San Juan Capistrano

    Why Only One Year of Water Refunds?
                                  By Kim Lefner
While the SJC City Council voted on June 16 to refund to ratepayers an estimated $4.1 million in illegally billed water fees, some residents are questioning why they are only being refunded for overcharges for a one year period. After all, they say, a previous council majority implemented tiered rates in 2010 that were later ruled illegal by the courts. Therefore, they should be refunded the fees illegally collected from 2010 to the date of the court ruling in 2014. 
The reason for the one year limit appears to be based on a case cited by City Attorney Jeff Ballinger in which utility customers in Los Angeles won a lawsuit over whether interest rates applied to overcharged and voluntarily refunded sewer fees. The case, “Utility Audit Company, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, B163797*,” was heard by the Second District Court of Appeals and cited Government Code about limitations on refunds. A cursory review of the code however, does not readily reveal the answer about what the statute of limitations may be in this case. A call to the City Attorney seeking clarification had not yet been returned prior to publication.

Mission Viejo

CVHS Parking Decision Celebrated
                                                                                         By Don Wilder

On Saturday afternoon, July 11, about 30 residents of the Coronado homes, Mission Viejo’s southernmost neighborhood, celebrated a decision by the Mission Viejo City Council that will help preserve the quality of life for local residents. Residents were joined by Mayor Cathy Schlicht.
Residents of the Coronado homes neighborhood
gather to celebrate the City Council decision

For years since Capistrano Valley High School (CVHS) first opened in 1974, residents of these Coronado homes had endured the growing problems of student parking on the neighborhood streets, along with litter, the inappropriate behavior of some students and commuter traffic congestion on their otherwise quiet residential streets. Neither the high school administration nor the Capistrano Unified School District had done much to mitigate the problems, at one point even tacitly approving the use of the nearby residential streets to augment the adequate but inconvenient student parking on campus.

Ladera Ranch

CUSD Trustee Jim Reardon
           Ladera Mello-Roos Refinancing       
                      Results in Savings
                            By Jim Reardon, CUSD Trustee - Area 2

In many “newer” communities, Mello-Roos fees are a way to pay for school construction. When a developer still owns all the land, a Mello-Roos or “Community Facilities District” (CFD), is formed. This requires only that the developer and the "lead agency" such as the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD), approve. 

The advantage of CFDs is that rather than paying cash for the construction of needed schools which is a requirement in state law, the developer can commit to tax his property and the lead agency can then borrow the needed money, using the tax as the guarantee of repayment. These are generally 20-30 year bonds. The bonds are paid off by future homeowners based on a tax that is calculated on the size of their home.

San Juan Capistrano

                                                 Rumors vs Reality

Perhaps you have heard some of the following rumors that have been floating around town. In an effort to lay them to rest, we have listed below the rumors, and the facts based on our research and documentation. Due to space limitations, we will print additional rumors vs. facts in upcoming issues.

Rumor: Water rate refunds will increase your water rates.

There is no data to support the claim that refunds will increase water rates. In fact, if we merged with a larger water agency as has been proposed, rates would likely decrease, as the hugely expensive cost to operate and maintain the water plant (that we are only leasing) would be spread over a larger customer base.
Rumor: The “Riding Park” property pays for itself and its maintenance.

Fact: This is perhaps the biggest fallacy. The principle and interest on the “open space” property alone is more than $2 million per year. The majority of the flat, useable property within this “open space” is the Riding Park.  
The Riding Park has been locked up with an exclusive annual lease granted to a private equestrian events promotion company by previous city council majorities, for which the private company pays around $200,000 per year. That’s less than 10% of the annual principle and interest payments.

Because it is leased to a private company, San Juan residents are prohibited from using the property they are paying for, which increased the average SJC property tax bill by several hundred dollars per year.   

The only one who benefits from this deal is the private company that is leasing the Riding Park. They generate an estimated $2 million per year on our publicly owned, taxpayer funded property. 
 Rumor: The new city council majority’s appointment of fresh faces on the city commissions is “retaliation and payback”.

Fact: Many of the commissioners had served on the city commissions from between 18 to 31 years. New applicants stated they had previously applied for commissions but were rejected by the previous council majority who they believed were granting commission appointments to their friends and supporters. As a result, the number of applicants for the commissions this year nearly doubled under the new council. The new council opened up the opportunities to all, not just a select well-connected few.

Rumor: The referendum against the Laguna Glen and Urban Village developments robbed San Juan of much-needed developer dollars for infrastructure improvements and maintenance.

Fact: Large developments put additional strain on infrastructure such as adding traffic congestion, wear and tear on roads, strain on sewer and water systems and creating additional demand for scarce water resources. The infrastructure strain is costly, and as we can see from the traffic generated by developments approved by previous council majorities, has a devastating impact on small-town quality of life. 

 Rumor: The free Downtown Trolley takes people out of downtown, sending them to outlying areas away from the downtown shopping and attractions before returning them to their cars parked downtown.

The Trolley is designed to bring people in to the downtown from outlying areas, not the other way around. The Trolley picks up shoppers and diners from areas east of the freeway such as the Park n’ Ride and seniors facilities, and from the Marriott Residence Inn at the west end of town. The Trolley will help to relieve parking and traffic congestion downtown.

Mission Viejo

                                 Letter to the Editor

                               Questions Resurface About Councilman’s Past

When Mayor Pro Tem Greg Raths announced during the July 6 council meeting that he had been threatened, what was the nature of the threat? Rather than physical harm, his comments indicate someone intended to embarrass him.

Is the threat related to information that came out in 2014 about Raths' past? Some Mission Viejo residents first learned about the accusations against Raths in an article that was published on Those who saw the post said it contained complaints about Raths' immoral behavior, with specific examples and an offer of verification from the writer.

If the allegations posted online are false, Raths can go after the writer or those who provided the material for publication. 

If the allegations are true, the city should be aware of the liability of having such a person in office. Raths used the word "blackmail" in his comments from the dais. Blackmail works only if the allegations are true.

(Name withheld by request)

San Juan Capistrano

        Ghost Train Really Gone?

In the last issue of the CCS, resident Clint Worthington wrote about the steps being taken to eliminate the “Ghost Train” effect, which activates the guard gates across the railroad tracks on Del Obispo near Camino Capistrano. It’s called the Ghost Train because the gates are triggered to come down even when no train is present. This causes already congested traffic to back up even further.

The fix, as Worthington pointed out, is simple. A report by CTC, Inc., a firm hired to study the crossing, showed that slowing south bound passenger trains as they approach the Train Depot will eliminate 100 percent of the crossing gate activations at the Del Obispo crossing. According to the report, the cost to implement this procedure is less than $10.00 and delays the train by only approximately 21 seconds.

According to City sources however, passenger carriers Amtrak and Metrolink are resistant to slowing their trains down on the approach to the depot to pick up passengers. Instead, they are offering an alternative solution to decrease the number of gate activations, which they will present at an upcoming City Council meeting. 

Worthington, who is a locomotive engineer, feels we have waited long enough. “For nine years I have been asking the various council majorities to approach the rail authorities with this simple fix. I then learned that for two years, Metrolink has been sitting on a report that comes to the same conclusion. Nine years is long enough; it’s time to get this done,” said Worthington.  

Are you affected by the “Ghost Train” traffic? The CCS wants to hear from you! Email us at:


Mission Viejo

                               Letter to the Editor
                                                  Hold city officials accountable

Thanks for a great and informative article ["City Property Appraisal Way Off," by Kirk Kelley, June 2015]. Absolutely, the city should obtain another appraisal regarding the sale of Site C.  

To sell it without doing so is, in my opinion, a total breach of the council's responsibility to do their due diligence on behalf of the taxpayers in this city. It smells VERY fishy when a quick, inside deal like this is done.

Also, WHAT HAPPENED to the two other "fiscal conservatives," besides Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht, who I voted for to avoid this very thing? They promised they'd be fiscally conservative, and then as soon as they got elected, they jumped on the "tax & spend" bandwagon with the others on the council who would also have been voted out if they were running for re-election. Cathy seems to be the only one who consistently sticks to her principles. 

It's VERY disheartening to see this. With all of the unfunded pension expenses that we have, we should be building a bigger reserve and stop all of this reckless behavior on the council. This applies to both the property not having multiple appraisals and also the HIGHEST-priced plan for renovation of the Nadadors swim center.  

Keep their feet to the fire and make this widely known to residents. If more knew about this, I believe there would be an uproar.

It seems at every level of politics now, the voter is ignored, and politicians do what they please. At the very least, they should do some polling and see how the residents here really feel about these issues. 

Thanks for keeping us informed.

Dan O'Connor
Mission Viejo


Ladera Ranch

               CUSD to Consider Formation of Ladera Ranch
                           Civic Council Ad Hoc Committee

 On August 12, the Capistrano Unified School District (“CUSD”) school board will consider a proposal by Trustee Jim Reardon to formalize its relationship with the Ladera Ranch Civic Council (“LRCC”) through creation of an Ad Hoc Committee.

Reardon, whose area of representation includes Ladera Ranch, recommends that the committee be comprised of two members of the LRCC Board and two members of the school board.

Ad Hoc committees exist for each city within CUSD's 181 square mile boundary, providing an opportunity for board members and staff to regularly confer on matters of interest to a specific community. “I support creation of this committee, look forward to serving on it and welcome your thoughts about the work of such a committee,” said Reardon.

 Trustee Reardon can be reached via email at:

San Juan Capistrano

                San Juan Capistrano’s Free Summer Trolley a Hit

                                             By Kerry Ferguson, San Juan Capistrano Council Member

 San Juan’s free trolley system is making new friends every day that it runs. Already, ridership is meeting or exceeding our goals each weekend. Last weekend saw half again as many per hour as our goal. 
Councilman John Perry joins 20 residents of
Brookdale Senior Living on a Trolley ride downtown 
 People who ride have really nice things to say. Tiffany from North Carolina wrote, “Our entire family enjoyed the ride and are hoping to hop on again this weekend. We are looking forward to touring the Mission and learning more about the history of San Juan Capistrano...thank you for your kindness and made our visit here even more memorable.”

Riding along last Friday evening, we had pickups of entire families as well as a mother with a half dozen girls in tow at the Park ‘n Ride, the Residence Inn, the Train Depot and the cluster of Senior apartments on Rancho Viejo Road. All came into town to the stop at the Mission and to enjoy restaurants, the theater and shops.

With the new Trolley Tracker, you can check the location of the trolley every 30 seconds and plan accordingly. We never had to wait more than 5-10 minutes for it to come to our chosen stop. It is so cool!

The trolley is primarily funded by grants from the Air Quality Management District, with only $3000 coming from San Juan Capistrano’s General Fund. The Mission San Juan Capistrano and the Heritage Tourism Association provided all the marketing. Next year, we hope to extend it to outlying neighborhoods for pickups and drop-offs as well as connections to Dana Point and San Clemente with grant funding from OCTA. The trolley is fun, it brings people into town to shop and dine, it eases traffic and parking, and it helps our air quality.

 Hours for the trolley are:

 Fridays: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m. 

Saturdays: 9 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Sundays: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

 Now’s the time to get on board and ENJOY THE RIDE!

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