San Juan Capistrano

        Equestrian Trails Incorrectly Re-labeled Multi-purpose
                                                                      By Kim Lefner

A request from at a local Homeowners Association (“HOA”) to remove their equestrian-only trail easement from the City’s “multi-purpose” trail system raises questions about other neighborhood trails. It appears that City staff at some point may have illegally re-labeled easements in some neighborhoods intended for equestrian use only, to include use by hikers and bikers. 
Fences have been cut and removed along the
Stoneridge trail by people illegally accessing
the trail on ATVs and motorcycles 
Although it is unclear why the trails were re-labeled without the apparent knowledge or consent of the property owners, one explanation may have to do with the siren call of grant money. The Orange County Transportation Authority (“OCTA”) and the state Department of Parks and Recreation has endeavored to connect hiking, biking and equestrian trails throughout San Juan and to the new Rancho Mission Viejo developments. The “Recreational Trail Program” offers cities taxpayer-funded grant money to construct and connect these hiking, biking and equestrian trails.  

While the goal may be a noble one, equestrians have expressed concern about sharing trails with bicyclists who at times ride the trails at high rates of speed, which can spook horses and create unsafe conditions. In addition, residents have expressed concern about people accessing gated or remote neighborhoods via the trail system, as well as trail easements being used for parties and encampments.

Mission Viejo

                          Grass Facts Prove Lawns Are Way Cool
                           By Cathy Schlicht, Mayor, City of Mission Viejo

Under the pretense that California’s dry climate is not suitable for lawns, we have been urged to rip out our lawns and replace them with drought-tolerant plants.
Photo credit:

“We have been told that turf serves no functional purpose other than its looks.” That statement made by Bob Muir of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California may not be true.

 In the 1960s, China eliminated much of its grass and trees during its Cultural Revolution. Now, more than 30 years later, China is repairing its landscape by replanting trees and lawns to help reduce its severe pollution problems.

 Grass protects the soil from wind and rain. It prevents soil erosion and traps dirt and dust. It acts as an air filter by removing pollutants. Grasses remove about 6 tons of carbon dioxide per acre per year and convert it to oxygen through photosynthesis. Not only does grass absorb contaminates from the air, it purifies water when its root system soaks up the rain, helping to recharge the groundwater.

Ladera Ranch

                          Civic Council Requests 4-way Stop Sign

After hearing public testimony about the number of traffic and pedestrian safety issues associated with the roadway at Narrow Canyon and Aura Lane, the Ladera Ranch Civic Council drafted a letter to the Orange County Traffic Commission, which is expected to address the issue at their public meeting in October. As an unincorporated area, Ladera Ranch must rely on the County for enhancements to public safety, such as stop signs and/or traffic signals.

This is not the first time that the issue has been raised with the OC Traffic Commission. A report in the OC Register by Marie Ekberg Padilla in September, 2014, stated “…the area has been on the Traffic Commission’s radar since 2006, when the first of several actions – the establishment of the 35 mph speed limit – was taken. In 2007 and 2008, when evaluations for a four-way stop sign were performed, the intersection failed to meet the criteria. In 2011, pedestrian crossing signs were installed and three more speed limit signs were installed along Narrow Canyon. In 2012, the yellow center lines were extended along Narrow Canyon. In 2013, there was a speed survey.”

San Juan Capistrano

Mayor Pro Tem Patterson
                                                                                          Guest Column
              Revitalizing Marine Battalion 1/11 
                        By SJC Mayor Pro Tem Pam Patterson

Several years ago, I volunteered to help with a welcoming party for Marines returning from the Middle East. I was so impressed with the soldiers that I met that day. I was impacted by their service and how much we owe them as a nation.

Now, as a member of the City Council, I am pleased to be committed to the City’s adopted “1/11” Battalion. The 1/11 is an artillery battalion with four firing batteries and a headquarters battery. The City’s involvement with the 1/11 Battalion dates back to 2006, when the Council was approached with the concept of officially adopting a Marine battalion, specifically the First Battalion of the 11th Marine Regiment, based at Camp Pendleton. On August 15th that same year, the 1/11 was officially adopted by the San Juan Capistrano City Council. The resolution declared that, due to the City’s close proximity to the Marine base, and its long history of community involvement and volunteerism, the Council wanted to expand the community’s support and to show appreciation for our military.

Mission Viejo

                                     Tax Dollars Wasted ... Part II
                                                                 By Larry Gilbert

 Editor’s note: In the August issue, writer Larry Gilbert outlined the history of the original proposed construction of Mission Viejo’s City Hall near the old Mall and Mission Hospital, off Crown Valley Parkway. He then addressed the City’s efforts to create a Town Center in the strip mall across from the library and the present-day City Hall, to compete with other south county cities. The City spent $1 million on the design prior to obtaining voter input. When put to a vote, 75% of voters at the time rejected the construction of the City Hall at that Crown Valley Parkway location. Gilbert also pointed out that the “Village Center” strip mall on Marguerite was never intended by the Mission Viejo Company to become part of a master planned downtown area. 

Listed below is Part II of the article, which addresses the taxpayer-funded redevelopment agency’s role in the proposed “enhancement” of the strip mall and subsequent waste of taxpayer dollars.

Having only three minutes to speak under Public Comments at the August 25th council meeting about the proposed enhancement of the “Village Center” strip mall across from the library, I was unable to include background information about the original intent of the Mission Viejo Company and the will of the voters in developing a Town Center master plan. However, I did address the issue at hand, which is listed in my remarks to the council below.

San Juan Capistrano

                                                                         Rumors vs Reality

In our on-going effort to separate fact from spin, we have listed below several rumors that have been floating around town about City governance, versus the facts based on our research and documentation.

Rumor: Current city council members are being investigated by the OC District Attorney.

Fact: Documentation confirms that both sides (proponents and opponents) of the December 2014 “Urban Village” referendum filed complaints with the OC District Attorney (“OCDA”). The entire matter is being investigated by the OCDA. Although details of the investigation are not open to the public, a copy of the resident’s complaint was forwarded to the CCS and can be found along with the OCDA’s response, on our website at:, under “Community Links”.

Rumor: The hiring of consultant and former Laguna Niguel councilmember Robert Ming was being done "under the radar" on the Consent Calendar, and not all councilmembers were in agreement about retaining him as a city consultant.

Fact: In order to set the record straight, the new council majority waived confidentiality of the discussion about this issue, which originally took place in a closed door session of the City Council. The now-opened closed session discussion reveals that all five councilmembers were in agreement with hiring Ming as a consultant, and agreed to have staff work out the details before placing it on the next City Council agenda.   

Rumor: Water refunds will be paid by the taxpayers.

Fact: Refunds are the taxpayers' dollars, illegally collected in the first place.

Mission Viejo Letter to the Editor

                            Political Water Pressure

Huge kudos to Mission Viejo Mayor Cathy Schlicht for standing against the replacement of our city parks' natural turf with artificial turf. She warned against possible unintended consequences and unknowns like soil alterations, heavy rain runoffs, etc. (Granted, there's nothing as irresistible as "free" money forked over by hardworking federal, state, county and city taxpayers.) But her concerns have proven correct.

Three years ago in an unfortunate effort to cooperate with the Brown Administration's Taxpayer Funded Water Conservation Program, Los Angeles high schools installed artificial turf on all their football fields. This summer, however, the artificial turf melted on all the fields. And after the plastic melted, the little, green blades of "grass" transformed into little, hard rocks; making the fields completely unfit for any athletic activity.

To our detriment the Brown Government Policies are destroying California, and what has

happened to L.A.'s football fields is only one example of Jerry Brown's failing policies. True, California's urban populations have saved about three percent of the state's water, but thousands of gallons of water are wasted and flow out to sea every day simply because Mr. Brown refuses to build a dam or two.

It's as if a plumber thought he could solve a customer's high water usage problem by fixing some leaking household faucets, but at the same time he turns a blind eye to the 15-foot geyser jettisoning out of a pipeline in the front yard with a wide river of water flowing down the street out to sea. And then when the customer complains about the continuing high numbers on his water meter, the plumber suggests cutting back on water usage.  

California's problem is not lack of water! No! California's problem is lack of good government and good "plumbing"! California is no longer green and golden! Instead, we are "Jerry Brown" Brown and that is our New Green. Water tables are low, agriculture is suffering huge losses, forests fires are unabated. And California, once a Refuge from the Dust Bowl, is becoming its own Dust Bowl.

When Mr. Brown's term finally expires, California citizens should seriously consider building a monument to his memory. It would be timely and appropriate to build a water reservoir. And it could be named "Dam Jerry Brown."

Again, kudos to Mayor Cathy Schlicht for standing against political pressure and for standing for water pressure!

Paula Steinhauer
Mission Viejo


San Juan Capistrano

                       Committee Considers Moratorium
                        on Neighborhood Rehab Facilities

In response to a sudden proliferation of “sober living” rehabilitation homes in some San Juan neighborhoods, Councilmember Kerry Ferguson scheduled a Town Hall meeting at City Hall on September 24 to give residents an opportunity to offer input on the issue, and has asked that the issue be placed on the October City Council Agenda.
As the council member serving on the Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee, Ferguson has met with residents to find solutions to problems such as parking, overcrowding and other situations that cause a deterioration in their quality of life. It was during these meetings that the issue of sober living homes in various neighborhoods was raised.

  Although legally allowed under state law and believed by many to be a beneficial part of alcohol and drug abuse recovery, Ferguson said, “many of these homes fall under the radar of reasonable regulation that would benefit both those living [in the facilities] and their neighbors.”

Mission Viejo Letter to the Editor

                                     Stop the Mini Billboards            

From the beginning, our town has controlled commercial signage. This originated with the Mission Viejo Company and was adopted for many years by our city councils.

Gradually, the leasing companies illegally increased the size of their signs, ignoring regulations, yet for years the city code enforcement did nothing about it. When they finally did address the issue, rather than enforcing the original ordinance, they increased the size of allowable signage!

This is a breach in our city's history, a reversal of and an assault on our founder's vision.

In the city's own book, page 43 of “Mission Viejo the Ageless Land,” it states “…commercial signage strictly controlled by size, height and structure..."

We as citizens and stewards of this community must respect, “…land is so precious, so development must happen carefully with the long-term vision for the future...” page 44

Increasing the commercial signage in amount and size goes against the dictates of “land so precious.”

It goes against the admonition “commercial signage STRICTLY controlled by size, height and structure.”

I was one of the few residents who spoke against the ordinance change when it occurred.

I would like to suggest that citizens contact the Heritage Committee and the Transportation and Planning Commission to voice your opinions and help rectify this increase of sign blight in our community. 

Joseph M. Tully
Mission Viejo


San Juan Capistrano

                                                                                                                                Guest Column           
                      Valuing the Juaneno Culture and Heritage
Councilmember Ferguson
        By SJC Councilmember Kerry Ferguson

As the Mayor’s liaison to the Mission San Juan Capistrano, I was invited to attend a profoundly significant event at Serra Chapel recently; a Juaneno Mass of Unification, led by the first Juaneno Priest, Father James Nieblas; “Father Jimmy.” All of our Juaneno families participated in a special mass that was both Catholic and Traditional. Father Jimmy began with a special message of the importance of unity for this family of Mission Indians of the Acjachamen people who have lived here for more than 10,000 years. He stressed the importance of keeping their traditions, teaching them to new generations and sharing them with others.

Jacque Nunez shares stories of the
Acjachamen Indian Tribe
Then, he made a remarkable announcement; Father Jimmy, who was born and raised in San Juan Capistrano, baptized in Serra Chapelo and the first Juaneno to become an ordained priest, has been selected and invited to attend the canonization of Father Serra on September 23rd in Washington, D.C. It was especially meaningful that he made the announcement in the only chapel in California where Father Serra celebrated mass.

I am also gratified that Acjachamen Cultural Heritage will be celebrated at our Northwest Open Space (“NWOS”). Last spring, I urged the City Council to revise the plan for the NWOS to simplify and maximize the natural atmosphere of this important San Juan asset. We also decided the Cultural Heritage area should be designed by the Juaneno Band of the Mission Indians Acjachamen Nation, with the approval of the Cultural Heritage Commission, the Parks, Recreation, Senior and Youth Services Commission and the City Council.

San Juan Capistrano

                   Water Overcharges Awarded in Small Claims Court
                                                                            By Kim Lefner

The first challenge to the City’s illegally charged water rates in Small Claims Court resulted in a nearly full refund for former San Juan resident Eric Krogius. Krogius, who has since moved out of San Juan, was awarded a refund of approximately four years of illegal charges, as opposed to the 10 months of refunds being offered by the City. 

Krogius stated publicly that the [Small Claims] court went back as far as the statute of limitations allowed, which in his case amounted to about $3,500 over a four year period. He stated that had he filed a claim with the City, he would have only been refunded an estimated $1000.

City Attorney Jeff Ballinger claimed that the City was limited to one year of refunds due to a Government Code which he says establishes a statute of limitations. However, the statute was not discussed in detail in open session at the council meeting at which the refunds were approved, and the City website states only that “the law provides for a one year statute of limitations,” but offers no supporting documentation.

Mission Viejo

                                         HERO Program - Buyer Beware
                                                                     By Kirk Kelley

The city of Mission Viejo is again considering the HERO program after turning it down in 2014. HERO stands for Home Energy Renovation Opportunity.

The HERO program allows homeowners to make solar and energy-efficient improvements they might not otherwise be able to afford. The improvements increase their property values. The HERO program also touts the jobs and economic development it will bring to cities.

 If a city council adopts the HERO concept by signing on to the Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (PACE), residents can access financing for purchases and installations. Homeowners repay through "voluntary annual assessments" on their property tax bills.

However, despite great reviews from HERO's own representatives, there are downsides. Because little or no cash is needed up front, some lenders say the program takes advantage of homeowners with poor credit ratings.

Mission Viejo

                 Tax Dollars Wasted On a Ship That Has Sailed

                                                                   by Larry Gilbert

The Mission Viejo city council is trying to create an enhanced Town Center in the strip mall across from our library and city hall to compete with other south county cities.
What many residents, and perhaps newer members of our city council may be unaware of, is that the Mission Viejo Company and our original city council never intended for our permanent city hall to be at the intersection of Marguerite and La Paz Road.

In 1992, 75% of the voters (14,297 residents), rejected Measure A which read, "shall the city of Mission Viejo construct a city hall near the intersection of Los Altos and Crown Valley Parkway on the permanent civic center site dedicated at no cost to the city." If constructed, this complex would have been located close to the mall, its many stores and movie theaters. The 1992 council included members Cody, Breton and Withrow, who jumped the gun and wasted over one million dollars on architectural plans before the voters opposed that Ballot Measure.

Ladera Ranch

     School District Recognizes Ladera Ranch Civic Council

                     By Jim Reardon, Trustee, Capistrano Unified School District, Area 2

CUSD Trustee Jim Reardon
The Board of the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) approved official recognition of the Ladera Ranch Civic Council (LRCC) on August 12, when it voted unanimously to create an Ad Hoc Committee consisting of two members of school board to meet regularly with LRCC. 

This arrangement follows the model used by the school district to formally work with cities within CUSD. The board designated that I serve on the Ad Hoc committee, along with Trustee John Alpay from San Clemente.

CUSD has a broad relationship with LARMAC and the Ladera community represented by LRCC, and this committee will ensure that concerns unique to the community are represented to the school board.

Questions and/or comments can be directed to Trustee Reardon at:

San Juan Capistrano

                    The Vermeulen / Spieker Development Lawsuit

The struggle over development of the Vermeulen Ranch property continues. After publicly stating that “Spieker Development is not a litigious group”, Spieker Development partner Troy Bourne is suing the city along with the owners of the Vermeulen Ranch property. The lawsuit accuses the city of “Eminent Domain/Inverse Condemnation”.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the council’s repeal of the zoning, claiming five causes of action, including; “Taking without Just Compensation”, “Denial of Due Process” and “Denial of Equal Protection”. The claim describes a long history of broken promises by the city (see bottom of article for link to lawsuit).

According to the claim, the city desired to protect the last remaining agricultural properties from development, and dating back to 1977, at various times promised to compensate the property owners for the re-zoning of their properties to “Agri-business” rather than the previously designated “Medium Density Residential development”. The idea was to provide an incentive to maintain their property as agricultural until the city could raise money to purchase it as Open Space.

The claim describes how the city raised enough from the 1990 tax increase (bond) to purchase the Kinoshita property and several smaller, outlying properties in the Northwest Open Space however, there wasn’t enough to purchase the Vermeulen Ranch property. Meanwhile, the Medium Density Residential designation was removed from the Vermeulen Ranch property. 

The claim states that the city again declined to purchase their property with the Open Space (Measure Y) tax increase (bond) approved by the voters in 2008. They point to the fact that the city opted instead to purchase property outside the city limits (which was in violation of the bond requirement that the open space be IN the city of San Juan) from the Rancho Mission Viejo Company. Former Councilman Larry Kramer stated at a council meeting in 2014 that “we” (presumably city representatives) approached the Vermeulens about selling their property but that they were unresponsive. The lawsuit indicates that was not the case. 

San Juan Capistrano

                                                                                                                     Mayor’s Message

                                            Delivering on the Change You Voted For

                                                 By Derek Reeve, Mayor, City of San Juan Capistrano

SJC Mayor Derek Reeve
San Juan Capistrano is on the move, with projects big and small, for the betterment of our residents. Listed below is an update of just a few action items being undertaken or considered by the City Council.
 · The council has hired a new esteemed city attorney for a cost-saving flat fee.
 ·  Our city is dramatically improving our parks, open space and equestrian facilities.
 ·  The council has placed new emphasis on capital improvement projects including street paving and pedestrian access.
 · We welcomed a new summer trolley providing complimentary service in and around downtown, from all corners of the city. In its first year it has been quite a success.
 · We are considering a request for proposals to retrofit all of the city street lights in order to reduce electricity and provide dramatic savings to the taxpayers.
 · Selecting a new city manager is the most critical decision the council will make on behalf of the residents. To facilitate that process, we requested the assistance of Robert Ming. Robert is the two time Mayor of Laguna Niguel and eight-year councilmember. He also personally participated in the search and selection process for the Laguna Niguel City Manager, the CEO of TCA and the District Director for the Orange County Vector Control. He also advised several other Orange County cities on a confidential basis in their city manager selection processes. Most importantly, Robert was brought in for his understanding of city government and his private enterprise experience. We are not interested in doing something just because that is the way government is “supposed” to work. Instead, this council is determined to take action that will ensure a new positive direction that will empower residents.

San Juan Capistrano

                                                      Rumors vs Reality

In our on-going effort to separate fact from spin, we have listed below several rumors that have been floating around town about city governance, versus the facts based on our research and documentation.

Rumor: The 241 tollroad extension would alleviate traffic for San Juan residents

 Fact: The Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) has been attempting to extend the tollroad from its current end point at Oso Parkway in Mission Viejo, to Cow Camp Road, just down the road from Ortega Highway. According to Mission Viejo City officials, approximately 8,000 cars per day exit the tollroad onto Oso Parkway. Logic dictates that if the tollroad was allowed to be extended, thousands of vehicles would exit at Cow Camp Road, and thus onto Ortega. This would have the effect of turning Ortega onto a freeway onramp/offramp for the Ranch’s new developments to the east. We are at a loss to understand how that would “improve traffic” for San Juan residents. We can already see the effects of the “traffic improvements” negotiated and/or approved by the previous council majority; long lines of vehicles backed up to get on/off the freeway and through town; congested intersections, etc.

Rumor: Our Sheriff’s Department has been pressured to “arrest” our own citizens if they do not agree with the new council majority and their supporters.

Fact: Although we are unsure exactly where this whopper originated, it likely refers to a request from a group of residents whose signs opposing the SDG&E expansion were illegally taken by “ASAP” police volunteers and thrown into a dumpster, just days before their planned rally. Several of the signs were given to an SDG&E representative by an ASAP volunteer who admitted his friendship with the representative, Duane Cave. Cave refused to return the signs in time for the rally. Residents believe the police volunteers intentionally took their legally permitted signs in order to silence their opposition to SDG&E’s proposed expansion in their neighborhood. Residents maintain that the police volunteers’ and Duane Cave’s actions were an attempt to stifle their constitutionally protected right to free speech.

Rumor: The Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park generates $250,000 in income per year.

 Fact: This is technically false and certainly misleading. The principle and interest alone on this property costs the taxpayers of San Juan more than $2 MILLION per year. That puts the taxpayers in the hole by about $1,750,000. The biggest beneficiary of the riding park is Blenheim EquiSports, the equestrian events promoter that leases it from the City for only $250,000 per year. It is estimated that Blenheim generates in excess of $1 million per year from the taxpayer-owned property. Due to the lease agreement that the previous council approved with Blenheim, the taxpayers paying for this property are restricted from accessing it, at least until the lease expires in December 2016.


Mission Vejo

MV Mayor Cathy Schlicht
                                                                                  Guest Column

                     Let's Invest in Our Kids

                    By Cathy Schlicht, Mayor of Mission Viejo

 The City of Mission Viejo has a wide variety of events and activities for families, but one element that is missing is a center dedicated solely for our youth. Our teenagers don't have a place to gather and socialize in a safe and secure environment.

 Let’s work together on keeping our adolescents out of speeding cars and from hanging out in secluded parks late at night. Let's offer them meaningful and healthy activities. We need to increase their opportunities for fun and entertainment so they can make safe choices in an environment that is free from bullying and peer pressure.

 Can the Felipe Tennis Center be repurposed into a Youth Recreation Center?

Mission Viejo

                                                    Letter to the Editor

                                                  Comments, Not Attacks Please

For the first part of 2015, public comments during Mission Viejo council meetings were mostly civil. Why did the tone change? The comments turned into attacks at about the same time the council was discussing the contract to update the Nadadores' swim club facility.

The contract for the remodel is going to cost taxpayers $7.7 million. The amount alone is astounding. Councilwoman Cathy Schlicht was the only one who questioned the price tag, preferring the less costly option recommended by the Community Services Commission. Consequently, she voted against the most costly option, which passed 4-1. 

A taxpayer revolt against spending $7.7 million would have been understandable. As a consequence of spending money the city doesn't have, any shortfall will impact parks and infrastructure. Ironically, it is the supporters of the swim club project -- a handful of them -- who have gone on the attack.

Nadadores supporters filled the council chamber during the meeting in May when they were cheering for their cause. However, remarks turned negative and continued after the vote. Public comments during council meetings and other public events have become personal attacks, especially against Councilwoman Schlicht.

Speakers can use any tone they want to make public comments, but they are also saying "everyone" feels the same animosity [when] they are speaking for themselves. 

Taxpayers are very generously funding a facility for the use of a private group.

Joe Holtzman
Mission Viejo


San Juan Capistrano

SJC Councilman John Perry
                                                                                                                                                                                                      Guest Column
           Exciting Changes to Downtown

            By San Juan Capistrano Councilman John Perry

I was pleased to receive the announcement that Mission Inn San Juan Capistrano signed an operating agreement this month with the Autograph Collection of Marriott International. We will now have a 4-star luxury boutique hotel and spa downtown, across from the Mission Basilica, on the already approved site of the former Walnut Grove and Mission Inn. The project is able to move forward quickly, with groundbreaking expected this fall, due to the 2010 approval of the site by the City Council for a hotel.  

This 124-room hotel will go far towards alleviating downtown parking issues, as the hotel will provide more parking than is required by city code. It will also include valet service and a much-needed conference center.
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