San Juan Capistrano

Dirty Politics in San Juan
By Kim Lefner

A recent article in the OC Register entitled “The Fixer” by Meghann Cuniff, describes political consultant David Ellis’ often unethical tactics to get his candidates elected.

This article and others written about Ellis and SJC Councilman Sam Allevato’s campaign consultant Eileen Padberg predict a down-and-dirty fight by Allevato against residents running the recall against him.

One of the functions of these out-of-town political consultants is to marginalize the opposition by conducting “smear” campaigns. They target the average voter with glossy mailers attacking the opposition, often on a personal level. SJC residents received such a mailer last week, smearing those who support the recall of Sam Allevato.

Despite Allevato’s repeated denials about ties to Ellis, a recent Public Records Act request reveals that Allevato is indeed involved with Ellis, as he is with Padberg.

A Daily Pilot article from Nov. 24, 2002 about Ellis entitled “The Campaigner”, by reporter Paul Clinton reveals Ellis’ tactics;

As a political consultant…Ellis has long been a hot commodity in City Council elections...known as a freewheeling bomb thrower... his opponents often dread his aggressive tactics. ‘He pushes the envelope until it tears,’ said one source who requested anonymity.”
According to the article, the Newport Beach-based Ellis has “…perfected a... no-holds-barred campaigning style...for two decades…[and] promotes his candidates... using bulk mailers, phone blitzes, voter surveys and...other tools of the trade. With about $20,000 and the right candidate, Ellis can take you to the top.

"Politics is definitely a combat sport. I happen to be on the gridiron," Ellis said.

Allevato’s political consultant Eileen Padberg was quoted in the article, stating; “You get hired to do a job, you get hired to win for your candidate. It's a very tough business and you only get one shot [to win] ... It's not a business for the faint of heart."

A response to a recent SJC Public Records Act request offers a glimpse into the political tactics employed by Ellis, Padberg and Sam Allevato.

Mission Viejo

Charitable Giving - Your Decision or the City’s? 
by Steve Magdziak

Americans are reportedly the most caring and generous nation when it comes to charitable giving. In Mission Viejo, residents gave more to Race for the Cure than any other city in Orange County. That’s a good thing.

What’s not so good in my opinion, is when the city decides which charities are worthy of your tax dollars. More than 20 charities attended a commission meeting in MV recently, in a bid to get $75,000 of your tax dollars.

Some of the “needs” stated by the charities are questionable. One group for example, wants to give cell phones to homeless people that "live" in MV. Although I may agree with some of the services offered by this charity, are cell phones better than food and a roof? Could that homeless person be on illegal drugs?

Other charities stated that many MV residents are hurting for cash and that some cannot even afford clothing. If true, why then is the city giving the school district $800,000 of your tax dollars for an after-school program for Saddleback Unified K-6 schools? At an average attendance of 47 students per school (in 12 schools), that’s an estimated $1,400 per student. Our taxes already pay schools an estimated $12,000 per student per year; why isn’t the school district paying for “afterschool programs”? As a commissioner, I voted no on the $800,000 program. For that kind of money we could have had 2+ extra police officers, or rehabilitated 2+ parks or fixed sidewalks and roads.

San Juan Capistrano

                                                                          Guest Column
"Regionalizing" the Ground Water 
Recovery Plant
a Solution to an Expensive Problem
By Roy L. Byrnes, MD, San Juan Capistrano City Councilmember 

Our “water troubles” began about ten years ago when the City made the fateful choice to move away from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which had been our traditional supplier of water for nearly 100 years. Unfortunately, the City decided that we should obtain about 75% of our water by pumping the subterranean aquifer from the San Juan basin using the local Ground Water Recovery Plant (GWRP).

That was a bad decision and we've been paying a very high price for it ever since. Indeed, over the past 10 years, we've learned that the GWRP is more expensive and less reliable than MWD water. Looking to the future, the rising cost of electricity, plus the cost of 21 employees to run it, plus the maintenance and repairs, plus the expenses of installing recharge facilities, plus the construction of barriers to protect from ocean water intrusion - all these factors mean that the future operational costs of the GWRP will continue to outpace even the expected increase in MWD water costs.

What to do? Last month Councilman Sam Allevato suggested that the City should determine the costs and consequences of shuttering the “water factory” and stopping (defaulting on) the bond payments. Upon suggestion of the City Attorney, he withdrew his suggestion.

Mission Viejo

The Not-So-Free Freeways - Part One
By Ed Sachs

Toll lanes might be in your future on both the I-405 and I-5 freeways. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is proposing a plan that would add a toll lane, convert an existing carpool lane to a toll lane, and create a 3-person “free” lane in both directions on our freeways. This, in fact, would kick out any 2+ passengers from the HOV lane.

Why are many of our elected officials so interested in taxing residents with tolls on the 5 and 405? We have already been taxed to build these freeways. In an article in the OC Register entitled, “Toll-lanes plan a theft of Measure M dollars”, former Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever writes, “The real plan, as outlined in the article and a map graphic in the July-August issue of Westways magazine, is to eventually have these toll lanes running throughout Southern California, on every Orange County “freeway.” The questions is, who made this plan - and why?

Recently re-elected to the 17-member OTCA Board is Mission Viejo City Councilman Frank Ury, who is also running for Orange County Supervisor. Mr. Ury cites threats from Caltrans as his justification for supporting the toll scheme. Let’s examine the accuracy of this alleged threat from Caltrans:

San Juan Capistrano

City Should Respect the Law
Editorial

No one should have to file a lawsuit to get the city to comply with the law.

First it was the Capistrano Taxpayers Association’s lawsuit against the city to force them to stop illegally billing for water. The CTA won, but the city council majority of Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor voted to appeal the court ruling and ignore the court decision by continuing to bill the higher, illegal tiered water rates.

More recently, the CCS filed legal action to force the city to allow us to place our news rack alongside other news racks on city-owned property.

Newspapers have been distributed via news racks at City Hall, the Community Center and on other city-owned property for many years. That is, until the CCS put our news rack alongside the others. Within four days, a closed door meeting of the city council was called, newspapers were banned on city property, and the CCS was threatened with criminal prosecution if we placed our newspapers “anywhere on city property”.

The council majority of Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and Mayor John Taylor have refused to take responsibility for the ban, but Councilman Roy Byrnes reported the vote in open session, stating that the council voted 3-1 to support it (with Byrnes opposed).

Mission Viejo

                            

Mission Viejo

Hats Off to Residents - part II
By Larry Gilbert

In this continuing nod to the difference that Mission Viejo volunteers have made, I would like to acknowledge the (former) non-partisan Committee for Integrity in Government, or “CIG”. CIG was the brainchild of Brad Morton, a Republican and Milt Jacobson, a Democrat. Experience demonstrates that when an individual has an issue or grievance with government they might take an active roll until the fight is won or lost. Most of these citizens have a single issue and can be found attending city council meetings or writing letters to the editor to express their point of view.

Fighting the establishment is a long, hard battle. For those who may lose a specific fight the answer is not to disappear from holding our government accountable but rather to find or create a group of neighbors and friends with similar concerns. The benefit of joining other concerned citizens goes beyond fellowship; you also gain a priceless support system. There is strength in numbers and working together you catch the eyes and ears of not only the media but city council and staff who take notice of your activities.

San Juan Capistrano


SJC Pipeline to Supply Water to Sendero

By Kim Lefner

A proposed agreement with the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) to use our pipeline to supply water to the Ranch’s new “Sendero” residential development, and to purchase recycled water from the SMWD is surprising in its lack of clarity about several important issues. The water service to Sendero will be for an estimated period of four years while the SMWD builds reservoirs to service the new development.

According to minutes of the September 25 meeting (see Minutes under "Community Links" in the column to the right), the SMWD Board of Directors unanimously approved the agreement to supply water to Sendero via City of San Juan Capistrano water line “SC-4” that runs adjacent to the Sendero development. The pipeline cost our City approximately $6.9 million to construct. According to the SMWD, of the 4.91cfs of water allocated to San Juan through our pipeline, an estimated 41% will be supplied to Sendero. We do not yet know how much of this capacity is being used to service SJC water needs especially the high altitude uses. Do we have enough excess capacity to meet our needs with 59% of what we are now getting?

Mission Viejo

Preventing Costly Mistakes

By Ed Sachs

How do we prevent repeating mistakes that are costly to taxpayers? In my professional career in the private sector, I accomplished this by holding responsible parties accountable for their mistakes. Not surprisingly, this had the effect of eliminating or at least reducing the number of mistakes which translated into savings for the company.
I write this in the hopes it will encourage our city council and staff to do the same within our local government. I refer to the city council’s recent admission that, “oops, we forgot to consider irrigation for the Dog Park.” I find it hard to believe that a Dog Park that requires grass was designed without a water source. Yet just recently, a Change Order asking Mission Viejo residents for an additional $190,600 was presented for approval. The reason staff and council are asking for more of your money is that once again, somebody neglected to include irrigation in the initial project specs.

The Dog Park started with a design/build cost of $800,000 to city taxpayers. This Dog Park has now ballooned to a cost of  more than $1.1M for Phase 1. And if it has a Phase 1, wouldn’t it stand to reason that it would also have a Phase 2 (or 3, or more)?

San Juan Capistrano

Transparency, not Tyranny!

Editorial

The on-going attempts by certain city officials to intimidate and silence those who disagree with or question their decisions have reached a new and unfortunate low.

We refer to the latest tactic by councilmen Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor, who voted to place on the November 5 council agenda a discussion of whether they should report councilmen Roy Byrnes and Derek Reeve to the Grand Jury, alleging Brown Act violation and breach of fiduciary responsibility, and censure of Reeve for ethics violations.

The allegations leveled against Byrnes and Reeve are patently false. We know this because they revolve around the present ban of all newspapers including the Community Common Sense (CCS) on public property.

Mission Viejo

                         Audit of City Credit Cards Protects Taxpayers
                                              
                                     By Mission Viejo Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht

At the October 21, 2013, Mission Viejo City Council meeting, I made a motion that “the city council order an immediate external audit of the CAL-Card program to evaluate the adequacy of the control environment as it relates to purchases to determine that expenditures are being made in accordance with approved policies and procedures.” For those unfamiliar with CAL-Cards, they are credit cards issued to City employees to pay for work-related expenses.

In a 12-month period, these credit card purchases have increased by 31%, from $194,530 in Fiscal Year 2011-2012 to $254,950 in Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

The number of credit cards issued also grew from 9 cards in 4 departments in February 2009 to today’s total of 30 cards in 8 departments. The total of CAL-Card expenditures for the last three fiscal years is $601,282.

San Juan Capistrano


Neighborhood Watch…
Listed below is the second in a series of stories submitted by residents about daily life in their San Juan neighborhood. Many who live in areas free from crime and blight may be unaware of the problems in other San Juan neighborhoods. It is our hope that bringing these issues to light will encourage the City to help these residents improve their neighborhoods through proper code enforcement and maintenance.


Quality of Life in the Villas: Part II

By Dan Buckner

In the Villas we have small gardening businesses, food services and clothing sales being conducted out of some of the Villas units. I will buy someone a lunch if any of these guys are licensed, and if they are I don’t think they should be allowed to conduct these types of businesses in a residential community like this. In the early morning hours and on weekends their presence is especially noticeable.
The city has codes that prohibit excessive noise and that govern commercial activity. There are traffic and parking codes, but enforcement is difficult and expensive, because the problem has become overwhelming.

To make the rent of between $1,500 and $2,000, rooms are sub-let and we end up with as many as 11 people living in a three bedroom unit. Some garages are being used for sleeping quarters. The unit next to my mother’s has someone (maybe two) people living in the garage. When the urge hits in the middle of the night I suppose it is less disruptive to just step outside and let it go. Again we have that distinctive smell to contend with when approaching my mother’s front door.

Mission Viejo


Hats Off to Residents Who Protect 
our Tax Dollars and Quality of Life

By Larry Gilbert

As Mission Viejo celebrates its 25th anniversary, it is worth noting that the road has not been without potholes. Some of these problems have been fixed thanks to the efforts of residents passionate about protecting their community. This is the first in a series of articles about those “everyday residents” who have made a difference.

Over the years we have lost some of our community activists who loved our city. I tip my hat to "Tex" Shannon whom I met standing along Alicia Parkway by our Lake, gathering signatures to block a MV Company-funded effort to install a wall along Alicia Parkway at Lake Mission Viejo that would impair the view of the lake and mountains.

Mission Viejo

Editor’s note: Listed below is the third in an on-going series about Mello-Roos taxation and its impacts to homeowners. 


Mello-Roos: Part III

On February 23, 1987 the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) and the Mission Viejo Company entered into an agreement to form Community Facilities District 87-1 (“87-1”). The agreement states in part that 87-1 bonds will be used to provide funds to construct 87-1 School Facilities in accordance with the Plan to the extent that funds for the School Facilities are neither timely nor adequately provided by the State
of California or from other sources. And, that the Special Tax shall be levied to pay off the bonds for providing the 87-1 School Facilities, furniture, equipment, and required sites therefore, in accordance with the Plan. The facilities discussed in the plan and financed under the Mello-Roos Program are specifically intended to meet the needs of the students generated by residential developments within 87-1.

Resolution 87-38 adopted on April 20, 1987 expands the use of the 87-1 taxes, without a vote of the taxpayers, to include construction, acquisition, modification or rehabilitation of certain real and other tangible property with an estimated useful life of five years or longer, including certain school and related facilities to serve the project area as fully described in Resolution 87-31 and the report.

San Juan Capistrano

“Ghost Walk” a Reminder of San Juan’s Colorful History

By Kim Lefner

If you haven’t yet been on the Halloween “Ghost Walk” on Los Rios Street, I recommend it. It’s an entertaining reminder of the rich history that surrounds us here in San Juan Capistrano.

The Ghost Walk, sponsored by the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society, has evolved since my family and I did it ten years ago. While the ghost stories are essentially the same, they are told in more compelling detail and offer historical background about the characters and the time period.

No fancy special effects or high-tech wizardry, just good old-fashioned story-telling, with the “ghosts” sharing their stories in period costumes. The walk started out with the ghost of “La Llorona” wandering up the street, calling out for her children. The jilted bride who drowned her children in Trabuco Creek when she learned that her fiancee had married another woman was still dressed in her tattered, graying wedding gown as she told her sad story by candlelight.

San Juan Capistrano

Correction:  Steve Behmerwold notified the CCS that it was he who made and paid for the "I Stand with Sam" signs for the supporters of Sam Allevato who attended the September 17 council meeting (see photo below). The signs were inaccurately attributed to Jonathan Volzke, who handed out signs at the council meeting.

Residents Move to Recall Sam Allevato

Residents angry about Sam Allevato’s stance on water and spending served a Notice of Recall against him at the September 17 council meeting.
SJC Councilman Sam Allevato

Though only twenty signatures were needed, the recall petition was signed by thirty residents frustrated with Allevato’s votes to increase their water rates by nearly 50%, his vote to fight a lawsuit initiated by the Capistrano Taxpayers Association (“CTA”) challenging the City’s illegal water billing practices, and his subsequent vote to fight the court decision according to charges listed on the recall notice.

On August 6, Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz ordered the City to abandon its current water rate structure and base all rates on cost of service in conformance with the California Constitution, Proposition 218. The Court also entered a judgment restraining the City from collecting water fees from residents for recycled water that they do not actually use and which is not immediately available to them.

The recall petition reads in part: “Water users have paid millions of dollars in illegal charges on their water bills over the past 3 years…”
Allevato supporters include Dick Paulsen;
2nd from rt and Brad Gates; 3rd from rt. Both men
negotiated the RMV Riding Park real estate deal with
$27 million of taxpayer monies behind closed doors.
Residents are still restricted from using the
property while Gates and his foundation
have exclusive access


Councilman Allevato has repeatedly refused to modify the water rates and recycled water charges. Councilman Allevato insists on wasting taxpayer money by voting to appeal the court decision. His refusal to follow the law has cost the taxpayers approximately $500,000 dollars in attorney fees and court costs. Allevato’s actions have disregarded financial well-being of all San Juan Capistrano residents by overcharging for water.”
The full text of the recall notice can be read on our website at: www.ccsense.com under “Links”.

When asked why Sam Allevato was targeted for recall and not council members Larry Kramer and John Taylor, who joined Allevato in refusing to lower water rates and in fighting the water rate lawsuit, resident Melissa Kaffen pointed out that Allevato is the only remaining council member who in 2010 voted for the 40% increase plus automatic rate increases every year. “He’s tone deaf,” said Kaffen. “Residents have begged for relief from the high water rates but he stubbornly refuses to buy the water from the cheapest source, which could lower our water rates to about half of what they are now.”

Mission Viejo

Bali Vacations and $3.5 Million of Taxpayers' Money

By Steve Magdziak

How many of us wake up in the morning and think to ourselves, "gee I can't wait to go to work this morning and pay for a someone else’s mortgage while they go on an all-expenses paid vacation to Bali."

That’s basically what happened when Council members Dave Leckness (up for re-election) and Frank Ury voted to grant a waiver to a “low-income” applicant for a taxpayer-subsidized unit.
The Ridge development includes
 taxpayer-subsidized "low income" units


The unit in question is part of a development subsidized by the taxpayers of Mission Viejo (“MV”), called “The Ridge”. This development is comprised of 144 units with 17 Very Low-Income and 5 Low-Income, costing MV taxpayers over $3.5 million dollars.

So how does a vacation to Bali figure in to this? The applicant in question applied for a low-income unit within The Ridge. Lennar, the developer, told the applicant to pay off her car loan which she did with "gift money" from her Dad. This pushed her over the Annual Gross Income limit and the applicant was declined. But three MV City Council members; Dave Leckness, Frank Ury and Rhonda Reardon, passed three actions to change the Mission Viejo Housing Authority (“MVHA”) policy which enabled the applicant to qualify (Cathy Schlicht voted no and Trish Kelly was absent). The policy changes were to:

San Juan Capistrano

The Water Rate Lawsuit - What Now?

by John Perry

Capistrano Taxpayers Association

The California Constitution exists to protect the citizens from government. The fundamental rights contained in the Constitution are a guarantee that cannot be violated by the government.
John Perry, Board Member
 Capistrano Taxpayers Association

Each government official when, elected or appointed, is required to swear to protect and defend the constitution to the best of their ability. When officials pass laws that infringe on constitutional issues, the people have the right to challenge those actions in court and to have a Judge determine if their rights have been violated.

In the case of Capistrano Taxpayers Association vs. City of San Juan Capistrano, the issue was if the city violated the provisions of the California Constitution by imposing a tiered water rate schedule that is not based upon actual costs on its residents and by forcing residents to subsidize recycled water. The city actions were declared unconstitutional by Superior Court Judge Munoz on August 28, 2013.

Mission Viejo

Noise Ordinance Screams for Clarification

by Ed Sachs

Groucho Marx once stated, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”
Ed Sachs

Such may be the case today as we see the Mission Viejo city council majority wanting to punish a very small number of homeowners who may have had the police return a second time for a neighbor’s complaint of noise. Many of us call this “disturbing the peace,” for which there are already laws, codes and ordinances that address such irritation.

 In July and August, our police department responded to between 32 and 35 second calls for disturbing the peace. If extrapolated for a 12-month period and allowing for fewer such calls in the winter months, we may be talking around .00046 percent of Mission Viejo homes requiring a second call for disturbing the peace.

San Juan Capistrano

This Month's Question for Council members

Occasionally the CCS will ask City Council members a question and give them an opportunity to respond to their constituents.

Here is this month’s question with the resulting responses from council members listed below:

In light of the recent Superior Court decision regarding water billing in San Juan Capistrano, do you support refunding ratepayers for the amounts they have been overcharged on their water bills? Why or Why not?
SJC Councilman Roy Byrnes, MD

Councilman Roy Byrnes, MD: "Yes. As of now, the judge has ruled that the City of San Juan Capistrano has been guilty of overcharging the residents for water. I strongly believe that, if this is confirmed, the City has a legal and moral obligation to return the overcharge to the rate payers."

SJC Councilman Derek Reeve, Esq.
Councilman Derek Reeve: "If and when the judgment is finalized, I absolutely support a refund to any ratepayer who is found to have been overcharged on their water bills. It is critical that the city abide by the law and apply it equally to all of our residents. Furthermore, it is morally imperative that the city serve all of the residents and not exploit them for the benefit of special interest."

Council members Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor did not respond to the question.

Mission Viejo

Another Million Dollar Park?

By Larry Gilbert

In the August issue I covered our one million dollar plus dog park. Today I will share another million-dollar plus proposal from our city staff that can be dramatically reduced.
Beulah Park in Florida is an example
of a park with similar amenities built for far less

I refer to a future Capital Improvement Project (“CIP”), which calls for an expenditure of $1.3 million of developer park fees to convert Pavion Park's playground. While we do have children and adults with special needs, be it those in wheelchairs, to others with hearing or vision impairments, to some with autism and Downs Syndrome, our council and staff should devote some time to due diligence before giving a final stamp of approval. Let me explain why.

Max Berg Park in San Clemente is another
example of a park built for far less
I visited the Esperanza school in Mission Viejo to see their new playground with poured-in-place rubber flooring. Star Avedesian, their principal, told me that the entire playground project cost was $50,000. Most of that money was raised by Rotary Club pancake breakfasts. Granted, the area is considerably smaller than Pavion but it's a huge leap from $50,000 to $1.3 million.

I later visited the new "special needs" playground at Max Berg Plaza Park in San Clemente. According to Orange County Register, the cost of this park was $150,000. The report claims that this new playground offers "universal access--accessible to wheelchairs and to children with disabilities, letting them play alongside other kids." This is a great facility with "poured-in-place" rubber flooring and sand in the entire playground area. I sent council and staff photos of that $150,000 playground that is 40% the size of Pavion.

San Juan Capistrano

The Quality of Life in the Villas: Part I 

By Dan Buckner

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of stories submitted to us by San Juan residents about life in their neighborhoods. We hope that by printing these stories, residents in other neighborhoods will become aware of what life is like for their neighbors. We hope these articles will encourage better city code enforcement and maintenance.

Last night there were sirens, last week and then again this morning. Sirens are a frequent part of the ambient noise in the Villas. And then there are the garage parties that go on late into the night with the amplified music and the DJ’s encouraging the crowd to boogie down. The next day there is evidence of the event with trash blowing down the street, leftover food in the alley, the smell of urine, and vomit on the sidewalk to step over. I make an effort to clean it up, especially the pee on my garage door.

There are ride share horns starting as early as 5:00 am and throughout the day, every day. A Boys & Girls Club van picking up kids one morning announced its presence with a couple of blasts on the horn about fifty feet from my ear as I sat on the couch watching a game on TV . A car horn is rated at 110 decibels which is 25 points above that allowed in the work place.

A few weeks ago there was a drug bust and foot chase past my front door, and a year ago in the middle of the night there was a car chase that ended up outside of my bedroom window. Cops with weapons drawn were yelling “get on the fucking ground”. And, then there was a foot chase after those that were trying to get away and more yelling. The whole arrest process took a few hours and it was impossible to get back to sleep.

Mission Viejo

The Dirty Secrets of Mello-Roos: Part II

Editor’s note: In last month’s issue, we explained the basics of Mello-Roos and its impacts to homeowners. In Part II we continue with an explanation of some of the pitfalls of Mello-Roos, and what prospective buyers may want to consider when searching for a home.

When you purchase a home in a Mello-Roos District (“CFD”), buried in the papers you receive just before closing is a document called “NOTICE OF SPECIAL TAX”. This notice provides very brief information on the tax but includes: notice that your home is in an area subject to the tax, the maximum tax for the particular year you are purchasing the home, that the tax will increase by 2% per year, and that the tax will continue to be levied until the “authorized facilities” are built and the Mello-Roos bonds are repaid. The “authorized facilities” are those to be built with the Mello-Roos funds and are identified in the CFD formation documents.

Following are our “Top 10 Dirty Secrets of Mello-Roos”. For this article we use as an example Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) CFD 87-1 however, most of the items below pertain to all CUSD CFDs.

1. CUSD uses taxes from most of its CFDs to make the bond payments on the controversial non-classroom 126,000sf “Administration Building”. In 2006, CUSD finally acknowledged they were using CFD taxes to pay for this massive waste rather than on schools, a fact which they had previously denied.

San Juan Capistrano

Court Rules Tiered Water Billing Illegal

By Kim Lefner

On August 6, San Juan’s water rates were declared illegal under Proposition 218.  Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz ordered the City to abandon its current water rate structure and base all rates on cost of service in conformance with the California Constitution....

The Court also entered a judgment restraining the City from collecting water fees from residents for recycled water that they do not actually use and which is not immediately available to them. Judge Munoz based his ruling on a section of the California Constitution that deals with “Waste of Taxpayer Funds”.

Capistrano Taxpayers Association (CTA) attorney Ben Benumof said of the ruling, "Ultimately, we always believed that our case was simple, straightforward, and technically sound. The City has never provided any cost-based data to support Tiers 2, 3, and 4, which the City admitted at trial are, in fact, penalties. This is truly a win for the taxpayers, supported by the letter and the spirit of Proposition 218."

Mission Viejo

City Should Return Surplus to Residents

By Steve Magdziak

Steve Magdziak
The city of Mission Viejo claims to have a surplus of monies. The city also spends millions of tax dollars on non-essential programs and services that could be paid for by the people who utilize them. Since it has been said that there is no way to lower taxes or send checks to taxpayers, the next option would be rebates on essential services like trash pickup, water, electricity, etc.

The concept is relatively simple; for every million dollars the city cuts in non-essential spending, a rebate of $27.78 per dwelling could be given back to 36,000 dwellings. The city has a budget of roughly $50-60 million. An $11 million dollar cut could lead to a sizeable rebate of $297.00 to each dwelling.

San Juan Capistrano

City Council Burns Through Your Cash

By Roy Byrnes, M.D., San Juan Capistrano City Councilman

At the last council meeting your City Council did again what it does so well; shoveling your tax dollars into the furnace.
SJC Councilman Roy Byrnes, MD

This time the ruling three council majority pushed through a measure to spend a half million dollars to buy diesel generators as “emergency back ups” to pump water for the Ground Water Recycling Plant. Why was this a stupid move? Because in order to use the generators, two phenomenally unlikely events must both occur together (1) Metropolitan Water authority must fail to deliver water, which hasn't happened in over 100 years and at the same time, (2) SDG &E electrical power must fail for a 48 hour period. This hasn't happened in 100 years either.

Two "never before happened in over 100 years” events must occur simultaneously. Yes, for this long shot to pay off, you'd have to hold winning tickets for both the California and the National lotto on the same day. I don't know how to calculate the odds against that one but Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor went blithely ahead while Derek Reeve and I voted “No' . We lost the vote 2 to 3.

Mission Viejo

Send in the Boy Scouts

By Joe Holtzman

Mission Viejo city hall has neglected numerous city-owned parcels overgrown with brush. After one homeowner asked repeatedly to have a potential fire hazard addressed, the city finally responded with an unusual answer. A city employee said, "We’ll send Boy Scouts to do the work," referring to the work as “community service”.
This vacant lot in Mission Viejo is one
of many the city has failed to maintain
Performing essential work of a city without pay is not community service. The city has collected tax dollars to do the job, and residents should ask if the area is assigned to a contractor. Fire hazards abound on city and county property, and contractors should be addressing all of them – not just those where a homeowner has complained.

In August 2012, Mission Viejo’s council majority rezoned 12,000 homes into “Special Fire Protection Areas.” The wording was changed from “Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones”, but the meaning doesn’t change. The council majority ignored the overwhelming public outcry against the change.

San Juan Capistrano

Should Your Tax Dollars Be Used To Fight You?
The water rate lawsuit is the fourth lawsuit in the past several years in which the city has fought its residents and either lost or settled. The amount spent on attorney’s fees is high enough; but add to that monetary judgments awarded to the plaintiffs and the total amount is staggering.


Listed below are two examples of lawsuits over the past few years in which the city spent our tax dollars to fight losing battles against their own residents.

Mission Viejo

The Million Dollar Dog Park

By Larry Gilbert

Many long time residents support a dog park but have opposed spending upwards of one million dollars to create one. If the article printed recently in a local paper is accurate, we have now broken that magic ceiling.


A recent front page feature in the Saddleback Valley News addressed the City of Mission Viejo’s new dog park and detailed a recently released contract for $888,888 to construct the dog park. However, the reporter failed to include the full project cost. City records indicate that the dog park costs are $1,121,176 – and that’s only for Phase One. The figure also fails to include the $250,000 more in “Professional Services” that must be added to the tab for Phase One.

San Juan Capistrano

CCS Banned On City Property!

Editorial

Ever hopeful that the city will finally agree to operate with the transparency they claim to support, we continue to ask questions and report on community issues while offering what we believed are reasonable solutions. Some at City Hall (fortunately, not all) clearly dislike our reporting on the decisions they make that negatively impact residents, such as increases in water rates, traffic and debt. But it is the public’s right (and many believe, responsibility) to question public officials, especially those who are elected to represent them.

Mission Viejo

WHAT IS MELLO ROOS - AND WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

Mello-Roos is a tax. When Proposition 13 was enacted, it restricted local governments from using property taxes to build public services and facilities. As a result, new funding methods were devised. Enter Mello Roos.


Mello Roos tax is called different things by different agencies. It started as a law called the “Community Facilities District Act”, which enabled the formation of "Community Facilities Districts" (CFDs) to provide a method of financing public facilities and services in new developments and areas undergoing rehabilitation.

Mello Roos taxes are usually found in newer residential developments. Older houses (typically those built before 1988) don't have them.

"The Value of Water" Newsletter - Spin or Fact?

By John Perry

Contributing Editor John Perry is a 23-year resident of San Juan Capistrano. During his career as an Assistant Superintendent of Business for large OC school districts, John was responsible for district fiscal management and operation, including budgets in excess of $100 million. John earned a Bachelor of Science from Cal State Long Beach and a Masters of Science in Education Administration from USC. 

In what appears to be an attempt to defend the high cost of producing “our own” water, the City recently mailed a full color, glossy brochure entitled “The Value of Water” to all residents. It cost the taxpayers of San Juan $6000 to design, print and distribute, when it would have cost far less to include it in the water bill. As I began to read it, I realized that this “newsletter” misleads residents into believing that we are fortunate to have “our own” water supply to provide the City with water in time of drought or earthquake. The City suggests that neighboring water districts would not have this same “reliability” if they relied on imported water, and that our rates are comparable with those of other cities. But the documentation I’ve read says otherwise. Let’s examine just a few of the more egregious claims.

“Investments” in groundwater

City Claim #1: “…our own groundwater supply… is a unique opportunity to control our destiny, protect our economy, and enhance our quality of life….we’ve tripled our production in recent years, now producing more than fifty percent of the water you receive annually.”
FACT: The City has spent, not invested, $45 million taxpayer dollars on a groundwater facility that it doesn’t own. It is owned by the San Juan Basin Authority, but the City (you) paid to build it, then lease it, for 35 years. The company hired by the City to design and build it guaranteed a production level that has never been consistently met. Rather than make them live up to their contract, the City Council allowed the company to walk away from the contract, cancelling all guarantees and warranties. It has cost ratepayers millions in upgrades and repairs that would have been the responsibility of the company. Recent reports state that there is far less groundwater in the basin than believed.

“Investments” in recycled water

City Claim #2: “Recycled water for irrigation is more cost-effective than using drinking water...”

FACT: Recycled water is more expensive than imported water or locally produced groundwater because state law requires a segregated plumbing system so recycled water can’t contaminate drinking water. The cost of digging up streets and installing new infrastructure to deliver it to users is extremely expensive. All City domestic water users are forced to subsidize the cost of recycled water – regardless of whether the recycled water is actually delivered to their neighborhoods or homes. Prop 218 holds that a City utility can only charge its users for a service if they’re actually receiving it. This is one of the factors of the pending Capistrano Taxpayers Association (CTA) lawsuit against City water rates.

State and Federal Grant Funding 

City Claim #3: “The City has secured more than $5 million in grants to support its water reliability investments.”

FACT: While City officials may behave as though money grows on trees, the truth is that grant funding is OUR TAX DOLLARS and is a prime example of why Federal and California Governments are more than $17 Trillion in debt. Debt increases our cost of living, and must be repaid by our children long after the groundwater facility is just a bad memory.

“Keeping water rates as low as possible”

City Claim #4: “…rates are on par for our region when compared to nearby water districts.” 

FACT: The City currently produces about 50% of its water from local sources and purchases 50% from MWD. By comparison, Santa Margarita purchases 100% of its water from MWD and has rates 41% less expensive than San Juan for the average small lot user. In its 9 years of operation, the water plant has failed to produce water at a price competitive with imported water. One of the primary expenses is the cost of City salaries and benefits; the Utilities Department has 21 employees at a cost of approx. $2.4 million per year. The annual increase in labor cost for the water plant from 2011-2012 was 9.3% with an annual average total employee compensation of $129,860 (an hourly labor rate of $62.50).

Guest Column - The Future of San Juan Belongs To You, Grasp It!

By Derek Reeve, San Juan City Council 

In 2009 the city of San Juan Capistrano put pen to paper and finalized what I have referred to as the worst real estate deal in the modern history of Orange County. San Juan Capistrano purchased 132 acres of Rancho Mission Viejo owned land which at the time was not even in San Juan Capistrano, all for the radically overpriced $27.5 million. It was justified under the bogus claim of preserving open space even though at least 40% of it was already preserved as such. The terms of the agreement read more like a lease agreement than a purchase agreement since much of the control is retained by the Rancho Mission Viejo Company, including its very name, the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park.

Nevertheless our community had to address what to do with this property now that we owned it. When I took office it became clear that no plan had ever been developed. Up to this time the city contracted with equestrian events promoter Blenheim EquiSports to lease this property so that they could profit from it. This lease is soon up for renewal (it has been renewed twice already since we purchased the property). Because of this lease the people of San Juan Capistrano are restricted from using the leased portion of our park despite continually paying for it through our property taxes. The amount of money generated by this lease is less than 10% of the annual principle and interest owed on the property. The company leasing the property, Blenheim, makes a handsome profit from the equestrian events they hold on our property while San Juan property owners make the “mortgage” payment and are prohibited from using it.

In my opinion, the status quo cannot stand. This is unfair to our residents. A plan must be developed to take back our park. That plan for our future park belongs in your hands. I propose a committee of ordinary citizens be established to develop a long term plan that would utilize the park in such a way that benefits the varied interests of San Juan Capistrano. Based on input I have received from my constituents, the park should include:

Reata Park – Whose Park Is It?

At the July 16 council meeting, despite receiving nine letters in opposition and none in support, Council members Allevato, Kramer and Taylor voted to approve the private Open Space Foundation’s recommendation to add its name and logo to the entrance monument at our publicly owned Reata Park. Council members Byrnes and Reeve voted no.

We received several letters from readers expressing concern about this issue. Due to space limitations we are only able to print one, which is listed below.

Letter to the Editor

After watching the video of the July 16 council meeting, I am stunned by the public comments made by certain council members!

There’s a strange pretzel logic that’s permeated the brains of certain council members…it seems to go like this:

· Convince property owners to tax themselves $30 million to buy “open space” in the City.

· Allow non-public entity to decide what to buy, at what price and on what terms, out of public view.

· Approve entity’s selection of a $27.5 million property outside the City limits (that just happens to be owned by a life-long friend of entity)

· Have council bless entity’s sovereignty by allowing all sweetheart aspects of the deal they negotiated to remain…despite the invitation by previous owner to re-negotiate terms of the deal

· Disallow citizens from any and all access to the park

· Grant entity exclusive access to park to construct what they want on our public property (including a monument to themselves)

· Allow entity to proclaim they’ve spent “hours and hours” working on park development to justify placing their name, and no others – not even the City’s - on the park signage

· Since so many hours have been spent on park, it’s theirs by default

· Entity is lauded by Council members. Councilman Sam Allevato shames citizens for doing “nothing at all” towards the creation and payment of the park !

Rules Should Apply Equally to All

By Clint Worthington

Contributing Editor Clint Worthington has lived in San Juan Capistrano for 28 years. He is a Board member of the Capistrano Taxpayers Association and for the past 21 years has been a volunteer firefighter with the Orange County Fire Authority serving the City of San Juan Capistrano. Following a 27-year career in the banking industry, he now enjoys his position as a locomotive engineer. 
The lawsuit involving the Forster Mansion two years ago shed light on the problem of selective code enforcement in our town. After twenty-two Municipal Code violations, the City had still done nothing to enforce the law against the event promoter who leased the Forster Mansion. It was not until a lawsuit was filed against the City requiring them to follow their own laws that action was taken against the event promoter.

Prior to that lawsuit, community members questioned whether the City’s refusal to take action was because City Councilman Mark Nielsen was friends with the event promoter. Whatever the reason, it opened my eyes about selective code enforcement in our City.

Unfortunately, it continues to this day. Recently, the private Open Space Foundation (“OSF”) placed their banner at our publicly owned Northwest Open Space. When asked what rules allowed this private group’s banner to be hung on public property, City planner Bill Ramsey stated there were no rules for placing banners at open space and therefore the OSF did not need a sign permit.

Following the OSF’s lead, the Capistrano Common Sense (“CCS”) placed a similar but smaller banner in the same location. Within 24 hours CCS received a “Notice of Violation”. The stated reason was that the CCS did not have a sign permit.

Water Report: Less Water in Basin Than Believed; “Seawater Intrusion Imminent”

By John Perry

A draft report prepared for the San Juan Basin Authority (SJBA) exposes new problems with our water supply. The draft report, prepared by Wildermuth Environmental Associates, indicates far less water in the basin than previously reported. Previous studies estimated about 40,000 acre feet of water in the basin. The draft report estimates around 20,000 acre feet as of 2012 (theoretical maximum storage is about 26,000 acre feet). However, the report also indicates that the basin actually has only 13,000 acre feet of recoverable water.

Wildermuth predicts that due to the plans to continue pumping water out of the depleted basin, seawater intrusion is imminent.

Our water plant is not capable of processing seawater; therefore the intrusion of seawater would not only cause the plant to shut down but would cause all of the other very expensive wells in the area to become unusable.

The proposed solutions are outrageously expensive and could drastically increase our already-high water rates.

Rainfall recharges the water supply, amounting to about 6800 acre feet in a normal year. According to the report however, planned pumping of the basin will exceed the recharge amount, causing depletion and lowering of the water level, exposing it to seawater intrusion.

Both San Juan and SCWD are expanding their groundwater plants to pump increased amounts. San Juan recently applied for and received another $5 million in taxpayer funding to expand our plant.

The report proposes a series of “alternative solutions” to sustain planned basin pumping, conditioned on when - or if - a desalinization plant will be constructed near Doheny Beach by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD).

A Look Back in Time at the Evolving Water Issue…

The first issue of the Capistrano Common Sense printed 3 1/2 years ago, was partly inspired by residents frustrated by rising water bills. The list below illustrates where we were at when we began reporting on the water issue, and where we are today. It’s also a reminder of what prompted the Capistrano Taxpayers Association’s lawsuit against the City as well as what our council members are doing about the high cost of water.

March 5, 2010  - “Drowning in Water Bills”

San Juan resident John Perry kicks off the inaugural issue of the CCS with an “Open Letter” to the San Juan City Council and City Manager about the runaway costs of the City water operations; “At the February 2, 2010 Public Hearing, the City Council sat stoically as residents berated their decision to increase domestic water rates by 78 percent over the next 8 years. Although questions were asked of the City Council by public speakers, no answers were forthcoming from our elected officials or the City's staffers. So it is time to ask some hard questions again…”

September 10, 2010  - “A Recipe for Overspending; The Perfect Storm”

In this article City Council members were urged to audit the Ground Water Recovery Plant (GWRP) to find out why we're spending $200,000 more per month to operate it than if we purchased the water from the Metropolitan Water District….

November 2010 - Change in leadership: Derek Reeve, Larry Kramer & John Taylor elected to City Council

January 15, 2011  - “In Too Deep...Water Bondage”

This article questions why our City Council voted to sell another $18 million in bonds to support the expansion of the water plant and to finance the pipeline system to distribute recycled water. This bond sale was in addition to the previous bond sales which amounted to over $72 million since 2002…

“If You Build It They Will Come…”

Editorial

Organizations opposing the extension of the 241 toll road have stated that the Transportation Corridors Agencies (TCA)’s plan to extend the 241 toll road south in “segments” is prohibited. Apparently the South Coast Regional Water Board agreed, recently denying a permit to the TCA to extend a 5.5-mile segment to “Cow Camp Road” above Antonio and Ortega.

So what does this mean for San Juan Capistrano? In our opinion, this is a victory for San Juan residents who would have been subjected to even more traffic being dumped onto Ortega via the Cow Camp Road exit.

Research indicates that the Ranch needs the toll road extension in order to create “road capacity” to handle the enormous volume of traffic the new development will generate.

We find contradictory statements by elected officials like TCA Board member and

SJC Councilman Sam Allevato who claims that we need the toll road to relieve traffic congestion on the 5 freeway, while supporting the Rancho Mission Viejo Co’s planned development of 14,000 homes and 5 million square feet on our eastern border. If Councilman Allevato is so concerned about traffic congestion, why did he agree to waive our right to sue or even object to the traffic that will be generated by the Ranch’s new development? (see RMV Purchase contract at: www.ccsense.com).

Supporting a landowner’s right to develop their property is one thing, but not protecting your residents from its negative impacts is another.

Councilman Reeve Proposes City Partnership With The Ark of San Juan

The following two letters were received in response to Agenda item # J3 at the June 4 City Council meeting; “Consideration of a Formal Partnership between the City and The Ark of San Juan, Companion Animal Rescue” proposed by Councilman Derek Reeve.
The council is currently reviewing the proposal which as Councilman Reeve pointed out, will cost the City nothing but which will help the Ark of San Juan continue to save lost and abandoned animals. The Ark is the only all-volunteer, non-profit animal rescue organization in San Juan. 

Letter # 1 - Support 

June 2013

Dear Mayor Taylor, Mayor Pro-tem Allevato and Council Members Roy Byrnes, Derek Reeve and Larry Kramer,

Some may ask 'Who is The Ark of San Juan? Since the City contracts with the County for animal services why should the City partner with them?'

The Ark is a 50l(c)(3) charitable non profit organization formed in 2008. The Ark is volunteer-based, has no salaried officers or staff. Without a facility The Ark depends on foster homes or boarding facilities until rescued pets are adopted. They are the only rescue group in San Juan Capistrano working in conjunction with OC Animal Care to save our community's lost and abandoned pets. Since their formation The Ark has saved 400+ abandoned pets, thus saving the City the added cost of euthanasia at the County.

As an outreach to our community The Ark has begun a series of programs for the youth of San Juan Capistrano including presentations last month to Keystone Club youths at the local Boys & Girls Club and 'Good Dog Sense for Kids' to 180 third and forth graders at Kinoshita Elementary School.

Yes, Orange County Animal Care (shelter) presently provides animal service for our town and is doing the best they can; no complaints about their service. But sadly their time and resources are stretched between 18 cities and various unincorporated areas which they serve: Anaheim, Brea, Cypress, Fullerton, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove. Huntington Beach, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest, Orange, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana (Shelter Service Only), Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Yorba Linda and various Unincorporated areas.

OC Animal Care's own full disclosure website* shows that they take in 30,000 cats, dogs, bunnies and other pets each year. No way! That's 2,500 new pets each month needing homes!

Despite OC Animal Care's heroic efforts to be proactive in placing pets by offering monthly adoption events and featuring impounded pets on the internet, the task of finding adoptive homes for 30,000 pets is monumental. OC Animal Care's website shows the reality of not finding enough homes for that many lost and abandoned pets:

Of the 12,000 cats impounded in 2012,74% were euthanized.

Of the 13,600 dogs impounded in 2012, 19% were euthanized.

The Ark of San Juan Capistrano is not asking for a hand out from the City. They are hoping for a leg up. It will be a win-win for both the City and our lost and abandoned pets!

Please vote Yes on this item. And all the critters on board The Ark said 'Amen!'

Thank you.

Yvonne Tschaikowsky
San Juan Capistrano resident
Volunteer for The Ark of San Juan Capistrano
* OC Animal Care website: http://media.ocgov.com/gov/occr/animal/about/default.asp

Letter # 2 - Oppose

Date: June 2013
Subject: Note From Tom Hribar on Council Item.

Mayor Taylor and Council Members:

Why Should The City Partner With ARP [sic] ? How About Partnering With The Open Space Foundation, The Boys and Girls Club, The Womans Club, The Historical Society, The Equestrian Coalition Etc. Etc. Etc.

Come On. No Way. The Next Thing Will Be a Dog Shelter in San Juan Capistrano.

I Challenge You To Tour The Orange County Animal Shelter as I Have Done. They Do a Great Job. The Internet Allows This Organizations to Do Their Job of "Adoption" Very Easily.

Who is Arp? What Does Their Balance Sheet Look Like? Do They Have an Office in Town? Lets Partner With Youth, Beautification of Our Town, Downtown Projects, Etc.!!

Please Vote No on This Item.

Thank You.
Tom Hribar
"Your High Performance Realtor"
RE/MAX Select One
www.tomhribar.com











Council Divided Over “Water Rate Study”

“I think by authorizing this study, what we’re really doing is putting in for a rate increase. No study was ever requested that REDUCED water rates..” – Councilman Roy Byrnes

“We have to stop unnecessarily burdening our rate payers. The water plant does not work for a City of our size…We have to stop throwing good money after bad…” - Councilman Derek Reeve 

 “I don’t know if [the study] will result in cost reductions…[but] Metropolitan Water District rates are going up, so we need to keep pace.” - Councilman Larry Kramer
Councilman Sam Allevato pointed out that the money being spent on the water plant is part of a $5 million grant the City applied for to expand the water plant. "Yes, it’s taxpayer money but we got it, so I think it’s something we need to do,” said Allevato. 

Mayor Taylor expressed concern over Byrnes' suggestion that the water plant bond debt be refinanced to bring down costs… "Are we paying off debt too fast? Is it too aggressive?” Taylor asked. 

Over objections from Council members Roy Byrnes and Derek Reeve that a “Water Rate Study” may lead to yet another water rate increase that over-burdened residents can ill afford, Council members John Taylor, Sam Allevato and Larry Kramer voted 3-2 to approve conducting the study.

Larry Kramer defended it and commended staff for “doing things that keep costs down.” But watchdogs who track water plant expenditures wonder just what staff is doing to control costs. Councilman Byrnes for example, pointed out that there was an increase in total staff compensation last year of 9.3% - far outpacing inflation.

Big Money in Small Town Politics

A Sworn Complaint alleging campaign violations in the last San Juan City Council election was filed recently with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) alleging that big money interests attempted to benefit financially by controlling who was elected to City Council.

The complaint, filed by Councilman Roy Byrnes and Kimberley McCarthy, describes how the following politicians, political consultants and related groups allegedly worked together to influence the outcome of the campaign in violation of the Fair Political Practices Act:

Roger Faubel of Faubel Public Affairs, former President/CEO of “OC Taxpayers Association”, which sponsors a Political Action Committee (“PAC”) named “OCTax PAC”. Faubel and OC Taxpayers Association benefit financially from a number of development-related projects in San Juan Capistrano;
  • OCTax PAC shares Faubel’s business address, and as an officer of OC Taxpayers, Faubel signed their most recent tax returns in 2010 and 2011; 
  •  OCTax PAC spent nearly $10,000 on mailers promoting Sam Allevato and Ginny Kerr for City Council; 
  •  OC Taxpayers, SDG+E and the Orange County Transportation Agency (OCTA) are all Faubel clients. SDG+E has a large SJC expansion project pending approval in San Juan, and the OCTA granted SJC substantial sums of taxpayer monies from Measure M (gasoline tax) funding for SJC projects 
  •  Jonathan Volzke former Capistrano Dispatch Editor, was hired by Faubel shortly after an article appeared in the Dispatch promoting the proposed SDG&E expansion project in San Juan. SDG+E became Volzke’s client when he was hired by Faubel. Volzke also wrote “Guest Columns” in the Dispatch promoting Allevato and Kerr, prior to the City Council election. 

City Council Voting Record


San Juan, Chicago style...

Editorial

The bullying just doesn’t stop. As some have suggested, perhaps it’s because the “good ol’ boys” have been calling the shots for so long now that they don’t know how to do business any other way.

The Capistrano Common Sense (CCS) first reported on this issue back in 2010, when some “very powerful people connected with the City” threatened a local restaurant owner with all manner of code violations including jeopardizing his liquor license, if he continued to allow us to host our monthly “CCS Happy Hour” community forum in his restaurant. He responded to the threats by cancelling our community forum the day before it was scheduled. We didn’t blame him; he was just trying to protect his business.

Now, this same small group of “good ol’ boys” has threatened a number of merchants if they advertise in the CCS. The following is from a merchant who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation:

“Local San Juan businesses are afraid of the well-connected good old boy network and the City's influence [on their business] if they don’t toe the line. Thanks for printing the facts which is what this town needs.”

The Ark of San Juan's Pet of the Month, "Sally"


The Next Generation Cleans Up San Juan!



Allevato, Kramer & Taylor Reject Review of RMV Purchase Contract

In a 3-2 vote, Councilmen Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor voted to reject the review of questionable conditions in the Rancho Mission Viejo (“the Ranch”) Riding Park/Open Space purchase contract. Residents claim some purchase contract provisions benefit the Ranch, not San Juan residents.

Speakers at the April 2 council meeting urged the council to review the purchase contract conditions with the Ranch at CEO Tony Moiso’s invitation, in an effort to re-negotiate some of the more “injurious” conditions to San Juan residents.

Responding to criticism that San Juan residents can’t set foot on the property they are paying for and that we paid to preserve property that was already protected, Allevato admitted, “Yes, it is currently leased, and you can’t have a picnic there…but we purchased it to preserve it as Open Space.” Allevato then admitted that, “…there was already open space that was preserved [on the property]…” 

Several speakers cried foul on the secrecy of the property negotiation and purchase, pointing out that it was negotiated entirely behind closed doors by friends of seller Tony Moiso. Brad Gates, who led the behind-closed-doors negotiations with Dick Paulsen and Tom Lunnen, is a longtime friend and former business partner of Moiso. 

San Juan’s Own ‘Reality Show’

Imagine your elderly parents are moving cross-country to buy their dream house… 


You’ve never meddled in their affairs because, well, they’re your parents. You celebrate the news of their purchase with them. It sounds amazing; a huge lot with a working orchard, and their friend “Brad” negotiated a “sweetheart” deal for them from the seller, his friend “Tony”. Sounds like they did well!

When you finally visit them, you find that the place doesn’t match their description at all. Instead of a spacious lot with a fruit orchard, it’s a small, cramped apartment backing to a freeway on-ramp under construction for several years. Confused, you ask if this is the place they purchased.

“No, Dear. This is just where we live.”

You can’t be hearing this correctly, so you start asking questions. They are proud of their purchase and believe it will be a legacy for the family, so it’s hard to get clear answers. Exasperated, you corner them.

“Why aren’t you living there right now?”

“Because! This is the week of The Summer Carnival Spectacular! People come from all over the nation to participate, eat, and shop. It’s a huge event and it’s held at our place!” they proclaim, honored to own this special place.

Your concern grows as they describe the strange conditions of the sale. Tony gets to hold The Spectacular at their place free, for the next 50 years! And your parents won’t see a dime of the resulting profits (although their friend Brad’s foundation gets a sizable cut). Worse yet, they have to pay all the fees related to the event! Stranger still, they’re forbidden for 50 years from ever hosting their own similar event or from changing the name of the property, “Tony’s Place”.

How is this possible? You must be missing something! So you goad your folks into giving you the purchase agreement and begin reading.

Each paragraph sets off new waves of nausea:

The Ark of San Juan - featured pet "Tinkerbelle"


"The Last Hope for Lost and Abandoned Animals in San Juan"
This month’s featured pet is Tinkerbelle. Ark volunteers have been unable to find her the right home. “She is just beautiful,” reports Ark President Jean Janicki. 

"Darling Tinkerbelle lost the only home she ever knew when her owner became ill and could no longer care for her. This beautiful Ragdoll / Siamese mix is about 5 years old and is de-clawed in the front. She is slow to trust but understandably so. She will be very affectionate with a patient and knowledgeable cat owner. Determined to give this beauty a second chance, we welcomed her aboard The Ark. She is ready for her forever family to find her and keep her safe," said Kathy Hammersly, Board member of the Ark.

The Ark is the only non-profit animal rescue group saving the lives of San Juan animals. Since 2008, this all-volunteer group has rescued nearly 450 animals.

    As a purely volunteer group, the Ark welcomes donations from the community, and is also in need of 
    volunteers to serve as foster “parents” and to walk the many dogs in foster care and in boarding facilities 
    while waiting for their forever homes. Please visit their website at: www.arkofsanjuan.org to make a 
    contribution or donate your time.

NEW Water Strategy Needed

By John Perry 

Capistrano Taxpayers Association 

After 9 years of operation, the Ground Water Recovery Plant (GWRP) is still unable to produce water reliably and at reasonable cost. The taxpayers ask the question, is it now time to develop a new strategy?

The idea of a ground water facility came from a report developed for the San Juan Basin Authority (SJBA) by NBS/Lowry Engineers and Planners in 1994. The report was the first exhaustive study of how the San Juan Basin (aquifer) works and how water from the underground source might be developed into a regional facility that could deliver water to the region in times of emergency. If a disaster like an earthquake or extended drought caused a disruption of the Metropolitan Water District supply, the SJBA could access a “lifeline” water supply from the regional facility for a short period of time during the emergency.

The idea was that the SJBA would share in the capital and operational costs of the GWRP project in return for a guarantee of emergency lifeline water.

The Lowry report proposed a two phased approach to the project. Phase I would construct a facility located in San Juan Capistrano capable of producing 1,800 acre feet of water annually. Phase II would occur several years later by expanding the plant to 7,000 acre-feet per year.

The report recognized that the San Juan Basin could not sustain heavy pumping for over three years during an emergency period without having “recharge” capability because of the danger of infusion of sea water. Because we are just 104 feet above sea level, as water is pumped out of the aquifer the level lowers to the point that sea water can contaminate the aquifer.
Copyright © 2014, All Rights Reserved - Commonsense.com LLC