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City Councilman Sam Allevato
Sam Allevato

By City Councilman Sam Allevato

The City Council majority of Mayor Pam Patterson, Mayor Pro Tem Kerry Ferguson and Councilman John Perry voted Jan. 5 to, once again, effectively delay the removal of the 0.9-mile Ortega Highway choke point. With a 3-1 vote (Patterson, Ferguson and Perry voting yes; myself voting no and Councilman Derek Reeve absent), this council majority ignored the overwhelming testimony of 18 speakers (mostly residents) that pointed to the dangers, flooding, congestion and environmental concerns that necessitate the removal of this choke point.

Instead, this council majority has been indoctrinated by others to say that the removal of the choke point will just increase traffic, raise the speed limits and will destroy the small town charm of our city. These obtuse arguments were presented by only a handful of other speakers who also objected nonsensically to commuters from surrounding cities only being encouraged to use Ortega Highway if the choke point is removed, thus increasing traffic.

What they effectively have done is to punish our residents who live along Ortega Highway, the parents who must endure the traffic mess while taking their children to San Juan Hills High School and the novice young drivers who have to maneuver through this dangerous section of roadway on their only way to the high school—just to spite other motorists that may be so emboldened as to use a gas-tax-funded state highway.

Councilwoman Ferguson pointed to the 2002 San Juan Capistrano Strategic Transportation Plan as some infallible document that must be followed, when what it actually says is that widening Ortega Highway to four lanes should occur after the “city pursue(s) and achieve(s) commitments or resolution to the first five recommended strategies,” including:

1. Construction of the Ortega Highway/Interstate 5 Interchange (completed in 2015)
2. La Pata extension to San Clemente (to be completed September 2016)
3. Completion of the SR 241 toll road to I-5 (Ferguson opposes the Tesoro extension of the toll road. Rancho Mission Viejo is building its own road that will mirror the footprint of the toll road.)

As you can see, all three of these strategies have been completed, will soon be completed or there are commitments to complete the project. I personally know the author of the city’s 2002 transportation plan, and he said the document is a loose blueprint developed 14 years ago and a lot has changed since then. He recommends that the choke point be removed now.

Several speakers in favor of the removal of the choke point astutely pointed out that Ortega Highway is already a four-lane state highway and this two-lane segment presents a traffic bottleneck and safety hazard for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. In addition, there are no storm drains, curbs or gutters to deal with the seasonal flooding. Staff reiterated that this choke point has a rate of 37 traffic accidents over the last 5 years compared to 30 accidents on a comparable section of city roadway, qualifying this as a “high traffic accident” location.

By this vote to delay, the council majority has turned their backs on $15.5 million in state and local funding earmarked for this major improvement to the county’s Master Plan of Arterial Highways. After more than 10 years of planning, endless commission and council meetings, hundreds of staff hours and salary expended, and even a lawsuit that the city signed off on to agree to the aesthetics of the project, this council majority has once again turned Saint Serra’s motto upside down by acting “always backwards, never forward.”

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comments (23)

  • Anyone ready to recall Patterson, Ferguson, Perry and Reeve?

    It’s becoming pretty clear that they have their own agenda, and the public be damned.

    • Johanna would you please stop complaining about our new city council. They are doing the best they can considering the “Good Ole Boys” are still out to make things ugly. Sam has never worked with the new members. Sam has done nothing but whine about his loss of power since the last election. If you have a complaint show up and use your 3 minutes to tell the community what it is. The worst thing that could ever happen is to have Sam or the old guys to get elected again. Have you forgotten the corruption? The residents gathering signatures and waiting until 3am to speak. Have you forgotten to the land deal behind closed doors for 27 million dollars. The new members campaigned on no big development. We will be watching.

  • Sam Allevato has not learned yet that this is not Junior High School where votes could be construed as being held by a popularity contest. Thankfully, we have at least four City Council members who are not in Junior High School.

    Ho hum. Maybe someday Sam Allevato will understand. But then again, this is the same Sam Allevato who abstained from voting for Mayor.

  • Please give me a break,you and your Saint Serra.Do you know how he moved forward?how many Indians were forced into hard labor,and were forced into all kinds of punishment for not moving forward.Honestly I am glad that the road stays the way it is.I think the fruit stand should be open,there was always a fruit stand on the ortega highway,until these city experts decided to shut my friend Ricky Giddings out of his business,is that moving forward,sidewalks all the way to the mission,concrete walls,perry is right and you are wrong.

  • Well said Dusty.

  • Just curious Sam Allevato, if the storm drains were that important, why is it in the twelve years you have been on the City Council, you never found it urgent enough to find the money to get this problem corrected immediately if it was soooooo bad ?

  • The one lane corner on Ortega is unsafe and the parents and children of San Juan Capistrano who HAVE to drive out to our cities public high school are put in danger every day. When it rains it is extremely unsafe. New drivers and huge trash trucks are not a good combination on that dangerous stretch of the road. You may all be politically battling but it is our children who are in the middle of this mess! Fix it. Improve the road. It is unsafe. If you want a fruit stand out there then open one but fix the road so people can get to it before the fruit spoils. It is not our children’s fault that developers bought the land out there. It is the RESPONSIBILITY of our city council to look out for and have the best interest of the children of San Juan Capistrano. They barred San Juan Capistrano students from parking down the trail from SJHHS now they vote to not improve and make the Ortega safer for these same students and parents. Politics should be put aside when it comes to the safety and well being of children.

    • Shelly, why not explore the Avery Extension which is already on the plans? It removes 75,000 car trips a day.

      • Clint Worthington,
        The Avery plan will not make the Ortega safer at that corner. It is extremely narrow and floods every time it rains. Do you not understand that hundreds of San Juan Capistrano children travel to and from school almost every day on the Ortega? I understand, for you, it is about making a point about how much you dislike Sam Allevato and that any decision he made should be undone. Yes, the Ortega should have been fixed years ago but it wasn’t but the funding and the plan to fix it were in motion. But it still needs to be fixed because it is a safety hazard, so what is our current council going to do to fix it and how are we going to pay for it? Because now they are responsible! And most of us view our city’s feud as ridiculous and crazy. Most of us just want good decisions that will make San Juan Capistrano safe for our kids and a great place to live. I personally cannot wait for the way we elect people in this city to change because both slates have made poor decisions for our city and caused a big division. Decisions should not be about payback or revenge. The Ortega widening and repair is about the safety for our children and this current council did not think our children’s safety was important. They thought paying back some of their followers and revenge on the previous council was more important than the safety of our children. They did not consider what the most prudent and logical decision would be to benefit the majority of the citizens of San Juan Capistrano.

      • Clint Worthington

        Shelly Welcome,
        The Avery extension and the 73/241 connection will reduce traffic by 75,000 trips a day. When approsimately 30,000 trips a day are made on that section of the Ortega, that is quite a reduction. You can find that information in the 2014 OCTA report. In that same report, you will also find where in 2014 OCTA proposes Ortega Highway be six lanes at the widening. It is in the report and you can read it for yourself. It is not the four lanes that Sam Allevato stated.

        At the same time, go ahead and make a public records request for the letter to the City Manager that points out that the numbers that George Alvarez presented to the City Council are wrong. The correct numbers for accidents are 30.1 for the Ortega and 116.5 for Del Obispo. That means that Del Obispo has almost four times as many accidents on it than the Ortega. Ortega is much more safe than Del Obispo. The traffic engineer, George Alvarez had incorrect numbers showing Ortega was safer.

        The answer is not in widening Ortega Highway, but in diverting the traffic off of the Ortega to the Avery extension and the 73/241 connector. Can you imagine what the Ortega would be like without all the commuter traffic on it ? Again, if the flooding was so bad on the state owned highway, why has Sam Allevato sought emergency funding in the 12 years he has been on the City Council?

      • Clint Worthington,
        Do you drive the Ortega almost everyday? Do you drive that narrow corner almost everyday? I do. Have you seen close calls, people on bikes almost get hit, fender benders, flooded streets that cause you to hydroplane if you are not careful, etc. I have. It is unsafe. And since teenagers drive this street almost everyday on their way to school and back with huge trash trucks it is dangerous. The Avery Extension is not going to make the corner safer. It is unsafe. Like the street with no stop sign where the young man lost his leg, it is unsafe. It took a horrific accident in order for the city to act and put in a stop sign. This absolutely should not be the case here. For me this has nothing to do with the past council or the current council. I know for you and others it has everything to do with revenge or whatever. This is about the safety of the high school children of San Juan Capistrano. So put in the Avery Extension and pay for it and fix the dang Ortega. I have seen way too many close calls on that corner between trucks, commuters and brand new teen drivers. If a tragic accident occurs in that 30.1 (when was that data collected and from where, please cite it) accidents, it is one too many!

      • Clint Worthington,
        “Councilman and former mayor Derek Reeve was home sick during the meeting, but took to Facebook to voice his concerns about the council’s actions. He referred to the meeting as “maddening,” reprimanded the council for “blaming staff for doing their jobs,” and went a step further to say the coordination of agenda items G1, G2 and G3 and “comments by councilmembers” revealed the “council majority had to (have) violated the Brown Act.” He clarified that the comment reflected his personal opinion.

        “They could have moved to suspend the rules regarding reconsideration but that requires 4/5 vote,” Reeve wrote in a comment on his public Facebook page. “They knew they could not get that. So instead they just changed the council policy.” Capistrano Dispatch, Allison Jarrell, Jan. 8, 2016. According to Reeves, this sets up the San Juan Capistrano city council for another lawsuit for violation of the Brown Act. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” John Dalberg-Acton. The Avery Extension is not even being considered by the OCTA for funding and if rejected how are we going to pay for it? And it still does not fix the corner or the flooding on the Ortega!

      • Clint Worthington

        Uhhhh…..the Avery extension is on the South County MIS and the OCTA South County plan.

      • Clint,
        Ummmm, is it funded?

      • Please cite your source Clint Worthington.

      • Clint Worthington

        Shelly Welcome, you can check either the South County MIS (Major Investment Study), or the OCTA South County Plan. Both are available online. Or, you can watch the City Council meeting last night item H1 where Sam Allevato brought to the City Council a discussion item regarding the widening the Ortega. You will hear Sam Allevato support the 73/241 connection. With the 73/241 connection, Ortega would not need to be widened. You will also hear that the numbers provided to the City Council on the accident rate on the Ortega vs Del Obispo were erroneous. The correct accident rate for the Ortega is 30.1 and for Del Obispo is 116.5. Del Obispo is almost four times more accident prone than the Ortega. It is unfortunate that the City provided erroneous numbers to the residents and City Council regarding the accident rate and safety of Ortega Highway.

      • Clint Worthington,
        I drive the Ortega almost every day to take my kids to and from school. I cannot count the number of times I have witnesses fender benders and near collisions. It is dangerous. I am an experienced driver. Students who have just received their licenses are not. It is extremely narrow on that corner with no shoulder. Trash trucks, construction trucks, produce trucks, bicyclists, commuters, people on cell phones, new drivers all travel together back and forth on that corner. Drive it in rain. It is a challenge because if you hydroplane on that corner you could have a head on collision with a trash truck. There is no room for error, absolutely none. You may think it is safe but it is not. If one person especially a child is severely injured because of it that is too many. Our city council can gather all the statistics it wants to but if one child is injured because of the corner then our city council will be responsible and liable because our city council put personal politics (paying back their buddies and getting revenge on the previous council) ahead of our children’s safety. Many people have told them this.
        Our children who are driving to SJHHS will not travel on the Avery Extension on their way to school because they are coming from San Juan Capistrano. Our children will still need to drive on that narrow corner that has no shoulder and floods every time it rains. Our children will still have to maneuver this corner with the big trash trucks. It is unsafe. Our children’s safety was not considered in this political battle. I know you and some on this council are so extremely obsessed with exacting revenge on Sam Allevato that you put this above our children’s safety. And that is extremely wrong!

      • Widening the Ortega is included in the plan you cited.

      • Clint,
        Avery extension is not funded just one option proposed.

      • Clint Worthington

        The 73/241 extension is funded by the TCA and does not require tax dollars. I am sorry you missed that point.

      • Clint,
        The Avery extension is included in the same plan as the Ortega highway widening. What you don’t seem to understand is that even though it may relieve traffic it does not make the Ortega safer on that corner. It is still extremely narrow, with no shoulder and it still floods when it rains. Our children from San Juan Capistrano will still have to drive that road in order to get to San Juan Capistrano’s public high school. Big trucks will still travel that corner. There is absolutely no room for error on that corner. A horrific tragic accident occurred on that corner last week. My heart aches for this young woman’s family.

        It should not be about politics or about getting back at your enemies. It is about the safety of our children. Our council absolutely did not consider the safety of our children or anybody else in this decision.

  • Sam, thanks again for your service. Now, please don’t run again. Let others work for the true benefit of all SJC residents. No more agendas….yours or anyone else’s.

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