State officials: H.B. developer failed to rebury Indian remains in a
timely fashion

California Coastal Commission staff said Hearthside Homes may also have violated the law when they failed to report a particular ancient human remain during construction grading.

By Cindy Carcamo, The Orange County Register, NOVEMBER 14, 2008

HUNTINGTON BEACH - A Surf City developer scored a victory Thursday when the state's Coastal Commission allowed him to keep his building permit.

However, details revealed during the hearing and earlier proceedings sparked suspicion among commissioners and their staff that Brightwater Hearthside Homes officials may have mishandled ancient American Indian remains on the Bolsa Chica mesa site where they plan to build a 300-home community.

The state's Coastal Commission staff said the developer has failed to document their archeological discoveries for about a year and failed to rebury them and an unclear number of ancient American Indian remains in a timely manner, said Teresa Henry, the commission's South
Coast Area district manager.

""(The developer) claims he has been actively documenting but as far as I know they are not," Henry said. "The ancestors have been out of the ground since 2006."

Ed Mountford, vice president of Hearthside Homes, told commissioners the reason for the delay in reburials is because he's negotiating with two tribes on how the remains should be reburied.

"It takes time to work these things out," Mountford said.

After he was pressed by Coastal Commissioners, he told them he did not have an exact date on when the reburials would happen.

More than 174 sets of ancient American Indian remains were unearthed from the Bolsa Chica mesa sight that is now believed to be an ancient American Indian burial ground and village once shared by the Gabrielino-Tongva and Juaneño band of Mission Indians.

The developer has reburied a good portion of human remains, but there are still unclear amounts that have to be reburied.

"Mr. Mountford is holding our ancestors hostage. They have been out of the ground for two and half years along with pounds of soil that contain their DNA," Gabrielino-Tongva leader Anthony Morales told commissioners at Thursday's meeting.

The state's Native American Heritage Commission appointed Morales as a most likely descendant to the site, which means he keeps watch on construction and consults with the developer on how to treat ancient human remains.

Heritage Commission officials have sparked an investigation on the developer's handling of remains, accusing them of failing to report 6,000 bags of artifacts and 10 boxes holding fragments of ancient human remains. This commission plans to reveal their investigative findings Dec. 12.

In addition, Henry said the developer may have violated state law by failing to report one set of human bone fragments found on the site while construction grading.

She said the developer doesn't have to notify the Coastal Commission about remains found during archeological grading but has to do so during construction grading.

By law, the developer must stop what it is doing and report findings to the Coastal Commission because the panel granted the developer the building permit, Henry said.

Contact the writer: 714-445-6688 or


Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.