The article you’re about to read is from our reporters doing their important work — investigating, researching, and writing their stories. We want to provide informative and inspirational stories that connect you to the people, issues and opportunities within our community. Journalism requires lots of resources. Today, our business model has been interrupted by the pandemic; the vast majority of our advertisers’ businesses have been impacted. That’s why The Capistrano Dispatch is now turning to you for financial support. Learn more about our new Insider’s program here. Thank you.

The latest rendering of Urban Village’s San Juan Hotel & Villas project. At the San Juan Capistrano City Council’s meeting on Tuesday night, a plan to allow homes in downtown failed, halting the project. But the developer said he remains committed. Courtesy of Urban Village
The latest rendering of Urban Village’s San Juan Hotel & Villas project, which is one three major development projects that has sparked heated debate among residents and business owners. Courtesy of Urban Village

By The Capistrano Dispatch

As part of our ongoing coverage of the San Juan Capistrano City Council election, we asked each of the eight candidates four questions about local issues. In the editions of The Dispatch leading up to the Nov. 4 election, we will publish their answers, verbatim, in the order their names will appear on the ballot.

Note: Greg Acho withdrew from the election after the official deadline to do so. His name will still appear fourth on the ballot, but he will not be included in our Q&A series.

We asked the candidates:

The city is considering several major development projects that have sparked heated discussions among residents. Which projects are of the greatest concern to you? As a council member, how would you balance the desire to add responsible developments with the need to preserve San Juan Capistrano’s historical character?

Jan Siegel

Jan Siegel, Community Volunteer

We need a smart, educated balance between growth and development in our downtown historic area.

As a 13 year member of the Cultural Heritage Commission and an active member of the Historical Society, I am a firm believer in preserving history. But I want the City to flourish economically too. Council members must be very protective of that balance. In 2012, the City Council passed the Downtown Historic Master Plan after working with the community for over a year. The Plan is specific when it states how the historic downtown should be protected with development.

The project which concerns me the most is the one across from the Historic Mission. It is the gateway to our City, and next to the most historic site in Orange County. Developers must realize that when they come into Historic San Juan Capistrano they must work within our guidelines, and not simply copy what has worked in other communities.

There are things that we need in the City, such as a downtown hotel. If we follow the guidelines outlined in the Historic Downtown Master Plan it can be done in a constructive way. Businesses in our downtown should compliment our culture and history.

Derek Reeve

Derek Reeve, Councilman/Constitutional Attorney

I have fought for property rights, yet three development projects require careful scrutiny: The Spieker Development; Urban Village downtown hotel/residential project; and Capistrano Shops next to the Mission.

Spieker proposes high-density development on land surrounding Armstrong Nursery. The developer demands a General Plan Amendment to replace zoned agriculture land with 519 residential units on 33 acres that will further burden our streets and strain our water supply. The property is not zoned for high-density development. Property rights include the thousands of residents who live around land zoned agricultural.

Urban Village will forever destroy the traditional character of our downtown. While I support a boutique hotel, jamming a large hotel with 30 residential units will further strain our water resources, increase traffic, reduce parking capacity and urbanize our town.

Capistrano Shops as proposed is ill suited for its location. The Mission is the soul of our town and nearby development must be carefully considered. The proposal calls for a strip mall with aesthetics reminiscent of Irvine, not San Juan. Any project at this location must adhere to a façade of Mission architecture.

As in the past four years, I will continue to fight for the residents and against these projects.

Pam Patterson

Pam Patterson, Constitutional Attorney/Businesswoman

I am 100% in favor of smart development that puts our residents first, and takes care of people who are already coming here. However, San Juan CANNOT endure one more car on our roads, nor any further demand on our water supply. My candidacy was spurred by the likelihood the Council majority would approve Laguna Glen and the hotel/townhomes. Both would significantly harm the historical character of San Juan Capistrano—large scale “Irvine” projects being crammed into our small village-like setting—and further encumber an already overburdened infrastructure. Thus, these projects are of greatest concern to me at this time.

Our town is filled with unattractive, rundown strip malls. Let’s take care of what we have before we add more, and let’s do a superior job of it. By doing so, hundreds of out-of-town parents who drop off children at our private schools will be more inclined to stay and shop. Upgrading our strip malls would be a win-win for San Juan business, residents, city revenues, and those already driving here daily without adding to our traffic and water problems. Put San Juan residents first!

Creative solutions that put residents first is the way to progress for San Juan Capistrano.

John Taylor

John Taylor, Businessman/Councilmember

As a current council member and member of the Real Property Sub-committee, I have seen many of the projects from their inception. We attempt to steer a developer or property owner to a successful outcome that will respect our cherished historic, small town feel.

As a 33 year resident and owner of a home on the National Register of Historic Buildings in Los Rios Historic District, and after saving the Yorba/Love House from demolition and restoring it to it’s original beauty, I believe I have the experience to know when a project meets that deliberate balance between the necessary economic development to keep a city alive and yet maintain the character we all love and cherish about San Juan Capistrano.

I was involved in the establishment of the Historic Town Center Master Plan, and supported its passage while on city council. The first project that we have seen completed is the new Mission Gatehouse and retail store. This is a perfect example of the quality and balance that we all speak of, and I believe preserves the historic character of our city, that’s what I am looking for. I will continue to fight for responsible growth that preserves our history.

Rob Williams

Robert Williams, Architect/Business Owner

“Balance,” “Responsible” development, and “Historical character” are key words. They all require vision and leadership. Our city council is seriously considering several projects, two of grave concern. If either is approved, the historical landscape of our downtown will be forever changed; not for the better:

  • “The Shops at Capistrano.” Right next door to our historic Mission … a retail “Strip Mall!”  Nothing about it enhances our Mission or strengthens our economy. It’s just a second-rate space-filler, and violation of our Historic Town Center Master Plan. This is our gateway, so must represent who we are. This strip-mall is not worthy of that distinction.
  • “Urban Village.” A 136 room, three story hotel with 30 town homes, three stories high! This is a massive proposal, and dwarfs our historic downtown. It also significantly deviates from our downtown plan. A charming boutique hotel would indeed fit, but this overreaching proposal isn’t the right fit.

We need leadership and experience to:

• Implement the Historic Town Center Master Plan.

• Work up-front WITH developers and communicate our goals.

• Celebrate our historic structures, not hide them.

• Develop an overall traffic solution with developers.

Our unique charm must be protected, not sold to the highest bidder.

Stephanie Frisch

Stephanie Frisch, Independent Insurance Broker

San Juan Capistrano is unique-40% of our town is, and always will be, Open Space. That makes what we do with the other 60% extremely important. We need to generate income and rebuild the tax base for our City. In my opinion, it is possible to balance our open space environment with economy and history. We aren’t a rural town, but the presence of open space and horses can give that impression. San Juan is an urban environment. Our city has the I-5 freeway and a regional railroad dissecting it. We are a “short-cut” city for commuters in neighboring towns. That traffic brings no revenue to our town unless we give them a reason to stop.

We must pick developments that bring not only tourists, but also residents and neighbors into our downtown commercial corridor. We need to look at the tax revenue these developments will bring so that our town shines as brightly as it can and should because we are the home of the prized jewel of the missions; Mission San Juan Capistrano.

My biggest concern is the mudslinging, the lying and the immature attitude of a noisy minority. Decisions should be based on what’s best for EVERYONE.

Kerry Ferguson

Kerry Ferguson, Businesswoman/Educator

New buildings haven’t been approved downtown in years. Opposition is strong to the Laguna Glen proposal by Spieker, another outside developer. The planning process for San Juan Capistrano, under the current council majority, is flawed.

It’s time for a fresh look. Instead of encouraging developers’ over-sized projects that are insensitive to San Juan’s atmosphere, I know we can do better!

A smaller boutique hotel downtown wouldn’t burden our daily lives with more traffic and parking headaches. Similarly, a plaza for shopping and dining that complemented the Mission would make better sense than the current proposal.

My greatest concern is the huge Laguna Glen proposal – on land promised to us for a park, now a planned high-density city within a city with 519 total units, a medical building and other facilities. While desirable for elite seniors able to afford $700,000-$1,000,000+ and $3500-$4000+ monthly fees, it’s too big for our small town and narrow streets, and traffic will increase!

If elected, I will use my experience with creative solutions and fruitful negotiation to help forge a better planning process, one that will preserve the historic character and small town atmosphere that attracted all of us to San Juan Capistrano. I ask for your vote!

Larry Kramer

Larry Kramer, Retired Submarine Captain

Two major downtown projects are in jeopardy. Urban Village is stalled because it includes housing, which is not allowed by the General Plan. Since the current city council will not vote to allow housing the project cannot move forward. The Shops at Capistrano are being opposed because they do not reflect the historic nature of our town center.

I support a hotel, some housing, more retail and another breakfast restaurant. The proposed projects contain these elements, but need to fit into downtown.

The Historic Downtown Master Plan protects the character of San Juan Capistrano while laying out a general development plan. We should adhere to the Master Plan , but fine-tune it . I believe in the processes established by the city. We encourage public input, have project advisory commissions and have a strong and caring city council. Our talented and experienced city staff helps to balance development while preserving the character of San Juan Capistrano.

I am concerned that no downtown projects will be implemented. Some growth is needed to maintain a healthy downtown. Great strides have been made but we must continue to move ahead while respecting the historic character of the city.

Trustworthy, accurate and reliable local news stories are more important now than ever. Support our newsroom by making a contribution and becoming a subscribing member today.

About The Author Capo Dispatch

comments (14)

  • Jan Siegel is right. SJC needs a smart, educated balance between growth and development in the downtown area. That is the purpose of a general plan and a planning commission. Does SJC REALLY need a downtown hotel? Doubtful. And what if one were built and vacant?

    Derek Reeve is one of the few who understand what these 3 developments mean. Few planners even understand density and the ramifications. “Urban Village will forever destroy the traditional character of our downtown” are words everyone should heed. “Capistrano Shops is ill suited for its location.” is just as true.

    Pam Patterson is spot on that “SJC cannot endure one more car on our roads, not any further demand on our water supply”. Unattractive, rundown strip malls are the result of years of bad planning…..all with the goal of “growth”. SJC needs to define what “growth” really means.

    John Taylor- says nothing. He will go along with anything.

    Robert Williams – talks about “Balance”, “Responsible” development and “Historical character” but doesn’t address how he would address the obvious problems of the current projects in planning.

    Stephanie Frisch – simply has NO CLUE.

    Kerry Ferguson- has some understanding of the problems with all of these projects. She is totally correct about Laguna Glen. Most folks don’t understand the details of this project. You have to put up anywhere from $300,000-$1,000,000 (called a buy-in) to live there…..but you don’t own any property. Then you have to be able to pay $3500-$4000 in monthly fees. With the number of units, it could take many years to fine the few folks able to afford this level of care. The representative told me, if the City reduced the number of units, they would put 1,000,000 chickens on the property and that “the City had negotiated with them to build a community swimming pool on another site”. This is a big boondoggle, San Juan.

    Larry Kramer – said nothing.

  • Jan Siegal wrote a letter of support for the “Urban Village” hotel project. With that kind of support, Jan Siegal obviously does not have the residents best interests in mind or in her heart. The residents of San Juan Capistrano cannot support a candidate who has sold out the residents.

    • Gus,
      I was compelled to respond to your comment. It could not be possible that you know Jan Siegel and could write that she has turned her back on the residents of San Juan. Jan Siegel has done more for San Juan than most of us could dream . Jan started the Architectural Walking Tour 20 years ago and it is still going to this day. Jan has been on the Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years and is on more volunteer boards and committees than I can count.

      I am also responding because I am the developer behind the San Juan Hotel & Villas and knowing my interaction with Jan on the project your characterization of Jan is 100% off basis.

      Jan was generous with her time and candid with her concerns. Jan was a tough critic and continued to push us on changes that would reduce the impact on the Egan House and improve the project design. Further, Jan worked with me on concepts to add elaborate historical depictions to the site.

      It is easy to find people that say “no, no, no” because they lack the wherewithal to work through complex challenges and controversy. Jan on the contrary is balanced, she can deal with dynamic issues with an open mind to find the optimal outcome for all stakeholders (Community, City, businesses, residents, etc.)

      • Oh please Joshua Host. You stand to make millions off of this project as the developer. Who do you think you are fooling ? Jan Siegal supported your project and now that the truth about Jan Siegal is out, you want to show your support for her. Isn’t that special. I will scratch your back and you will scratch my back. Oh, please.

        Joshua Host, your project was turned down. Now put your toys away and go home.

      • Gus,

        It is far too easy to cast stones from your couch cushion. Jan is an honorable member of San Juan and adds tremendous value through countless hours of volunteering. Jan wrote a public letter of support after 14+ months of engagement and making multiple requests for project changes. This is hardly a hidden fact, so I don’t understand how “the truth is out”. As a resident and business owner in San Juan I support candidates that I believe will take San Juan in a positive direction, as I am sure you do as well. We obviously disagree on this direction and that is ok. But, hopefully our discourse can be respectful.

  • Jan Siegal wrote a letter of support for the “Urban Village” hotel project. She obviously does not have the best interests in mind of the residents. I cannot support a prospective city council member like Jan Siegal who does not have the best interests of the residents in mind and neither should you.

    Kramer, he simply has been under the water way too long. What exactly did he say ?

  • As in reading the comments of the above candidates, I find myself agreeing with Bonnie Benton’s commentary.

    We can’t afford more housing, strip malls, or a hotel until we resolve our other problems. If this drought continues, it is estimated that California will be out of water in 12 to 18 months. I have been a supporter of the GWRP, but after looking at its geology, the creeks that recharge it are drying up just like the rest of the rivers throughout our state. IF we run out of water what will happen to the value of our homes and property? In 1864 the drought resulted in the ranches surrounding San Juan to be sold at virtually ten cents on the dollar to land speculators, changing the face of Orange County and San Juan Capistrano forever.

    Our current City Council has done little to address the water problem, and the candidates make no mention of our diminishing water supply, nor has the state. Yes, after three years, the state finally called for a 20% reduction in our water use. But the state did NOTHING about the corporate threats to our water–i.e.: hydraulic fracturing and bottled water. The oil cartels are consuming billions of gallons of water as they frack both old and new wells, and Nestle and Coca Cola are draining our aquifers as they bottle our water and sell it out of state or overseas.

    Calls to ban fracking and plastic grocery bags has fallen on deaf ears. The state finally enacted a ban on plastic grocery bags this past month. A call to require a meaningful deposit on plastic water bottles, so that users will return them to the store for credit and proper disposal, has likewise fallen on deaf ears.

    Calls to allow the use of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, or NEVs for short, has likewise fallen on deaf ears. Encouraging the use of NEV’s will result in air quality improvements, community cohesion, energy savings, reduced travel costs, increased mobility, and greater independence for aging drivers.

    Calls to mandate the use of solar in all new construction has also fallen on deaf ears. To cities — Lancaster and Sebastropol have both enacted ordinances mandating solar in new constructions. The same can be said for creating an ordinance requiring recycling sink and shower water, using it to flush household toilets. There are systems that can do this.

    A call raise the minimum wage in San Juan Capistrano to $15 p/hr has fallen on deaf ears, as well Cities that have raised their minimum wage have experienced an improved economy, increased job creation, and a reduction in the need for social services.

    I’d like the candidates to address these issues in a public form.

  • JAN SIEGEL – A smart woman. Really cares about the unique aspects of San Juan while understanding the financial need for growth. This is the present formula needed in our city.

    DEREK REEVE – I personally really like and respect Derek. However, he doesn’t seem interested in bolstering local business with increased tourism and patrons for our local business owners that would create sorely needed tax revenue for the city. I know he definitely cares about San Juan but can not wrap my head around how keeping everything the same is a financially sound plan with our city’s faltering economy and closing businesses. Growth plans that will never happen, no matter how good intentioned, are ultimately of no use.

    PAM PATTERSON – Pam doesn’t seem to understand San Juan is financially sucking wind. Upgrade the strip malls? Who’s doing that? Where’s the money for that? Seems to be good intentions with a severe lack of knowledge and understanding. There isn’t a long line of developers waiting to spend money in San Juan in any way imaginable. This is wishful thinking, not reality.

    JOHN TAYLOR – John is a good man who thinks both like a City Council Member and a protective San Juan Resident. He understands our financial challenges and opportunities and at the same time has been a stubborn voice of measured development for our city. John is the right formula for San Juan.

    ROBERT WILLIAMS – Robert’s thoughts seem sound at face value, but he condemns the Urban Village project and whole heatedly supports the HTC Master plan while cleverly dodging the fact that the HTC Master plan has no hotel and at least 3 TIMES THE RESIDENTIAL HOUSING UNITS on the same plot of land. I know these numbers because I own the land. Something wonky going on here.

    STEPHANIE FRISCH – Wow, don’t know Stephanie well but what a wonderfully concise description of the the commerce elements of our town that many of the candidates conveniently pretend don’t exist. The Council could use a smart woman who is so very aware that San Juan can not magically pay its bills but truly needs a plan that supports our local business owners and residents.

    KERRY FERGUSON – It’s really easy and sometimes refreshing to just throw darts at a current administration, but you ultimately need ideas that can actually happen. Boutique Hotel with 50 rooms: nice idea, no one wants to build one. Plaza Banderas tried for 5 years and that was extensively more than 50 rooms. Ideas that “sound good” will ultimately need the commerce behind them to actually happen. Our Council needs Members with expertise that know which good ideas just sound nice and which ones can actually physically happen in the real world.

    LARRY KRAMER – Any city would do well to have Larry on their Council. I’ve rarely met a man that is so strong and resolute while at the same time truly caring about our town, its residents and business owners. Larry is extremely smart and can weigh San Juan’s issues of commerce while preserving its historical roots. This gift is critical to be an effective Council Member in our city.

    And finally to Bonnie Benton, the impressively prolific commentator to nearly all articles and postings: Bonnie, you should pick up a historical book on San Juan. San Juan had one or more hotels in the downtown since the late 1800s to the early 1960s. Something our historical forefathers knew: San Juan needed a hotel then and San Juan needs a hotel now. It’s math. Your lack of interest and concern of the financials of San Juan and the livelihood of it’s local business owners are resounding. When in doubt look the other way. After reading Stephanie Frisch’s statement and then reducing all of that information into saying she: “simply has no clue” is the equivalent of announcing with a bullhorn that finances, commerce and tax revenue in our city simply don’t matter. The reality is these are incredibly important financial issues that do matter. Anyone that has the position that we just need to fill the City Council with all of the candidates against growth and commerce and all will be dandy, will ultimately land with a rude awakening of financial and fiscal amateurs at the wheel. A very dangerous proposition.

    We need all sides in our City Council Members. Those with knowledge and interest of financial matters and what ideas are actually feasible, and at the same time care about San Juan, it’s historical roots, its business owners and its residents. Of the above candidates for that critically successful historical and financial balance you have::


    No growth at all costs but with maybe nicer strip malls:


    No hotel but three times as many downtown residential housing units in its place:


  • Steve, someone just told me you are the land owner for Urban Village and if approved you will make over $8 million. You seem to have a good head on your shoulders. Your opinion is thoughtful. Yet your opinion appears to be driven by your own financial agenda. You may have unintentionally given support to Reeve, Patterson and Ferguson. Your comments on Williams is more interesting. I have been told he supports some developers over others. I question his sincerity.

  • Steve Odekirk it would have been more truthful had you mentioned that you own the property that Urban Village is on. So you make a good movie. That does not give you the right to trample on the other residents in the city. By the way, do you even live here ? Nope. You are just a profiteer who is out to make a buck on the backs of the residents.

    Myself and my friends will no longer attend a Odekirk movie.

    • Wow, Gus. Fact checks needed! I actually did mention I owned the property in the fourth paragraph from the top of my comment you’re responding to. You’ll find it right there.

      My wife and I have lived in San Juan Capistrano for 21 years now. Both of my daughters, now 19 and 15, can proudly say they’ve spent their whole lives in this awesome town.

      Thousands of trips to Ruby’s…

      You should see whatever movies you like, Gus. God bless,


  • Patrick you are right, Steve Odekirk is the land owner for Urban Village.

  • My votes are for Derek Reeve and Pam Patterson. I like their conservative ideas. Wish there was a third like them. With all these Big changes San Juan will lose its Historic Charm and be like any other city. We already have many empty office spaces in San Juan, as well as Boutique shops downtown that aren’t patronized why do we need more? San Juan has enough parking now, but won’t have any if the parking lots are torn out for hotels and housing. Why does the City Council want to take a small downtown space and try to make it Big? We just don’t have the same space as downtown Dana Point or San Clemente.

    • Hi Jill,
      You are right. There are many vacancies in Downtown San Juan and the turnover has been high and consistent for the last couple decades. That is exactly why we need a hotel and residential Downtown. The hotel will be operated by the first and largest operator of Boutique Hotels in the country! The hotel and villas will create economic viability Downtown for existing and new restaurants and retail. This will enhance the pedestrian experience for residents and guests.

      The issue is Downtown is not the amount of space, but rather how the space is used. For example, there is a lack of pedestrian connectivity on Camino Capistrano. Once you pass the Antique Barn there is nothing that brings pedestrians further down the street. This reduces the perceived size of the Downtown as most residents and visitors stay in the core 2 blocks. By adding a unique boutique hotel on the corner of Forster Street and Camino Capistrano that has a restaurant and roof top bar there will be visual interest for pedestrians to keep walking south.

      Further, the hotel has been designed to create multiple connection points to the Mercado Village, El Adobe, the Egan House and the HTC Park. This in turn creates another node of interest like Los Rios, the Depot area or Camino Cap/Verdugo. Please look at the drawings, you will see stunning architecture. It is our goal that this beautifully designed project will add to the unique setting of Downtown and someday even onto the Historic Registry.

Comments are closed.