Karen Anderson, Dana Point
This letter is in regards to the misguided rezoning of Historic Los Rios Street to accommodate a proposed 60,000-square-foot shopping mall. My history in San Juan Capistrano dates back to 1962 when my parents purchased their house above Del Obispo. In the mid-60s, I attended elementary school at the Old San Juan Capistrano Mission School (now Mission Basilica School). In fact, I attended school with classmates who were residents of this neighborhood. Today, every time I walk through the Los Rios Historic District, I am so appreciative, and in awe, of how the character of this beloved neighborhood still reflects my memories from 50 years ago, as well as reflects the neighborhood’s origins that date back hundreds of years.
It is with dismay and sadness that I learn of a plan to bring a retail mall and large parking lot to the neighborhood, a plan that specifically violates the current specific plan zoning for low-density commercial in the district. The very purpose of this LDC zoning is to prevent the type of development and structures that the city is apparently studying. No amount of profits or tax-generating revenue is worth the blight, impact and traffic congestion that such a project would bring to the oldest and most historic residential neighborhood in the state. Mission San Juan Capistrano is the “Jewel of the Missions,” and Los Rios Historic District is also a most-precious jewel that should not be tampered with for a quick, shortsighted buck to solve the city’s budget shortfalls.
Members of the community at large will remember which Council members approved this project come election time. The Council should do the right thing and uphold the low-density commercial zoning requirements for this most special and beloved neighborhood. Shopping malls are a dime a dozen in this county. Los Rios Historic District is a one-of-a-kind treasure that must be preserved. Look to the example set by Old Towne Orange and its National Trust for Historic Preservation for inspiration on how to uphold guiding principles to preserve the character and integrity of an historic residential and commercial downtown.