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By John Perry, San Juan Capistrano

Last week I received a mailer from the Continuing Life Retirement Community that provided information about the proposed project to be constructed on the property now occupied by the Armstrong nursery.

The format of the mailer was to answer questions about the project. Question four states, “No portion of the land planned for the new community is classified as open space and no portion of the land is owned by the city. The city twice considered purchasing the land to convert it to open space but chose to purchase other properties instead.”

This statement brings into question the reason why the city chose not to purchase this prime agricultural land in the heart of San Juan Capistrano to preserve it from development. Was the public led to believe this land was the target of the November 2008 bond election to purchase open space?

The minutes of Open Space Committee meeting of July 7, 2008, four months before the November election, contains a report by the assistant city manager presenting information regarding the timing of the ballot measure. She identified properties such as the Kinoshita Farms and the Swanner and Williams homes as open space areas.

As far as I can determine, the purchase of the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park was never mentioned to the public as the target of the bond election. Was the secret negotiation by Brad Gates with Tony Moiso underway before the election? A letter from Mr. Moiso to Brad Gates dated May 18, 2009 indicates all of the details of the riding park purchase had already been agreed to, well before the public announcement by the city on August 8, 2009.

We now are faced with a proposed rezone from prime agricultural land to a high-density specific plan. This is the very thing the open space bond was supposed to prevent. Was the entire November election a “bait and switch” operation to lead the public to believe the agricultural land was the target, when in fact the Open Space Committee had already decided to buy the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park instead?
Was the purchase of the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park really the best choice given the fact it is leased to a for profit business that provides a venue for wealthy out of town people to show off their million dollar horses while San Juan taxpayers pay the bill?

I believe we need a new City Council majority to take a fresh objective look at the details of this “open space” fiasco.

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comments (11)

  • If I remember correctly, the City jumped the gun and bought the land to the north along Camino Capistrano thinking they would have a new location for the rodeo, an event that brought lots of folks into town. They also hoped it would be a “gateway” into town.

    Rancho Mission Viejo scuttled that plan with one of their own.

    So there you go. Nobody is really looking out for the residents.

  • Bonnie – The original plans for the Northwest Open Space did not include rodeo grounds. They included an amphitheater, fishing pond and active parks.

    Now, sadly, we have residents who fight even putting in playground out there.

    The city purchased the Northwest Open Space in 1990. The Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo did not start until 2000. The city, the residents, whomever, had plenty of time to hold a rodeo. The city had not held a rodeo for a few years before that, so it is wrong to say RMV scuttled that plan.

    What scuttled the plans, like everything else, is NIMBYs afraid of change.

  • Ah, the olde NIMBY argument. Only identifies you as a “person on the take”. Sorry, doesn’t wash. The rodeo, supported by Rancho Mission Viejo for many years, was held where J Serra is now. I, personally, had conversations with former City Council members about the Northwest Open Space site about their intentions. The RMV Rodeo in it’s present site might not have started until 2000, but that doesn’t mean much. “The Ranch” is the only entity with the contacts to make a rodeo even happen. I suppose you will also use the “NIMBY” argument with the hotel, the senior center, and the shopping plaza. Hopefully, the citizens of SJC will recognize the problem.

    • Sure, Bonnie. EVERYBODY is on the take except for the people you support.

      How close do you live to the proposed Laguna Glen?

      As for your “conversations” with former council members, not sure why none of that ended up in the plans that were approved and supported by voters.

      You’re one of those people who supports property owners rights, a Republican, I bet … you don’t oppose development, just this project, and that project, oh, and that one too.

      We do have a problem with leadership in SJC — it’s with people saying whatever they can to try and get elected — but really saying nothing. Then, when our elected officials realize the reality of trying to run a city (that property owners have rights, that the city needs development to prevent stagnation, that traffic isn’t easily solved, that water IS expensive, that tourism doesn’t support the downtown), they try to do the right thing and get removed by NIMBY voters. And the process starts all over. Wyatt Hart? Out. Joe Soto? Out. Lon Uso? Out. Mark Nielsen? Out.

      Leadership is not doing what the people want. It’s doing what’s right.

      • Jonathan, jonathan. I have never commented on any candidate, so your comment is totally false. I do support property rights within publically approved zoning codes. I do not support projects that begin with changing those codes to profit from a development that does not belong. “The People” often do not understand the ramifications of proposals made to their elected officals. That is the responsibility of elected officials and the free press (which you used to be a part of). Your last statement says everything…..”Leadership is not doing what the people want. It’s doing what’s right. ” Say, WHAT???? You are saying that the public does not matter, nor do zoning codes, nor does the Planning Commission, the City Council, all the various other official voices.

      • No, Bonnie. I am not saying the public does not matter. The public picks its leaders, then should let them lead. The commissions are advisory.

        We’ve become a politically micromanaging democracy, and that is not good.

        As far as zoning, the zoning on that property was set how many decades ago? Times change, the community’s needs change, zoning needs to change.

        One more on zoning — I find it funny that many conservatives (you’re one, right?) decry all the business California is losing to Texas because of our state’s regulatory codes … but then rely on the regulatory codes as gospel when they don’t want something … Texas, of course, seems to be succeeding without zoning codes.

        You also ignored the question about how close you live to the Laguna Glen project, which pretty much answers it.

      • I’ve never been presented with any questions regarding my proximity to Laguna Glen. So I don’t know what your statement means.

        Re: zoning…..I do think that zoning does matter. It has long ranging ramifications. If zoning changes, traffic changes, utilities change, many other public use needs change. The public elects officials to administer the the zoning code. If your definition of “leaders” is to over-ride the zoning code in favour of their “for-profit” projects, I challenge all readers to define “leaders”. You used to be a journalist. Now, a lobbyist. boo, hoo.

      • By law, Bonnie, the city must update its General Plan every five years. Needs change. Think we’ll have multi-acre car dealerships in the next 10 years? Remember when there was a bank or savings and loan on every corner?

        The house you live in? It was zoned agricultural at one time.

        If we didn’t elect folks to gain a deeper and fuller understanding of issues and act accordingly — sometimes yes against the will of the people — we could just stay in the town hall forum of government and let the public shout yea or nay for every issue.

      • That’s a very socialistic viewpoint and does not represent the will of the people. Not every community has to have wall-to-wall commercial uses. I’m surprised….you used to be a journalist… you are a lobbyist! What a change! You seem to represent both very socialistic viewpoints, and at the same time very republican viewpoints. I hope you can somehow reconcile them.

      • Actually, you’re coming across as the socialist, Bonnie. I believe the landowner should control what happens to his land, not the community. And please, we’re having a nice discussion, don’t ruin it with hyperbole. We are now, and always will be, at least 42 percent Open Space. Nothing wall-to-wall in SJC.

        a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

      • Jonathan, I suggest you go back to the letter from John Perry. His concern was that “leaders” several years ago were not truthful to the community (who trusted them) in describing an expensive bond to acquire land that the community would have to pay for. That is exactly why we do have such things as zoning. Civics 101. To return to the topic of Laguna Glen, they knew exactly what the zoning on that property was before they bought it, and they knew what they would have to do in order to build the proposed project. They built a similar project (Stoneridge) in Northern CA, in Pleasanton. It took them more than 10 years to get approval for that one. I know that situation well as I grew up in that area, have family in that area, and have lifelong friends who live in Stoneridge. I had a conversation with one of their representatives who indicated that “we only need 3 votes for approval” from the City Council and were assured they would have that approval before the upcoming election. When I asked what would happen if staff would recommend fewer units, the representative replied, “well then we’ll put 1,000,000 chickens out there”. The representative also said that they had already promised city officials to build a community swimming pool on another site in exchange for favourable treatment.

        As to the hotel; a similar scenario. The land owner and developer was well aware that residential uses were not allowed in the downtown area. But without the revenue from the residential townhomes, the project is not financially viable. Like Laguna Glen, that project is simply too massive to fit properly on the limited amount of land area. Both will generate traffic onto major streets that cannot accommodate more traffic and cannot be modified. Both will require water use that San Juan Capistrano cannot accommodate.

        The candidates running for City Council recently stated their views here in the “Dispatch”. Of them only two of them even knew enough or were willing to state their opinions on the 3 proposed projects.

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