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BILL STEWART, San Juan Capistrano

Claudette Poole’s recent letter published in The Dispatch pointing out the parking problems in our town should be a wake-up call for all residents of San Juan Capistrano. She is not a resident. We have lived in San Juan Capistrano since I left the Air Force in 1976. Going to town for dinner, shopping or just to walk around was a regular happening. Now, we don’t do that. We all know the problem. Parking is too difficult to make it worthwhile. My wife used to meet her friends in town for lunch. Now, they go to Cheesecake Factory or Sol Agave. Town seems to be for those who arrive by train or tour bus or are willing to walk from remote parking. 

Our City Council represents the residents of the town. I have yet to hear any plans to solve the parking and traffic problems that have developed over the last few years. We voted for these City Council members to represent us. What is the plan to return our town to the residents? 

I think for the short term, until the problem is fixed, there should be parking spaces reserved for residents. The city should issue parking permits to all residents of San Juan Capistrano for use of those parking spaces and for parking in town without charge.

Editor’s note: This letter was also sent to the City Council.

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comments (1)

  • Bill:
    I encourage you to read Carol Chestak’s LTE today, and note my thoughts.
    Your concerns are similar to mine, not just regarding your town but the trend towards erasing local South OC charm and character, why we move and choose to live where we do.
    You’re headed towards what Laguna has become, a year round destination resort.
    It looks like you’ve anticipated the City trying to make you pay for permits—kinda double dipping, you already pay thru local taxes on commerce transactions + property taxes.
    The City will whine and allege they need paid permit parking to offset revenue or some such nonsense. It’s a vicious cycle, learn from Laguna’s mistakes—valuing commerce over residents.
    Resident here are now FORCED to pay the city nearly $100/vehicle/year for a parking permit. To park in our own town, no less.
    Myself and many in Laguna have tried to get the City to only charge $10 as an administrative processing fee, no dice, City Hall is hooked on fees and tickets as substantial revenue.
    And if the business district parking space is limited to 2-3 hours (as many of ours are, 8 am to 7 pm) then you still have to move your car and find another space (if you’re lucky).
    In a few neighborhoods near major commerce/business districts, residents must get special permits to park on their own streets in front of their own homes no less. Those are limited to 4/address total.
    Multi-unit complex residents are furious but have no options.
    Home parties/socializing have fallen off as well because the City only issues limited placards to be placed on dashboards of non-resident, permit holding residents.
    The expensive tickets are meant to discourage business employee parking but can put a damper on residents and their friends social lives.
    Basically, near commerce along PCH and Laguna Canyon Road, up to the festivals, locals are held hostage—not just in high season but year round now due to promotions by our Visitor’s Bureau.
    Business employees (where there are no restrictions), working at the increasing # of restaurants and bars have invaded former calm residential zones. They can’t carpool for many reasons.
    So ironically the burden of commerce is placed upon those who provide the dominant funding: Property owners via taxes. Really bad, you’re then underwriting your own demise.
    Like you, most of us that live here don’t go downtown much anymore. Laguna has lost its classic So Cal funky beach vibe. We’re over-run by strangers who come, literally trash our town, create gridlock, have no buy-in, just passing through and no appreciation of residents privacy or quality of life.
    We’re now nuisances, or stage props and backgrounds. If we complain, we’re not heard because big $$$ trumps individual residents needs.
    Too much of a hassle to go downtown most of the year (rain seems to deter these outsiders), so now we have venture capitalists, increasingly absentee (non-resident) owned businesses. And their landlords keep jacking up the leases, so sticker prices go up.
    Leaving locals unable to afford the menus.
    Seems that you’re following the “bouncing ball,” a poker tell is during the review process by your Planning Commission and Council, instead of being responsible community watchdogs and providing oversight to control the adverse impacts, they give a hall pass to urban infill, plus new and/or re-development commercial projects.
    The significant impacts should include independent, disinterested 3rd party Cal Enviro Quality Act (CEQA) studies, but there too your City falls short by green washing, downplaying cumulative impacts upon traffic circulation and limited parking.
    Your town will soon be a City, the erosion and de-evolution is obvious.
    I moved to Laguna in 1972, and I once loved my own town, availed myself of its historical character—like you, I now meet friends in other places.
    I tolerate but no longer love where I once upon a time longed to live.
    Ex.: Dummies here closed off our “Downtown USA” Forest Avenue to let restaurants incur into the street (parklets). Supposedly temporary due to Covid, more outdoor dining, it’s now permanently closed.
    We lost 60 parking spaces, which resulted in tourists and locals alike forced to find then park further away from our former social hub.
    Forest was where you got that Aloha, old California surf & beach town vibe.
    No mas, how sad.
    Thanks for stepping up Bill and for your service to our nation, I’m a Marine discharged in 1968 out of former MCAS El Toro.
    I’ve learned that not just liberty but a certain fragile quality of life that seems to be evaporating require constant vigilance. And to those brave souls who stand and speak out: Boorah!

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