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By Collin Breaux

Featured image: The current City Hall facility on Paseo Adelanto will be demolished and replaced with a new facility in the same spot which will also include affordable housing. Photo: File

Within the next two years, City Council meetings are expected to move to the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, and a new City Hall facility will take the place of the current one on Paseo Adelanto.

The City Council approved regulatory steps on Tuesday, July 19, so plans for the new facility—which will incorporate some affordable housing on the same site—can continue to move forward. The project has been discussed and gone through various bureaucratic approvals this year.

City staff and officials are scheduled to vacate the current City Hall site toward the end of this year, and the new City Hall facility is expected to be completed by fall of 2024. City Council chambers will move to the Community Center at 25925 Camino Del Avion, by Kinoshita Elementary School.

“It’s anticipated that if we vacate this property in December, we would have a new Council chamber in summer of 2023,” said Project Manger Charlie View. “It would include new technology in terms of audio/visual. This (current) facility is pretty limited in terms of what it can do.”

Another issue with the current City Hall site is sometimes crowds for Council meetings can’t fit into the chamber, View said.

“The Community Center is a much larger facility,” View said.

In the interim during construction, city staff will work out of a temporary site at 30448 Rancho Viejo Road.

As for the affordable housing component, that will comprise 50 units—one of which will be for the housing manager. The spaces are intended for at-risk populations, including people who have struggled with homelessness and substance abuse. Some of the units will be set aside for military veterans. Jamboree Housing Corporation, which handles housing throughout Southern California, will oversee the housing element.

“(The affordable housing) addresses what is considered a significant at-need and at-risk population, including folks who are coming off the street, folks who have other supportive needs,” View said. “One of the key terms is supportive housing. There’s services available, and Jamboree Housing provides on-site services, along with the county.”

Mayor Pro Tem Howard Hart—a retired Navy captain—asked for some housing to be set aside for veterans after visiting a Jamboree Housing site in Santa Ana.

The current City Hall facility—which has been around since 1970 and considered temporary ever since—will be demolished. The new proposed City Hall facility is 16,338 square feet.

“A couple of highlights compared to our current City Hall facility: there’s a much more significant plaza area. It’s anticipated there’ll be a flag in that location,” View said. “There’s two conference rooms that will serve both staff, as well as commissions and committees when there’s a smaller meeting that doesn’t necessarily need the large community room.”

Funding for the housing project will come from a variety of sources, including the county, the city’s housing in-lieu fee fund, and the Orange County Housing Fund Trust, according to an agenda report. The total expected cost for construction of the new City Hall building is approximately $10.2 million, with $8.7 million coming from proceeds of the sale of an existing City Hall site portion to Jamboree Housing.

Councilmember Troy Bourne said he loved the overall project.

“I’m tremendously proud of this project,” Councilmember John Taylor said. “What a monumental difference it’s going to make in our community. It just has so many great aspects to it—a new City Hall, after all these years, without any debt. Forty-nine units for people having trouble.”

The new City Hall will be one that “benefits our city,” Hart said.

“We’ll finally have a building that will inspire civic pride—not only in our residents, but also those that have to work here, day in and day out,” Councilmember Sergio Farias said. “It’s really depressing that we’ve been here for this long. For those that have to serve their communities as a councilmember and mayor, it’s really sad when you go through this building and doors don’t close right.”

“My reaction seeing City Hall for the first time wasn’t something that inspired pride in my city. I think everyone’s reaction since then has been very similar. They’ve had much more colorful comments,” Farias continued. “I don’t think my mother had ever been here until I got elected. Her reaction wasn’t a positive one. I look forward to either stepping down in the new City Hall or being sworn in in the new City Hall. Whichever it is, I’ll be proud to be in the new facility—whatever the circumstances.”

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.

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