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By Collin Breaux and Shawn Raymundo

It was quite a year for San Juan Capistrano in 2019. Retail department store Target looked to replace a Ralphs on Del Obispo Street, the Northwest Open Space was a big topic of discussion, with the city council ultimately approving plans for the Putuidem Cultural Village there, and construction for an improvement project began downtown on Verdugo Street.

One could say it was a time of change.

And yet 2019 also saw traditions continue. Annual events including the Swallows Day Parade, a Fiesta Association barbecue saying farewell to the famous birds and other regular happenings went on as usual.

The end of this year and the beginning of a new one is a time to reflect and look ahead. Here’s what happened in 2019 and what’s shaping up for 2020.


The City of San Juan Capistrano releases first quarter financials for fiscal year 2018-19, showing San Juan Capistrano collected more than $2 million in general fund revenue for the fiscal year.

The Magpie Salute plays The Coach House.

The Swallows Day Parade season begins, kicking off with the Hairiest Man Contest.


People enjoy eateries at the annual Taste of San Juan event. “This is where all the locals dine, and we’re part of the local community,” Selma’s Chicago Pizzeria & Tap Room owner Mike Phillips said.

The city begins negotiations to transfer water utilities with the Santa Margarita Water District.

Local producer and director Robert Kline hosts “A Night at the Oscars” event to celebrate the 91st annual Academy Awards Show.


Then-Mayor Brian Maryott announces he will run for Congress in the 49th District against Democratic incumbent Mike Levin.

San Juan Capistrano city official Brian Maryott is running on a Republican ticket against Democratic Congressional incumbent Mike Levin. Photo: File.

The city begins negotiations for a “glamping” site at the Northwest Open Space, though ended the year backing away from allowing glamping at the area after citizens spoke out against it.

Former city official and retired physician Roy Byrnes dies peacefully at 94 while surrounded by his family.

The 61st annual Swallows Day Parade and Mercado Street Faire is held, bringing together the community and Southern California.


Assistant City Manager Jacob Green steps down to accept a job in the private sector. Charlie View becomes the new assistant city manager.

The seventh annual Fiesta Days event, organized by the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society, provides people a chance to explore historic Los Rios Street.


The city council approves initiating a pilot program for valet parking services in the downtown district. “We thought this would be something that would address many of the concerns we hear from visitors, from businesses, that parking in our most desirable location in the heart of our downtown is never available,” City Manager Ben Siegel told the council.

The city council also introduces a new ordinance meant to provide the city with more definitive authority when it comes to enforcing prohibitions on open fires.


Carolyn Franks plans to sell the ZOOMARS Petting Zoo to River Street Marketplace developer Dan Almquist. The farm and features associated with it remain the same, and people continue visiting ZOOMARS.

The J.F. Shea Therapeutic Riding Center raises $1 million in donations from an annual gala.


An affordable housing project for seniors moves forward after the city council allows the developer to begin securing funding. The property is located on the northwest corner of Camino Capistrano and Junipero Serra Road.

Scott and Diana Schmitt are recognized as the Man and Woman of the Year by the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce, and they also presented a Lifetime Achievement Award. They are longtime residents and photographers.


Target proposes moving into a spot on Del Obispo Street where Ralphs used to be.

Plans for Target to set up a store in San Juan Capistrano was a big topic of discussion in 2019. Photo: Chelsie Rex

The city begins accepting nominations for the Wall of Recognition at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center. Raymond Miller, Marianne Taylor and Jim Taylor are chosen to be added.


Krista Castellanos is chosen to fill a vacancy on the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees left by former Trustee Gary Pritchard. Castellanos serves out Pritchard’s term, which is set to expire in 2020.

The city’s planning commission approves revised plans for the River Street Marketplace development. 

Some Mission San Juan Capistrano Docent Society volunteers no longer work there after disagreements between disgruntled docent volunteers and Mission Executive Director Mechelle Lawrence Adams. Adams said disgruntled Docent volunteers “want to run the Mission rather than serve the mission of the Mission” and if disgruntled volunteers “got on board, there would be no issue.”  

The Camino Real Playhouse celebrates 30 years of performances.


Construction begins on Verdugo Street. The project will provide wider sidewalks, decorative brick pavers, enhanced lighting, landscaping and a more pedestrian-friendly gateway to downtown. The project is anticipated to be complete in spring 2020.

The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society holds the annual Ghost & Legends Tour in the downtown area in time for Halloween.

New City Editor Collin Breaux joins The Capistrano Dispatch after moving from Florida.


Community members continue pushing for a skateboard park in town during a city council meeting. City officials also support the skate park and have locations in mind, though funding is needed.

Skate Jams in San Juan Capistrano have built support for getting a skateboard park in town. Photo: Collin Breaux

The Santa Margarita Water District gives people a tour of construction at the Trampas Canyon Reservoir and Dam, south of Ortega Highway on land acquired from Rancho Mission Viejo. The project is intended to store recycled water and is expected to finish in 2020.

Rancho Mission Viejo holds a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, raising proceeds of $15,000 that will go to help The Reserve.


During an annual city council reorganization, former Mayor Pro Tem Troy Bourne is named the new mayor. John Taylor is named the new mayor pro tem.

Christmas events are held around town, including the tree lighting by the city and opening night for Capistrano Lights at Mission San Juan Capistrano.

The city council approves revised plans for the Putuidem Cultural Village. Advertising for construction for the project will be in January 2020, with a construction contract potentially being awarded in the spring. Construction could take approximately four to six months.

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