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Shelly Welcome, San Juan Capistrano

My family is a big fan of Huell Howser. We were really saddened when he passed away. We have learned a lot about California and have visited many places in California because of Huell Howser.

I encourage people to watch his “California Gold” episode on San Juan Capistrano, or just watch the last 15 minutes about the Los Rios District. (See the online version of this letter for a link to the episode).

Currently we have two big developments proposed for downtown, and now this proposed Los Rios mini mall project. What exactly is the City Council’s view of what San Juan Capistrano should look like? Just mini malls and parking lots? One big traffic jam?

Our City Council should do everything to preserve the unique Los Rios District as a historic area. Our City Council should not change zoning so that part of the Los Rios area can be developed into a fake barn façade mini mall and parking lot. I do not begrudge the Ito’s right to sell and retire. They have worked hard for many years on their business. But building a mini mall in one of our city’s and our state’s most precious historic spaces goes against the zoning and against the preservation of the Los Rios District. Sell the property, but please sell it to a person who wishes to farm, put in a nursery, or build a park. We already have enough empty mini mall spaces in San Juan Capistrano.

I do not feel people should besmirch the Ito family’s character, nor should the Ito family besmirch anyone else’s. At the Sept. 5 city council meeting, Ms. Ito seemed to imply that some people who disagree with the selling of her property do not have good character. I do not know if that was her intention. In the meeting, Ms. Ito also pointed out that people have rented out their homes in the Los Rios District and that people have added on to their homes. Yes, people rented and added on within the rules and zoning of the Los Rios District, and not to the detriment of their neighbors.

The Los Rios District in San Juan Capistrano is beautiful and authentic. It has the oldest functioning homes in San Juan Capistrano. Los Rios is not all about business. It is a unique neighborhood community. Citizens should encourage the City Council not to change the zoning of Los Rios so that another mini mall and parking lot can be built in our city’s historic, one-of-a-kind area.

Huell Howser said that the Los Rios District and the surrounding area is part of “California’s gold.” I’d like to emphasize that once that gold is spent, it will be gone forever.

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comments (6)

  • Shelly, I agree with one hundred percent. I have gone to the City and looked at the plans for this project being brought forward by Dan Almquist and in my opinion, the buildings are down right ugly and do not fit San Juan.

    However, that is besides the fact that this ugly project presented by Dan Almquist is not even zoned for this property. Of course the Ito’s are entitled to sell the property. However, that does not give the right to change the zoning that all the other property owners agreed to in the Los Rios Specific Plan.

  • We do not need another Mini Mall in San Juan Capistrano. When it takes me 20 minutes to get from the Ortega off-ramp to my home on Alipaz, during rush hour, it tells me that something is seriously wrong. It’s not just the traffic, though, there is the carbon pollution from all those cars.

    A far better solution might be for the city to buy the land and turn it into a historical park, with a walk way that has educational pedestals telling the story of San Juan Capistrano. Along the walkway could be park benches and tables where visitors could have a picnic or just sit and enjoy the scenery. The park would be connected to the Los Rios district. Parking would be limited to park maintenance vehicles and a drop off point.

  • A far better solution for the Nursery property is to build a park. It’s already zoned for this.. We should not and cannot Rezone property just to meet the needs of a large property owner at the expense of driving out the residential occupancy on Los Rios Street. The Los Rios District is on the National Register of Historic places for the oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood in California. Let’s keep it that way.

  • Thank you Jeff. Most average residents feel the same way. We want to protect our historical places. Los Rios surrounds the oldest first dwellings in California. To allow a rezone that would benefit the owners to sell to a developer for a higher price and build a commercial shopping mall goes against that which we would protect in our historical town. It is not about the drawings, it is about the location.

    • Donna, you’re right. It’s about an appropriate project in a very precious part of SJC. We as a community can come up with a better vision for the oldest residential neighborhood in California. We can do better than a mall.

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