By Emily Rasmussen, The Capistrano Dispatch

On Feb. 6, City Council denied an application to initiate a study of a proposed code amendment to allow a development of up to 47 single-family homes in a 7.29-acre site called Pacifica San Juan, that is designated as a potential school site, off of Camino Las Ramblas and Avenida California. The applicant is the Capistrano Unified School District and the property owner is Pacific Point Development Partners, LLC.

Although CUSD has the option to acquire the property, the school district stated in a city report, that there are not a sufficient number of students to warrant the construction of a new school. CUSD also stated that they will commit the use of funds for various district capital facilities’ needs, according to the city report . With this specific project of Pacifica San Juan, funds would go toward renovating Palisades Elementary School in Capistrano Beach, the school nearest to the proposed development.

“CUSD has an option to purchase the property from PPDP and intends to exercise that option and purchase the property from PPDP sometime in the next couple of years,” Assistant City Manager Jacob Green said in an email. “Since CUSD has determined that construction of a school on the property is no longer needed to serve the area, CUSD is seeking city approval to change the allowable land uses of the property to include residential development, as this will substantially increase the value of the property.”

If CUSD is successful in obtaining approval of residential use of the property, CUSD intends to sell the property to a residential developer.

“CUSD is stating that all proceeds from the sale of the property to a developer will be used to make facility improvements to Palisades Elementary School and Shorecliffs Middle School,” Green said in the email, referring to a letter submitted by CUSD in January.

Palisades Elementary School Principal Curt Visca estimated that there is $11 million worth of renovations needs to the school.

Some 50 people attended the council meeting regarding the issue, with a fairly split amount of speakers for and against the proposed development. Those in favor of the development included representatives from CUSD, Pacific Point Development Partners, LLC and Palisades Elementary School. Those against the development primarily consisted of neighboring residencies, with many who said that they bought their homes in expectations of having a school or park built close by.

Councilman Brian Maryott was opposed to the proposed development of 47 single-family homes and suggested that a 5-acre park be included within the development plans. The site of the proposed development lies within Maryott’s District 5.

“This whole thing is set up very oddly,” Maryott said. “The school district that was able to get the zone change to public institutional, common decency if you’re not going to build the school, is don’t start talking about things that are offensive that could get built there.”

The denial was passed 3-1-1, with Farias opposed and Councilwoman Pam Patterson abstained.

City staff will work with CUSD to come up with a new plan. There is no set date for when that application will be submitted.

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