By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux
Given downtown San Juan Capistrano’s popularity with visitors and locals, the city is planning to expand parking spaces adjacent to the existing Ramos Street lot near the corner of Paseo Adelanto—particularly for employees of the area’s restaurants and businesses.
However, one nearby resident takes issue with possible effects from the new parking spots.
Dave Hutchins, who has lived on Ramos Street since 2004, is concerned about dust being kicked up by vehicles, noise, and bright lighting that could be installed as part of the expansion—all of which he feels would intrude onto his property.
“I rarely sit on the front porch anymore,” Hutchins said. “The lights come in at night and light up the stairwell.”
New LED lights were put up during a previous expansion of the Ramos Street lot last summer.
Hutchins—who said the lot is 100 feet away from his dining room table and affects the other side of his living area—also feels the city did not adequately reach out to Los Rios Historic District residents before plans were set in motion for this recent phase.
“This got proposed and accepted but was snuck in,” Hutchins said. “They didn’t give us an opportunity to voice our concerns. No yellow cards were sent out. Blame it on COVID.”
When reached for comment in response to Hutchins’ remarks, Public Works Director Tom Toman said staff has been in communication with neighboring property owners, including Hutchins, to answer questions and receive comments regarding the project—and he looks forward to continued feedback throughout the design process to ensure any concerns are heard and corresponding mitigation efforts described.
“The expansion project, currently in preliminary design, will be constructed on the vacant city-owned parcel adjacent to the existing Ramos Street public parking lot north of Los Rios Park,” Toman said. “In addition to parking spaces, the project will include a new pedestrian connection point to Los Rios Park, focused security lighting and an ample landscape buffer including new trees to mitigate potential impacts to adjacent properties.”
Staff anticipates the expanded parking lot will be constructed and available for public use in late fall 2021, Toman said. The project will accommodate 60 to 70 additional parking spaces, and was approved by the city council in March.
Hutchins has also frequently spoken about his concerns during local government meetings and personally communicated with city representatives. Asked what he wants to see happen going forward, Hutchins said the city plans to look at buffer zones/berms and plantings to mitigate noise and lighting issues.
“At this stage, I’m trying to make this a livable situation,” Hutchins said. “It is affecting my health, my lifestyle, and my property value.”
Hutchins said this all comes about as Los Rios Street restaurants are simultaneously requesting extended service hours and alcohol allowances under an accessory use permit process.
“Can you imagine the noise and disruption of employees getting off work into the late evening?” Hutchins said.
In related news, City Attorney Jeff Ballinger reported at the Aug. 17 council meeting that the council approved a settlement agreement with the owners of The Tea House—a restaurant on Los Rios Street near the parking lot—to resolve a property line dispute near the lot, in lieu of initiating litigation.
“Under the agreement, the parties will revise the property boundary through a lot line adjustment, recordation of quitclaim deed and construction of a new fence,” City Manager Ben Siegel said the day after the meeting. “The Tea House owner will be required to pay the cost of survey, engineering and legal to process a lot line adjustment. The city will build the new fence as part of our Ramos Street parking expansion project this fall. This settlement will allow our parking lot expansion to move forward, and increase the number of public parking spaces that can be included as part of that project.”
Hutchins said while the property line issues are resolved, The Tea House has encroached into city park land.
“Why is the city gifting .20 of an acre to a private property owner?” Hutchins said in an email. “No agenda for public discussion?”
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at email@example.com