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:
  • Athletic fields, perhaps modeled after Vista Hermosa Sports Park in San Clemente 
  • Horse pens for activities such as cow penning and rodeos 
  • Horse and multi-use trails throughout the park that connect with other trails throughout the county 
  • Day and overnight camping 
While we cannot change history, we can mold our future park to serve all of the residents of San Juan Capistrano. It will not be easy. There are many outside special interests and big money corporations that will go to great lengths to disallow your use of your park. Yet you pay for it so you should be allowed to use it. You should also have a say in how it should be designed, so please email your ideas for your park to me at: and I will share them with all in our wonderful city. The future of San Juan lay in your hands; I encourage you to grasp it!


Anonymous said...

Thank you Councilman Reeve for having the courage to speak the truth for the residents whose pockets have been picked by the Ranch and Brad Gates with the help of Allevato Kramer and Mayor Taylor to line their own pockets ... how many former policeman can afford to live in a million dollar house in an exclusive gated community like Allevato?

Anonymous said...

I vote to open up the "open space" to the residents. There are lots of things we can and should be able to do with our park, since we're paying for it. Just a few that come to mind: camping, sports fields for baseball, football, soccer etc (wasn't that what we were promised?), community events.

This whole "open space" thing seems like it was just a ploy to enrich the property seller, and for a small group of powerful people to grab it for their own personal use.

So wrong!

Anonymous said...

The whole purchase was one big con job from the very beginning. We voted for open space so we would have less traffic. We didn't vote for a park that was ALWAYS going to be a park, according to the seller.
So why did we buy it? Did it stop any development? NO!
It just moved development across the street.
It is just greed from all the disgusting politicians and developers who think nothing of lining their pockets with our tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

When the city council talked us residents into supporting buying this property, sjc property owners were told that yes, our property taxes would be increased but it would be worth it since the polo grounds would be available for things like youth sports groups including baseball, football, soccer, etc. In fact, I remember that board members from some of these groups asked the council to support the purchase at the time.

But it turns out that the only sport allowed on it today is soccer - and we have to pay when our son plays in a tournament on this property.

This is wrong. To my way of thinking, we shouldn't have to pay extra to use it since our property taxes are paying the mortgage on it.

And what about the other sports teams? Are they allowed to use it? If not then why not?

I feel like we were misled by the city about the uses for this supposed park. It seems like the only ones benfiting from it are the company thats leasing it from the city. And who gets the revenue? If I understand it correctly, its not the city (us property owners).

This needs to be changed - its just wrong.

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