San Juan Capistrano

 The First 60 Days
New City Council Initiates Change in Direction

By Kim Lefner 

Supported by two unprecedented back-to-back referendums, the council majority of Mayor Derek Reeve, Mayor Pro Tem Pam Patterson, Councilmembers Kerry Ferguson and Roy Byrnes began their new term by reversing the previous council’s approval of two massive development projects. Critics said the developments would add too much traffic to already congested streets, and strain on limited resources such as water.

 Here are just a few of the actions taken by the council in the first 60 days:

Laguna Glen / Spieker Development – The proposed “retirement village” consisted of more than 400 housing units and a medical facility with approximately 100 beds in over 725,000 square feet of buildings. The project was proposed on 30+ acres of the “Vermeulen Ranch” property where Armstrong Nursery’s growing grounds are currently located. It required a re-zone from “commercial agribusiness” to “specific plan” to allow for the high-density residential/institutional development which included a mix of one, two and three-story buildings.

In September 2014 the council majority of Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor voted to re-zone the Vermeulen property over community outcry about the impacts from such massive development in the middle of town. Their vote galvanized residents who quickly collected nearly twice the required number of signatures for a referendum that allowed the new council majority to overturn the previous council’s decision in a 4-1 vote, with Sam Allevato opposed.

Mission Viejo

  Marguerite Aquatics Center Renovation; Cost vs. Benefit

 By Larry Gilbert
Marguerite Aquatics Center
Before sharing my analysis of the pending $6.5 to $7.8 million renovation of the Marguerite Aquatics Complex, used almost exclusively by the Nadadore swimming and diving teams, let's review their history. 

Those of us who live or have lived in Mission Viejo tip our hats to the Mission Viejo Company for creating this fantastic "master planned" community which they called "the California Promise." They surely understood marketing in their efforts to sell perhaps 25,000 new homes in competition with other surrounding cities, such as Irvine. They entered annual floats in the Tournament of Roses parade, created the oasis "jewel" called Lake Mission Viejo, and held annual St. Patrick's day parades. In addition to providing numerous ball fields and parks, they have also added several recreation centers for the use of our residents.

The world-class Marguerite complex, used by the Nadadores swim and dive teams, was one of the recreation facilities. Let's review the Nadadores performance and contributions to positive name recognition for Mission Viejo.  

Before we became a city on March 31, 1988, the teams, under coaches Mark Shubert and Ron O'Brien, sent multiple representatives to the Olympic Games, winning numerous medals which brought notoriety to the Mission Viejo brand. Those medal winners included Shirley Babashoff, Brian Goodell, Greg Louganis and Lisa Jacob, to name a few. 

However over the past 26 years, under swim coach Rose and the dive coach, the list of Olympic participants has tailed off with only 8 Olympic representatives including 2008 and 2012 swimmer Chloe Sutton who finished 10th in the 2012 400 free.

With that declining Olympic record in mind, let's now review the proposed "needs assessment" proposal from Aquatic Design Group. The proposal to spend upwards of $7,802,942 (Option #3) is from someone else who has no skin in the proposal. Note: Options #1 & #3 include $1,000,000 for a new dive tower.

San Juan Capistrano

The Push to Widen Ortega

By Kim Lefner

Are sound walls on Ortega Highway in our future?
The proposed widening of Ortega to six lanes from the eastern border of San Juan to the freeway* raises questions about the impacts, and about who really benefits.

Advocates claim that widening is necessary, given the large volume of traffic that will be generated from “the Ranch” development east of town. Opponents claim that widening Ortega will turn San Juan into little more than a freeway on-ramp and off-ramp for the Ranch development. 

Opponents claim that widening Ortega will turn San Juan into little more than a freeway on-ramp and off-ramp for the Ranch development.                
Scenic Ortega Hwy as it looks today

According to the Final Environmental Impact Report (“FEIR”)* submitted to the county for the Ranch’s planned development, the Ranch is required to provide “road capacity” (i.e.; widen Ortega) in order to get county approval to build all 14,000 residential units and 5 million square feet of retail and commercial planned on our Eastern border.

The FEIR states; “Prior to the approval of each Master Area Plan, a traffic analysis that supplements The Ranch Plan EIR Traffic Report (Austin-Foust Associates, Inc., May 2004) shall be submitted for review and approval to the County, Director of Planning and Development Services. The traffic study shall include… (b) Average Daily Trips generated by uses proposed within the planning area, as distributed onto the surrounding circulation system, including the peak hour characteristics of those trips...”

 “Clearly the construction of a … road with retaining walls of up to twenty five feet in height and sound walls up to fourteen feet in height has the potential to degrade the character of the neighborhoods and the City in general unless carefully designed with full mitigation of all impacts.”- Sandy Genis Report

San Juan Capistrano

  Water Rate Lawsuit Update
As many San Juan residents are aware, local taxpayer watchdog group the Capistrano Taxpayers Association (CTA) filed a lawsuit against the City after repeated warnings that their water rates and billing structure violated Proposition 218.

Prop 218 holds that rate payers can only be charged the actual cost to deliver water, and that they may not be charged for recycled water they are not receiving. 

In August, 2013, OC Superior Court Judge Gregory Munoz agreed with the CTA and declared SJC’s water rates illegal under Proposition 218. The City was ordered to abandon its water rate structure and to base all rates on cost of service, in conformance with the California Constitution. The court also entered a judgment restraining the City from collecting fees from residents for recycled water that they do not actually use and which is not immediately available to them. Judge Munoz based his ruling on a section of the California Constitution that deals with “Waste of Taxpayer Funds”.

Mission Viejo

Sheriff’s Department Investigates Sign Thefts

By Steve Magdziak
 The Orange County District Attorney’s office released a statement on February 11, reporting that a Lake Forest councilman, Adam Nick, was charged with petty theft and receiving stolen property. The charges resulted from Nick’s removal of the campaign signs of another city councilman in November. He was scheduled for arraignment on March 2.*

 The matter is similar to thefts in Mission Viejo, where the OC Sheriff’s Department (“OCSD”) received two complaints against Paul Bucknum for stealing political signs. Bucknum is the husband of Wendy Bucknum, who was campaigning for Mission Viejo City Council. Witnesses filed police reports, stating Paul Bucknum took the campaign signs of other candidates on Election Day.
New Council Welcomes Record Number of Applicants
for City Commissions
The number of applicants for City Commissions and Committees in 2015 more than doubled from the previous application period in 2013. 55 applications were submitted for the commissions in 2015, compared to 21 applications in 2013.

Appointments for the majority of the commissions and committees are made by the council every two years however, according to City Clerk Maria Morris, the Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee is on a different schedule, thus appointments will not be made to that committee until December 2015. 

The Planning Commission had the largest increase in applicants, with 17 applying in 2015 as opposed to only 8 in 2013.

San Juan Capistrano

 A Fond Farewell… and a Big Thank You 

Retiring Councilman Roy Byrnes, MD
We – all of us – owe Dr. Roy Byrnes a debt of gratitude for his many years of selfless service to our community. No one expressed it better however, than Capistrano Historical Alliance Committee members Jerry Nieblas and Janice Pickartz in the letter below. We are pleased to share their thoughts with you, and wholeheartedly agree. While Dr. Byrnes’ wisdom and humor on the council will be missed, we are appreciative that he and his wife Ilse will continue to volunteer their time to the community. 

"Upon hearing of Dr. Byrnes' intention to retire from the San Juan Capistrano city council, the Capistrano Historical Alliance Committee would like to publicly acknowledge Dr. Byrnes for his immense contributions to San Juan Capistrano.

San Juan Capistrano

 Council Says Farewell to Retiring Councilman Roy Byrnes;
John Perry Appointed as Replacement
At the December 16 council meeting, Councilman Roy Byrnes announced his intention to step down from the council. Dr. Byrnes, 90, was elected in 2012 to a four-year term. It is the second term on the council for Dr. Byrnes who was originally elected to the City Council from 1972-1974, including a one-year term as mayor. “ quote here”.

On Tuesday, February 9, long-time City resident John Perry was selected by the council to replace Councilman Byrnes from a field of ten applicants. The vote was 3-1 to select Perry, with Sam Allevato opposed. Councilman Perry was sworn in on Tuesday, February 17. In his address to the community, Councilman Perry acknowledged that he was appointed, not elected, and pledged to represent all in the community.
Councilman Perry graduated from USC with a Master’s Degree in Education with additional certification in School Business Management.  He worked in Education for 25 years as an Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, during which he worked with multi-million dollar operating budgets. After retiring, he was appointed to the City’s Special Water Management and Operations Audit Committee in 2011 and served on the Board of the Capistrano Taxpayers Association from 2012 - 2014.

San Juan Capistrano

Letter to the Editor
           The New City Council Challenge – Lead!

Amid accusations of empty paper racks, “jury-rigging” the election, and waiving letters from “more than 50 people, of which only 10 were against Larry Kramer’s appointment” Council Member Sam Allevato reaffirmed his strong commitment to the waning power of the “Good Ol’ Boys.”

He conveniently omitted the fact that all the newspaper racks outside city hall were bare, the letter campaign (which Commissioner Steve Behmerwohld accidently leaked was Allevato’s creation) was dwarfed by the recent election results of 9,288 votes cast for the three winning councilmembers compared to Larry [Kramer]’s 2,139 votes, trailing the lowest winner by nearly 1,000 votes.   

But the audacity of his claim of jury-rigging the election is truly a moment of “the emperor has no clothes”. Does he think we’ve forgotten his direct involvement behind the outlandish, ugly “Send in the Clowns” mailer and others like it? The phantom websites that spewed lies, hatred and personal attacks? The enormous amount of money from sources outside the city raised for his council majority ~ that in the end residents saw through and made no difference at all?
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