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Past actions of Mayor Pam Patterson, council majority deemed unlawful by superior court judge

A final rendering of Urban Village’s San Juan Hotel & Villas project, which had its approval repealed by the City Council in January 2015. Courtesy of Urban Village
A final rendering of Urban Village’s San Juan Hotel & Villas project, which had its approval repealed by the City Council in January 2015. Courtesy of Urban Village

By Allison Jarrell

An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled last week that the San Juan Capistrano City Council unlawfully repealed the approval of the San Juan Hotel & Villas project in January 2015, acting “in excess of their jurisdiction.”

Judge Randall Sherman concluded on Feb. 25 that the City Council’s repeal of the Urban Village development approval “was unauthorized by law because it was premised on a referendum.”

Sherman said referendums do not apply to resolutions that are “administrative, adjudicative or executive in nature,” and in this case, the resolution to approve the project was not legislative because “it merely pursued a plan already adopted by the City Council.”

City Attorney Jeffrey Ballinger said the City Council will discuss the court’s ruling at today’s 3 p.m. closed session meeting. No comment was given as to whether the city will appeal the ruling, which could potentially award Urban Village Development more than $5 million in damages.

From Approved to Repealed

The San Juan Hotel & Villas project was initially approved by a previous City Council on Nov. 19, 2014, after the locally-owned company had spent more than two years working with city staff and presenting at numerous public hearings and community meetings. The 136-room hotel was set to be operated by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and would have included commercial space in addition to 30 single-family homes on a 3.17-acre site in the heart of the historic town center.

A new City Council was sworn into office in December, filling out the dais with a majority of members that opposed the development—then-mayor Derek Reeve, Councilwoman Kerry Ferguson and Councilwoman Pam Patterson were outspoken critics of the project during their campaigns.

Patterson became an active participant in the movement for a referendum, and along with a group of citizens opposing the development, petitioned against the project’s approval. The group collected enough signatures for a voter referendum, which was validated by the Registrar of Voters.

When the petitions came back before the City Council on Jan. 20, 2015, rather than putting the matter before voters as a referendum, the majority of council members chose to make the decision themselves to repeal the project’s approval, saying their election to the City Council was indicative of how residents would vote on the project.

The council voted 4-1, with Councilman Sam Allevato dissenting, to repeal the approval.

Urban Village’s attorney, Chuck Krolikowski, maintained that because the hotel’s approvals were administrative and not legislative, the referendum was illegal. Furthermore, Urban Village principal Joshua Host said the referendum’s signatures were collected by “espousing outrageous lies to unsuspecting residents,” including that the hotel and villas would be constructed in Veteran’s Park.

Urban Village filed a suit on Jan. 27, 2015 seeking at least $5 million in damages due to loss of use of the property and diminution of the property’s value.

What’s Next

The superior court rejected the city’s argument that Urban Village lacked standing to pursue a writ of mandate because, “developers have standing even if they have not yet concluded an agreement with the property owner to acquire the site, and even if their contracts with the property owner have terminated or expired.”

Sherman said the city’s argument that the approval of the project was inconsistent with the General Plan is the subject of a different case, Save Our Historic Town Center v. City of San Juan Capistrano, which was essentially on hold until the issue of the referendum was ruled on. That case will be decided at a later date.

Councilman Derek Reeve took to his public Facebook page Thursday to comment on the case.

“Regarding legal issues, I tend to be quite judicious with my public comments, however at this time I feel at liberty to commend the court for making the proper ruling,” Reeve wrote. “While I did not support the Urban Village project, I also did not support the referendum. In my learned opinion the law is clear: the referendum was repealing an administrative action not a legislative one, and this is prohibited by law.”

Host said while he was happy with Sherman’s decision, he “never wanted a fight” in court. Even though he doesn’t have “high hopes” for working on a settlement with the city, he said he’s open to trying to “find a middle ground that would work for everybody.”

“We’ve extended an olive branch to the city,” Host said. “Damages are amounting on a daily basis. I think there are some very bright council members, and hopefully they can bring everyone together and we can have a conversation about what’s best for the city’s constituents.”

Currently, a new boutique hotel is planned for the property Urban Village had planned to build on, which is owned by local movie producer and director Steve Oedekerk. That hotel—also to be operated by Kimpton—is currently going through the city’s planning process, including a recent hearing at a Design Review Committee meeting.

Host said he’s supportive of Oedekerk and his endeavors, but he hasn’t necessarily moved past the idea of pursuing development in San Juan.

“Building here isn’t ruled out,” Host said.

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comments (27)

  • Is the Derek Reeve on the Facebook page saying he knew it was improper the same Derek Reeve who voted for it?

  • Clint Worthington Reply

    The City Attorney did not show up for the hearing and the judge ruled against the City. You are welcome to check the court record.

    • So, Clint Worthington, Councilman Derek Reeve is wrong about the clarity of the law? Sounds like he knew the City Council was breaking the law.

    • And why didn’t the City Attorney show up, Clint? Perhaps the council made another bad decision.

    • Incurable Optimist Reply

      Gee Clint, was anyone from the City Council majority, who got us in this mess, there?

      • Clint Worthington

        It was the residents of San Juan Capistrano that presented to the City Clerk more than enough qualifying signatures (certified by the Registrar of Voters) for a referendum of a City Council decision held at three in the morning.

      • Incurable Optimist

        Yes, and who was it that assured the voters of SJC that the referendum was legal? Oh right, that was our mayor, the lawyer, Pam Patterson.

      • Clint Worthington

        The referendum was legal. There was nothing illegal about the referendum. I am sorry that you missed that part.

      • Incurable Optimist

        Perhaps you haven’t read the article you are commenting on…the court ruled that the referendum (the one that Pam Patterson assured us was legal) was illegal. As Councilman Reeve commented “In my learned opinion the law is clear: the referendum was repealing an administrative action not a legislative one, and this is prohibited by law.”

    • Incurable Optimist Reply

      Clint, the city’s law firm, Best,Best & Krieger, was at the hearing defending the city. Check the court record.

      • Clint Worthington

        The court record is where I obtained my information. You must have missed my comment above.

        Just curious, why do you not use your real name ?

  • First the Scalzo $6 million judgment and now $5 million here. The City Councils in San Juan continue to do such fine work. The latest being the decision not to widen the “Ortega Pinch.” This town deserves so much better.

  • Ok, here’s the deal. Mayor Patterson pushed this to happen against the city attorneys advice not to. He basically told her it was an illegal act. Mayor Patterson being an attorney herself, did it anyway to help her close friend Bill Griffith get the urban village project shut down once and for all. Huge conflict of interest! At one point, I even asked her to recuse herself going forward from voting on either of the Bill Griffith hotel project or the new Kimpton Hotel project as Bill Griffith refer to as his “competition” Mayor Patterson told me she was able to separate herself from her close relationship with Bill Griffith. Going on to the next issue. Mayor Patterson calling an emergency meeting on Friday a few months back in the middle of the day to try to slide in a vote that would finally kill off any hopes of getting the Kimpton Hotel built. Again, helping her personal friend Bill Griffith. As we all know that plan failed. Mayor Patterson actions to help her friends the Griffiths is going to now cost the city millions of dollars! Josh Host will probably make more money on this lawsuit than actually building the urban village project. Mayor Patterson, would you please finally recuse yourself from voting on either of these 2 hotel projects going forward? Our city cannot afford any further lawsuits.

  • So basically Sam Allevato is the only councilman not guilt of costing millions to tax payers of San Juan. We need to elect better council people.

    • Clint Worthington Reply

      Sam Allevato was one of the three who held secret meeting to ban newspapers. Because of Sam Allevato, San Juan is the only City in the United States that is under court order to allow people to read the newspaper.

      The same Sam Allevato is the one who chose to fight the illegal water rates at every step of the way. Now, a class action lawsuit is under way to give back the residents the other 15 million dollars that Sam Allevato does not want you to have, that you paid ! Sam Allevato is fighting to not return your own money to you.

      • Clint Worthington,

        The paper was not banned in San Juan Capistrano. The stand in front of the city hall building was banned. The paper was allowed all over town and was/is even delivered to people’s houses. And the paper in question, Common Sense, is not a newspaper since it does not report news. It is an onesided opinion paper. It does not give both sides of any story. It only gives one side. It does not report facts and has been used as a way to skirt campaign financing. It is delivered to my driveway and it goes right into the recycling bin. I am thankful that San Juan Capistrano will be switching to district elections so that slates like the one currently in charge of the council and the former one will be harder to cultivate. District elections will allow for more diverse and logical governing. We need a council that will represent us all. And not just their friends.

  • Instead of really analyzing and thinking about what they are voting on, this council just seems to rush to judgement and vote to reward their followers. Many who voted for this council feel betrayed. Their decisions are costing us millions but, hopefully, they do not cost us something more precious than tax dollars. Life.

    I was driving home last night after a game at SJHHS. There was a car with a flat tire at the bottleneck. The car was on the shoulder just before the bottleneck narrows to no shoulder. There were two cars pulled over to help. It is dark and dangerous because there is no room. What was this council thinking when they voted not to improve this part of the highway that puts so many of our young people and citizens at risk. I sincerely pray there is no one injured or killed there because of our council’s baffling, irresponsible decision.

    I do not care where their loyalties lie or who they are friends with. They are supposed to represent ALL the PEOPLE of San Juan Capistrano!!!! The decisions they make on that council should be what is the best for the taxpayers and all citizens of our city. Especially our children!

  • 1. Urban Village followed procedure and did their due -diligence. But remember in front of Von’s Patterson, McCarthy, Crabbs, Ferguson sat there and lied and mislead residents, showed altered pictures and lied. So look between the lines, who got elected and were appointed onto Commissions! Same people!
    2. John Perry has a conflict of interest and was appointed onto council to “Get the Money” for his personal attorneys. He is being called The Water Dog! Trust me this man will blame everyone but his own actions! He is involved in 2,lawsuits against the City and our residents! A golf course in town watering their greens with drinkable water and our residents are getting fined for going over their allotment! He has taken our water fund into a $5.27M deficit in one year and almost depleted the Sewer Fund, which he has been using to pay his attorneys. That deficit/debt will have to be paid back by raising rates, but Perry will be long gone by then but still a puppet master behind the scenes.
    3. This Council Majority has spent 15 months going backwards, tearing down everything ! They TOUT 1 accomplishment Their Trolley” that cost taxpayers $60,000, that showed no data as helping our businesses in town. John Perry rode with a group of seniors as a “Wheeee Trip” to put their heads out of the windows to get the wind in their hair at a cost of $15 each of your money! That’s fine that seniors go out for a little trip and it was better than having an empty trolley driving around in circles. 33 employees left the City in one year, including every single Department head with all the institutional knowledge gone. Instead of moving Capistrano forward, this majority is emersed in fighting off 8 lawsuits, with the attorney fees reaching into the millions and the town’s exposure of liability running into the tens of millions!
    4. Patterson, Ferguson, & Perry refuse to listen to the residents regarding the removal of the Ortega Chokepoint. The horrific part of this is that the three of them need each others’ support to push forward their sick agendas i.e. Perry’s destruction of our water system, Patterson unholy alliance with Bill Griffith in trying to kill Oedekerk’s project, and Ferguson’s Trolley Folley! But where is that same passion for the residents that are stuck in traffic on Ortega Highway all the way to the freeway? THEY SIMPLY DON’T CARE.
    5. Go to and help build an army to get our city back on track. The Common Sense group is a cancer on our town that needs to be eradicated! There are wonderful people in this city and our town is a special place. We can’t allow this to continue! I know we have one Marshall Dillon on the council, but we need you to build a posse to help him take our city back!
    Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke ?

    • Clint Worthington Reply

      Isn’t Capistrano Forward Tina Auclair who is suing the City ?

      • This is Miss Kitty, come over to “Long Branch Saloon”, enjoy some Frisky Whiskey, dance with some of my beautiful Dance Hall Girls and learn to relax. I’ll even give you a drink on the house! Two of my good friends Festus and Chester can attest to the “Truth Hurts”! I think you are forgetting as a sitting, Council Member, Patterson represented you, Mr. Clint to join in the lawsuit against Urban Village!
        What about next time Doc? Poor Mr Clint must’ve fell out of bed and hit his head and his Memory is very Short! He was part of “Capistrano Taxpayers” who sued the City , which Doc by the way has taken the Water Fund in excess of $5 Million dollars in debt, which will have to be paid back by Our little town of “Dodge City”, known today As the Sleepy little town of San Juan Capistrano! The Range War is looming especially during this very Severe Drought. All the Cattle on the ranches are dwindling and water is going to be a serious thang as this Summer is coming and our rivers run dry! “You listen to me Cowboy I’ve got you out from underneath my fingernails and yor’ gonna STAY OUT!” “do you Hear ME cowpoke?”
        Miss Kitty ?

        This comment has been edited for content.

  • Clint Worthington,
    This specific lawsuit was not the fault of Sam Allevato. This was the fault of others on the council. Yes, there are lawsuits from the previous council that cost the citizens money. But currently there are several lawsuits that were caused by this current council and will cost us millions. And this current council gave over 10 million in funding improvements for the Ortega which because of the safety issues will have to be addressed. This council did not consider the safety of our children, the children of San Juan Capistrano, when they decided to give up the funding for the Ortega improvements. We, the citizens of San Juan Capistrano, will eventually have to pay for these improvements. You can no longer blame Sam Allevato for everything.

    • Clint Worthington Reply

      Shelly Welcome,
      Sam Allevato held a vote at 3am for this project as one of that City Council’s last official duties. That action by Sam Allevato outraged many residents. To the point that that the residents were able to obtain enough qualified signatures in only 19 days without a website or advertisement. The referendum to overturn the City Council decision was legal. As for the lawsuits Sam Allevato is responsible for, let’s take a look at them: Scalzo lawsuit 10 million (million in attorney fees), where the young boy lost his leg, 8.5 million, the water lawsuit 5 million so far and with the class action lawsuit for the city to pay the remaining amount that was illegally taken from the water users is 15 million (attorney fees so far approx 3 million). Shelly we are now at 38 million that Sam Allevato has cost the City in lawsuits and I have not even included all of the lawsuits.

      If the safety issues on the Ortega were so pressing and dangerous, why did Sam Allevato not obtain emergency funding to fix it in the 12 years he has been on the City Council. Or Shelly, is it that the state who owns the road and has the liability for it, did not find that these items were urgent after all. Lastly, there was not enough funding to complete the project.

      Now, can we stick to the subject this story is about ?

      • Clint Worthington,
        The young man lost his leg because San Juan Capistrano ignored the fact that the street on which the boy was traveling should have had a stop sign. It was unsafe and residence told the city it was unsafe many times. You make this all about Sam Allevato but one person cannot decide on something. The council must vote. I am telling you and I have told the city that the corner on the Ortega where it narrows in unsafe for our children. The improvements for the Ortega were approved and funding was provided. The current city council has deemed that the Ortega is fine how it is and is ignoring the safety issues. When people signed the petitions they were told it would go to a ballot to be decided. It did not. People were lied to. The council should have put it to a vote. Also, the judge is not agreeing with you on this one Clint. This council also did this with the Vermuelen property petition. People who signed the petition were told it would go to a ballot and it did not. I believe the Vermeulen lawsuit has yet to be heard or decided on. My water bill has gone up and yet my water usage has gone down. And the water bills of people who use way over their allotted amount has gone down. So as a family who has taken the drought seriously we are punished for conserving while others who overuse water get a financial break. Does that sound fair to you or prudent?

      • Clint Worthington,
        Your council is also costing us millions. And the Ortega needs to be fixed and our city council is now on the books saying it is safe and does not need fixing. We are now liable. Parents just want their kids to get to and from school safely! That is my point about the Ortega. This current council did not take our children into consideration. This was payback against the previous council and this should not occur at the expense of our children. I understand that you despise Sam Allevato and others do too, but it should not get in the way of doing what is best for our city and our children. The above lawsuit is just one example as well as the Ortega. Get over it and do what is best for our city and our children. Do what you say you are going to do. When you ask someone to sign something and say it will go to a ballot then do it. Or actually, ACTUALLY, check and research if what you are doing is LEGAL or WISE or SAFE!!!

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