The Cardenas family initially encountered the dark side of their neighbor, Mr. Rob Whittemore in 2010, when he objected to their plans to expand their 892 square foot beachfront deck by a mere 459 square feet. Little did the Cardenas family know they were about to encounter the dark side of the community approval process in La Jolla also.
Mr. Whittemore, a La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) Trustee, quickly used his political influence and garnered the support of the LJCPA, Councilmember Sherri Lightner, Joe LaCava, Architect Tony Crisafi (then LJCPA President) and attorney Julie Hamilton. Ms. Hamilton represents many of the clandestine “community groups” formed simply to oppose projects in La Jolla by LJCPA Trustees. The “community groups” include but are not limited to; “La Jolla Shores Tomorrow” (Whale Watch & Whitney Mixed Use), “No Third Story”(Bird Rock Station), “Tax Payers for Responsible Land Use”(Hillel project), “La Jollans for Neighborhood Preservation” (Henely home) and now Mr. Whittemore’s “Save La Jolla” (Cardenas deck expansion). With the help of their attorney these surreptitious groups are formed to delay, frustrate, discourage and add costs to a applicant’s project. Exasperated by the process, the Cardenas family, enlisted help of attorney Bill Miltner, to file a lawsuit (United States District Court Case No. 10CV1808-LAB-KSC) to obtain clarification of their respective rights, clarify antiquated CC&Rs and to reprimand Mr. Whittemore for trespassing on their property to erect story poles.
On February 12th and 13th 2013 a court trial was held, Judge Larry Alan Burns presided. Court records show that during the trial there was substantial evidence that LJCPA Trustee Mr. Whittemore had negatively impacted not only the Cardenas Family but other neighbors with his conduct. Mr. Richard Sulpizio, an executive at Qualcomm testified that Mr. Whittemore consistently used improper means to interfere with construction in the neighborhood. Mr. Warner Lusardi, the former owner of the Cardenas residence and the former patriarch of the iconic San Diego contractor Lusardi Construction, testified that he became so frustrated with the interference from Mr. Whittemore that he felt compelled to sell his property.
On the afternoon of February 13, 2013, the Court announced an oral verdict granting judgment in favor of Mr. and Mrs. Cardenas and against Mr. Whittemore, including an $1.00 award for nominal damages for Mr. Whittemore’s trespassing on their property. In his oral ruling, Judge Larry Alan Burns stated ; … the sense I get from Mr. Whittemore, listening to him testify and listening to Ms. Bond testify is that he wouldn’t do anything like this again. He’ll stick to the Court system if he’s in need to resolve future disputes. He won’t resort to self-help”
The Court was wrong! During the night of Feruary 13th and the early morning of the 14th, 2013, a mere 10 hours after Judge Burns’ warning in open court, Whittemore once again repeatedly trespassed on to the Cardenas’ property to harass his family. On seven different occasions between 11:59 pm and 1:38 am Mr. Whittemore trespassed onto the Cardenas property and rang their doorbell without waiting for anyone to answer the door. He did so while Mr. and Mrs. Cardenas and other family members which included the three Cardenas children, aged 10, 13, 15 and Mrs. Cardenas mother were sleeping. Unbeknownst to Mr. Whittemore, his actions were being recorded on the Cardenas security cameras (Click here to see video). The San Diego Police were called and Mr. Whittemore was apprehended. The Police officer testified Mr. Whittemore was verbally abusive and appeared to be inebriated.
Mr. Whittemore’s inappropriate actions that evening instigated Mr. and Mrs. Cardenas to file a Restraining Order against Mr. Whittemore for their protection, San Diego case No. 37-2022-00034647. During the three day TRO trial, April 16th through April 19th, 2013, Mr. Whittemore stated that he did not consider his own conduct inappropriate. He testified that he thought his harassment was justified despite admitting to drinking and a loud exchange with the police that evening. He even went as far as to state to the court that he would repeat his conduct should he face the same circumstances in the future. The court further refused to allow fellow LJCPA Trustees Phil Merten and Myrna Naegle to testify as character witnesses for Mr. Whittemore. The court awarded Mr. and Mrs. Cardenas and their family protection and issued a Temporary Restraining Order against Mr. Whittemore (Click here to see TRO). The TRO ordered Mr. Whittemore to not “harass, intimidate, molest, attack, strike, stalk, threaten assault, hit, abuse, destroy personal property of, or disturb the peace of the Cardenas family. Additionally Mr. Whittemore was ordered, over his objection to surrender his firearms to the police. Lastly he was ordered to register with the California Restraining and Protective Order System.
The menacing action of Mr. Whittemore did not stop. The Cardenas family elected to abandon their beautiful beachfront home and attempted to rent it out. Once again they relied on the Court system for relief by having Mr. Miltner file another lawsuit (Joseph and Machelle Cardenas v. Robert Whittemore 13 CV 1720 LAB-KSC).
On April 15th, at the second trial in which Judge Larry Alan Burns presided, a Jury of seven peers agreed there was substantial evidence Mr. Whittemore was once again guilty of trespassing and was a persistent nuisance to the Cardenas family. Despite a “Hail Mary” attempt with the court appearance of LJCPA Trustee Phil Merten, posing as a “lighting expert” in support of Whittemore, the Jury awarded Mr. & Mrs. Cardenas $121,000.00 in damages.
Our community owes an enormous amount of gratitude to the Cardenas family for the time, effort and money they have spent over the past six years protecting their property rights, one of the most fundamental rights in our society. Let this be a warning to community activist posing as LJCPA “community volunteers”, our laws, our Courts and our community demands you respect the individual property rights of La Jolla residents.