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.