San Juan Capistrano

Kramer, Taylor and Allevato 
Approve Massive Development 

Concerns about traffic, water dismissed

By Kim Lefner

Residents turned out for the council meeting in record numbers last week to oppose the re-zone of the last parcel of agricultural land in town for high-density development.
Residents opposing the Laguna Glen
development were forced to stand as
developer's supporters - many from
out of town, took up all the seating

Development supporters arrived at 2:30, 1 ½ hours before the scheduled meeting. The developer bought them all a box lunch and a light blue “I love San Juan” t-shirt. According to one observer, they were then given “a motivational speech and talking points” by developer Troy Bourne. The “blue shirts” took up the seating in the front of the room. After sitting through a lengthy power point presentation by Bourne, they were the first ones called to the podium to speak by Mayor Sam Allevato. Opponents were not called on to speak until 8:30pm, 4 1/2 hours after the meeting started. Noting the disparity, one opponent asked, “You gave the developer hours and gave us residents three minutes to speak? Who are you representing?

Wearing yellow “NO Re-zone/Save San Juan” t-shirts, opponents arrived just prior to the 4 pm meeting and were forced to stand in the back of the room. This prompted one long-time San Juan resident to remark to the council that the blue-shirted supporters he had spoken with did not live in San Juan, yet were taking seats from residents who will be impacted by the development.

Opponents say the “Laguna Glen” project, proposed on the property next to the Sports Park where Armstrong Nursery has its growing grounds, will forever change San Juan. It’s too big they say. The total building square footage is approximately 750,000sf. In comparison, the Capistrano Unified School District headquarters along the I-5 freeway measures 126,000 square feet. The project footprint is more than 1.4 million square feet, on 33 acres. The buildings will be a mix of one, two and three-story buildings with 400+ residential units and a 100+ bed medical center. It will also add 1,759 daily car/truck trips to San Juan streets. If they exceed the traffic estimates, they are not required to fix it; they need only pay a fee to the City.
One speaker pointed out the City’s enactment of “Stage 2” water conservation measures due to the drought. She wondered how the council could consider approval when the project will require so much water, both during construction and in the future.

In fact, the Planning Commission recommended a “no” vote for these and other reasons.

Resident Mike Johnson suggested that Councilman Larry Kramer recuse himself from voting due to a potential conflict of interest. Apparently, during a recent campaign event, Kramer stated his intention to move to Laguna Glen, but said he wanted to hold off paying his $1000 deposit until after the election “to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.” Kramer denied it however, stating that he isn’t ready to move there – yet. This brought more jeers from a skeptical audience.

Several speakers were cheered for suggesting that, since so many oppose the development, it should be put to a vote of the people. But Councilmen Kramer, Taylor and Allevato rejected that idea. “It’s the best [project] we’re going to get,” Kramer insisted.

Despite pleas from residents who implored the council to protect San Juan from additional traffic, strain on scarce water resources and forever changing our small town character, the development was approved by Councilmen Larry Kramer, John Taylor and Sam Allevato, while Derek Reeve and Roy Byrnes voted against it.

Taylor attempted to justify his vote, stating, “Every single issue [in the EIR] says ‘no impact’ and this is borne out by the data.” When the audience expressed their disbelief, he called them “rude”. He acknowledged the traffic issues, stating “Yes, we have traffic problems,” but then inexplicably stated, “I support the project; I think it will be great for our community.”

Stating that he served on the Traffic Commission, Kramer too acknowledged, “we have a lot of traffic problems in town,” but claimed that the traffic “won’t be significantly increased” by this development. His statement was met with laughter and jeers from the audience. Councilman Reeve opposed the development, stating, “We’ve talked a lot about ‘public benefit’, but what about public cost? This places an extraordinary burden on our residents and places a strain on our infrastructure, water and traffic.”

Councilman Byrnes explained why this issue held special significance for him. “I spent two years of my young life in 1974 developing the General Plan. I insisted at the time that it include defining us as a small town, with open space and an emphasis on historical preservation,” said Byrnes. “We are now being asked to deviate [from the General Plan], to give up millions in community assets for what; a small amount of money?”

Following the vote to approve, resident Barbara Szemenyei said, “After clear reasons against [the development]; drought, traffic, school safety, and just plain trying to preserve what little is left of open space, Allevato, Kramer, and Taylor completely ignored their duty to us, the people they were elected to protect, and gave Speiker a gift by voting “yes” for the project. The whole meeting was disgraceful and a slap in the face of the people that will be impacted.”

Before an ordinance can be enacted, a second reading must take place. This will likely occur at the next council meeting, Tuesday November 4 (election day).

Upon final approval, opponents vow to collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot to allow the community to vote to overturn the council’s decision.

To help with the referendum effort, contact: Save San Juan at:


Anonymous said...

If the true colors of the council majority were ever in doubt, this board meeting shines a bright light on what their REAL priorities are ~ and it's a money grab over the needs of the residents. VOTE THEM OUT!

Anonymous said...

Done! But not before they left the entire city a little "gift" that they pushed as fast as they could for approval ~ Damn the torpedoes!

Funny how quickly those massive number of referendum signatures were acquired...faster than Sam's dream of having a pool complex named after him!

IncurableOptomist43 said...

Be careful what you wish for...the new city council you wanted so badly has already taken away your ability to express your beliefs in an election. No matter what K. McCarthy or K. Lefner want you to believe, people who read Community Common Sense, and believe it's rhetoric, are NOT the majority in SJC. We should ALL be able to have our voices heard.

Anonymous said...

"Incurable Optimist": are you saying that the residents who voted out the old guard by a wide margin are NOT the majority? If so,you sound like one of the old guard who refuse to accept reality; that YOU are the minority.

The residents spoke loud and clear - that's what elections are for.

If this election proved anything, it's that the MAJORITY want new leadership.

IncurableOptimist43 said...

"Old Guard" or "New Guard", it is a disgrace when our elected city council do not let me have a voice in the process. Isn't that what they accused the "Old Guard" of doing?

This was taken from a 12/17 article in the Orange County Register - "Patterson was the top vote getter in November with nearly 18 percent, with Reeve and Ferguson shortly behind. In total, they received 12,088 votes, but more people didn’t vote for them than did, with the rest of the candidates splitting 12,205 votes."

I believe everyone in San Juan should have a voice.

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