From Open Space to Open Checkbook

Being Taken for a Ride
Kim Lefner and Ian Smith

Some things never change. Take for example the continuous attempts by elected officials and their unelected staff to part you from your hard-earned money.

As if paying the highly inflated price of $205,000 per acre for the “RMV Riding Park” (previously appraised at $57,000 per acre) wasn’t enough, we continue to pay for costly “improvements” to this property with little obvious benefit to SJC taxpayers.

Forget that we don’t know where the money is coming from to pay for these “improvements”. History shows that if the Ranch wants it, our city council inevitably complies – with SJC taxpayer dollars, of course.

The latest proposal is the installation of water and sewer lines onto the RMV Riding Park property. The timing of this installation is highly suspect. Although council members claim that the lines will serve the former lemon grove area, the city’s documentation indicates that the water and sewer lines will – surprise, surprise - also connect to the Ranch’s planned development!

Keep in mind that the Ranch’s plan to build up to 14,000 homes plus 5 million square feet of retail/commercial at Antonio Parkway and Ortega will require a lot of water and will no doubt severely impact the quality of life of SJC taxpayers.

As of this writing, staff had yet to provide a cost estimate for the water and sewer line installation or how it would be funded, so hang on to your wallets. In fact, staff still has not told us how the following “improvements” to the RMV property will be funded:
  • SJC taxpayers are obligated per the purchase agreement to install trails to connect to – surprise, surprise! - the Ranch's property at an estimated cost of $660,000 (probably a lot more, judging by past experience) 
  • SJC taxpayers must also replace the irrigation and soil to replant the toxic 4 acre lemon grove. The Ranch is obligated to pay $6,000 per acre per the purchase agreement to “replant trees”, but it’s doubtful that will cover the cost of replacing the irrigation and soil too. Hopefully they made sure the toxins were properly removed and under the supervision of County Inspectors. 
  • SJC taxpayers must also pay for the new road onto the lemon grove site and the "equestrian staging area” that the City Council approved after the purchase (with little or no discussion). Neither of these “improvements” was mentioned as a potential expenditure during the property negotiations. 
  • SJC taxpayers have already paid to install a signal at the former lemon grove site. It is conveniently located directly across the street from – surprise, surprise! - the Ranch's (RMV) headquarters on Ortega, instead of at the exit from the RMV Riding Park (aka the polo fields) where it would have made the most sense. 
In fact, you may have noticed the line of cars backed up while trying to exit events such as soccer games, at the RMV Riding Park. In order to make a left-hand turn from the property onto La Pata, cars must yield to downhill traffic including trash haulers coming from the dump and cars from the high school. There’s no signal there, despite the obvious need for one for safety reasons. Instead, our city installed a signal directly across Ortega from the Ranch’s headquarters. The signal is presumably so that we may enter and exit our former lemon grove site, which is currently 4 acres of dirt since the removal of the toxic soil. This site will likely never generate as much traffic as events at the polo fields, so it makes no sense to install a traffic signal where there is far less traffic than there is at the La Pata entrance/exit. What else are we to conclude, other than this was yet another “gift” to – surprise, surprise! - the Ranch from SJC taxpayers?

This water and sewer line will likely be on an upcoming Council agenda for approval. If you believe that you’ve been gouged enough for the RMV property, please contact your city council members at: cityclerk@sanjuancapistrano.org to protest this costly installation.

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