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.
I reviewed the Uniform Housing Code and using my unit as an example, the habitable floor space could technically accommodate five people. It would be crowded even if there were a few children in the mix, and by my calculation a three bedroom side unit should have no more than six people.

The burden of overcrowding is costing the city in law enforcement expenses – just check the Police Blotter to see how many police events occur here. In a seven day period a majority of the calls in the city are either in or around the Villas and the Casitas.

The Associations pay dearly for the additional water and sewer charges - the more people there are in a unit the more flushes and showers. As the tiered water rates kick in we pay proportionately even more. My two bedroom, one bath unit pays its share of close to $90 a month as part of the homeowner assessment.

The stress on our infrastructure from vandalism and graffiti is visually degrading, and discouraging to our landscaping efforts. A portion of our budget of $12,000 a year for landscaping upgrades is often diverted to repair damage. We also pay a fellow $1,000 a month to pick up discarded mattresses, appliances and furniture from the alleys. I assume this stuff is put there by the people moving out since there seems to be more of it around the end of the month.

Years ago the city did have an occupancy enforcement policy, but the effort didn’t last long. So, I have requested that the council consider resurrecting a policy based on the Uniform Housing Code, or any other method to address the root cause of the problem here which is overcrowding. It is costly to our collective budgets and is a health hazard both physically and mentally for those of us living here.

Dan Buckner has lived in San Juan since 1975. He and his wife have one grown son and two grandsons. Dan recently retired after selling his Property Management firm and stays active serving on committees with his HOA.

Editor’s note: To date, the Buckners have received no help with or response to their requests that the City Council adopt a policy based on the Uniform Housing Code. Their calls for code enforcement have gone unanswered.


Anonymous said...

You may have not have got the memo but you live in a barrio...

Anonymous said...

Why does any citizen in this town deserve different treatment ~ better or worse?

Why aren't laws and requirements being equally applied?

Mansion or dirt-floored hut, it should all be the same.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if the City has replied to your request, but I'm not sure the Housing code would assist with the problem. Lake Forest provides an excellent example of why City's cannot create their own occupancy requirements and references housing code. The laws cities have to abide by seem to allow up to 31 people in a 1,200 square foot home. I understand your concerns, but I think sometimes the higher up government blocks cities from fixing the obvious problems.

Anonymous said...

The Lake Forest website with the information is

Anonymous said...

Do you even have evidence of such a statement ? It seems very absurd to me if you ask me. "Garages are being used as sleeping quarters",really ? That made me laugh honestly, I have never seen such a thing. I myself live in a barrio (For those who don't know what that means its the ghetto). I REALLY wanna see where you get these "facts". Do not assume, have so decent evidence or some wittiness to make some valid statements. You do not have my support, and I bet others have the same thought. However it is nice to hear someones opinion, even though it is somewhat flawed.

The Thinker said...

Dear Mr. Buckner

We in the community understand your concern and very much appreciate your candor, however, the issues you speak about and have assessed your concern for, are the result of much bigger picture you, I, and the folks in the community cannot understand. What I speak about is a systemic failure, in where economic opportunities have been diminished our role in becoming active and productive citizens because of the political actions taken against folks living in the community you have so graciously and subtlety attack. Our nature is to be creative and we find methods for which to survive within an economic system that we contribute to, but receive little benefit from.

First off, let’s talk about overcrowding. Since you seem to speak about the Villas and Casitas, the fact is, Latinos occupy a significant portion of real estate in the spaces you are concerned about. If overcrowding is such a concern, then why won’t you address your concerns about the new housing development being erected on the corner of La Pata and Antonio Parkway? Isn’t the traffic much of nuisance traveling through San Juan Capistrano because of the development? The problem will become as overwhelming as your present living condition. Where you big picture concern on overcrowding? Now if we get into the dynamics of resources, I suppose your concern becomes my concern as well. History has taught us that when city resources are scarce, people within the living conditions you speak about are scapegoated and driven out by economically stable individuals such as yourself. Where’s the empathy?

If overcrowding is such an issue and it’s costing the “city in law enforcement expenses” then please show me how much it’s costing the city and I’ll show you how much the residents of Villas and Casitas contribute in city taxes. I wouldn’t be surprised if their contributions exceed “city law enforcement expenses.” Also if expenses are a concern, didn’t the city recover millions from stop light cameras to cover for legal and law enforcement expenses? You may also want to inquire on the money being put into rebuilding the City’s infrastructure, because I sense overcrowding is not just a Villas and Casitas concern. I think I covered that! But I just want to make sure you understand. Also, when you say majority, can you please provide some statistics of what majority means, with regards to the police blotter. Just because “majority” police activity happens around Villas or Casitas doesn’t mean it’s the people within Villas or Casitas who are involved in the police activities.

Lastly, you mentioned that “associations pay dearly for additional water and sewer charges,” but as a former president of an HOA board, a few HOA/Property Management in San Juan companies charge as much as $500 a month, per unit, isn’t that enough money to pay for additional water and sewer charges? $500 dollars a month is a lot of money for the little benefit received, don’t you agree? HOA’s have as much authority to raise fees on a yearly basis, they are basically the housing cartels who stunt the growth of communities like Villas and Casitas…as well as Alipaz and Casa de Capistrano.

Next time you wonder why 11 people live in a three-bedroom house or why your neighbor is selling food from their house, just think, they are doing the same thing you did when you built your company, it’s called making a living. It’s called being creative when external forces hinder our progress toward formal entrepreneurship.

With this being said, I highly encourage you, to use some of your retirement funds to create academic and entrepreneurial scholarship program. Because I feel that the only way to change behavior, is to change it yourself with your money, by inspiring positive socio-economic action. Action that is needed, especially for the youth you include in your opinion.

The Thinker

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