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NOVEMBER 2017 – VOL 8, 4


Community Common Sense

In this Issue... San Juan Capistrano Council Members Approve $800,000 "Unecessary" Water/ Sewer Line at Riding Park Page 1 Editorial; Broken Campaign Promises Betray Constituents Page 3 Were Conditions at Riding Park Properly Disclosed Prior to Purchase? Pages 4 Repeal of the Historic Town Center Plan Page 5 Guest Column; Must Roads Be 'Historic' Too? Page 6 Developer Issues Legal Threat Over Opinion Letter Page 7 San Juan Capistrano Downtown Area Planned, Approved, or Under Construction Development* Pages 8 & 9 A Tale of Two Neighborhoods Pages 11

Council Members Approve $800,000 "Unnecessary" Water/Sewer Line at Riding Park Despite Federal Lawsuit, Lack of Permit

● Should an unpermitted private business accused of violating Federal and local laws be allowed to continue to operate on public property? ● Should San Juan taxpayers pay to fix damage to public property caused by a private business? ● Should taxpayers fund infrastructure to benefit that private business? If the vote by City Council members Derek Reeve, Brian Maryott and Sergio Farias is any indication, the answer is yes; taxpayers will pay to fund infrastructure in an attempt to address contamination allegedly caused by Blenheim Facilities Management / Blenheim Equisports.

reason for posited into installing the creek at the sewer the Riding line at this Park are at time is to the core of remove a lawsuit waste wafiled against ter from the City and privately Blenheim owned by Orange BlenCounty heim’s Coastkeep“horse er, a nonwash profit enviracks” ronmental (washing watchdog. stations), which City Manager Ben Siegel continued The lawsit on the to push for tax-payer funded water suit alleges creek bank. and sewer lines at the Riding Park that runoff despite City Commissions’ failure to and consupport it. Alleged taminated Creek waste from Pollution Leads to Federal horse events at the Riding Lawsuit Park have polluted San Juan Creek dating back to at least The wash racks and other 2009, when City taxpayers contaminated soil/waste debought the property as open

space. It is suspected that PVC pipes leading from the wash racks into the creek were installed prior to the City’s purchase of the property. Although it is unknown exactly when the pipes were installed no permits can be found for the drainage pipes, and two requests from a city commissioner for copies of the permits for the drainage pipes were ignored. As the alleged contamination of the creek is in violation of the federal Clean Water Act, it exposes City taxpayers to the potential for significant fines. Coastkeeper alleges that the pollution is on-going, which means that fines may also continue to accumulate. Coastkeeper’s lawsuit also alleges that the creek bed (“stream bed”) has been altered in violation of federal law. Evidence indicates that large volumes of soil and other debris have been repeatedly pushed over the creek banks and into the creek by heavy equipment over the years.

On October 17, 2017, Council members Reeve, Maryott and Farias approved spending $800,000 of taxpayer monies to install water and sewer lines at the Riding Park (Patterson and Ferguson voted no). City Potential for Public Works DiSignificant rector Steve May Fines admitted that the Council members Derek Reeve, Brian Maryott and Sergio Farias (L to R) voted to approve spending $800,000 in taxpayer monies which will benefit a private business. Story continued on page 12...

Community Common Sense

Community Common Sense



Broken Campaign Promises Betray Constituents

2014 was an historic election, born of taxpayers’ pent-up frustration over the previous council’s failure to address traffic problems and overdevelopment in small-town, historic San Juan. The election resulted in two incumbent council members being unseated, and the initiation of two successful referendums which overturned the incumbents’ approval of two new developments. Residents opposed one project on the Vermeulen Ranch property because it required a re-zone of agricultural property to highintensity residential development with increased traffic in an already congested area. The second project, Urban Village, was a hotel with residential units, which referendum proponents say conflicted with the town’s Historic Town Center Plan/ General Plan. Unfortunately, two of the three candidates elected in 2014 on the promise to support the voter’s opposition to traffic-inducing developments have voted for re-zones and General Plan Amendments to facilitate developments with increased traffic. Those candidates are Kerry Ferguson and Derek Reeve. The third candidate, Pam Patterson, is the only candidate elected in 2014 who has kept her campaign promises. Patterson routinely votes to oppose new traffic-inducing development and wasting of taxpayer funds. Ferguson, who is now the Mayor, was a relative newcomer to San Juan in 2014 when she aligned herself with residents who opposed the “Laguna Glen” development on the agricultural Vermeulen property. Her primary platform was “We Can Do Better!” A shared campaign ad with candidates Derek Reeve and Pam Patterson proclaimed, "The other candidates support Re-zoning for Massive Development... WE DON’T". In other campaign material Ferguson claimed, "The council

ruling elite traded [open space] in favor of 400-500 units in the huge Laguna Glen [Spieker Development] complex with more traffic headaches". It now appears that the Mayor has become part of the ruling elite with her votes to re-zone for new development (including on the Vermeulen property she had vowed to protect), which will increase already congested downtown traffic. One of the developments she has voted thus far to advance and also appears to be promoting is the “River Street Marketplace” (see emails on page 10). This proposed project is a 60,000 square foot mall at the historic Los Rios neighborhood with approximately 300 parking spaces. It requires a re-zone at the oldest neighborhood in California, on one of San Juan’s last remaining agriculture-zoned properties in town (the Ito Nursery). A question was raised about whether the proposed mall is actually within the boundaries of the historic Los Rios neighborhood. Historians say that it is. Regardless of whether it is considered technically within or simply bordering the neighborhood, it is governed by the “Los Rios Specific Plan”. The plan was designed to protect the historic Los Rios District and suggests the appropriate usage for the property would be as a park. Derek Reeve was an incumbent in the 2014 election, yet was considered an underdog in the race. Reeve, like Ferguson, also attached himself to the coat tails of residents opposing the Laguna Glen Development on the Vermeulen property. Reeve's slogan was, "Together We Can Story continued on page 14...

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Story continued from page 1...

Were Conditions at Riding Park Properly Disclosed Prior to Purchase? The Coastkeeper lawsuit alleges large-scale pollution of and damage to the creek which appears to have been going on even prior to the City’s purchase of the property. The City purchased the property in 2009 from the Rancho Mission Viejo Company with tax-exempt public bond money. Evidence suggests that the City either failed to perform due diligence including checking existing permits, entitlements, improvements, etc., prior to purchasing the property - or perhaps looked the other way, considering the following: - Multiple PVC pipes were (illegally) embedded in the creek bank to drain waste from the Riding Park property into the creek, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. This subjects City taxpayers to the potential for significant fines. - Did seller (Rancho Mission Viejo Company) disclose the pipes to the City? - Did City check to see whether the pipes were legally permitted? - Blenheim was allegedly operating a large-scale horse event business on the Riding Park property without the required CAFO permit - well prior to the City’s purchase of the property. - Did the City vet the business (and business plan, permits and entitlements) to confirm they were in compliance with all federal, regional and local laws? - The horse wash racks appear to have been situated on the creek bank since well before the City’s purchase of the property. According to the Coastkeeper lawsuit, the wask racks allegedly cause contaminated water to drain into the creek, in violation of the federal Clean Water Act. - Did City check to see whether the wash racks were legally permitted? Why are the wash racks still located on the creek bank when by all accounts, they violate the federal Clean Water Act due to their proximity to the creek? - Part of the Riding Park property allegedly sits in a flood plain which can cause contaminated waste to runoff into the federally protected creek. Yet, the alleged large-scale horse operation was in place when the property was purchased, and is on-going. - Did the City check to determine whether the any part of the property was in a flood plain? - Did the City devise a plan for dealing with any runoff into the federally protected creek? - The Rancho Mission Viejo Company maintained a habitat conservation agreement with various agencies including the water board and the Army Corps of Engineers to oversee the environmentally sensitive creek and streambed along with one other habitat area at the Riding Park property. - What, if any responsibility does the Rancho Mission Viejo Company have for these conditions? - Will the City hold the Rancho Mission Viejo Company responsible for any part of the lawsuit given the alleged damage to the creek? - According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the “Arizona Crossing” in the creek bed was constructed without permit and now consists of rubble and other debris which must be removed. Considering that it was constructed prior to the City’s purchase; - Will the City hold the seller, the Rancho Mission Viejo Company, responsible for any remediation of the alleged illegal crossing and resulting damage to the creek?

Community Common Sense



Repeal of the Historic Town Center Plan; Turning a Small Issue into a Big Problem?

Recently, Councilman Derek Reeve proposed abolishing the Historic Town Center Master Plan (“HTCMP”) that was established in 2012. The City first adopted a Historic Town Center Master Plan in 1995. Subsequently, just prior to 2010, staff worked with existing property owners, a wide range of residents, city commissioners and former and existing council members to develop a plan to “define standards and an implementation strategy that will guide" development in the City's historic town center. The City hired an architectural planning firm, Studio One Eleven, to solicit public opinion and received input from hundreds of people. The plan cost City taxpayers $600,000 to implement. Council member Reeve, and former Council members Sam Allevato and Larry Kramer all advocated for and voted to approve establishment of the HTCMP in 2012. So why now are all three recommending abolishing the half-million-dollar-plus plan? In his agenda item, Council member Reeve offered the following reasoning for repealing the HTCMP: “Since its adoption in 2012, the Historic Town Center Master Plan has been an ongoing source of confusion and conflict. First and foremost, it was never actually enacted through the proper legal process, thereby rendering it merely an advisory document. Nonetheless, due to its numerous inconsistencies with the General Plan Land Use Element and the adopted Form Based Code standards, its existence continues to create challenges for applicants and staff as they process development applications in the downtown. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it includes provisions that are broadly opposed by residents, such as encouraging housing development in the downtown…” However, in a letter to the City Council, the law firm of Allen Matkins challenges Reeve’s assertions. The letter states, “When this matter was first suggested to the City Council on October 17, 2017, it was asserted that the Historic Master Plan ‘was never actually enacted through the proper legal process, thereby rendering it merely an advisory document.’ This assertion is wrong… In fact, in April 2012 the City amended its General Plan to incorporate the Historic Master Plan into the General Plan. This means that the Master Plan is a crucial, binding planning document. It also means that repealing the Historic Master Plan requires again amending the General Plan. This, in turn, will create a domino effect of plan inconsistencies for the City's historic core…”. The Allen Matkins letter goes on to state, “… the rushed repeal is misguided for multiple reasons:

(a) making the numerous recent developments in the City's Historic Town Center non- conforming uses and (b) preventing all future development in the Historic Town Center area until the City corrects the many planning inconsistencies that will result from repealing the Historic Master Plan.” In a letter to the council encouraging them to eliminate the HTCMP, former Council member Larry Kramer stated, “I should have some credibility [in demanding the repeal] as I was one of the three council persons to approve the plan…” I now realize that approving [the HTCMP] has been a disaster …” The letter then lists a number of reasons why it should be repealed; “1. Specifically the HTCMP envisioned more housing in the downtown area. However, when building a few homes downtown was proposed, it was rejected by referendum. 2. There are many conflicts in the plan, which will selectively cause problems in the future and could now, if people want to use the plan as gospel. For instance, this plan envisioned the shopping area on the south side of Del Obispo (from Marshall's to Ricardo's) as being converted to a residential area. Does that mean that no new businesses in that area should be allowed?

3. It illegally fails to follow required planning processes, including the California Environmental Quality Act; and

3. The shopping center on the corner of Camino Capistrano and Del Obispo Many downtown businesses could be impacted as "non-conforming" to code by the repeal of (The shopping center next the HTCMP to El Adobe) would be converted to a large retail market structure. Again, should no new businesses go into the existing structures? ·

4. It will have dangerous and damaging unintended consequences, including;

4. The plan envisioned filling in the gaps (or missing teeth) on our main Story continued on page 15...

1. It is based on a wrong understanding of prior City Council actions; 2. It is ill-conceived;

Community Common Sense



Guest Column

Must Roads Be ‘Historic’ Too? By Mark Speros

Welcome to Historic San Juan Capistrano! As every resident of our fair city can attest, you don't have to go to our historic downtown to get a feel for what our city was like a long, long time ago. Driving over the endless expanses of "alligatored" road surfaces makes your tires roar like the hooves of a team of horses. And a majority of rutted and pot holed major arteries around town can give visitors and residents alike a very real feel for what travel by covered wagon really felt like. This didn't happen overnight, nor during the span of a single council period. It reflects more than a decade of literally "kicking the can down the road" - except that the roads are now so bad that the can itself will probably disappear... in a pot hole! I have a vivid memory of the most recent time the streets in our area had any major attention; my son, who was in third grade, was riding his bike on our street when he skidded on the loose asphalt left on the concrete gutter after the area was re-paved, and ended up sailing over his handle bars. He caught his leg on a metal bracket that used to hold his horn, which opened a huge "V" flap in his shin, which resulted in a trip to the emergency room (a verbal scolding for me for "not watching him more closely!"), along with a very unique scar. That third grader

graduated. From college. After getting a five year degree. More than two years ago. Yes, it's been that long. It's not like the public works staff

isn't aware of it. But as the "Rough Road Ahead" sign states on southbound Camino Capistrano at the freeway exit – they seem to have given up, despite a road surface that resembles the Lunar Surface for nearly half a mile. And it's not just cosmetic issues either; leaving Costco and heading towards Stonehill to get on the freeway offers drivers a road so completely rutted that you fight for control of your steering wheel. Then there are the ruts forming on San Juan Creek Road under the freeway, which will soon vie for “Honorable Mention” Yet, the messages from city council are contradictory. Time and again we receive affirmations from the dais that street repairs "are our top priority." But within the last few council sessions, that very fund was massively raided... while at the same time, it became a priority to spend half a million dollars to run domestic

water lines to the Riding Park which is already serviced by a perfectly good nearby well! (Yes, the ‘open space’ we purchased for $27M, but can't access - which now the focus of a lawsuit for management practices polluting the creek.) City council and staff seem to be pinning their hopes on the pending 12 cents/ gallon gas tax increase (20 cents for diesel), due to start November 1st (allowing Halloween screams to continue at the gas pumps the following day!). But that measure faces mounting political pressure to overturn it, prior to its implementation. All the while, our city officials point to yet another expensive outsourced survey indicating that our streets "are within acceptable levels." Really? The only street in this city that is tolerable is Ortega Highway and that's probably because it's not under the city's direct control. If fact, if you drive up Antonio Parkway and then west on Crown Valley, you'll note that all of those roads within Ladera Ranch are completely repaved. And it hasn't been all that

many years since they were last repaved! When residents at the county level are being provided better services than those living within a city, it's time to be very concerned. So maybe they need help - of a low cost variety. I invite you to take a tennis ball (out of your dog's mouth, if needed) and snap a picture of it next your worst street issue. Email it to: bsiegel@sanjuancapistrano. org, with the location of the issue. Together, maybe we can help take this part of the "historic" out of San Juan Capistrano. Mark Speros moved to SJC with his wife and children in 1996, and moved their small engineering firm to SJC about 10 years ago. He and his wife have been actively involved in serving in AYSO as well as each of the public schools their kids attended. Mark has served on his HOA board for more than two decades and is serving his second term on the Planning Commission.

About the Community Common Sense The CCS is a non-partisan community watchdog publication, distributed to homes and businesses in our local communities. We were established in 2009 by a group of residents who recognized that tax dollars are often spent in ways that enrich a select few, while average residents are left with the resulting increases to cost of living, traffic and debt. We believe knowledge is power, and are committed to reporting facts not offered in other publications. Aided by Public Records Act requests for information and extensive research, we print fact-based information about fiscal and quality of life issues which enables residents to make educated decisions about local


We do the homework – you decide!

Community Common Sense



Developer Issues Legal Threat Over Opinion Letter In the September edition of the CCS, we printed an opinion ‘Letter to the Editor’, questioning whether developer Dan Almquist received benefits related to his property as part of the Del Obispo widening project. In a letter to the City Council dated September 17, Almquist stated in part, “The Community Common Sense newspaper claims to provide ‘fact-based information, aided by Public Records Act requests for information and extensive research ... which enables residents to make educated decisions about local leadership,’. In reality, as evidenced by the ‘anonymous’ letter, this newspaper publishes insults, intimidation and defamatory statements. The publication of this letter was an obvious attempt to influence and mislead the residents of San Juan Capistrano by publishing falsehoods and pushing a false narrative. The amount of misinformation in this letter demonstrates total lack of objective fact checking…." The letter goes on for twelve paragraphs (too long to reprint here) without providing evidence to back up his accusations about the integrity of the CCS. Although we are not obligated legally or otherwise to “fact check” opinion letters as Mr. Almquist has suggested, and despite Mr. Almquist’s claims to the contrary, we did review documentation related to the Del Obispo widening prior to printing the opinion letter in question. We found that the letter writer’s opinions were largely supported by staff reports, agenda items, planning documents, etc., many of which are posted on the City’s website. The only exceptions are that the letter writer mistakenly stated that the City

was purchasing Almquist’s property when in reality, the City gave Almquist property. Both could be considered benefits to Mr. Almquist. The letter writer also mistakenly assumed that “RW” on the planning map stood for “Retaining Wall”. Instead, the letter writer later learned that “RW” meant to convey “Right of Way” which is typically abbreviated as “ROW”, thus what is in our opinion, an understandable error which we are now correcting.

Did Developer Receive Special Treatment? Developer Dan Almquist’s proposed “River Street Marketplace” at the historic Los Rios neighborhood has stirred controversy among SJC residents. Residents who oppose it cite its proximity to the oldest neighborhood in California, its size (60,000 sf plus 290 parking spaces) and the fact that it requires a re-zone, Specific Plan Amendment and approval from the City Council. In researching Almquist’s proposal, we obtained emails through a Public Records Request and ran across the following emails between Almquist, Mayor Kerry Ferguson, and City Manager Ben Siegel. We are reprinting a few below that we found interesting. Despite Mayor Ferguson’s claim to a resident that she is keeping an “open mind” about the project (see May 2017 email on page 10), the

The CCS printed the letter while withholding the letter writer’s name in order to protect their identity from the type of retaliation we have experienced. In September, the CCS received a threat of unspecified legal action from developer Almquist’s attorney, Gerald Klein. The letter accused CCS of making “false and defamatory claims” about Almquist and his property in the opinion Letter to the Editor. The legal letter from Almquist suggested that we wrote our own anonymous letter (presumably to ourselves) in order to defame Mr. Almquist and his proposed developments in town. Not true, of course; the CCS does not print letters from anonymous sources, although we do routinely withhold letter writers’ names in order to protect them from the type of actions that Mr. Almquist is now taking against the CCS. The CCS responded to Mr. Almquist with a letter from our attorney, Wayne Tate. The CCS questioned Almquist’s claims as unfounded and without merit, and maintains that the opinion letter is protected speech under the First Amendment. Almquist has claimed publicly that Story continued on page 13...

City documents indicate that the ‘Excess land from old Jack-in-the-Box property’ in the upper right of photo is the Caltrans-owned parcel that City Manager Ben Siegel encouraged developer Dan Almquist to bid on. Siegel gave Almquist a heads up about a bid being submitted to Caltrans by business Chick-Fil-A (see email on page 10), and expressed his desire to have Almquist get the site (rather than the other business).

emails indicate that not only had she made up her mind, she appears to have been actively promoting the project and the developer to both residents and retailers, while criticizing opponents of the proposed mall development. Another cozy relationship is one between City Manager Ben Siegel and Almquist. In June, 2017, City Manager Siegel gave Almquist a headsup about a potential bidder (Chick Fil-A) for a Caltrans-owned parcel across from the Playhouse property that City Council members Reeve, Maryott and Farias voted to sell to Almquist (Ferguson and Patterson voted no) for a retail development. In the email, Siegel states that he would rather see the property go to Almquist (“of course we much prefer the Caltrans parcel be incorporated into your project…”), and encourages Almquist to follow-up with Caltrans (“I wouldn’t want us to ‘miss the boat’ on this one”) - see page 10. Story continued on page 10...

Community Common Sense



San Juan Capistrano Downtown Area Planned, A

The aerial map of planned development has been updated with new or revised projects. When all projects de Mission Grill site - New commercial project, gateway into Downtown by Frontier Real Estate.

*Source: Planning Documents, City of San Juan Capistrano

Unknown project description and traffic impacts Kimpton Capistrano Hotel approved – 102 room hotel and restaurant with outdoor banquet facilities by Stratus Development.

Estimated Daily Trips (TIA): 1,269 Ito Nursery site - Specific Plan Amendment initiated for River Street proposed 60,000 SF of commercial space by Frontier Real Estate.

Estimated Daily Trips (ITE): 2,600

Vermuelen Site – General Plan Amendment Initiated for proposed 180 homes and up to 40,000 SF of commercial space. Estimated Daily Trips (ITE): 3,522 Distrito La Novia and San Juan Meadows – approved 150 acre project with 130 apartments, homes, 68,000 SF of commercial space, 14,000 sf office, Equestrian Facility/500 horses. Council majority voted to EXTEND the development entitlements, which had expired. Developer is Advanced Real Estate Services.

 ITE = traffic estimates from the Institute of Traffic Engineers planning guide. TIA = Traffic Impact Analysis data prepared for the approved projects in their environmental impact review.

Estimated Daily Trips (TIA): 8,192 (corrected total; previous map had incorrect traffic trip total) Lower Rosan site - being sold by the City. Planned 13 acres of new commercial use for relocating Ganahl Lumber. Estimated Daily Trips (ITE): 1,400

Community Common Sense



Approved, or Under Construction Development*

epicted on the map are built, estimated daily traffic trips are expected to increase by at least 26,640 per day. Old Shell Station site - new commercial project for sale. Unknown project description, traffic impact for six bay gas station. Estimated Daily Trips (ITE): 1,008 Plaza Banderas Hotel and Mixed Use Project – 124 room hotel and 22,000 SF of commercial space by South Coast Investors II, LLC. Estimated Daily Trips (TIA): 1,473 1.2 acres of commercial land (Camino Playhouse site) for sale by the City of San Juan Capistrano. Requires General Plan Amendment for planned use for 56,000 SF retail and arts center by Frontier Real Estate. Estimated Daily Trips (ITE): 2,350 (ITE) Proposed 10 acres of Apartments or Commercial and/or 38,000 sf 24- Hour Fitness development by JH Real Estate Partners. Estimated Daily Trips (ITE): 1,955 Via California Residential development – 300+ new homes. Estimated Daily Trips (ITE): 2,871 Other Impacts Worth Noting: There are currently four Wedding and Event venues operating in the downtown area, three of them within the last several years despite the known critical parking shortage. These event venues can seat more than 800 people total on a Saturday night. The City has not required one additional parking space in the downtown to accommodate these uses, exacerbating parking problems. Long Term Venue: El Adobe Restaurant – relies heavily on public parking. New Venues (See stars)  Franciscan Gardens  Magdalena Plaza  The Villa San Juan Capistrano

Community Common Sense



Story continued from page 7... Following are emails between Mayor Ferguson and developer Dan Almquist:

part is that the item was weird and meaningless in the end, but it exposed Brian [Maryott]’s attitude…”

October 4, 2017 Ferguson to Almquist: “Dear Dan – I couldn’t be more happy that you passed the first hurdle with flying colors tonight [at the council meeting]! Great job all around – it was a tribute to your work ethic… I’m going to bring a council action item re: gates for the neighbors…

March 30, 2017 – Ferguson’s email to a Los Rios Street visitor who expressed concern about the proposed development: “Thank you for your input on the River Street project… It is unfortunate that a couple of people on the street have misrepresented the project as a Shopping Mall and continue to misrepresent the size and other attributes as well…”

I want to introduce you to [Los Rios shop owner]… he is interested in possibly participating in the Marketplace portion of your project…. Again, congratulations! All the best to you and the family.”

Following is an email exchange dated May 13, 2017 between Ferguson and a resident who expressed his opposition to the proposed Los Rios mall project:

October 14, 2017 – Almquist to Ferguson: “Hi Kerry… I had a chance to meet [the Los Rios shop owner Ferguson introduced to Almquist]… $2,200 later both [my wife] and I are ecstatic by the beauties we found [in his shop]... He alluded to the parking issue he has for his customers… Thus he was happy to hear our overall plan with the abundance of parking on the River Street project…”

Ferguson: “You are right… I voted for the initiation in order to study it in greater detail. That is not approval of the project. It is a beautiful project. That doesn’t mean I give it a pass. I have an open mind at this point until I am satisfied that it is best for all of our residents.”

October 28, 2017 – Ferguson forwards to Dan Almquist a Public Records Act request submitted by long-time resident and former councilmember Jeff Vasquez who is an opponent of the River Street development: “Hi Dan – Just received this [PRA request]. No easy way to deal with Jeff…” Following is an email dated Jan. 26, 2017 from Ferguson to a Los Rios resident: “Good Morning! I’m writing to introduce you to Dan Almquist, who has purchased the Ito property near you. He is a developing a plan for a marketplace on the property and has been working with the Historical Society to gain insights into what would be appropriate for the Los Rios District… As the prime resident of the neighborhood, I would like him to meet you and share his vision in order to obtain your opinion and any ideas that you think should be included. I have copied him on this email so that he might contact you, and I know you will enjoy getting to know him…” February 20, 2017 from Almquist to Ferguson: “Kerry, Thanks again for having me over this afternoon. I always enjoy catching up with you and Stuart… and my buddy [Ferguson’s dog]! I was forwarded another email [from an SJC resident who opposes large developments] sent to the masses… As a resident, and not necessarily an applicant, I am concerned by the tactics that are being used… to oppose the project… It is my understanding that all Council member requests, including Pam [Patterson]’s, will be handled towards the end of the meeting tomorrow night… Do you think it is best to keep this all to the end of the meeting or move to the start? I was just thinking of what you told me today about the Urban Village and Sam A [Allevato]. I know we have a 9:00 cut off and would hate to see this roil for another two weeks… Thanks again for the nice afternoon and the wonderful birthday gift… Best, Dan” February 22, 2017– Ferguson to Almquist: “Hi Dan – Great turnout last night. You had a lot of good support. Sad

Resident: “Kerry – I will quote from your previous email… ‘I have not taken a stand one way or the other.’ Yes, you have. You are on record saying that you support this project. Replay the City Council meeting of 10/4/16…there you said that you ‘echo comments in favor of the project; exactly the right project at exactly the right time… I couldn’t be happier with it… it would be a great asset’. Then you finished with ‘I am certainly in favor of it.’ Then you voted for it… You took a stand…” Following is an email from City Manager Ben Siegel to developer Dan Almquist, giving him a heads-up about a publicly-owned parcel up for bid and expressing his desire that Almquist get the parcel, rather than another business which is a potential bidder for the property: Siegel: "Hope all is well, and I look forward to our 'kick-off'meeting next week on the Playhouse site. The staff team is excited to start working with you on this project. I wanted to pass along information that [City staffer Joel Rojas] shared with me this morning. As you know, Chick Fil-A is moving forward with plans to occupy the Taco Bell building. Apparently, a representative of Chick Fil-A informed Joel that they are actively seeking to acquire the adjacent Caltrans parcel, ostensibly for additional parking and landscape area. Of course, we would much prefer that the Caltrans parcel be incorporated into your proposed project as it presents an ideal location for a monument entry. I know you’ve been in touch with Caltrans, as have we albeit several months ago, but I want you to be aware that there is likely at least one other potential purchaser. My understanding is that Caltrans would need to go to bid for the property sale since it was determined to be independently developable, but it’s probably worth a follow-up to Caltrans to check status. I wouldn’t want us to 'miss the boat' on this one. We can talk more next week." Thanks, Ben August 2, 2017 email from Almquist to City Planner David Contreras: “David, I’m getting nervous that time is slipping away. Are you available to discuss timeline tomorrow? It is important to me the current council hears this [River Street development] project by mid-next year.”

Community Common Sense



A Tale of Two Neighborhoods Some residents are questioning why financiallystrapped SJC is spending $850,000 on widening and landscaping a strip of Del Obispo when according to City staff, there were no safety issues at this location. One of those residents is CCS Operations Manager Alvin Ehrig, who lives in the “Via Belardes” neighborhood just down the street from where the Del Obispo widening is taking place. Ehrig provided the following perspective on the Del Obispo widening project:

This corner lot on Del Obispo near the Via Belardes neighborhood was landscaped by the City during the construction of the Del Obispo bridge, but has been poorly maintained.

“Del Obispo at Alipaz near the entrance of the Via Belardes neighborhood was landscaped by the City during the construction of the Del Obispo bridge approximately 2 years ago. The City has not maintained it and it is now dried up and dead.

Shrubs are overgrown onto Del Obispo due to lack of regular maintenance.

The sidewalk along Del Obispo in front of the neighborhood is overgrown and looks terrible. Then there’s the parking all along this area of Del Obispo, but no parking is allowed anywhere else on Del Obispo - all the way to Dana Point. Cars in this one area [of Del Obispo] are sometimes doubleparked, creating a hazard, and garbage is often left by these drivers. I would consider it one heck of a gift if this part of Del Obispo was no parking, landscaped and maintained by my neighborhood!” Cars are allowed to park along this section of busy Del Obispo near the Via Belardes neighborhood, causing potential traffic hazards as depicted in the photo above.

The car on the right of the photo appeared to have been hit while parked overnight on Del Obispo.

Community Common Sense



Story continued from page 1... Fines accumulate daily however, it would be up to the courts to determine what, if any, fines and penalties should be assessed. Fines and penalties are paid directly to the US Treasury (federal government). Blenheim Denied Permit After at least a decade of operation and the filing of a lawsuit, Blenheim only recently applied to the San Diego Water Board (“water board”) for a waiver/temporary permit to operate their horse facility. The water board is the regional oversight authority for the federally protected creek. In a letter dated October 13th, the water board denied Blenheim’s waiver/temporary permit request, stating, “Based on the information provided by Blenheim to the San Diego Water Board, the facility must file for coverage as a large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO)“. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations define animal feeding operations (AFOs) as “operations where animals have been, are, or will be stabled or confined and fed or maintained for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period, and where vegetation is not sustained in the confinement area during the normal growing season. The NPDES regulations define a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) as any AFO that either meets a certain animal population threshold, or, regardless of population, is determined to be a significant contributor of pollutants to waters of the United States by the appropriate authority.” Sewer Line Not a Fix Yet another issue raised is that the sewer line will not likely fix the problem of horse or other waste contaminating the environmentally sensitive creek. Coastkeeper and other sources maintain that even if the wash racks were relocated away

from the creek, contaminated waste from the entire operation including arenas, stables, fields, etc., may continue to be deposited into the creek during rain storms and through it being tracked into the creek, which could continue to violate the federal Clean Water Act. The CCS contacted a water quality consultant who agreed with Coastkeeper’s assertion. In the consultant’s opinion, a sewer line will not fix the problem because runoff under a CAFO permit would have to be contained to prevent contaminated waste from draining into the creek. It would be a difficult and expensive task considering the size of the Riding Park, the consultant said. Waste of Taxpayer Funds Alleged

case, the City not only looks the other way at the unpermitted operation and the alleged on-going violation of the federal Clean Water Act and the Municipal Code, taxpayers are actually subsidizing them (with tax dollars) to continue to operate. Expenditure Not Supported by City Commissions The three council members voted to approve the water and sewer lines over the City Planning Commission’s recommendation against it, and despite the Utilities Commission’s failure to support it. Utilities Commissioner John Perry expressed his opinion that the expenditure is a waste of taxpayer funds as the sewer line only benefits Blenheim’s forprofit horse event business which Perry stated, “San Juan taxpayers already subsidize”.

Utilities Commissioner John Perry pointed out that besides the sewer line, the adThe City has Despite the City Manager’s claim ditional water an on-going lines the coun- that all businesses must obey City “management cil members agreement” ordinances and rules, in Blenapproved are heim’s case, the City looks the oth- with Blenheim unnecessary as er way at the unpermitted operation to manage the the Riding Park and the alleged on-going violation property it is already has accused of the federal Clean Water Act and now both recycled of pollutthe Municipal Code. and relatively ing, and City low-cost well administration water that is used to irrigate the Rid- has discussed the possibility of signing Park. In addition, Blenheim’s ing an even longer term “managemanagement agreement states that ment agreement” with Blenheim. they are responsible for their own utilities. Taxpayers Subsidizing Private Business? The SJC taxpayers’ funding of water/sewer lines at the Riding While the City points to the fact Park stands in stark contrast to that they are collecting more than “Silverlakes”, another equestrian $200,000 per year in revenue from event business in the City of Norco the Riding Park lease, SJC taxpayers owned by RJ Brandes. Documenare actually paying about $2.5 miltation indicates that Norco leases lion per year in increased property public property to Brandes for the taxes for the open space property Silverlakes facility, but Brandes took which includes the Riding Park. out approximately $20 million in Despite the annual financial hit to bonds to fund infrastructure, includ- taxpayers, Blenheim enjoys nearly ing construction of water and sewer exclusive use of the Riding Park lines on the publicly owned property (from which they generate signifiin Norco. cant revenue) yet pays only approximately 10% of the total cost of the Despite the City Manager’s claim property in order to lease it from the that all businesses must obey City City. ordinances and rules, in Blenheim’s

Community Common Sense

On top of the $2.5 million per year, City taxpayers are now also paying costs associated with the lawsuit to defend the lawsuit triggered by Blenheim’s alleged actions. This defies logic considering that a recent study indicated that only 8% of SJC residents use the Riding Park. The majority of the users are out-of-town equestrians who enjoy the property but do not pay for it. The primary beneficiary of the taxpayer-funded property is privately-owned Blenheim. The council members’ action in approving the taxpayer-funded sewer line is also a head-scratcher, considering that the lawsuit filed against the City resulted from Blenheim’s alleged actions. Combined with the fact that the lawsuit exposes SJC taxpayers to significant liability, for City taxpayers to now be forced to pay for waste water lines to try and fix a problem created by Blenheim - especially when all indications are that it will not fix the problem - is just too much, say some commissioners and residents. As the potential for fines (which are paid to the US Treasury Department) pile up, it is a mystery why City Manager Ben Siegel has failed to shut down the operation and stop the clock on the potential fines. Instead, say Parks and Recreation and at least one Utilities Commissioner, Siegel ignored repeated warnings about the pollution while continuing to push for this latest taxpayer-funded “fix”. To make matters worse, Siegel has also reportedly prohibited further discussion and questions about the expenditure by commissioners during commission meetings. Do you agree with the Council majority’s vote to approve taxpayerfunded improvements benefitting a private business? The CCS wants to hear from you! Email us at: . Your name will not be published without your approval.


Story continued from page 7... he received no benefit or compensa­ another City Council Staff Report as tion from the City related to the Del one of the affected property owners Obispo widening. However, our with whom the City would be negoresearch indicates that Almquist tiating easement and/or right-of-way received just under a half-acre of transactions. property that previously served as Almquist’s denial that he received a right-of-way for the City that is no longer needed. He also asserted that in fact, he “does not own the property” that is impacted by the widening project. He went so far as to encourage the City to take legal action against the CCS for “false City documents indicate that approximately one-half acre of and defamaformer right-of-way along Del Obispo as depicted above (on tory claims” the left, between the white fence and the street) was deeded against him. to Dan Almquist. We wondered why the developer would go to such any benefit from the City related to an extreme measure as to threaten the Del Obispo widening piqued our legal action over an opinion letter. interest. Based on Mr. Almquist’s We also wondered why developer claims, we decided to further reAlmquist would encourage the City search this issue to insure that we to sue the CCS when the documenhad not misread the documentatation largely supports the letter tion. According to City documents, writer’s opinions. he received just under half an acre of property (0.42 acres) from the Almquist’s allegation that the CCS City, deeded to him in a “Vacapublished “false information” is also tion of Right of Way” transaction. odd, considering that the City’s own The 18,150 square feet of “Rightagenda listed the following item of- Way” abuts his property which for discussion by the City Council seems like a benefit in that at minibehind closed doors on March 21st, mum, it serves as a buffer between 2017: his property and Del Obispo street. If he did not believe it was a benefit Pursuant to Government Code Secto him, he could have refused to action 54956.8, the City Council will cept the property. meet with its Real Property Negotiators (Ben Siegel, City Manager; The cost of the Del Obispo widenand Jeff Ballinger, City Attorney) ing is approximately $1.7 million, concerning the price and terms of all of it funded by taxpayers. San payment concerning real property Juan taxpayers are footing half of located at: [Names/ addresses of the bill, which amounts to $850,000. other affected property owners with- The other half is being paid by held]... Dan Almquist …” county taxpayers through increased gasoline taxes. Almquist’s name was also listed in

Community Common Sense


Story continued from page 3... Fight City Hall!" In campaign material, he emphasized his voting record; "Voted for property rights, but against high density development"; "Voted against projects that increased traffic" and "Voted NO for Spieker Development; extreme high-density development on agricultural land". In addition, Reeve shared a campaign ad with Ferguson and Patterson which proclaimed, "The other candidates support Rezoning for Massive Development... WE DON’T!” In light of Reeve’s repeated votes to approve new, large developments with increased traffic, and his attacks on those who oppose the developments, his campaign promises are now viewed as nothing more than a political tactic to get re-elected. A whole new side of Reeve has emerged on his Facebook/Social Media account, where he has taken to denouncing people who supported him during the campaign. Just a few of the many examples are listed below that demonstrate Reeve’s aboutface on development and his attitude towards the voters who believed his promises and voted to re-elect him. In our opinion, his dismissive attitude and the City Manager’s failure to correct on-going issues are the primary reason for the federal lawsuit filed against the City and Blenheim for violation of the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit could have been avoided if the City Manager had taken care of the problems when they were first pointed out to him more than a year ago by city commissioners. In the post below, Reeve mocks the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife investigation of alleged creek contamination at the Riding Park. After admitting to “minor code violations” at the property, Reeve dismisses allegations of damage to the creek including continuing drainage of waste water, streambed alteration and on-going deposit of fill and other contaminants in the creek. Reeve claims the allegations are nothing

October 5th, 2016 "At the last city council meeting while discussing whether to study and seek resident input regarding a potential and uniquely quaint development at the Ito property on River Street, Mayor Patterson made some remarks that to the initiated are San Juan Capistrano City rather bizarre and preposterous. In Councilman Derek Reeve fact they were so illogical I had difJanuary 19th ficulty deciding how to respond and "I just learned California Fish and Wildlife is investigating several com- just decided not to give her remarks plaints the Department had received the time of day and just vote…. regarding possible violations at the Riding Park. Fish? Wildlife? Really? … My fellow residents, from time to time you may not always like what Yes there were some minor city code I have to say, but I will NEVER lie violations that have been corrected, to you. We as residents are being however with new complaints having confronted with the false narrative been filed with at least three outside that the city has no rules or is not agencies it is in my sole opinion this following its own rules regarding development. Consequently an attempt is not just potentially frivolous, it's is being made to sell the idea that we now potentially malicious. more than “frivolous” and “malicious complaints”, and blames “anti-Blenheim activists” for the alleged pollution which triggered a federal lawsuit against the City and Blenheim.

The taxpayers are being harmed by these potentially frivolous and malicious complaints. The blame falls squarely on the anti-Blenheim activists who in my opinion filed the complaints." Response from a reader to Reeve’s post: January 27th "The blame falls squarely on some people because of your opinion? For real? Pathetic." Reeve’s response to the reader’s comment: January 27th "Yes actually that's my opinion. Do you have another? The investigation revealed there was no violation ... again. Yet taxpayers still had to pay for it." In the post below, Reeve accuses others of doing what he himself has done. He campaigned on opposing large, traffic-inducing developments. Once elected however, he did exactly the opposite and voted for nearly every large development and/or entitlement placed before him. San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Derek Reeve

need to oppose current development proposals including Vermeulen, River Street and the Capistrano Inn. I completely respect anyone who genuinely and sincerely is opposed to these projects. However beware of false prophets who are in fact wolves in sheep clothing. While their preservationist message is appealing, these messengers of antidevelopment are actually in favor of mega-development. It is an old developer trick: galvanize public support to oppose a development, run that developer out of town, then sweep in and buy the subject property and ultimately build an even larger development. Let’s not fall for it. Remain vigilant and together we will fight for San Juan."

Story continued from page 5... streets, primarily Camino Capistrano. Now a fight rages because the Egan House may not be completely visible by a proposed development. But the plan would have placed a building near the street beside the Egan house. 5. The plan would have converted Del Obispo to a boulevard, reducing left turn lanes and emergency vehicle access. Does anyone really want that? 6. Ortega Highway in front of the Mission was to be narrowed by wider sidewalks and diagonal parking. That concept has now been rejected.” Former Council member Sam Allevato also joined Reeve and Kramer in calling for the repeal of the HTCMP, even though he advocated for and approved the plan in 2012. In a letter to the council, Allevato encourages the council to repeal the plan, stating in part, “This plan has been the subject of litigation from the beginning of its adoption, costing the city hundreds of thousands in litigation costs, lost revenue, and lost staff time, as well as financial hardship to downtown property owners wishing to develop their properties….” The litigation Allevato is referring to however, was generated from his own ♦ Capistrano Gardens Event Center ♦ Plaza de Magdalena Event Center ♦ Ciao Pasta Trattoria ♦ Rancho Capistrano Winery ♦ Ellie's Table ♦ Selma's Chicago Pizzeria ♦ Five Vines Wine Bar ♦ Sundried Tomato ♦ Guapas Tapas & Wine Bar

♦ The Bagel Shack ♦ Hennessey's Taverns ♦ The Villa San Juan Capistrano Event Center ♦ Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant ♦ Trevor's at the Tracks Restaurant ♦ McDonalds ♦ We Olive & Wine Bar ♦ Mission Grill

A letter to the council from the Allen Matkins law firm claims these businesses would no longer be conforming uses if the HTCMP is repealed Story continued from page 15...

Community Common Sense



Story continued from page 14... actions and those of his fellow council members at the time, Larry Kramer and John Taylor. The three voted to approve the “Urban Village” downtown Hotel & Residential development over the objection of hundreds of residents who expressed opposition to the project. They also voted to approve it against the advice of the City Attorney and City Manager who recommended that they not approve the Urban Village development due to its conflicts with the HTCMP. Despite the objections, the three council members voted to approve the development after midnight, further angering residents who stood in the City Hall parking lot in the rain, as they were unable to get seats in the council chambers. The residents expressed frustration with the three council members who they believed ignored and/or dismissed their concerns about the project. As a result, residents successfully initiated a referendum to overturn the vote of the council majority. The issue was subsequently challenged by the Urban Village developer in court, costing the taxpayers unnecessary tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Kramer and Taylor, both of whom were up for re-election lost their seats on the council. The Allen Matkins attorney points to a number of problems that may arise if the Historic Master Plan is repealed;

if the Historic Master Plan is repealed, the Form-Based Code would apply to nothing. Fourth, since the City replaced the 1995, 10-acre Historic Master Plan with the new, 2012, 150-acre Master Plan, the owners of the property within that original 10-acre area would have no land use designation under the General Plan until the 1995 Historic Master Plan – or some other plan – were readopted/adopted. Fifth, all of the CEQA compliance for developments within the City's historic core since 2012 has been based on the Environmental Impact Report for the Historic Master Plan, as described below. If the Master Plan is repealed, that EIR would lose its relevance, and new EIRs would be needed for future projects in the historic core, particularly to assess impacts to the core's historic structures. This would be expensive and time consuming, delaying or preventing future projects in the historic core (like the improvements the City plans for Verdugo Street). 3. CEQA will require an environmental impact report before the Historic Master Plan can be repealed.

As noted, in April 2012 the City approved, as part of its fourpack of actions, Resolution No. 12-04-03-01, certifying the "The suggestion that the Historic Master Plan ‘Final Program Environmental be repealed would create planning chaos for the Impact Report’ for the ‘HistorCity's historic core. First, the rushed repeal of ic Town Center Master Plan, the Historic Master Plan would immediately – General Plan Amendment and and with lack of adequate notice – make all of Rezone.’ This was a massive the projects the City has approved in the Historic environmental study, and it Town Center since 2012 nonconforming uses. Mission Grill is another of the many downtown businesses that would be includes numerous mitigation (For list of affected businesses, see box on page "non-conforming" to City code by a repeal of the Historic Town Center measures that the City has ob14). Master Plan. ligated itself to implement – all of which flow from various aspects of the Historic Master Plan. Pursuant to the City's Municipal Code, section 9-3.533, the consequences for these businesses of being made nonconforming uses include a prohibiAll projects in the City's historic core since 2012 have relied on this study tion on ‘alteration or addition to any structure,’ a prohibition on ‘any enlargement of area, space, or volume occupied,’ and the potential prohibition for some or all of their CEQA compliance. on reconstruction in the event of fire or other damage. Of course, having Thus, if the City takes action to repeal its Historic Master Plan, the City will this type of cloud on these businesses is going to immediately impact their again need to prepare a massive CEQA study to evaluate what the environability to refinance loans and obtain investors. mental impacts of this new, replacement planning approach will be and to determine what mitigation measures will have to be implemented. This will Second, if the Historic Master Plan were repealed, this would cause an imbe a costly, years-long effort. mediate inconsistency within the General Plan. As noted, the General Plan was amended to incorporate the Historic Master Plan, including the enlargement of the historic core from 10 acres to 150 acres. If the Master Plan 4. The correct solution is for the City to embrace and comply with the Historic Master Plan. were repealed, it would create a situation where the General Plan designation for these 150 acres requires compliance with the Historic Master Plan, but no Historic Master Plan exists to be followed. This would be fatal to all The 2012 Historic Town Center Master Plan was not an accident. It was the product of thousands of hours of time invested by citizens, City staff, and future projects within this 150-acre area unless the City again amended the hired consultants – at a cost to the City of hundreds of thousands of dolGeneral Plan. lars.” Third, the Form-Based Code would be invalid. The City enacted the FormThe proposed repeal was scheduled for discussion and/or a vote by the City Based Code as the zoning for the Historic Master Plan, covering the same Council at their November 7th meeting. 150 acres. In fact, the Form-Based Code's ‘Authority and Purpose’ section specifically states that the Form-Based Code is ‘the set of integrated zoning standards . . . that implement the Historic Town Center Master Plan.’ Thus,

Community Common Sense




11 yr. old Leukemia Patient Receives a New Drum Kit!

Donation Stories - Instruments can Change a Life!

"Happy Holidays to Acoustic for a Change. Here is where ONE of your Drum sets you gave me went. Levi is an 11 year old boy in a military family. Levi has been suffering with leukemia for the last two years. In these two years he spends about half of his life inside hospitals. But Loves to play drums. He was just blown away when he got his new drum kit for Christmas! I am giving him lessons - too. Thank you all for making this possible. " Jaime Cross -

Marines Daughter’s Dream

"I wanted to share with you the picture of one the families that received the guitar. Meet Hannah with her new guitar. Her father is a Marine in the USMC, and the family is stationed locally here at Camp Pendleton. Dad was misty eyed when he saw the guitar". He said, "Wow, she is really going to love this." Thank you so much for giving Hannah the one thing she REALLY wanted for Christmas.” With gratitude, Mamie Maywhort -

How One Clarinet Changed Two Lives “Thank you for reaching out to me regarding that Clarinet. I gave it to the boy as a replacement for the one he had that stopped functioning. He is thrilled!!!. This 12 year old boy who has muscular disability lives with his homeless single mom and two sisters. His overall performance in school began to improve along with his hope. He recently called and left me the sweetest message. He's a good kid growing up in a homeless family, living in a pub tent, dealing with his disability and taking on life as it is. It makes me feel so good, as it would you, that a young kid would call in words of gratitude for something another did for him. I love what you and Acoustic for a Change do.”

Piano Helps Veteran Heal “We just donated this Yamaha Keyboard to Scottwood, a disabled Air Force Veteran. He served in Desert Storm & Desert Shield and was exposed to chemical warfare. He was diagnosed with an Autonomic Central Nervous System disorder. The piano helps him relax and enjoy the moment!” Betsy Haff, Distribution Mgr. - www.

Donald Glasgow -

Holiday Instrument Drive Community Common Sense



Community Common Sense - November 2017  
Community Common Sense - November 2017  

Community watchdog publication serving the City of San Juan Capistrano since 2010.