By Jan Siegel
This is the end of a temporary era in San Juan Capistrano. It was never spelled out or defined how long the San Juan Capistrano City Hall would relocate on Alipaz Street. In 1970, it was a temporary solution. That temporary solution lasted for 52 years!
But within the next two years, the City Council will have a permanent new home. Actually, it will be two homes. One will be the new offices on Alipaz. The other will be the meeting room at the Community Center, where City Council meetings will be held.
Over the years, there have been many discussions about moving City Hall. In the 1990s, there was serious talk about moving City Hall to a town center as part of the old high school on Camino Capistrano. While the idea had merit, the cost was out of the question. The Orange County bankruptcy ended further discussion.
In the March 1986 edition of The Coastline Dispatch, there was an article on San Juan Capistrano on the 25th anniversary of incorporation by two founding councilmen. It is interesting to see how far we have come in the 61 years and, yet, how we have managed to maintain our original intent.
Ed Chermak and Bill Bathgate were the two former councilmen who recalled the early days of incorporation on the 25th anniversary.
“We had to start from scratch,” they wrote in the article. “In the first year, the county cut its cords to the city and left it with no maintenance department, no vehicles, no manpower, planning department or financial department to manage tax revenues.”
Meetings were held in different storefront properties until they moved into the “temporary” offices.
One of the most emotional issues of 1961 was whether the city could afford its own police force. The councilmembers wrote that it was a “jammed packed meeting. We hired a criminologist to set up a paper police force. We knew we didn’t have the money, but we wanted to know what it would cost. After much debate, it was decided to contract police and fire protection from the county fire and sheriff departments. Twenty-five years later, it is still city policy.”
And it is still city policy 61 years later.
“The council of today (1986) must decide if any farmland will remain as open space in the area and if the city can afford its horse population, where the council of 25 years ago was more concerned with buying street sweepers and trying to build roads,” the councilmembers wrote.
Bonds passed by the community saved our open space and gave us Putuidem Village, Reata Park and The Ecology Center. Today, 40% of San Juan Capistrano is still open space. I think that the first City Council would be satisfied.
As this year ends and the era of our temporary City Hall comes to an end, spend a “Moment in Time” and reflect on the goals of that first City Council and how their vision is still part of our community. This is the time of year for reflection. As we remember our past, we can also look forward to our future. Wishing you a very happy New Year.
Jan Siegel was a 33-year resident of San Juan Capistrano and now resides in the neighboring town of Rancho Mission Viejo. She served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years, has been a volunteer guide for the San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library’s architectural walking tour for 26 years and is currently the museum curator for the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. She was named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005, Volunteer of the Year in 2011 and was inducted into the city’s Wall of Recognition in 2007.