Guest Column

An Open Letter to Council members Freese & Allevato

by Roy Byrnes, MD, former Mayor, San Juan Capistrano

Dear Sam & Laura –

I respect and like you both. I’m writing today to humbly ask that you not seek re-election to the City Council in November. It wouldn’t be fair to San Juan residents. Sam, in your case you’ve been on for 9 years. If re-elected, that would be 13 years; far too long. Time for new blood and a fresh approach.

You’ve both made too many unwise decisions that have hurt the community. Elections are “report card time” for incumbents and your “report cards” as listed below, are not good:

-  You’ve forced residents to continue pouring money into a water plant that produces water costing nearly twice as much than if we purchased it from the Metropolitan Water District. You’ve claimed that this water plant is “more reliable” when in reality it’s cost us millions more in repairs due to its flawed design. Mr. Allevato, you’ve tried to hide your failure by moaning; “This water debacle was created before I came on the Council”. But please explain why for 9 years you’ve made no attempt to either solve or correct the basic problem?

-   In 2009 you both took part in the shameful, covert conspiracy to give the Rancho Mission Viejo Co (“the Ranch”) 27.5 million of our tax dollars for 132 acres of “Riding Park” and “open space” land that wasn’t even in our City; half of which was already protected as open space.
-  Why did you agree to name this property: “The Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park”? Why name it for the seller’s city? Didn’t San Juan pay for it?
-  Why are we citizens prohibited from entering our own “Riding Park” (except for a few measly promotional hours each year)? Aren’t we paying for it?
-  Why did you sign away the rights of San Juan citizens to object to any development by the Ranch on its property across the street, no matter how adversely we will be affected by traffic and other impacts?
-  After paying millions for a large sports field at the “Riding Park”, why did you agree to the Ranch’s selfish demand that permanent night lighting be prohibited?
-  Why did you give the Ranch free use of the property for their Rodeo for 50 years? Why did you agree to restrict everyone else – including our own City – from holding a rodeo on our property for those 50 years? This single act pulls hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the pockets of San Juan citizens.
-  Why did you appoint a close buddy of the seller as the official “real property negotiator” for the purchase of the Riding Park property, then exempt him from the conflict of interest disclosure required of every single committee and commission member throughout San Juan history? Transparency rules should have required that the City’s “real property negotiator” be either the City Manager as has ALWAYS been the case, or an arms-length, licensed professional with no ties to either party. Why did you fail to do this?

-  How can you explain spending over half a million dollars for a “Downtown Business Plan” that will only obliterate our unique historic atmosphere and transform San Juan into a faux plastic “Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive”?

The prime responsibility of a City Council member covers traffic and city finances. Yet on your watch, traffic has gotten much worse and the City bond rating has dropped while debt has increased.

My request is simple and sincere: I thank you for your service, but it’s time to step aside and allow others to have a crack at it. Enough is enough; indeed, enough is too much!

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