelines Section 15064.5 “Determining the Significance of Impacts on Historical and Unique Archaeological Resources.”  Criterion D: “Has yielded, or may be likely to yield, information important in prehistory or history.” 

 Please give these comments serious consideration and require an additional archaeological survey and an evaluation of the historic archaeological resources by a qualified historic archaeologist.


Patricia Martz, Ph.D., President, CCRPA
Professor Emeritus, California State University, Los Angeles

9) Abbot protects child molester.

10) St. Michael's Abbey hires MATT Construction, a company that has a reputation for large-scale, contemprorary urban projects. Rural/sprawl projects are met with opposition.

11) The family of Father Siegfried F. Widera, child sex offender, attend and donate substantially to St. Michael's Abbey.

12) Former OC Supervisor Bill Campbell has been donating to St. Michael's Abbey at $1000 level for over 10 years. Other members include, best-selling authors Dean Koontz and Frank Kavanaugh, the O'Neill family (prominent landowners of Rancho Mission Viejo) and many other wealthy people in positions of power.

13) St. Michael's Abbey total income and gift summary for 2011-2012 is $2,662,967.

Santa Ana Mountains Wild Heritage Project (SAMWHP)

Mission: To preserve the wild character and function of the Santa Ana Mountains Ecosystem while ensuring opportunities for solace, exploration and discovery forever!

info@santaanamountains.org, 714-649-9084, SAMWHP, PO Box 381, Silverado, CA 92676

SAMWHP is a project of Naturalist For You, a 501(c)(3) environmental education non-profit.

home | about us | vision | ecosystem | calendar | activities | gallery | contact | partners | español | donate | silverado film festival | arts & cultural center | walking stick storytellers guild