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: 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.
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