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By Collin Breaux | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @collin_breaux
After shelving the projects earlier this year due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic effects, the San Juan Capistrano City Council approved steps to move ahead on the skateboard park, Putuidem Cultural Village, and gateway beautification projects during a meeting on Tuesday, July 21.
City staff had recommended the projects be tabled back in May. During the Tuesday meeting, Councilmember Derek Reeve brought up the skate park and made a motion to reinstate the design phase of the skate park project. Mayor Pro Tem John Taylor and Mayor Troy Bourne subsequently brought up resuming intentions to construct the Putuidem Village project at the Northwest Open Space. A motion was unanimously passed for the skate park and Putuidem Village measures.
In a separate motion, the council voted, 3-2, to solicit bids for landscaping work at the Ortega Highway/Del Obispo Street intersection off the I-5, considered a key entry point into town. Councilmembers Bourne, Taylor and Sergio Farias voted yes. Councilmembers Reeve and Brian Maryott voted no.
Residents had previously voiced their support for a skate park to be built in town. The Putuidem Cultural Village will pay tribute to the Native American Acjachemen tribe on a portion of the Northwest Open Space. Features of the Putuidem Village will include entry wood gates, picnic tables, interpretive and directional signage, portable restrooms, and native plants.
“The council’s capital budget for the next fiscal year actually includes funding for the skate park, so the council would need to take action to accelerate that by advancing some money for design,” City Manager Ben Siegel said. “There is sufficient funding in the park’s budget to do that in the existing fund balance.”
Siegel said skate park construction funding should be available in 2021 and 2022, though some of that is predicated on development revenue, which is subject to ongoing health crisis conditions.
“There is an existing pot of money that we believe is sufficient to construct that park,” Siegel said of the Putuidem Village project. “Maintenance funds have been identified. By the time it is constructed, we think certainly there will be incoming revenue associated with that fund. I do not have concerns with that project moving forward.”
As for the gateway landscaping project, Siegel said there wasn’t a previously identified funding source available, differentiating it from the other two projects. General fund reserves would have to be used, which Siegel said was “the only source available for a project like this” and an appropriation previously supported by the council. Minor maintenance costs would be absorbed into the existing public works operating budget.
Maryott said the gateway project was “spending for nice, not necessary, in a time of some question marks” and wasn’t ready to vote yes on Tuesday. Though saying the timing wasn’t great, he said he supports beautifying the area and preferred to wait until economic conditions improved.
Bourne said the gateway project fits with recent downtown improvements.
“Beautifying that entrance to our city might go a long way towards helping some of these people who are investing in our town see that return on their investment and make people come back,” Bourne said.
Chief Financial Officer Ken Al-Imam said general revenue trends are what were initially projected and that there was approximately a 5% decrease in sales-tax revenue in the first quarter of 2020, which included about two to three weeks of COVID-19 impacts. Property-tax revenues have been $40,000 more than was budgeted, due to property values being higher than previous projections.
The skate park design could be completed in spring 2021, and construction finished by mid-2022. Design work for the gateway landscaping project is expected to be finalized soon.