Sheree & Doug Ito, San Juan Capistrano
There has been a lot of talk lately about our decision to sell our land, the Ito Nursery, and the development that is being proposed by the buyer. Doug and I are feeling like we are being attacked for our decision to sell. We feel a little background might be helpful for you in understanding our family’s history and where we are coming from.
Jimmy and Hiroko Ito purchased the land in 1959. Thus, the Ito family has owned the nursery property for 58 years, longer than San Juan Capistrano has been a city, and well before the Los Rios Specific Plan was originally put into place in 1978.
Jimmy and Hiroko Ito chose San Juan as a haven to grow their family business and to own land they hoped to leave as a legacy for future generations. This was especially important to them since despite being U.S citizens, during World War II they, along with other family members, were sent to the internment camp of Manzanar. At this time, all of the Ito family businesses and property were confiscated, never to be returned.
After the war, when they were finally released from Manzanar, times were very hard with the lingering antagonism toward people of Japanese heritage. Jimmy took on jobs no one else wanted to earn money to try and restore his family’s economic stability, with the eventual goal of owning a piece of property that he could pass down to his children.
Because of his time incarcerated in Manzanar and the loss of all he previously owned, Jimmy was determined to be seen as a good citizen and neighbor, so that he and his family would never have to experience the devastation of losing their material possessions and livelihood again. When the Los Rios Precise Plan was being constructed in 1978 and then updated in 1997, Jimmy went along with the designations to his property, first because he knew his sons were going to continue working at the nursery and he didn’t envision potential change until long after he was gone. Secondly, he did not want to go against what was being suggested and be perceived as a troublemaker. He’d had too much of that during the war. Lastly, he was assured that this specific plan was put in place to protect the historic structures that already existed and that it would not affect the future value of his land.
For decades, we’ve had many offers from people and developers to buy our land. After years of contemplation, we decided it was time to sell, and spent more than a year researching and interviewing potential buyers. We looked for someone that would bring a wonderful vision to our property and town; a project that would open up our property for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike. The final decision was not solely about money. Our hope was, after 58 years of ownership, we could leave a positive legacy for the Ito family.
Truth, honesty, transparency, and a willingness to work with and listen to the residents are the qualities we looked for in a buyer. Dan Almquist and his company, Frontier Real Estate, have exhibited these qualities and behaved with the utmost integrity in all their actions.
We hope that our esteemed City Council will remember, when making decisions about our land, that the Ito family has rights too.
We hope that in the coming months when the “River Street” project comes before the various committees and eventually to the City Council for approval, you will make the best decisions for the entire community.