By Collin Breaux | Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

An intersection considered a key entry point into San Juan Capistrano will undergo renovations.

The San Juan Capistrano City Council unanimously approved creating and funding a landscaping project for the Ortega Highway/Del Obispo Street intersection during a regular meeting on Monday, March 2. Funding for the project will be $500,000, appropriated from the city’s general fund.

“Staff anticipates that these funds will be returned to the general fund when the downtown playhouse property is sold,” Public Works Director Tom Toman said. “The proposed improvements would also add about $5,000 to $10,000 a year in annual maintenance costs to the city’s operating budget.”

The area receiving focus under the city project is the city-owned parcel at the southwest corner.

The downtown entry point is being renovated to complement the Inn at the Mission sprucing up a portion of the corner. The Ortega/Del Obispo intersection will get low-stone masonry walls, citrus trees, shrubs and other features under the first phase of the city project. There will also be enhanced drainage and irrigation in the parcel.

“The proposed project provides for a phased approach to improve the appearance of this gateway to the city,” Toman said. “The initial phase will construct hardscape and landscape improvements on the city-owned parcel at the southwest corner of Ortega Highway and Del Obispo Street.”

The property at the southeast corner is privately owned, but the owners of that property reportedly will be renovate it in accordance with city plans.

The second phase of the city project would involve construction of a raised landscape median just west of I-5, subject to Caltrans review and approval since it is in the state right-of-way.

City staff solicited a detailed proposal on the project from Land Concern, which served as the landscape architect for the Inn at the Mission, to ensure consistency with the hotel’s landscape design and “to take advantage of some pre-design work.”

“Because of this unique opportunity to coordinate public and private improvements at a key city entry point, staff is recommending the City Council waive the formal request for proposal process to procure the design firm and approve a professional services agreement with Land Concern in an amount not to exceed $62,310,” Toman said. “This would allow for a coordinated design theme and avoiding additional costs for a new design firm to become familiar with the hotel’s landscape and hardscape plans.”

Councilmembers and audience members did not comment on the matter during the meeting.

Design work will begin immediately. Final plans and specifications could be completed by April. Approval of designs and advertising for bids could come by May or June, with a construction contract possibly being awarded in the summer.

“Phase 1 construction would be completed in fall 2020, and construction of the median improvements for phase 2 would be pending Caltrans approval,” Toman said. “We would move onto that phase of the project.”

In other meeting news, the city issued a proclamation designating Feb. 1 through April 30 as Fiesta de las Golondrinas. The Fiesta celebrates the annual return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, with numerous events held by the San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association. The big Swallows Day Parade was scheduled for Saturday, March 21, has been postponed due to coronavirus concerns. Fiesta Association members showed up to the council meeting in their traditional black-and-white Western attire, and as part of a yearly tradition jokingly levied numerous mock allegations against the mayor before the proclamation was issued.

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