Looking to match the city’s historic charm while creating a communal gathering space, San Juan Capistrano’s new City Hall will now include a Spanish-style fountain within its plaza entry.
During its Oct. 17 meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to accept a donation from a San Juan resident’s local foundation that will cover the cost of a fountain and other enhancements not originally included in the new City Hall site plans.
Plans are underway to replace the 50-year-old temporary structure on the old City Hall site, with a new City Hall facility set to include an affordable housing complex. The design for the new City Hall included a plaza entry, lawn area, and central landscape planter.
Nate Franklin, who served on the city’s Design Review Committee and started the 661 Foundation, proposed an “enhanced community gathering area and the addition of a fountain within the entry plaza,” the city noted in a staff report.
However, the fountain and other improvements were not included in the City Hall’s final design because of cost constraints.
“I was on the Design Review Committee when this came through, and it just seemed like a really good space with a lot of potential to be a real impressive area; kind of turn it into a plaza, just very usable and really an entrance to City Hall for anybody that’s going to come and visit,” Franklin said during the council meeting.
“It just seemed like a missed opportunity, so this worked out to have the opportunity to make a donation,” Franklin continued. “Staff’s been great to entertain our design whims.”
At his own expense, Franklin worked with Land Concern Landscape Architecture to develop an enhanced plan for the City Hall plaza, including the fountain, and offered to fund the full cost of the design and installation of plaza improvements.
The additional cost of the plaza improvements are estimated at approximately $350,000.
Mayor Howard Hart requested that the city include a plaque “expressing our gratitude on the fountain to Mr. Franklin for this extraordinary donation,” at the city’s expense.
Councilmember John Taylor thanked Franklin as well, noting that it was generous and kind to “see a need and address it in the community.”
“I know you’re a big supporter of our community and you live here, too, with your family, and it means a great deal to us, so thank you,” Taylor said.
Councilmember Sergio Farias added that “the design is great. Great job to the designer; it’s simple, and it solves some issues with the courtyard.”
“I think it looks beautiful … look forward to it,” Farias said.
The enhanced plan includes colorful paver stones for the plaza and walkways, raised planters for olive trees, a seating area and a Spanish-style tiled fountain. The improvements do not alter the overall project schedule, which is expected to be completed by late 2024.
The enhanced design uses the fountain as a focal point and aims to make the space feel connected, Land Concern Principal Philip Stevens explained.
Speaking with The Capistrano Dispatch on Wednesday, Oct. 25, Franklin explained that the 661 Foundation looks to fund projects that enhance different communities.
As a San Juan resident, Franklin said he was drawn to the city’s history, proximity to the beach and downtown district, noting that he thought the enhanced City Hall plaza will match the uniqueness of the town. Franklin added that he plans to be a resident in the city for a long time.
In a letter to the City Council, Franklin and his wife, Tawni Franklin, said they “feel that integrating a fountain with seating into the courtyard will offer an inviting place for the community to gather or take a break while conducting business with the city.”
“It speaks to the character of San Juan while also incorporating the charm and history of the Mission,” the Franklins wrote. “We think it will be something the city will be proud of.”
The City Hall plaza plans are still being reviewed and were expected to be discussed during the Design Review Committee’s meeting on Thursday, Oct. 26.