The Not-So-Open-Space Foundation

By Ian Smith

It’s truly amazing how our City Council majority continues to belittle opposition to their lavish spending agenda, especially when it benefits their cronies. This dismissive attitude towards residents was on display again at a recent Council meeting when the Council approved a license agreement for the Open Space Foundation to construct facilities on our RMV Riding Park “Open Space” property.

At first glance, the Foundation’s plan to construct these facilities using “private donations” seems like a great idea, until you look closely at the Foundation and how it’s funded.

Brad Gates, the Founder and Chairman of the Open Space Foundation, was designated the real estate negotiator on the City’s behalf for the purchase of his buddy Tony Moiso’s Rancho Mission Viejo “Open Space” property. Every San Juan property owner’s taxes were increased by about $35 for every $100,000 of assessed value for the next 20 years to pay for it.

Gates negotiated (behind closed doors) a “Rodeo License Agreement” for the annual Rancho Mission Viejo Company Rodeo which allows the Ranch to use our park FREE OF CHARGE for the next 50 YEARS. During the 50 years, NO ONE else, including our City, is allowed to hold a rodeo at any time on our property!

As if this negotiated monopoly by Gates wasn’t bad enough, Gates designated his Open Space Foundation as the primary beneficiary of the”‘majority of proceeds” from the rodeo.

So in essence every property owner in San Juan is forced to “donate” to the Foundation through the waiver of substantial fees for letting the Ranch use our property!

To make matters worse, Councilman Allevato had the brazen audacity to thank Brad Gates (who was present at the Council meeting) for gifting this so-called "passive park" to the city. A “gift” using our tax dollars no less! Note to Councilman Allevato; this is OUR Park purchased with OUR money; how about thanking the taxpayers?

Oh and by the way, Gates’ “gift” will cost us taxpayers at least $100,000 a year to maintain.

The issue of who will control (“manage”) Reata Park & Events Center has not yet been defined. But considering the unprecedented access to our publicly owned Open Space granted to the Open Space Foundation, this is an area of real concern.

I would love to hear even ONE Council member (besides Derek Reeve) ask who will benefit most from these facilities; the residents of the Ranch’s new City right across the street, or San Juan residents who must sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic created by the Ranch’s new City to reach it?

So let’s take a tally; San Juan taxpayers were led to believe we were getting Open Space (which in reality is CLOSED) for $27 million; a road we can’t drive on for over $500,000; water/sewer lines for who knows how much and forever maintenance estimated by the City at more than $100,000 yearly. Now we are supposed to sit back and watch Allevato thank Gates for this GREAT DEAL while he develops our so-called Open Space?

Next time you run into 9-year incumbent and 2-time mayor, Councilman Sam Allevato, why don’t you ask him why he approved all this on his watch. He sat front and center on the Open Space Committee and helped make it happen while ignoring his constituents’ concerns.

What can you do? Vote out the cronies in November and join the Capistrano Taxpayers’ Association. Your property value and quality of life depend on it!

1 comment:

melissa kaffen said...

Bravo Ian. Its hard to imagine a smarter "open space" swindle.

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