Letter: No Development in San Juan Capistrano? Who is the Real Culprit?

By Jennifer H. Greene, San Juan Capistrano

Let me start by saying my clients are owners of commercial buildings and land, so sharing my opinion may not make me popular, but popularity is overrated.

It’s easy to blame members of the City Council for the lack of development in San Juan Capistrano. After all, they are the ones who keep voting down development projects, right?

Give me a moment to answer the question, “Who is the real culprit?” It may surprise you.

The value of an owner’s land is worth the value of what can be built on it. In the case of land development, the landowner’s value is directly tied to what and how much a developer can build. Common sense will tell you the more a developer can build on a site, the more money he will make and the more money he can pay the landowner. Simple.

San Juan Capistrano’s Historic Town Center Master Plan and the form based design code are the points of control limiting what and how much a developer is allowed to build on a site.

When a developer knowingly submits a project that does not meet the criteria of these important tools and proposes to build far too much on a site, the City Council has a responsibility to everyone in the community to reject it. They should be commended for their courage.

The real culprit is the developer and perhaps to a lesser degree, the landowner. They are responsible for the failure of the project because how much is squeezed into a plan starts with how much the developer must pay the owner of the land.

It is simple. The higher the land price, the more the developer has to build on the site to make the deal work.

4 Responses to “Letter: No Development in San Juan Capistrano? Who is the Real Culprit?”

  1. Mechelle Lawrence Adams
    June 27, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    Right on. Well stated. Thank you. I applaud the city for taking time to sort things out and realize that these decisions affect our brand, identity, quality of life and the long term landscape of special places like our mission district. Making money is great but some restraint won’t hurt the historic downtown at all. It will help.

  2. Bonnie Benton
    June 27, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    In response to this letter: You are exactly right. The cost (price) of the land will dictate what a builder/developer needs to generate to justify the price of the land. The problem with San Juan is there is very little land to develop. The City Council and Planning Commission have completely failed to understand the character and nature of San Juan. As a result, their “vision” of the City is stilted and unbalanced. Therefore their planning decisions make no sense. The reality is that San Juan is, and should be, a small town. It has major traffic problems with no solution. It has major parking problems, never addressed. Consultants have been hired. City council members have come and gone. Still, there is NO CLEAR VISION of just WHAT San Juan should be. It’s like a child with musical talent who is instead told to study marketing. Or to coin a phrase….”you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. Not to say San Juan is a sow’s ear…..it has great charm. It’s high time the City understands just what that charm is….and focuses on it. It has been 30 years since the City thought a HOTEL would solve all their problems, and successive City Council members have carried that torch. Perhaps it’s finally time to realize there may be other resolutions.

  3. Marc Weintraub
    July 2, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    In my response to Jennifer H. Greene.

    Please note that Jennifer is employed by local developer Bill Griffith. Bill has been pulling the strings to so many people in town to voice their oppositions to this project just so he can stay behind the scenes to help get this project killed off. I would also like to add that Bill has been actively trying to buy this very same property to build not 33 homes (which has been the big outrage) but actually over 100 homes!

    In closing, I would like to tell Bill to grow a set and fight your own fight and not hide behind your puppets.

  4. Marc Weintraub
    July 3, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    It’s troubling to see the Dispatch used as a platform for profiteering and political agendas. In reality, Jennifer Green is employed by developer Bill Griffith who as recent as May, 2014 has personally attempted to buy the San Juan Hotel and Villas development property site from Steve Oedekerk with the intention of building WELL OVER 3 TIMES THE NUMBER OF HOMES in the currently proposed plan, with no hotel, and no Forrester Street connecting through. And accusing a land owner of being guilty for charging a developer too much for their property is quite a hoot. If a developer thinks a property is too expensive they can simply not purchase it. That’s how commerce works in our country. Or I guess we could go by the “greedy developer constitution” and make sure property owners have to pay whatever a developer says the property is worth to them. So ridiculous. And it is not the City or the City Council that is at fault for not approving developments in town. The strongest opposition is always formed by a contingent of local developers that want to ensure they continue to own and control all of the land and development in San Juan. These would be the developers that Jennifer works for and with.

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