UPDATE: Councilmen Allevato, Kramer & Taylor refuse to review restrictions harmful to SJC taxpayers in RMV Riding Park purchase agreement

Watch City Council video clip to the right to see Council members Allevato, Kramer & Taylor refuse to protect San Juan taxpayers while once again defending the Ranch (use scroll bar at bottom of video to scroll to 45:57 minutes)

“We paid for open space but we cannot not even set foot on it,” said San Juan resident Melissa Kaffen while addressing the City Council on March 19.

Kaffen, a former candidate for City Council, was joined by a number of residents in asking the council to place on the agenda a review of the Purchase and Sale Agreement (“PSA”) for the Rancho Mission Viejo [RMV] Riding Park “open space” property.

In a 4-0 vote with Councilman Sam Allevato abstaining, the council agreed to review some of the more restrictive clauses in the PSA.

The property at the corner of Ortega and La Pata was purchased by the taxpayers in 2009. It is tied up with leases, conservation and construction easements and is only open to the general non-paying public one day per year. Residents complained to the council that they pay hundreds of dollars per year in increased property taxes for property they are restricted from using.
“This purchase contract reads more like a long-term lease than a property purchase,” said San Juan resident Mark Speros. “In reviewing the conditions of this sale, my daughter kept asking ‘Why would our city agree to that?’ …the City Council [should] explain why these conditions were made, as there is no rationale for them within the [purchase contract]. This agreement will have a restrictive effect for many generations to come,” he added. 
Speakers also expressed concern that since the property sits across the street from the Ranch's planned development of 14,000 homes and 5 million square feet of retail/commercial space, it is essentially a park for the Ranch, not for San Juan residents. 

Residents urged the council to review and potentially re-negotiate the following clauses they claim benefit the Ranch while damaging San Juan taxpayers:

Online Petition Opposes SDG&E Project; Residents Concerned About Health Risks and Visual Blight

A group of residents led by Las Brisas homeowner Dominic Fergus-Bentall is fighting the proposed expansion of the SDG&E substation in their neighborhood. Fergus-Bentall is asking the community to sign an online petition opposing the project.

The petition will be sent to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which plays a role in the approval or rejection of the project. The online petition can be found by typing: http://tinyurl.com/b87o64r into your website browser bar. A link to the petition may also be found on the CCS website at under "Links" in the right hand column.

Said Fergus-Bentall of the project, “SDG&E plans to [replace and expand] decades-old transmission lines, poles and substations within our San Juan Capistrano neighborhood. They have not done any studies verifying the safety of EMF's [Electro-magnetic Fields] on local residents. There are many families with children that live in the neighborhood.

This project should be moved to a more industrial area and out of the residential and school zones. It is near and bordering the SJC Historic district.”


Referring to the Southern California Regional Chamber of Commerce’s vocal support of the expansion project during several public forums, Fergus-Bentall said, “People speaking in favor of the project do not live in San Juan and they don't want this in their own backyards.”

CCS Introduces: the "Next Generation" of San Juan

Jasmine Pourazar
Meet Jasmine Pourazar, founder of the “Next Generation” youth group
in San Juan. Jasmine is currently a Communications major at
Saddleback College who will be attending the University of San
Marcos in the fall.

Jasmine is interning with the Capistrano Common Sense (CCS), assisting with everything from website design to writing and photography.

The Next Generation (“NG”) grew out of Jasmine’s interest in contributing to her community. She moved to San Juan at the age of thirteen and is proud to call our
historic town home. She is focused on finding ways to improve her hometown and is fortunate to have the help of friends, fellow students and the CCS in accomplishing that goal. The Next Generation is open to youths in San Juan who are interested in pursuing volunteer service to the community.

“If one person can make a difference, then bringing many people together can have a positive impact on our town. It’s time to stand on truth and principles while bringing all parts of our community together,” said Jasmine of her vision in founding the youth group.

“Our goal is to help our members develop leadership skills while contributing to the community, one step at a time. Our motto is ‘a hand up not a handout; it starts with us’.” 

The Next Generation’s first volunteer effort is “Clean Up San Juan”. Volunteers will meet at Historic Town Center Park in downtown San Juan Capistrano on April 13th at 9 a.m. to spend an hour cleaning up litter in an effort to beautify the downtown area. All volunteers are welcome to join in making new friends, meeting the retailers and spreading the message to “Keep San Juan Clean!” For more information, visit the CCS website at: www.ccsense.com; click on the “Events” tab.



Editorial

We are fortunate to live in a unique historic and equestrian community surrounded by beautiful undeveloped ridgelines and residents passionate about protecting their quality of life. And we have much to protect, especially with the changes that we see all around us; more traffic, more development, increasing cost of living…at times it seems overwhelming.But then you see leaders in the community like Ilse Byrnes, who has devoted a good deal of her personal time to the protection of San Juan’s historic treasures. Ilse is quoted in an article in this issue about the need to preserve the historic SDG&E substation building on the edge of our historic downtown. Without dedicated preservationists like Ilse, much of our San Juan history would be lost forever. 

The Ark - “The Last Hope for the Lost and Abandoned Animals of San Juan”

"Little Meg"
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 450 animals.

This month’s pet “Little Meg” needs a home!le Meg” needs a home!

“Little Meg” was found abandoned and suffering from severe injuries. It is suspected she was attacked by another dog and left for dead. Her eye was severely damaged, requiring its removal. She is currently being cared for by the staff at San Juan Animal Hospital, where her care is sponsored by the Jack Mannix Memorial Fund, established in honor of the late Dr. Jack Mannix.

“The Ark has taken this little one onboard. We will do everything we can to give her the second chance she so deserves”, said Kathy Hammersly, Board Member of The Ark. To inquire about adopting Little Meg, contact Kathy at: (949) 388-0034.

There are many ways you can help the lost and abandoned animals of San Juan. Spaying and neutering your pets will prevent overpopulation, which contributes to unwanted and abandoned animals. In addition, as a purely volunteer organization, The Ark survives through your generous donations. Please visit their website at: www.arkofsanjuan.org to make a contribution. The Ark 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.

Save the Date - The Ark’s Fifth Annual “Paws in the Garden” Tour is on April 27th !

Please join The Ark for a tour of beautiful local gardens. This is a major fundraiser for The Ark. Details are coming soon.












Secrecy Surrounds Contract Cancellation

by John Perry 
Capistrano Taxpayers Association (CTA) 

Recently I requested information from the City about the 2008 cancellation of the Contract with ECO Systems (“ECO”), the company hired by the City to design, build, maintain and operate the Ground Water Recovery Plant (GWRP). I had no recollection of a council vote to terminate the Contract, so I obtained a copy of it and reviewed City Council Agendas to see what I could find.


According to City records, the Contract cancellation was never placed on the agenda, was never reported out of closed session and was never reported in the meeting minutes as required by law. There was no public disclosure and no opportunity for public input, as required by law.

It’s hard to believe since the ECO Contract states that the Contract could only be terminated if either the Company or the City defaulted the terms of the contract, or if either party declared bankruptcy.

I figured that neither of these events occurred, since the bonds used to finance the GWRP were insured and if ECO had defaulted, ECO and the insurers would be required pay off the bonds - not the ratepayers, and the project would then be terminated. But the City let ECO walk away from their contractual commitment without triggering the insurance clause.


Due to this action, the City ratepayers were forced to take over ECO and parent company Southland Water’s contractual obligations to:

Councilman Allevato Admits to Secret Contract Cancellation

Editor’s note: We invited Councilman Sam Allevato to explain to the taxpayers how and why the City Council secretly released ECO from its responsibility for the water plant, leaving San Juan water ratepayers to assume this massive financial obligation. This is one reason for our sky-high water bills. Allevato’s response is listed below. 

You have asked me to provide “my perspective” – you call it “an explanation” - on why the 5 members of the San Juan Capistrano Council voted in 2008 to settle a lawsuit with ECOS, the operator of the Groundwater Recovery Plan (GWRP). However, as I believe you are aware, the settlement was, pursuant to the Brown Act, approved in a City Council closed session meeting.


It may not be obvious to everyone, but the reason State law allows closed session action to settle litigation is because the State Legislature understands that some deliberations really have to be confidential. Think about how disadvantaged our City would be if every time the City Council wanted to discuss litigation, perhaps to decide strategy or perhaps to reach a settlement, all those discussions were required to be in a PUBLIC meeting.

Editorial

“… the Legislature finds [that] public agencies… exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly…

The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know…”

The above is an excerpt from the Ralph M. Brown Act, enacted by the California legislature in 1953 to guarantee the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local elected officials. It is called “the sunshine law” for a reason; it was designed in response to concerns about meetings held by local (California) elected officials out of view of the public.

The secret contract described by Councilman Allevato in his article on page three is an example of why the Brown Act is necessary. When the public is properly notified of a pending action such as a contract cancellation which will ultimately drive up water rates, at least they are given an opportunity to register their opposition and perhaps put a stop to the action. It is unfortunate when elected officials choose to ignore it, especially since taxpayers are often stuck with the tab for decisions made behind closed doors, as was the case with the ECO contract cancellation.

Government Grants Are a Slippery Slope

by Clint Worthington 

The City Council “good ol’ boys” seem to think that government grants are free, judging by the large number they apply for and the ways they spend the money. But grants have a tremendous cost. They are made up of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars, so the more we tolerate, the more taxes must be increased to pay for them.


As if sinking another $5 million dollars of grant funding into the failed water factory wasn’t enough, the city council majority also voted to pay former Open Space Committee member Tom Ostensen’s son $75,000 to go after grant funding that resulted in the latest boondoggle; “habitat mitigation”. Now the son has also been appointed Field Project Manager for this latest waste of taxpayer dollars.


You may have seen the white sprinkler pipes snaking their way up the slopes in the Northwest Open Space (above the Shea Riding Center and the Dog Park). The installation of the pipes, the weeding and the planting of that hillside with 35,000 plants ranging in size from 1 to 15 gallon containers, was done with a grant the City received from the Orange County Transportation Agency. To be clear, the OCTA is funded with our tax dollars, so this is nothing more than our sales tax money being confiscated and then doled out to local politicians who waste it on projects like this. 

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