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By Brian Park

The San Juan Capistrano City Council voted Tuesday, December 3 to delay its decision on whether to allow a developer to build a 100-unit apartment complex near San Juan Hills High School after the developer presented a plan to alleviate traffic concerns in the area.

Traffic consultants and representatives from Mission Viejo-based developer Woodbridge Pacific Group offered a plan proposing to designate two right-turn lanes from La Pata Avenue onto Vista Montana and extend two left-turn lanes on Vista Montana onto La Pata Avenue. In June, Woodbridge Pacific also offered to pay for a new traffic signal in the area.

The proposed development would sit on 4.6 acres of a 9.7-acre parcel of land on the northwest corner of Vista Montana and La Pata Avenue and would include 26 affordable housing units, which would help the city meet its state-mandated quota for low-income housing.

In August, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the council reject the project due to traffic concerns. Commissioners also felt the site wasn’t a suitable location for housing, citing its distance from community support services.

Mayor Sam Allevato and Councilman Larry Kramer disagreed with the commission’s assessment. Kramer said the location could support new housing, especially with the county’s plan to extend La Pata Avenue to San Clemente, and Rancho Mission Viejo’s plan to build a commercial development near Ortega Highway.

The council rescheduled their consideration of the project to January 21 to allow city staff time to review the proposed traffic improvements.

While some residents urged the council to approve the project to bring more affordable housing into the city, others said the proposed improvements would not alleviate difficult commutes and that the development would worsen the situation.

Others who spoke said rezoning the land would increase its value in a rumored land-swap with the Capistrano Unified School District.

CUSD Deputy Superintendent Clark Hampton told the council there had been discussion between the developer and the district about acquiring the property, which could be used for additional parking.

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