San Juan Capistrano

  City Loses Appeal in Water Rate Lawsuit                                                    
                                                                by Kim Lefner

The Fourth Appellate District Court upheld the lower court ruling that sided with the Capistrano Taxpayers Association’s claim that the City illegally billed water customers with its tiered billing system.                                                                             
The CTA had repeatedly warned the previous City Council that its tiered water billing system was unconstitutional because the rates were not tied to actual cost of service as mandated by California Proposition 218.

In 2010, City Council members Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer and John Taylor were warned repeatedly by then-CTA Board member John Perry (now a City Council member) that the tiered water rates violated Proposition 218. The council majority ignored the warnings and voted to increase rates anyway, claiming that the increases were necessary to promote water conservation by punishing water users who exceeded their allocations (set by the City) with progressively higher prices.

Mission Viejo

                      Staff Increases Lead to Burgeoning Costs
                                                                               by Larry Gilbert

Twenty years ago I requested financial data on our City staff wages and compensation. My request was denied by our City Attorney, who took the position that I lacked adequate justification to gain access to that data.

 Fast forward to present day, when Laguna Hills Councilwoman Barbara Kogerman's persistence in chasing the same staffing data resulted in all City employee compensation records in our state now being transparent and online. At the end of this article I am providing a link to Transparent California, the source of facts included in this article.     
I will benchmark Mission Viejo staffing levels with other South County cities that incorporated within a decade of each other. We are all General Law cities that contract out professional services such as police and fire protection, and water/ sewer services.

 Seeing that Mission Viejo has 834 names on the Transparent California benefits listing truly caught me off guard. Digging deeper into the report, where it lists our population as between 93,000 and 94,000, I noted that we have grown from 270 City employees in 2011 to 291 as of 2013. Based on our 135 full-time, year-round staff, Mission Viejo has more full-time employees than Aliso Viejo, RSM, Laguna Hills and Laguna Niguel COMBINED. Here are the breakdowns for our neighboring cities:

San Juan Capistrano

                           Does $8 Million Buy Quality Service? 

At the April 21 council meeting, a resident asked the council for help in addressing what he and his neighbors believe is a lapse in local police services provided by the Orange County Sheriff Department (OCSD). The resident, who lives in an HOA-governed community of more than 250 homes, related an incident in which a trespasser allegedly jumped over the locked gate of a neighbor at three in the morning. According to the speaker; his neighbor woke to find the trespasser in his gated courtyard, and a window screen had been removed. The homeowner held the trespasser until the sheriff arrived.

  According to the homeowner, the alleged intruder was neither arrested nor cited and when the homeowner expressed concern to the officer about an increase number of break-ins, burglaries and vandalism in the neighborhood within recent months, the responding officer refused to arrest or even cite the trespasser. When asked why the intruder was not arrested or cited, the sheriff allegedly gave the following three reasons:

1. The suspect had no priors. The homeowner however, claims this is not true; allegedly the trespasser has a record of prior offense(s). 

2. The suspect had no burglary tools in his possession, therefore the responding officer was “unsure of intent.”

3. A “No Trespassing” sign was not displayed on the homeowner’s locked gate or fence.

Ladera Ranch

        'Fence Jumpers' to be Removed from Ladera Schools
                                               by Jim Reardon, Capistrano Unified School District Trustee 

CUSD Trustee Jim Reardon
In a letter sent recently to the parents of all Ladera Ranch students, the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) announced its intent to enforce student residency requirements. The move comes in response to reports of widespread residency falsification which has created overcrowding in Ladera schools. 

As school facilities were built with Mello Roos funding, families whose property taxes were used to build the schools are given priority. I estimate 200 students attend Ladera schools who are ineligible because they either do not live in Ladera or are not authorized under School of Choice to attend the schools. 

The District will use an address verification company and a private investigator to confirm residency. Each family will be required to resubmit two acceptable forms of residence verification. The deadline for submission is May 20, 2015 at 3 p.m.. Students deemed ineligible will be reassigned to other schools at the end of this semester.

The impacted schools include Ladera Ranch Elementary School, Ladera Ranch Middle School Oso Grande and Chapparral Elementary Schools. 

For more information, visit the CUSD website at:  

Mission Viejo

                                      Council Split on SDG&E Project
                                                                            by Joe Holtzman
On April 6, the Mission Viejo City Council held a public hearing on San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposal to “supersize” one of its substations. The proposed project would nearly double SDG&E's existing facility in neighboring San Juan Capistrano and double the voltage on the transmission lines throughout the town.

A contingent of San Juan residents attended the meeting to plead against the expansion in its present location. Their concerns include the boost in Electromagnetic Fields (“EMF”), which are already dangerously high and which they suspect of causing cancer and other serious health issues among residents who live near the current facility.

Citizens who spoke against the expansion said they understand the need for increased electrical power, but the fact that it’s next to homes, schools and parks in San Juan's historic town center makes it an inappropriate location. 

SDG&E representative Duane Cave was the only one who spoke in favor of the expansion in its present location. Cave did not respond to citizens' concerns about health impacts and visual blight.

San Juan Capistrano

                       Council Approves Signal/Crosswalk
                         at Rancho Viejo & Paseo Espada                           
                                                                      by Clint Worthington

For the past ten years, residents along Rancho Viejo Road south of Ortega Highway have asked for a crosswalk in order to safely cross the street to get their prescriptions filled, eat at the restaurants and visit the stores in the retail center across the street from their residences. Previous City Council members including Councilman Sam Allevato who has been on the council for more than ten years, have been telling them "no" for one reason or another.

Rancho Viejo at Paseo Espada
Last November a new majority City Council was elected. The crosswalk was put on the agenda for discussion early on by Mayor Pro Tem Pam Patterson. During that council meeting, after City Council Member Sam Allevato stated that we had gone over this issue a couple of times before and it could not be done, Mayor Derek Reeve gave a directive to staff saying, “I don’t want to hear how it won’t work, I want you to come back and tell me how it (a crosswalk) will work.” It took several months, but staff came back with several proposals to give the residents the crosswalk they have been requesting.

Mission Viejo

Holding Elected Officials Accountable

                                                                                             by Kirk Kelley

When campaigning for office, Mission Viejo's five council members had one thing in common; all of them claimed to be fiscal conservatives. Of the representative votes described below, only one decision was unanimous.

Council members' voting records continue to be the most reliable gauge of promise-keeping. We will continue to update you on how your elected officials are voting on your behalf.

Representative Votes, March-April, Mission Viejo City Council

Agenda Item
Result of Vote
Mar. 2, Item 7, Repeal of the Fire Maps (Special Fire Protection Area), which included nearly half the city's homes
Yes -- unanimous after Bucknum initially voted against the repeal
Reduces risks of higher insurance rates and lower property values.
Mar. 16, Item 27, Bucknum reopens parking permit issues near Capo High School
Yes – Bucknum, Sachs, Raths, Ury
No -- Schlicht
Could limit residents' parking space in favor of student parking.
Mar. 16, Item 18, Approve subsidizing of the International Tennis Federation Wheelchair tournament
Yes -- Bucknum, Ury, Raths
No -- Sachs, Schlicht
Gives taxpayer dollars to support an international private enterprise.
Mar. 16, Item 23, Sachs' proposal, pay down unfunded liabilities (post-employment benefits)
Yes – unanimous
Dedicates $2.1 million toward paying down debt.
Mar. 16, Item 28, Schlicht's proposal, bring transparency to Marguerite Swim Complex; discuss subsidy to Nadadores
No action taken; file and receive report
Takes a step toward public disclosure of communications.
Apr. 6, Item 7, public hearing, SDG&E's proposed expansion near homes; letter of support to Cal. Public Utilities Comm.
Apr. 20, Item 23, Ury's item, $50,000 to a city administrator to implement water conservation
Yes -- Bucknum, Raths, Ury
No -- Sachs, Schlicht
Yes -- Bucknum, Raths, Ury, Sachs
No -- Schlicht
Council majority's letter ignores comments from the public hearing.
Staff has no plans except to shut off drinking fountains & remove turf.


San Juan

                     Summer Trolley Service in San Juan

This summer, San Juan Capistrano will inaugurate a new trolley service on weekends. Pick up locations will include parking lots on both sides of the freeway to deliver riders to downtown and to outlying attractions.                                                                            
The Trolley will run on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., beginning mid-June and continuing through September. 

The San Juan Capistrano Heritage Tourism Association will provide Route Maps with Schedules to guide residents and visitors. Special Events will also be highlighted to help with planning.

The San Juan Capistrano Trolley is vintage style, with wood slatted seats and air conditioning. Stops will be marked around town to make it easy to find.

 Councilmember Kerry Ferguson who has led the effort to initiate the trolley service, said “This is an experimental year for this service, one we hope to expand in coming years so that we can offer wider routing and even more frequent pick-ups. This will enable residents and visitors alike to enjoy San Juan while avoiding traffic and parking issues. All aboard!”

San Juan Capistrano

                                                          Letters to the Editor
                                                    Residents Weigh In on SDG&E Project

Editor’s note: San Juan residents Dawn Fusco and Nancy French addressed the Mission Viejo City Council before they voted in either support or opposition of SDG&E’s proposed substation expansion in San Juan Capistrano. We are re-printing their comments with their permission. The Mission Viejo City Council voted to support SDG&E’s expansion in our town, with Mayor Cathy Schlicht and Councilmember Ed Sachs voting against, and Councilmembers Wendy Bucknum, Greg Raths and Frank Ury voting to support.
 Thank you Mayor Schlicht and Counsel for your time.

I wanted to open up with a quote from a book “Power Struggle”; “I believe in municipal ownership of these monopolies because if you do not own them, they will in time own you. They will destroy your politics, corrupt your institutions, and finally destroy your liberties.” - Tom Johnson, Mayor of Cleveland, 1901-1909

I am a proud resident and homeowner of San Juan Capistrano and have lived on the same street for the past 15 years. I happen to live in the cul-de-sac next to the purposed substation. So, I come today to speak to all of you about what I have gathered about this purposed substation that is in view from our home.

I speak for the community and many in the area who do not know about this plan because they don’t have a strong command of English. It is often difficult enough for the average born and bred citizen to decipher between fact and fiction and the uncertain language of politicians and greedy business interests. Everyone else in bordering cities seem to know more about this project than our residents.

EMF readings are off the chart in houses close to the existing substation and in the park directly across the street where parents take their children and residents go to walk their dogs. Oh, but you can’t SEE them, so they must not exist, right?  Think again. I have friends and family members who work in the medical field and know the facts about EMFs and the harm it does to a person’s body. So for those of you who work in hospitals and medical fields and support this expansion; shame on you.

After reading and researching many articles on power, substations, stray currents, smart meters, lawsuits involving the CPUC, SDGE, SCE, San Onofre and video tapes gone viral on corruption etc., I have come to the conclusion that corruption knows no bounds. In our case, its big corporations with deep pockets, and residents from other areas keeping the substation out of their areas and pushing it into our small community of highly populated homes because they are afraid for their own health and families.

 I want to thank Mayor Schlicht for her support of our community. Most of all I would like to thank her for not allowing herself to be “bought” and standing up for what she feels is the safest option for this project in our small town, despite the push-back she is getting. I don’t think it’s her; I believe Councilman Ury who is manipulating and deceiving people, and not being forthright and honest about this SDG&E expansion project which he supports.

Remember the golden rule - “Do unto others as you want done unto you”.

We urge you to reconsider your stance on expansion of the SDG&E substation in our neighborhood.

Thank you,

Dawn Fusco
San Juan Capistrano


I want to thank and commend the Mayor for her support in opposing SDG&E’s so-called “enhancement” plan for the San Juan substation that severely threatens the home values, health, and quality of life of the surrounding community on both a permanent and temporary level. It is not easy to take the high road when confronting a slickly stacked deck. It is an opportunistic and manipulative plan involving more than minor inconveniences and consequences.

Mayor, you have demonstrated great integrity in having an open mind and an open heart rather than an open hand. You also maintained admirable poise in the face of your fellow councilman’s [Frank Ury’s] rude, condescending body language and taunting tactics one would only expect from a schoolyard bully. Talk about the “height of hubris.”

The past few weeks have been a true learning experience. I have witnessed the proposal proponent’s ostentatious glad-handing and more subtle, seductive and seemingly neighborly collaboration with people of political and social influence. That may seem like constructive networking, but when connecting the dots, it more resembles a nefarious spider web.

In truth, motives for proposal support appear to involve substantial self-concern regarding convenience, greed, and political and social clout. Morality & full disclosure seem to be lost in the mix. Those of you who so trust Sempra and its entities might do well to remember the causes, consequences, and remaining questions involving [Sempra’s] 2007 San Diego fires, the deadly 2010 San Bruno gas explosion, and the San Onofre debacle which will continue to haunt and cost us for some. And, oh yes, I do believe there were and are issues of cover-ups and collusion involved.

Council, I humbly suggest you reconsider your previous stance on the SDG&E project and for tonight, derail the spurious attempt to harass and humiliate the Mayor. By the way, congratulations, Mayor; somebody thinks you can confuse the entire highly educated CPUC all by yourself.

Thank you,

Nancy French
San Juan Capistrano

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Mission Viejo

                                                                     Letter to the Editor
            Don't Punish the Residents
On April 25, Mission Viejo's city hall celebrated Earth Day / Arbor Day by hosting tree-planting activities. How does this fit in with city hall's announcements about conserving water and fining residents for noncompliance?

I believe most of our residents are already conserving, and city hall needs to conserve. A city administrator wants to turn off public drinking fountains, and the city's sprinklers are watering the pavement.

For 14 years, city hall has touted Mission Viejo as a Tree City USA. The website,, indicates such a designation is an expensive commitment of maintaining an urban forest. Is this the best use of funds and water in a drought-prone area?

Of course, trees are pretty -- except when they are dying. Several years ago, the city planted sycamore (water absorbing) trees along the thoroughfares. They died. Last year, the city replaced the sycamores with more thirsty sycamores. Now, the city staff wants to tear out the grass in city parks to save water -- really! And they plan to reinstall it when the drought subsides.
The city staff's practices include planting, replanting and tearing out vegetation, with perpetual tearing out of the medians. 

Can the council hold public hearings on the water shortage? I believe our residents would come up with better ideas than shutting off drinking fountains and removing grass from city parks. If hearings were held, perhaps the city staffers who are planting trees would be in the same room with the city staffers who want to turn off drinking fountains and tear out the turf.

 One thing everyone could agree on is to stop the obvious waste.

Donna Snow
Mission Viejo

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