By Mechelle Lawrence Adams, San Juan Capistrano
I’ve never written a letter to the editor before. However, recent negative and inaccurate information about the folks at the Ranch have compelled me as a daughter of Orange County, as a community member and as a mother to speak up for what’s right and to share for the record what I believe.
First, the Ranch, under the leadership of the late Richard O’Neil, Tony Moiso and Gilbert Aguirre, has made San Juan Capistrano a better place for all of us in significant and measureable ways. Those of us involved with the community know that without the individual qualities and leadership of Mr. O’Neil, Tony Moiso and Gilbert Aguirre (and all their Ranch family), this town would not be what it is today. The following is a sampling of what the Ranch has done for San Juan Capistrano in leadership capacities, financially and with their personal, individual talents:
1. Founded a local annual rodeo for all to enjoy and showcase our rich equestrian heritage.
2. Supported, invested and helped to establish the Boys and Girls Club, to enrich the children of this valley.
3. Supported and invested in The Shea Center—to serve the needs of many in amazing ways using equine therapy.
4. Served, supported and protected Mission San Juan Capistrano to be Orange County’s most important California landmark. The Mission just wouldn’t be what it is today without the Ranch.
5. The Historical Society—served and supported the society to make sure there is a group that can gather to celebrate and teach about local history to new generations. The annual barbecue at the Ranch property is really something to experience! Simply outstanding!
6. El Adobe Restaurant—keeps a cultural iconic restaurant available as a centerpiece to our wonderful array of restaurants and retail. Generations of Americans have and continue to seek out this specific restaurant as part of a bucket list.
7. Mission Promenade—rehabilitated a failing corner commercial area to deliver a rich and varied retail, restaurant and local shopping experience. Do you remember what it used to look like? No outdoor dining, struggling aesthetics, need for preservation and a worn down setting.
8. Delivering a much needed dual purpose riding park that serves our local equestrian and soccer communities.
If the complainers are upset about what they think is a recent development proposal or threat to their commute, then they didn’t do their homework. Land uses are planned long before they ever get developed.
We are fortunate that this team, in stewarding a long-range plan actually cares and wants to do so in a way that will still deliver thousands of acres of open space, has reduced its density and thus allowed traffic control over the years and worked to phase the effort.
Not all “developers” would do this. But these folks aren’t just developers; they are part of San Juan Capistrano’s history. As a mother, former city employee and a person who cares deeply about protecting our history, it’s important that all of us understand that the Ranch has long been caring for the land, employing locals, investing in our traditions and protecting important non-profit programs in this community.
Anyone who’s enjoyed any of the eight items in the list above has benefitted from the Ranch. It’s time to say thank you, rather than to paint a picture of “big bad developer.” Publicly, it’s just time to say thank you Tony, Gilbert and the entire Ranch team.
Mechelle Lawrence Adams, a 16-year resident and property owner in San Juan Capistrano; 21 years combined working for the city and Mission San Juan Capistrano; and lastly, and most importantly, mother to Dylan and Lisa—San Juan Capistrano lifelong residents.