Mike Johnson, San Juan Capistrano

Change to the City Council power structure, two huge successful referendums, and now a replacement being named for Dr. Byrnes. Here is my take on all of this, and a few recommendations for the council.

Mayor Reeve said during his campaigning “The city is $100 million in debt.” If this is the case, the council’s first priority should be to figure out how we got there, and what are we going to do to get us out of this hole. (Almost $3,000 of debt per resident is insane for a town of our size.)

The next thing the city should do is contact the Vermeulen family and try to work out a deal for the property the defeated Laguna Glen retirement project was going to occupy. Listen, folks, that property is going to be developed somehow, and if we want it to be for the resident’s use, then we need to act now, or we are going to get something like another school, which will be a huge traffic problem compared to what was proposed. If the city doesn’t have land that can be swapped for it, or enough money to buy it, then we need to ask if the citizens will support a bond to buy and develop this specific property for the use of all residents (additional sports fields, skate park, swimming pool, tennis courts, whatever). If the city can’t afford it, or if the residents don’t approve a bond, then we need to re-engage Spieker Development, and fast track their project. It is by far, the best use of that land, besides the city buying it, and developing it for ourselves.

Next, regarding the failed Urban Village project, the city should encourage Mr. Oedekerk to submit a plan that adheres to existing building guidelines and regulations, one that fits within the Historic Town Center Plan and General Plan. I believe that he would have 95 percent of this town supporting an appropriately scaled boutique hotel development. (One that doesn’t include condos lining the park, massive three story buildings with spires the size of a five story building, and one that can completely accommodate all realistic parking needs.) I believe the city should fast track their new plan, and wave as many fees as possible to help make up for the previous council (mis)leading them down a path that was doomed to fail.

As for the new council appointing John Perry to the board, I see their reasoning, but I believe they should have selected someone that did not have a foot in either camp (Common Sense supported candidates, or Sam Allevato/Rancho Mission Viejo/Good ol’ boy network puppets). A logical choice would have been to appoint Rob Williams, who has loads of experience, and could have jumped in and been productive immediately. Don’t get me wrong. I think John Perry is a smart guy, but I think you could have appointed someone that could have been a conduit for reconciliation, which this town badly needs. At least get him on the Planning Commission or DRC.

To all residents that completely dislike the new council members, or that don’t like who the council appointed, Common Sense, CTA, whatever, (none of which I am a member of) please listen to me. The ousted council majority made decisions and fought for projects that would have resulted in people making tens of millions in profits and would have forever changed the landscape of our town. Now compare the old regime to the people/groups that you dislike so much. These people/groups simply fought for causes that demanded accountability, transparency, that attempted to lower high priced water rates, fought for freedom of the press, and other causes. Not one cause put any money into their own pockets. Any money awarded to those groups was to only cover legal fees or mandate that water rates be lowered for all of us. They were fighting on principle and for the benefit of all citizens. Don’t you see the difference?

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comments (5)

  • The premise of your letter is that the Vermeulen family and Oedekerk actually still own either of those respective properties.

  • What, Mike? You like the Laguna Glen / Spieker project and a downtown hotel now? Wow. Interesting. I too am sorry they didn’t appoint your man Rob. Clint, what do you think?

  • Yes, elections do have consequences. In November, new members were elected to the City Council who, we all hope, have different attitudes regarding development in SJC. Two recent decisions were overturned due primarily to concerns about traffic and water supply. Neither of these concerns is likely to vanish in the near future.

    The new council members are in good company as other nearby communities grapple with similar problems. Huntington Beach also had a run-away City Council bent on development at any cost that, also in November, cost those Council members their seats. They had approved large apartment complexes in their Beach/Edinger Specific Plan without considering traffic impacts. The PEOPLE spoke. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/beach-651549-city-new.html

    Let’s hope City staff does a better job of preparing the new Council members with accurate information, and that any and all negotiations and actions are now conducted in the harsh light of day for all the voters (not “stakeholders”) to see. Some “stakeholders” might be residents of SJC, but owning a business does not make them eligible voters. And it is the voters who have to live with the financial consequences of Council actions.

  • Thank you for your comments Mike. You covered a lot of territory. Please review my thoughts on the change and referendums. …..”.Mayor Reeve said during his campaigning “The city is $100 million in debt.” If this is the case, the council’s first priority should be to figure out how we got there, and what are we going to do to get us out of this hole. (Almost $3,000 of debt per resident is insane for a town of our size.”
    Thank you Mike but how will we recover this debt? This is not for one person or one group to decide. But, I will tell you that residents are angry. Our city has been mismanaged for several years now, $3000.00 per resident? ….. A piece of property in Mission Viejo was acquired behind closed doors that we residents had to pay for and we may not use it. We are angry. Your suggestion that we contact the Vermulen family and ask, “What price will you accept?” is a good one. How we come up with the money is another thing? The community has become proactive and it is clear that the residents do not want a senior city within a city on the Vermulen property. Allevato and the good ole boys, got us into this debt, and we are not inclined to vote for a bond to pay off their screw up. We would love a central park available to all residents not just the elite. Your suggestion that we ask residents for MORE bond money is going to fall flat on it’s ass. We got stung in 2008 by the Open Space initiative. We paid for the land off La Pata with a fee attached to our property tax bill. We pay to maintain it and we may not use it. Let’s SELL it! FAST! Sell it to Troy Bourne. Let Troy renegotiate the terms, he is an expert at negotiations. That is a suggestion.

    Your comment regarding act now, or we’ll get another school, seems unlikely as San Juan Capistrano has 10 private schools now. This is one element that adds to our traffic problems and brings in no money.

    The citizens will not support another bond. Not after the last bond in 08 when we were manipulated into thinking we would get open space at the Vermulen property site. SJC is not in the business of bailing out friends in high places. Yet it happened.
    We need someone with vision like Frederick Law Olmsted who created a central park in the middle of New York City. We could create a California style park with pathways and carriage roads. A place for bike riders, mothers with carriages, dog walkers and joggers, A place with a platform for performances in the park. Shakespear in the park, concerts, movies, or weddings and events. Maybe we could even attract more tourism having a park like this. Individuals could donate a tree and get a name plaque. A tree planted in someone’s memory is a living tribute that benefits present and future generations . That is something for something. A tree, a rose garden, a fountain, or a statue. I believe if a landscape architect designed such a park, residents of San Juan Capistrano would donate a tree or a fountain or something that will live on. Parking could surround the park with no cars inside the park. No one wants Spieker to develop on the Vermulen land.

    Next, regarding the failed Urban Village project……, . Mr. Odekirk continues to tell us that he is not a developer and merely a property owner. He said he was approached by Stake Holders to develop this hotel on his property. After some research we see that Josh Host, the developer, has a string of lawsuits and complaints about his ethics as a businessman. People all over the country have lost money after investing with Josh Host. Our city needs to do a background check of all developers before they are allowed to apply for a building permit to build anything in San Juan Capistrano. Why is that most important step omitted?
    ‘As for the new council appointing John Perry to the board, I see their reasoning, but I believe they should have selected someone that did not have a foot in either camp (Common Sense supported candidates, or Sam Allevato/Rancho Mission Viejo/Good ol’ boy network puppets)…… With respect to conduit for reconciliation which is a good point. A healing will never happen as long as a current member of the city council sends out weekly update letters to his private e-mail list denigrating the new council members an maligning the residents he named in his letters as trouble makers. Residents who have gathered signatures and knocked on doors are now included by name in a series of letters written by Sam Alevato. Yes, we have two new councilmembers who are just learning the ropes, but that does not mean they are ignorant. Residents have become proactive, that is a good thing. Many of us have stood for hours in front of Vons or Ralphs to collect signatures. No one is paying them. They donated their time for principles not money. Yet Sam Allevato has targeted them in his series of letters. Sam Allevato is using his private e-mail list to criticize the efforts of the city council and the folks (by name) who helped to gather signatures.

    Rob Williams seems like a nice man but he believes in developing the Vermulen property and residents are dead against it. The Olivia project has turned into a nightmare of noise, dirt and heavy ground movers. The Olivia Contractor will not return calls from property owners surrounding the project. Residents of neighboring properties are being forced to sell at a loss due to obstructed views and noise caused by Olivia homes.

    “To all residents that completely dislike the new council members, or that don’t like who the council appointed, Common Sense, CTA, whatever, (none of which I am a member of) please listen to me. The ousted council majority made decisions and fought for projects that would have resulted in people making tens of millions in profits and would have forever changed the landscape of our town. Now compare the old regime to the people/groups that you dislike so much. These people/groups simply fought for causes that demanded accountability, transparency, that attempted to lower high priced water rates, fought for freedom of the press, and other causes. Not one cause put any money into their own pockets. Any money awarded to those groups was to only cover legal fees or mandate that water rates be lowered for all of us. They were fighting on principle and for the benefit of all citizens. Don’t you see the difference?”

    Thank you Mike. We will continue to fight for principles even as we are maligned by Allevato in his private e-mail updates to his supporters and community. I feel this is unethical.

    • Rose, isn’t part of that $100 million debt that Reeve alluded to created by James Reardon and John Perry’s law suit against the establishment of tiered water rates?

      You think that if we sue the City, we could get appointed to the City Council?

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