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TROY BOURNE, San Juan Capistrano

When Mayor John Taylor and I ran for office several years ago, we committed to use our private sector business experience to improve the city’s contentious operations and turbulent finances. As we near the final year of our term, I’m writing to report on some improvements and describe how our city’s renewed financial and operational discipline is leading to real improvements “where the rubber hits the road.”

This year’s annual budget detailed, for the first time in recent history, that San Juan is no longer operating in a structural deficit position. This simply means that we expect to spend less money than we bring in this year—rather than, as in years past, relying on one-time cash inflows to pay our recurring bills.  Partnering with a competent and proactive city staff, the city council has been able to both reduce expenses (e.g., right-sizing staffing levels, transferring our aging water utility, radically reducing legal expenses) while simultaneously increasing our revenues (e.g., opening the Inn at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, start of the new Ganahl Lumber center, and among the healthiest percentage increase in local business revenue in the county). These improvements have allowed us to increase our reserves and make long-needed improvements such as the revitalized Verdugo Street in front of our theater, gateway landscape improvements matching the new hotel’s beautiful frontage, soon-to-be-completed Putuidem Village at the Northwest Open Space, and our kids’ new skatepark opening this summer.

While proud of the progress we have made, one area we know we can improve is the quality of our streets.  Decades of underinvestment have led to some of the worst streets in the region.  This represents not just a bumpy ride—but one of the best opportunities to improve our finances long-term. When roads are permitted to degrade, they can cost as much as $16/ft. to rebuild—rather that $1/ft. to re-seal streets that are properly maintained. Our improved financial position, combined with a timely infusion of federal funds, will now allow us to invest in bringing the city’s overall roadway system to proper maintenance levels within the next 24 months—an investment roughly 10x our historical annual maintenance spend.  We apologize in advance for the cones, but please know that they are leading to meaningful progress in the near term.

Editor’s note: Troy Bourne is a San Juan Capistrano councilmember.

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comments (1)

  • It’s hard to believe you and John are reaching the end of term on the City Council. So much has happened in the past months that time seems to have slipped away from all of us. Congratulations on the accomplishments, particularly, the divestiture of the water enterprise. I believe the city will benefit in a significant way without the distraction of that business.

    Here is an idea regarding street and sidewalk maintenance.

    It was recently necessary to replace about 15 feet of sidewalk in front of my house. All the drains and the sidewalk itself were damaged by 40-year old trees. With the trees gone, we wanted to put everything right. We went to the City for a public works permit. First, the city tried to expand the scope of work, and then, when that was settled, were charged about $600 for the permit.

    The cost to us to replace the sidewalk to city specifications was about $3600. The work is now complete.

    If the city wanted to unburden itself from a significant part of street and sidewalk repairs, it might just agree to rebate the permit fees to anyone who spends private money to repair city property (with a permit, of course). Overall, the loss of the permit fee would be outweighed by the reduction in cost to the city if it ends up doing the same work.

    The condition of the street in front of my house is another matter. But recognizing that our infrastructure and homes are 40 years old, we need to get creative and harness private initiative for solutions.

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