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Jan Siegel By Jan Siegel

The city motto of “Preserving the Past to Ensure the Future” has never been more important than it is today.  With all the national and international news and the recall election in California, two actions by the California super-Democrat legislative body are moving through committees with little notice by the media.

California Senate Bills 9 and 10 are both intended to erase the state’s housing crisis. But if read closely, they both have the ability to alter private party ownership forever. 

Senate Bill 9 requires that lot splits create two parcels of similar size that are at least 1,200 square feet.  It also encourages duplexes even though two-thirds of residential neighborhoods in California currently ban duplexes and smaller houses on a single plot. Nowhere in the law is the mention of additional garage space or parking spaces. And nowhere does it mention making these new developments low-cost or affordable housing. So the point of the bill is … ?

Senate Bill 10 amends the planning and zoning code. The current law requires a city or county to adopt a general plan for land use development within its boundaries. The amended bill adds a housing element.  It takes away the right of any local restriction enacted or approved by a local initiative that designates publicly owned land as open space, or for park or recreational purposes. This would be devastating to San Juan Capistrano. Like its companion bill SB9, this bill does not mention low-cost or affordable housing. The bill does say that a local legislative body must pass a resolution to adopt the plan and that it allows for local government to change initiatives passed by voters with a two-thirds local legislative body. 

That is a lot of pressure to put on a small city council. What will be the pressures from Sacramento? 

San Juan Capistrano is a very special and unique community. Forty percent of all land in San Juan Capistrano is open space. And this is by design. In 1974, the city adopted a new General Plan that changed the direction of the community by emphasizing its small village-like character, preserving major ridgelines to define the limits of the community by these natural features, and setting aside a minimum of 30% of the city as open space—including areas for preserving active agricultural operations and maintaining a rural equestrian lifestyle. As a result, the city maintains 25 parks for the public. 

A bond Issue passed in 1990 with 74% of the vote gave the city the ability to purchase the Kinoshita Farm, which became The Ecology Center, soccer fields, a working organic farm, the Community Center, a Sports Park, the Northwest Open Space dog park, and Putuidem Village.

In 2010, the city purchased 132 acres of open space, including the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park from Rancho Mission Viejo for $27.5 million, using a $30 million bond the voters had approved in 2008. 

All of our open space could be in danger if SB 10 passes. 

Spend a “Moment in Time” and research these bills. Find out what is being voted on that impacts our community. Remember, “Preserving the Past to Ensure the Future” is what has kept our town so special.  Don’t let Sacramento take away our way of life. 

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.

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