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APRIL 2017 – VOL 7, 4


Community Common Sense

In this Issue... San Juan Capistrano City Pushes for Million Dollar Water/Sewer Lines at Riding Park Page 1 Plans to Extend San Juan Creek Road to La Pata on the Horizon? Page 3 Letters to the Editor Pages 4 & 5 Auclair/Camacho "Racist Voting" Lawsuit Cost Taxpayers $334,000 Page 5 What's that Noise? FAA Allows Low-Flying Jets over San Juan Page 6 Protect Historic Los Rios Neighborhood from 60,000 sf Mall Page 7 Los Rios - Our Priceless Treasure Pages 8 & 9 City Coucil Incumbents: How Are They Doing? Voting Record of SJC Councilmembers Reeve, Patterson & Ferguson Pages 11 Coming to your Backyard... SDG&E Expansion to Serve "Regional" Needs Page 12 & 13 Letters to the Editor District 1 Residents React to SDG&E Expansion Page 14

City Pushes for Million Dollar Water/Sewer Lines at Riding Park At the March 21, 2017 City Council meeting, city staff recommended that the council approve spending more than $1 million to install recycled water and sewer lines at the publicly owned Riding Park. The price of installation pales in comparison to the cost of purchasing recycled water year after year, however. The difference in cost is $1,567 per acre foot for recycled water compared to $150 to $289 per acre foot* for nonpotable well water. City staff estimates Riding Park watering needs at up to 167 acre feet per year. At current rates, recycled water would cost the taxpayers up to $267,000 per year, compared to well water which would cost an estimated $51,000 per year.

times of drought. Ironically, Blenheim’s owner sold the adjoining property with the well and water rights to its current owner.

Far less expensive water options available An adjoining property owner currently provides non-potable well water to Blenheim Facilities Management, the private company that manages and uses the publicly owned Riding Park. The private well on the neighboring property has irrigated the Riding Park continuously for decades, including in

for a flat rate of $3,000 per month, after paying a onetime fee of $35,000. During discussion of this issue at the council meeting, City Manager Ben Siegel dismissed the option, stating that the private well water could be discontinued with a 90-day notice. However, Councilmember Patterson elicited the admission from

The current well owner extended an offer to the city to continue purchasing water for the Riding Park

You didn't cause this problem; should you pay to fix it?

The city hired Blenheim Facilities Management to “manage” the Riding Park property. Blenheim also owns a company which uses the Riding Park almost exclusively to host their equestrian events. Blenheim has multiple horse “wash racks” mere feet from the banks of San Juan Creek. For many years, contaminated water from the horse wash racks has drained into the creek. In addition, per a Notice of Violation, Blenheim also had a human shower trailer with at least three stalls which appeared to drain into the creek. Several PVC pipes were noted sticking out from the creek bank, which apparently served as drains into the creek. Acting upon concerns from residents, the San Diego Water Board (SDWB) which has authority over the creek watershed, issued Notices of Violation to the city to clean up these conditions. Several months after the notices were issued, the water board issued a letter of non-compliance to the city. In reports to commissions and council, City Manager Ben Siegel denied that there were any existing code violations, even as the water board was issuing yet another non-compliance email to the city. In January 2017, City Engineer Hossein Ajideh wrote the following Contaminated water drains from horse in an email to the wash racks (left) to creek (right) water board about the city’s plan to clean up the contamination problem caused by Blenheim; “[We] discussed the City’s long term plan that includes expanding the City’s sewer system to capture wash rack discharges. We anticipate that the con-

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Community Common Sense

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Community Common Sense


Guest Column

Plans to Extend San Juan Creek Road to La Pata on the Horizon? By Ian J. Smith

Do you live in San Juan? Do you live off San Juan Creek Road or have children attending Ambuehl Elementary? If so, read on; this issue may greatly impact you. Look closely at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) map within this article. Note the dotted lines at the end of San Juan Creek Road, where it dead ends at the open space property. According to County planning documents, these dotted lines indicate plans for future road widening and/or extension. This

construction was authorized by our City Council in November 2013, in accordance with the 2010 Purchase Contract when the City bought the “open space” from the Rancho Mission Viejo Company, which grants construction easements to the county and the Ranch. Once again this contract reminds our residents that we continue to bear the negative burdens of the extensive restrictions contained within the Purchase Agreement.

Curious about the new alignment of the entrance off La Pata, I requested documents from the City to try and determine who had approved what, and more specifically, who had made these costly decisions for this re-alignment. I was very concerned about what appeared to be an obvious delay to my document request filed last December. I was not receiving answers despite my per2017 Master Plan of Arterial Highways map from OCTA sonal outreach shows dotted line indicating planned extension of San Juan to my District Creek Road. Map Credit:Orange County Transportation Agency 5 Council Member, Brian Maryott. These issues map has been available for a while happen to be in his and my District and does state that roads with dotted so I thought surely he would be in lines “may not” be constructed; why the know. Unfortunately, he wasn’t, now should we be concerned? Here’s and it took me until early March and why… two more demands to finally verify who had approved the construction of In mid-December, I became aware the new entrance off La Pata. But the of construction activity at the Riding questioned remained; why? Park entrance off Avenida La Pata. There is a newly widened entrance It wasn’t until I reviewed the county and exit being built which just happens to line up in a westerly direction planning documents that I finally found what I believe may be the anwith the current ending of San Juan swer. The number of vehicle trips the Creek Road. After three months of asking questions and getting nowhere new Ranch development east of town at City Hall, I finally learned that this Story continued on page 10...

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Community Common Sense


Letters to the Editor City Needs to do Better Job Protecting Native American Archaeological Sites The mission statement of the Capistrano Historical Alliance Committee is; "With integrity, the Capistrano Historical Alliance Committee proudly recognizes, respects and honors all the historical elements of San Juan Capistrano - its land, its structures, its families and its traditions. It is because of this statement that we bring the following to everyone's attention: ALL of our San Juan Capistrano lands are historical, many of our lands are sacred. all developers must be required to have archeological monitors and Native American Juaneno monitors on site. Developers must also be required to do documents, reports, photographs and historical interpretations in a regulated, timely manner. It is the city government's responsibility to makes sure the documentation is thorough and complete. The city the developer, the archeologist should all have paper copies and make those copies available for review by concerned individuals. Recent site desecration and possible violations have been noticed on more than one occasion. There are several sites throughout San Juan Capistrano that are troubling and problematic. With repeated ground penetration below 18 inches, priceless artifacts are at risk. Any unearthed artifacts must be handled with utmost respect. This includes any disposition of recovered artifacts and artifacts that remain in the earth. Most heinous is the deep, intrusive ground penetration that recently occurred on a site near the Mission.

The city is required to provide qualified, reputable Native American site monitors. It makes perfect sense that these monitors should have to show proof of their lineage to the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, be approved by the Tribal Council

commitment to their sacred, native lands with procedural monitoring practice ensures a continued, valued reputation that is rightfully worthy of financial benefit. The Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, under the leadership of Teresa Romero does in fact, have a qualified tribal member who is more than able to monitor. His name is Michael Gastelum, a proven direct descendant of the ancient, ancestral village of Putuidem.

Personal Message from Jerry Nieblas: "I take my Native American (village of Putuidem) and Early Californio Rancho lineage VERY Photo of trenching in March, 2017 at seriously and all they the Riding Park site managed by Blen- represent. Because heim Facilities Mgmt. Archaeological I know our history monitoring is triggered when digging at and our land, I have depths more than 18". Despite obvious the knowledge. I will trenching at more than 18", City staff remain tirelessly comclaimed Native American monitoring mitted to defending and was not needed, stating, "... based on protecting my hisreview of the General Plan, Zoning Code tory and that which is and City Council Policy... the recent activities at the Riding Park did not meet historical and sacred the thresholds identified for monitoring to my people. There are some developers who of construction activity..." have initially invited me and follow tribal monitoring to their table and that is not protocol before being hired something that would've been by the city or the site develdone in the past. It is appreoper. However, apparently ciated. I expect ALL current that does not seem to be the and future developers to folcase. Shouldn't the monitor low strict archeological and have to show accounting for Native American monitoring the monies earned? Shouldn't guidelines." money be going to the tribe? Here's what we know...there Capistrano Historical Alliance were promises the tribe would Committee get money, and many hope the tribe actually got the money, but where are the records that show how the money was disbursed? The tribe's

Community Common Sense

Auclair/Camacho “Racist Voting” Lawsuit Cost Taxpayers $334,000 The CCS previously reported on a lawsuit filed against the city by SJC residents Tina Auclair, and Louie Camacho, husband of Auclair’s real estate partner Anna Dickinson. In their lawsuit, Auclair and Camacho claimed the city’s “at-large” election method denied representation to the city’s Latino community. They sought to break the city into districts that they claimed would be more representative of the Latino community. Their attorney, Kevin Shenkman stated, “The city’s political culture is infected with anti-Latino racism to a degree rarely seen in the 21st Century“. Their lawsuit claimed that while 40% Plaintiff Tina Auclair

of San Juan Capistrano’s population is Latino, the Latino voter registration level is at only 16%. Without Plaintiff Louie Camacho with Anna Dickinson facts, Shenkman argued this is racist. The suit offered no direct evidence of the alleged racism. In fact, it failed to acknowledge that several candidates elected to council seats in the recent past and who went on to become Mayors, were Latino. One of them, Londres Uso, was an immigrant from Mexico. Another, Joe Soto, was elected to multiple terms and twice served as Mayor. Inexplicably, the city did not challenge these claims and instead settled the lawsuit, with the court awarding attorney’s fees. The total cost of the settlement was $334,000.* *Source: City of San Juan Capistrano



Letters to the Editor Lawsuit Settlement 5 Times More Than Legal Maximum With the city's recent budget review fresh in my mind, I was surprised to read a recent LA Times lead article in the California section "Latinos still struggling to win city hall seats" (4/9/17 - B1). While the article documented a lot of what I already knew, there was a particular paragraph that I had to re-read several times to confirm what was written; "But state lawmakers last year (2016) moved to protect cities from massive legal bills and give them time to take steps to avoid lawsuits. The new law allows cities 135 days to switch to district election through the ordinance process after it's been warned it could be in violation of the Voting Rights Act. It also puts a $30,000 limit on the amount cities must reimburse attorney or other groups that challenge their election system so long as no lawsuit is filed against the city." I vividly remember the nearly $400,000+ price tag attached to the redistricting settlement, yet I believe our city followed all the proscribed requirements;

1. We responded proactively when we were warned. 2. We moved swiftly to enact the requirement. How is it that our total costs are so much more than the legal maximum? I do understand that there are internal costs, including our own attorney's fees, to be added to the total cost... but this seems to be far outside the norm. At a time when the city teeters on financial crisis, this seems like a double gut-punch to every resident; not only did we not get any forewarning by legal counsel about a precedent that had been established over two (2) years ago, we paid an exorbitant amount of money to be compliant ~ at a time when we had none to spare. If there's any chance this [decision] could be appealed, I'm sure there are a thousand other ways that money could be spent if "clawed back."

Blenheim’s property management agreement with the city states that they are responsible for complying with all laws, codes, etc. In addition, they are responsible for repairing any damage to the property arising from their management and use of it.

The City Staff and Council Majority are improperly using commissions and staff to write the changes to the Los Rios Specific plan which protects the historic integrity of Los Rios Street. This is not good planning to allow any developer the inside track to change our laws. What good is any planning at all if you allow spot zoning to change a zone to accommodate specific property interests? This process is deeply flawed. San Juan Capistrano is a special place to live because we have adhered to a planning process that protects our town from over development. Just imagine a wealthy businessman in your neighborhood buying up a dozen houses to build mall. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in San Juan Capistrano right now. The traffic gridlock that we all experience on a daily basis is the result of a series of bad decisions.

Thank you Pam Patterson and Brian Maryott, the only two council members at the moment who recognize the folly of this process. The severe impacts it will have to the residents whose backyards are adjacent to this project, the degradation of the historic residential district, which is on the national registry of historic places, the additional gridlock generated by a project that requires 300 parking spaces should not be ignored. Please go to San Los Rios Historic District on Facebook to get involved, or contact me at: 949-493-6155 or by email at: vasquezstudios@ We need your help. Jeff Vasquez, Former City Council member, 1990-1994, 40 year business owner in San Juan Capistrano, 30 year resident of Los Rios Street

Rules Should Be Applied Equally

Sincerely, Mark Speros Mission Springs

Story continued from page 1... struction of the sewer expansion will occur in late 2017.” During a recent council meeting, City Manager Siegel also reiterated the city’s plan to install a sewer line to capture the contaminated water from the horse wash racks.

Los Rios Plan Changes Raise Serious Questions About Developer Influence

Why now are the taxpayers being tapped to pay $500,000 to install a sewer line to remediate a problem caused by a private business? It remains to be seen whether the city will hold Blenheim responsible for fixing and restoring any damage to the public property. Should taxpayers pay to remediate the problems caused by Blenheim? The CCS wants to hear from you! Email us at: Your name will not be printed without your permission.

I just learned that South Coast Farms, who leases city-owned open space at the corner of Alipaz and Camino Del Avion, has unpaid water bills totaling $224,000. Who at the city allowed the water bills to fall that far behind, and why? The explanation was that their water rates increased to the point where it became unaffordable. Join the club; when the city jacked up the water rates and I was struggling to pay my water bills, I didn’t get a break; I got fined by the city and a notice on my front door threatening to shut off my water!

Community Common Sense

Now I find out that the city has worked out a “payment arrangement” for this business, something that the city council voted to support. While I like South Coast Farms and hope they can continue their business, I have to ask; where is the same concern, compassion and/or support for residents who struggle to pay their water bills and could use a payment arrangement? Council; keep it equitable. Either waive fines and offer re-payment arrangements for all, or waive fines and offer re-payment arrangements for none. Name withheld by request San Juan Capistrano



Guest Column

What’s That Noise? FAA Allows Low-Flying Jets over San Juan

Early in February the OC Register ran an article alerting residents to a new flight path through South Orange County, SJC resident which had been Donna Fleming approved by the FAA. This modified flight path for jet planes would have little impact on residents, it said. I then read the Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) prepared for the FAA that justifies this route change. The report states, “no impact to residents,” which is untrue; the low flying jets are roaring in off the coast, right over my home and probably yours too. But much worse, the EIR did not cover impacts to wildlife, which is beyond negligent. An EIR is a decision making tool. It has a scope beginning with the environment affected, followed by alternatives. Next is an analysis of the effect on any protected species like, for example, the Cliff Swallow. It covers the effect on air and water. Also reviewed is any impacts on Historical sites. Following that is a section on any socio-economic impact which would include noise, aesthetics and property values. If the author leaves out a section, the EIR is worthless as a tool to substantiate the change it is meant to support. In this case, the FAA seeks to modify the flight path over South Orange County. In addition to omitting a study on wild life impacted by low-flying jets, they also left out damage to our historic town and the noise over our homes and historic Mission. Every year San Juan Capistrano becomes the summer home to thou-

By Donna Fleming

other words, ‘It’s not my job’ (even though it is in her job description). James Dinwiddie, who is policy advisor to Lisa Bartlett, OC Supervisor Fifth District, defended the Access/Noise Specialist at John Wayne Airport, by stating the following; “As Ms. [Bonnie] Frisch of the JWA Access and Noise office stated, unfortunately the Supervisor, John Wayne Airport, and the County of Orange have no jurisdiction to change or control flight paths of aircraft in flight. As you’re aware, the Federal Aviation Administration has exclusive jurisdiction over this. Ms. Frisch and those in the Access and Noise office respond to complaints and requests for information, however they can only provide answers

sands of Swallows. The Swallows is constant and unpleasant, and low have been migrating to San Juan flying planes and migrating birds are Capistrano for over 200 years and a recipe for a disaster movie. So the yet, someone in an office neglected value of the EIR as a tool will not to study the effects of low flying jet support the scope of a change to the planes through migrating and homflight path. ing swalDon’t bother complain"The new flight path for lows. The ing to the “Access/ famous low flying planes at 4,500 to Noise Specialist” for Cliff 7,000 feet through San Juan John Wayne Airport, Swallows whose job description Capistrano air space is a fly from blunder of epic proportions." includes responding Argentina to complaints about to San Juan Capistrano every year noise. Her response to my complaint at an altitude of around 6,600 feet; was; “…. As you may be aware, well within the newly designated the FAA has exclusive regulatory flight path. Their flight takes about jurisdiction over flight paths, and the thirty days and when they arrive pilot-in-command of each aircraft is around March 19th, the old Mission rings the bells. Thousands of visitors come to San Juan Capistrano to witness the migration of the famous Capistrano Swallows. Many people consider it a miracle. How do thousands of birds continue to fly to the old Mission San Juan Capistrano every year? Songs have been written about the return of the swallows. Richard Henry Dana mentioned the swallows in his novel, “Two Years before the Mast” which was published in 1840 and yet, the FAA has ignored the fact that SJC is the home to thousands of migratory swallows every year. Swallows are covered under the migratory bird act and the new flight path poses a threat to arriving jets from bird strikes. For the FAA to make an arbitrary decision to skip sections of the FAA map shows modified flight path which allows low-flying jets over San Juan. EIR is negligent and injudicious. Map credit: Todd Spitzer, OC Supervisor, Third District I would think that Ian Gregor, to questions that are within their spokesman for the FAA, would responsible for safely maneuvering purview.” Mr. Dinwiddie however, take the time to actually read the the aircraft in accordance with FAA did not address Ms. Frisch’s failure EIR report which omitted wildlife, airspace procedures. The County of to provide any response besides “We possible bird strikes, and the incred- Orange, as the airport proprietor, has have no authority… your comments ible impact to both the residents no authority or control over aircraft will be logged into our system…” and the migrating swallows of San in flight. In addition, issues relatFrisch also failed to say what, if anyJuan Capistrano. The EIR may ing to wildlife are outside the purthing, is done with those “logged” fulfill a contractual obligation but view of this office. Your comments complaints. the report is incomplete. The noise will be logged into our system.” In Story continued on page 7...

Community Common Sense



Guest Column

Protect Historic Los Rios Neighborhood from 60,000 sf Mall By Michael Laux

There is a proposal in front of the City Council to permanently change the fabric of the Los Rios Historic District. A developer is trying to build a mall with 60,000 sq ft of retail, office, restaurant, and drinking establishments on the nursery property located between Los Rios St and Paseo Adelanto. It will also include 300 parking spaces, with the accompanying traffic congestion, noise, and pollution. It will put dumpsters, delivery trucks, AC and refrigeration compressors, grease ducts, and swamp coolers in the backyards of a substantial number of the homes. It will exacerbate the Del Obispo traffic gridlock that we already experience on a daily basis. This is a project that does not belong in the oldest residential neighborhood in California.

passive in nature such as picnicking, arts and crafts workshops, cultural performances, etc.”

There is not one part of this project that complies with the result of years of hard work by the residents of SJC who crafted the Specific Plan. When this proposal was presented to the City Council, the Staff Report recommended a study to amend the Specific Plan. Instead, they should have been telling the developer to design something that fits the neighbor- Proposed mall in the historic Los Rios neighborhood located on the Nursery property would add 60,000 sf of retail, buildings up to 45’ high and 300 parking spaces. Del Obispo hood and the current This is the only property in town is at lower left of photo; train tracks and Los Rios street are at bottom right of photo and zoning. The staff zoned Low Density Commercial, creek channel is at upper left. seems to think the which states: “Purpose and intent: developer should be able to rewrite This neighborhood is sacred, and it Michael Laux lives with his wife To provide for low intensity comneeds to be treated as such. The tree Holly on Los Rios Street. He is a mercial uses that reinforce the rural the rules. lined streets, the historic homes, this builder in Laguna Beach, and proud character of the Los Rios area and When the council members were oasis in a sea of development needs to be a Rotarian. will not alter the existing topograto be honored, not sold out. phy. Such uses will require minimal, elected there was a slate of Derek Reeve, Kerry Ferguson and permanent Pam Patterson who all ran structures, low "It is zoned for a on a slow growth/no growth lighting inStory continued from page 6... nursery, not a High platform. Pam Patterson is tensities, and Density retail mall… org/field_offices/fsdo/lgb/contact/. The good news is that Council the only one of those three will generate This project should Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, whose job minimum traffic have been stopped at who has remained true to their member Pam Patterson placed an item on the April 18 council agenda is to protect residents in her district, campaign. Recently elected, and parking the Building Depart- Sergio Farias is another one can be reached at: Lisa.Bartlett@ urging the city to file a complaint demand. Princiment counter when it with the FAA about the flawed EIR. . that has flipped on his posipal uses permitwas first brought in We don’t know how or if the FAA tions, as he was totally opted: Retail sales for review, as it vioDonna Fleming worked as a techwill respond, so in the meantime, posed to this project before and storage of nical writer before moving to San lates and disrespects let’s urge the FAA to go back to the he was elected, and now he’s plants, trees, the Los Rios Specific for it. He also abandoned his drawing board and conduct a proper Juan Capistrano in 1999 with her shrubs and study including ALL known impacts three children, who graduated from constituents on opposing the Plan in every way." other nursery San Juan Capistrano. Donna pubto both wildlife and people. UnSDG&E sub station, which items; farmers’ lished her first novel in 2013, “Hard like Ms. Frisch, Mr. Dinwiddie did market items such as fruits and veg- he now accepts. If this mall project Times in Red Grape”, which was provide an avenue for complaints. gets Council approval, there will be etables sold from temporary open selected by a college history profesHe recommended that complaints a referendum and that decision will air stands; arts and crafts display sor as a class assignment in protest be directed to the local FAA’s Long likely be overturned. Currently the and sales; outdoor ceramics. Nonliterature. Donna, a longtime comBeach Flight Standards District Ofretail uses such as greenhouse, crop only two that oppose this project are munity advocate, is currently workand tree farming, wholesale nursery. Brian Maryott and Pam Patterson, and fice via phone at: (562) 420-1755, or via email through their website at: ing on her second novel. we thank them for their support. Park and recreational uses that are

Community Common Sense



Los Rios Street - Ou

By Jerry Nieblas, as to

Join me on a journey. The road is narrow, there are no sidewalks to be found, trees are aged & rugged and the air is heavy with the perfume scents of early Californio Castilian roses and fruit trees in bloom. Walk with me back to a time when all was protected and good - full of family, sharing, feasting, gathering in times of both joy and sorrow. Come walk with me on a street that is defined by one word, HOME. Listen closely and you might just hear the voices from the past greeting each other with "mi casa es su casa". This is historic Los Rios Street, the oldest neighborhood in California that some historical families still call home. Allow me to introduce you to those families who are pre-Mission and early Californio Rancho descendants. From being baptized at the Mission to being laid to rest in the Old Mission Historic Cemetery, each one is a vital part of the history of San Juan Capistrano. Their homes radiate warmth, peace and tranquility, taking you back to a time long, long ago. I am honored to share with you the history of some of those homes and their stories that stand out in my memories.

The Olivares Home (Board & Batten); “A Step back in time" It will be your perfect first welcome and invitation to Los Rios Street

I will begin this journey with the unique and beautiful 19th century Olivares home. This historic Board & Batten was the first residence of Viviana Ricardes Olivares and her family. The town was honored to also have Viviana as their very first Matriarch. Now, the family of Olivares and Yorba call it home. This is a proud, loving, gracious family. Their Native and early Californio roots remain steadfast and strong in San Juan Capistrano. They are members of the Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, members of the Historical Society and strive to keep the Native American culture and traditions alive. On warm sunny days, you'll find them weaving and sharing their handcrafted, traditional Juaneno baskets on the south side of the home for all visitors to enjoy. And, as the day ends and nightfall comes, they are the protectors of Los Rios Street.

As a gift to his wife, San Juan Capistrano's first Victorian style home was built between 1870-1880. Jose Dolores Garcia traveled by horseback to northern Orange County seeking ideas because his wife, Maria Refugia Yorba Garcia, having been born in an Adobe on the great Rancho Yorba, had her sights set on something different...and, it couldn't be found in San Juan Capistrano. Jose was the The Olivares Home Today; “The great grandson of Maria Bernarda Chigilia (a Juaneno woman from the ancient village of Putuidem). Welcome continues� Jose provided well for Maria, he was a merchant and saloon keeper in town. During their time in the home, you often found Jose & Maria sharing early California hospitality. From local musicians playing traditional early Californio music to meals that overflowed on the tables, many families gathered in the warmth that emulated from its walls. Tragically, on a warm summer evening in 1897, Jose Dolores Garcia was murdered with one shot from a Winchester rifle. The man who shot him was Jose Manuel "Mestizo" Foloros. Generations old family stories say Mestizo was paid by three local land owners to assassinate Jose in order to get his vast land holdings - a local priest documented the term The Garcia-Pryor (Victorian) "Home of memories" "assassinado" in the death record at Mission San Juan Capistrano. In 1903, Maria sold their home to her brother Miguel and his wife, Theresa Pryor Yorba. Because of the generosity of many historical families, a plaque now hangs at The Garcia-Pryor Home today; the entrance of the home honoring their memory. It is recognized as the Garcia-Pryor home on the "Living history"

Community Common Sense



ur Priceless Treasure

old to Janice Pickartz

National Registry of Historical Buildings. With pride, Jose's great-great grandson, the author of this article, keeps Jose and Maria's memory alive for future generations. At the heart and center of this historical neighborhood sits its namesake, the Rios Adobe. Built in 1794 for Feliciano Rios, it was one of 40 adobes built in San Juan Capistrano and one of 20 that stood on the street many years ago. Known as the smallest Rancho in the area, it is the only Rancho that stood the test of history and time. It also was a center of hospitality and a gathering place. The Rios family was known for celebrating the Juaneno culture and hosting early Californio barbeques. Now, close your eyes and picture an open fire pit with freshly The Rios Adobe - "The early years" slaughtered meat of all kinds - the family's specialty was lamb. Take a deep breath and inhale the aromas of freshly prepared sarsa (salsa), beans, rice and homemade flour tortillas. The scents of these early Californio foods filled the air of Los Rios Street. Even wandering strangers were welcome to take a seat at the table and share in the Capistrano feast. Well-crafted games of poker will played there by both men and women, long into the night. Another oral history tells us that a woman with the winning "hand" stood in her excitement, then immediately left to go give birth. Her son was never allowed to forget that she had to abandon her winning hand because of him. Ten generations of Rios' have called this adobe their home. Today, from the Castilian roses and gardens to the other buildings on the land, this Adobe is a living memorial to the street and its people. It remains under the loving, caring hands of The Rios adobe today; "The Stephen Rios and his family. Heart and soul of San Juan Capistrano"

The Apolonia Montano (Montanez) Adobe - one of the 40, was built in the late 1790's for Tomas Gutierrez. He was a Master Carpenter whose talents were sought out by all the local, nearby Missions. His granddaughter Apolonia, born around 1835 at Mission San Luis Rey, became the first recorded deed holder of the land. Traditionally, holdings were only given to men. Apolonia, a strong and determined woman, was The Montano (Montanez) Adobe; "Days long ago" "Capitan" of San Juan Capistrano. Known as the healer by all the town's people, she believed in the healing energies of herbal medicine. As a mid-wife and during a time when there was no such thing as "specialized" medicine, she focused the majority of her time and attention on girls and women with female related ailments. She used Native herbs from the surrounding area and plants from her very own gardens, taking those who suffered and making them well again. She was a respected educator, arbitrator and mediator. She was a teacher of the faith, including the Holy Sacraments of the Catholic Church. When there was no priest at the Mission, she administered baptisms and did prayers for the dying and the dead, and conducted burial rites. She was a guardian of the Mission and will forever be remembered for the "miracle of the rains" that ended the great drought of 1890. The Montano (Montanez) Adobe is also the birthplace of San Juan Capistrano's present Matriarch, Helen Charles McMullen. This Adobe stands as a monument to Apolonia Montanez. Photos courtesy of the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society The Montanez adobe today; "History endures"

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Story continued from page 3... will add is estimated to be 185,000 vehicle trips per day on the surrounding roads. Our “friend” the Ranch needs the road capacity for their massive development, which could well explain the county map which shows San Juan Creek Road being extended through to La Pata. Residents who live off San Juan Creek Road, parents of children who attend Ambuehl Elementary School and equestrians who board and ride their horses at the stables on San Juan Creek Road will all be impacted by the added traffic that an extended San Juan Creek Road would generate. The speed limit would potentially need to be increased, and possibly traffic controls signals added. Some may argue that these roads cannot be extended without city council approval. But one thing we have learned is that the Ranch has been working with the county for about 20 years to accommodate the new city they are building on our eastern border and between these two entities, the Ranch gets what they want. I can envision the city agreeing to allow “temporary” use of San Juan Creek Road as a “detour” while Ortega is being widened in order to accommodate more traffic from the Ranch development. The problem is that allowing “temporary” use could be the prover-

bial “foot in the door” to permanent extension of the road. The question now is, will our District representative, Council member Maryott, fight to protect our neighborhoods from the onslaught of traffic? We must all stay focused and express to Council member Maryott our objections to any extension of this neighborhood road. This must be started now, before any road extensions, “temporary” or not, are approved. This City should not continue to succumb to the needs of outside developers who use our tax dollars to create profits at our expense. Write to Brian Maryott right away at, to let him know how you feel. Please send a copy to CCS so your responses can be gauged and possibly reported so can be gauged and reported your responses (no names will be printed). The time is now to put a stop to any plans that may be in the works. Ian Smith is a ten year resident of SJC. He is a retired Hospitality Management Executive with over 20 years’ experience in London, UK hotels and restaurants. He moved to the US in 1978 where he centered his career in private city and country clubs. After becoming a US Citizen while in Chicago, he and his wife Deborah moved to Los Angeles where he managed private golf clubs. He retired in 2006.

Have a question about city governance? Have information you would like to share? Email us at: We will do our best to answer your questions and/or help to get the word out about local issues that impact the community. Community Common Sense



City Council Incumbents – How Are They Doing? Three of the five City Council members were elected (and/or re-elected) in 2014. Council members Derek Reeve, Pam Patterson and Kerry Ferguson aligned themselves with residents supporting two referendums opposing development of the Vermeulen farm property and the “Urban Village” Hotel and Residential project downtown. All three pledged to support the General Plan, the goal of which states in part, “…to preserve the agricultural and historic nature and village-like feel of San Juan…” All three candidates stated their commitment to reducing the cost of water, reducing the volume of traffic congestion and reducing debt. Votes related to these issues are listed below.

Voting Record of SJC Councilmembers Reeve, Patterson & Ferguson

Agenda Item




Result of Vote

6/16/15: Refund water customers with only one out of four years of water overcharges




City lost a lawsuit claiming that water users were charged more for water than what it cost to deliver the service. City appealed the OC Superior Court ruling, then lost again in appellate court. Water users were charged illegal rates for 4 years, but council majority voted to refund only 1 year of overcharges. Refusal to refund all overcharges resulted in a class action lawsuit that is on-going to date

9/20/16: Initiate a General Plan Amendment study for proposed development of the Vermeulen farm property, currently zoned agri-business. As a separate item, staff was directed to bring to the council options for purchase of the property




All 3 candidates campaigned on opposing development of the Vermeulen Ranch property. Vote allows application to proceed to the next step in development of up to 180 residential units plus 40,000+sf of retail, on 34 of the 43-acre Vermeulen Ranch property. Development will generate more traffic congestion and strain on water usage

2/21/17: Initiate a study to Amend the Los Rios Specific Plan from its current “Lowdensity commercial” zoning, to allow for a 60,000 square foot mall plus parking for 300 vehicles




All 3 candidates campaigned on opposing development that would impact the community. Proposed development would put 60,000 sf of retail, structures up to 45’ high and 300 parking spaces on the Ito Nursery property in the Historic Los Rios neighborhood. Impacts include increasedd traffic congestion, noise, pollution

3/21/17: Installation of $500,000 No separate vote was taken; it Recycled Water Line at the Rid- was instead placed on a list of ing Park Capital Improvement Projects by the City Manager and pushed through

Waste of taxpayer funds. Indebts city taxpayers to installing and purchasing recycled water at a cost more than 5 times that of available well water (see article, page 1)

3/21/17: Approve adding sewer line installation to the Riding Park at an estimated cost of nearly $500,000




Taxpayer-funded sewer line being installed to enable a private business to capture waste water from their horse washing stations at the Riding Park (see article, page 1), in answer to state water quality violations

3/21/17: Widen Del Obispo




Widening invites more traffic; accommodates “pass-through” traffic to neighboring cities.

Source: SJC City Council Meeting Agendas and Minutes;

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Coming to Your Backyard.... SDG&E Expansion to Serve "Regional" Needs Impacted neighborhoods will include; Marbella, Rancho Madrina, Belford Terrace, Mission Woods, Juliana Farms, San Juan Hills High School The maps below illustrate the proposed SDG&E expansion project in San Juan Capistrano. Several alternatives exist that would move the project away from homes and people, but SDG&E remains insistent that the project be built in the middle of SJC. When an Administrative Law judge tasked with reviewing the project by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) recommended that it be moved to an alternative location away from away from homes, schools, parks and people, CPUC Chairman Michael Picker had the judge removed and replaced with one who approved the SJC location. According to project planning documents, Harold Ambuehl Elementary School, Vista del Mar Elementary School, Vista del Mar Middle School, and San Juan Hills High School will be subjected not only to invasive electrical equipment, but to traffic disruption due to high levels of construction. San Juan Hills High school will suffer most significantly since Vista Montana is the only point of ingress and egress for the facility, and La Pata is the only path to Vista Montana. Other schools, both public and private, along Camino Capistrano, Rancho Viejo Road and Ortega Highway will also be subjected to phased road and lane closures.

Map above from SDG&E depicts proposed substation expansion on Camino Capistrano. Substation will double in size, with two 45 to 50-feet high buildings. Project is located in the middle of a family neighborhood with 1,200 homes, close to schools and parks. The wall on Camino Capistrano at the entrance to historic downtown will be 360 feet long (the length of a football field) and up to ten feet high.

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Map to the left depicts proposed substation expansion (in center of photo, marked by red and green) and transmission lines running throughout SJC (marked by yellow dotted lines). Voltage will be nearly tripled, with increased Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF). Affected areas include; San Juan Hills High School, Juliana Farms, Hidden Mountain, Tar Farms, Sun Hollow, Belford Terrace, Rancho Madrina and Marbella.

Map to the right depicts transmission lines with increased voltage through Eastern Open Space and up to San Juan Hills High School.

Map to the left depicts transmission lines with doubled voltage (yellow dotted lines). Transmission towers (marked in red) will be increased in height up to 150 feet. Lines run throughout San Juan up to San Juan Hills High School. Construction estimated to take minimum five years Monday through Saturday.

Transmission lines adjacent to San Juan Hills High School. For more information and/or to sign up for updates, visit the "Stop the SDG&E Expansion" website at:

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Letters to the Editor Editor’s note: We received a number of emails from residents of who live in District 1, near the existing SDG&E substation. SDG&E is proposing to double the size of the substation which will severely impact residents and their property values. District 1 Councilman Sergio Farias campaigned on fighting the expansion in his neighborhood however, he has since stated publicly that residents need to “grasp the reality” of the expansion. We have printed a few of the emails below in response to his public comments about the expansion project.

District 1 Residents Send Message to Councilman Farias About SDG&E Expansion

In the “What’s UP San Juan” section of the Capistrano Dispatch, in the piece entitled “Citizens Revive Protest against SDG&E Substation Expansion”, [Councilman Farias'] quote (under the short piece at the end entitled What’s Next) is NOT what a councilmember does or says when he has people vote for him BECAUSE he stood against the SDG&E Substation [Expansion], people who are engaged NOW in fighting the decision to upgrade this substation. I quote here for those who haven’t gotten a paper in their hands yet and I couldn’t find a link to this piece….. “WHAT’s NEXT: At the Council’s March 7 meeting, a group of residents spoke during public comment expressing their opposition to the project." Several residents suggested hiring an attorney that has a record of fighting and winning against SDG&E. Further on in the article, “Councilman Sergio Farias says that even though he’s against the project, the public needs to grasp the reality of the situation. Farias said he felt the city had very good legal representation throughout the hearing process, so hiring a new lawyer wouldn’t likely change the outcome.” While citizens are engaged in fighting such a vile project as this one, such comments by a City Councilman reflect his lack of “grasping the reality” of comments like this, that his lack of understanding how important a fight such as this is, and how important public statements like [his] during a fight are a negative drag on the efforts of those in the fight. What are you thinking these days since you were voted in? Rhen Kohan Resident of District 1 that you, cough, represent Here’s the reality of the situation, Councilman Farias; you are out! We voted for you. It is your job to represent us. You will NOT be re-elected unless you fight and find an attorney who can win this fight for us. Not only are our property values at risk but the health of the residents of your town. Are you familiar with the little girl in who lives near the current substation who had a brain tumor? Wake up and fight, or move over and make room for someone who actually cares. Diane Bass San Juan Capistrano Councilman Farias, The Capistrano Historical Alliance Committee (CHAC) asked that I forward you their "serious concerns" regarding your statement [about the SDG&E expansion project]. Your sudden "lack of support" in making every effort to STOP SDG&E is troublesome and problematic. They feel that you are not living up to your campaign promise to help in the FIGHT to STOP the NEGATIVE IMPACTS of SDG&E proposed expansion - very DISAPPOINTING news! This is the exact same thing Aliso Canyon residents are experiencing with the Gas Company - another utility company taking advantage and putting profit over the health, safety and welfare of the people. Then, we have the California Public Utilities Commission that is supposed to be there to protect and serve the public; they're turning a blind eye. Resident, Las Brisas San Juan Capistrano For CHAC Board of Directors: Vice President/Secretary, Janice Pickartz, Treasurer, Missy Garcia, Member at Large, Garry Meeker, Member at Large, Gigi Nieblas /jsn Jerry Nieblas, President CHAC

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Story continued from page 1...

Siegel that he had never spoken with the well owner, whereas Patterson stated that she had communicated with him. She stated that his intent is to continue to provide water to the Riding Park. In fact, the well owner, Jeffrey Cotton, said it was the city that added the 90day termination language, not him. According to Patterson, Cotton also stated his willingness to adjust the water agreement with terms with which the city would be more comfortable. City has rights to construct a well Yet another option exists which has the potential of saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in watering costs. The purchase agreement for the open space property on which the Riding Park is located grants the city the right to construct a well, from which the city is then allowed to draw 300 gallons of (non-potable) water per minute. After initial installation, the only on-going costs would be for electricity (for the pump system) and maintenance. This option was dismissed based on staff’s assertion that irrigating the Riding Park requires 400 gallons per minute. The stated need for 400 gallons per minute was never adequately explained however, and is questionable when compared to the golf course. The golf course has approximately 150 acres of turf compared to the Riding Park’s 22 acres, yet uses far less water, relatively speaking, than what the city claims is needed for the Riding Park. The golf course meets their irrigation needs by drawing well water into a holding pond, then pumping it to an automatic watering system. This allows them to water in “zones” overnight. Even if the city demonstrated the actual need for water pressure at 400 gallons per minute, they have the ability to build a pond and pump system. This system could be

constructed at a relatively reasonable cost when compared to the expense of purchasing recycled water at a far higher rate, year after year. City’s claims about well costs questionable One of the reasons given for dismissing the option to construct a well is the cost. Staff claims that the cost to locate, drill and test a well on the Riding Park/open space property is $890,000. We checked with a local company and based on the location, the estimated cost is less than $250,000 including the cost of the well and pump system. Even if the city had to construct a holding pond/reservoir to draw water in the volumes they claim are needed, the total estimated cost still comes nowhere near $890,000. Staff also claims that the timeline to sink the well and test it would be approximately two years due to the need for an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) based on the well’s proximity to the creek and protected habitat. Even if the city determined that an EIR was required however, water could be purchased from the Cotton well for $3,000 per month in the interim. The estimated savings could be close to a half million dollars over the two-year period. Another reason staff gave for not pursuing the well option is staff's claim that “we don’t know if the same geological conditions exist as at the Cotton well.” However, according to San Juan Basin Authority maps, water rises to its highest level (between 18 to 30 feet below the surface) near Antonio and Ortega. Given the Riding Park’s proximity to the creek and the San Juan basin which runs under the property, chances are there is indeed a water source in that location, closer to the surface. Expenditure “not properly presented or approved” It is unclear why city administration would push for costly recycled water. Councilmember Pam Patter-

son questions the way in which this item was pushed through city channels. She pointed out that after only three weeks on the job, it was City Manager Ben Siegel who placed the costly recycled water item on the City Council Priority list last year, not a council member as is typically done. In fact, none of the council members at the time indicated it was a priority for them.

well water, and whether the cost would come down over time. Staff responded that the cost “… should come down in about 20 years.” However, staff was likely referring to the cost of the capital improvements (the installation costs), not the actual cost to purchase the recycled water. It is highly unlikely that recycled water will decrease in cost over the years.

Patterson also expressed concern that the costly recycled water item had never been presented to the council and voted on as a separate item. Therefore, neither the council nor the public had an opportunity to question or weigh in on the cost or necessity. This happened, Patterson said, because it was one item on a long list of Capital Improvement Project budget items. “It was included in a ‘block’ of about 20 budget items for approval,” Patterson said during the council meeting. “It was not properly presented to us; there were no reports or presentations… and it was never properly approved.” Patterson added that she believes the $1 million+ expenditure is “… irresponsible with respect to the monies that our residents entrust us with.”

Mayor Kerry Ferguson asked staff whether 300 gallons per minute was sufficient to water the Riding Park. Staff responded, “… based on our calculations, it would take about 400 gallons per minute…” She asked no follow up questions about how this figure was arrived at or whether other, less expensive options exist. Despite the unanswered questions and concerns expressed by Patterson about the need and cost, Council members Ferguson, Farias, Maryott and Reeve voted to approve the recycled water line. This obligates SJC taxpayers to millions more for property that was purchased as open space, but which instead mostly generates revenue for a private business. Meanwhile, fields at other city parks such as the Sports Park continue to require much-needed repair and maintenance.

Councilman Derek Reeve, who supports the expenditure, called Patterson “ignorant” for questioning the expense, stating that the cost of the recycled water line was on council agendas twice. However, just after this statement, Councilman Brian Maryott followed up on Patterson’s concern that it was never properly voted on as a separate item, asking, “I’m curious how this water line was ratified by the council; was it a budget item or a separate item for consideration?” City Manager Siegel ultimately admitted that the proposed expenditure was only on a list of budget items to be approved, i.e.; it was never approved as a separate item.

Council member Patterson said she plans to re-visit this item on an upcoming agenda, given the additional information (such as the Cotton well offer) that was not presented to the council prior to this decision being made. It remains to be seen whether the city council majority will support a less expensive option for watering the Riding Park. *Source: City of San Juan Capistrano

Do you support spending $1+ million on installing recycled water and sewer lines to the Riding Park? Do you support purchasing recycled water over well water? The CCS wants to hear from you! Email us at: Your privacy is respected; we will not print your name without your permission.

Maryott also asked about the cost of purchasing recycled water versus

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Community Common Sense - April 2017  

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