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By Allison Jarrell
On May 2, the City Council heard concerns from residents who are strongly opposed to some of the toll road extension options proposed by the Transportation Corridor Agencies that would run through San Juan Capistrano. But the Council ultimately decided to hold off on sending a letter of opposition to the TCA in order to further refine the language used in said letter.
Mayor Kerry Ferguson proposed that the Council send a letter to the TCA stating opposition to any 241 extension through San Juan—specifically option 16, which Ferguson said “would decimate existing open space and residential areas.” Ferguson’s letter offered option 9 as a possible solution, which would connect Ortega Highway and Antonio Parkway to Avery Parkway and the 73 toll road.
Councilman Derek Reeve said he’s opposed to option 9, which he said may run close to San Juan, per the current TCA depiction. Reeve drafted an alternative letter for consideration, which opposes all extensions of the 241 and 73 toll roads through San Juan, with specific mention of opposing options 9, 13 and 17. Reeve’s letter received support from Councilman Sergio Farias and Councilman Brian Maryott.
San Juan Capistrano resident, Heather Davis, said she was shocked at the “relaxed response” to option 13, which would run over San Juan’s ridgelines. She implored the community to “step it up,” and noted that San Clemente residents are already organized and actively opposing toll road options through their city.
“This town has a code of preserving the historical ridgelines of San Juan, the equestrian community, and our way of life,” Davis said. “Just because it’s an open space that we have all fought to keep all through the years, does not mean it’s open for a super highway.”
Jennifer Powers, of Ladera Ranch, asked the Council to oppose option 9, which she doesn’t think would solve the north-south traffic along the I-5 corridor. Dave Garcia, of Rancho Mission Viejo, added that there are 300 residents between Ladera Ranch and RMV who are also opposed to that option.
“We plan to fight this every step of the way,” Powers said.
Former San Juan mayor Phillip Schwartze—who noted that he lived through the 241 and the San Joaquin Hills corridor—offered a different perspective.
“This goes through a very long process. Right now it’s in the very early stage, and everybody is starting to get excited,” Schwartze said. “In the next couple of years, when those things get refined … that’s when you want to get everybody up rockin’ and rollin.’ It will be better served when the time is right.”
Schwartze went on to say that friends in Mission Viejo and San Clemente may become enemies during the process.
“You’re going to need to protect this city, and what protects this city isn’t necessarily what helps those other guys out,” Schwartze said. “So be careful with what you’re doing and with taking early positions.”
The Council voted 3-2, Ferguson and Councilwoman Pam Patterson opposed, to table sending a letter to the TCA to a future date. Reeve said he feels it’s important to “nip this in the bud,” but noted that the Council currently has a full plate at its upcoming meeting.
City Manager Ben Siegel noted that from staff’s perspective, there is no real urgency to weigh in on the toll road options.
The various toll roads options that are being proposed by the TCA will be discussed at a third public forum on June 5 at Saddleback College, located at 28000 Marguerite Parkway in Mission Viejo. For more information, visit www.getmovingoc.com.