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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

The writings of Don Juan Ortega on the Rancho Ortega Blog are the personal views of the author. This blog is not authored by nor does it have any affiliation whatsoever with any other person, place or entity using the name "Rancho Ortega" (or any similar name).

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Holiday Break

We are going to take a little break from active posting on this blog during the holidays.  We’ll see you after the New Year.  Until then, we wish all of our readers a safe and happy holiday season!

San Juan Welcomes New Council, Names Derek Reeve as New Mayor

From the City of San Juan Capistrano:

The City Council on Tuesday selected Derek Reeve to serve as Mayor and Pam Patterson, Esq. as Mayor Pro Tem for 2015 during its annual reorganization.  This is the first mayoral stint for Council Member Reeve, who was first elected to office in 2010. Voters re-elected him and elected Council Members Patterson and Kerry Ferguson to the council last month. On Tuesday, the three were officially sworn into office.  During the meeting, Sam Allevato was honored for serving as the City’s Mayor for a third time.  Larry Kramer and John Taylor were also honored for their service to San Juan Capistrano, both of whom served as Mayors during their term.  The City Council meets the first and third Tuesday of the month in the Council Chamber at City Hall, 32400 Paseo Adelanto. For more information, visit the City’s website at

Reconfigured Ortega Highway Reopens Today

The reconfigured Ortega Highway reopens today.  Below is an Ortega interchange update:

It’s open a day early!

The reconfigured portion of Ortega Highway leading into downtown via Del Obispo Street opened this morning. Also open: the new portion of the southbound I-5 off-ramp, the newly constructed Ortega bridge and the new southbound I-5 on-ramp.

Motorists can drive — and pedestrians can walk — east or west across the bridge to get to businesses along Del Obispo or those on the east side of I-5.

Next up, the stretch of Ortega between Del Obispo and El Camino Real is set to reopen by Dec. 5, restoring direct access to San Juan Capistrano’s Historic Town Center. In the meantime, motorists can reach the town center by heading down Del Obispo and turning right on Camino Capistrano or coming down Camino Capistrano from Junipero Serra Road.

Demolition of the north side of the bridge is scheduled to begin Dec. 12 and take two nights.

Find out more about the project at

Santa Margarita Catholic HS Students Report Threat Against School

A big congratulations to the students of Santa Margarita Catholic High School for doing the right thing and confidentially reporting an apparent threat against the school.  Story from NBC News here.  It’s a relief to know that the threat was not credible, but it is nevertheless disturbing that threatening gun violence is becoming a common way of expressing adolescent grievances.  If they do not already, every high school in the County ought to have a text-a-tip system in place.  It can save lives.

Big Issues on the San Juan City Council Agenda Tonight

There is an important City Council meeting scheduled for tonight in San Juan Capistrano.  On the agenda are several items that are generating a lot of resident input and opinion.

First, on the agenda is a two year renewal of the management agreement between the City of San Juan Capistrano and Blenheim Facility Management, LLC regarding the operation of the city-owned Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park.  From what we can gather, the current City Council favors renewal of the management agreement while the incoming majority is likely to be opposed to it, at least in its current form.  Several residents have filed correspondence with the City opposing the renewal of the management agreement on the grounds that San Juan residents funded the acquisition of the park but are largely prohibited from using it, save the four movie nights and a couple other scheduled events during the year.  On the other hand, San Juan’s equestrian community supports the Riding Park as managed by Blenheim as one of the last equestrian event facilities in South Orange County — a fact made painfully clear as we watch the bulldozers destroy much of what used to be The Oaks equestrian center.  In an attempt to address these concerns, among the modifications to the management agreement being proposed for this renewal period are:

Require continuation of the Riding Park equestrian and other sports and community uses as under the current 2014 Management Agreement: The proposed Calendar Years 2015 and 2016 Management Agreement maintains these use requirements. Sports events include various soccer and lacrosse club uses. The community events would be similar to those conducted in 2014, which included a two-day “Two Steppin” Under the Stars” event and four movie nights.

Implement additional community access of the Riding Park property: New Section incorporates on-going discussions that Blenheim Facility Management and the City have been having about increasing public access to the property. The City Manager and Blenheim will work together to identify appropriate areas and times for additional public uses and bring them to the City Council for consideration and approval within 90 days of approval.

The second major item on the agenda is further consideration of the San Juan Hotel and Villas application.  City staff is recommending that the City Council deny the application for an amendment to San Juan Historic Town Center Master Plan.  As a reminder:

In April 2012, the City Council adopted the Historic Town Center (HTC) Master Plan to guide future development in the Historic Town Center. The Master Plan establishes a vision for preserving the core character of San Juan Capistrano’s downtown while acknowledging the value of allowing for new uses in the downtown area and incorporation of dynamic new buildings and public spaces.

Urban Village (San Juan Hotel & Villas) (the “Applicant”) has submitted applications requesting approval of a mixed-use project including commercial, hotel and residential uses situated on a 3.17 acre site in the “heart” of the Historic Town Center (the “Project”). The Project proposes about 2,700 square feet of commercial-retail building area, a 136-room, three-story hotel, and 30 single-family, residential townhouse structures. The proposed hotel also includes a fitness center, lounge, restaurant, swimming pool and spa, and a subterranean, two-level parking garage with 142 parking spaces.

Of course, City Council is permitted to disregard the advise of the staff and amend the Historic Town Center Master Plan to approve the project.  In addition, the hotel developer is asserting that an amendment to the Historic Town Center Master Plan is not required.  That legal argument is here, if you are interested.  Resident correspondence on the hotel issue is split between support and opposition.

The Council is also tonight considering an extension of the license agreement for the Ortega Equestrian Center on city-owned property at the west end of Cook Park.  Renewal of the Ortega Equestrian Center license is also generating a significant amount of resident interest, with most of the correspondence filed with the City in support of the OEC and renewal of its license.  In fact, several residents who oppose the Blenheim renewal are publicly supporting the OEC renewal (and for longer than the city-proposed two year term).

The full City Council agenda is available here, including staff reports on all of the agenda items including supplemental exhibits and correspondence received from residents and stakeholders.

All of these issues are likely to bring vocal residents to Council chambers tonight.  Regardless of how the Council votes, there will be residents both elated and outraged at the outcome.  The fact that this is likely the last meeting of the current majority on City Council only adds more intrigue and controversy to tonight’s vote.  It is certain to be another standing-room-only City Council meeting in San Juan Capistrano.  Tonight’s public City Council meeting starts at 6 PM.  Get there early!

Ortega Bridge Demolition to Begin December 12

More I-5/Ortega interchange news:

The north side of the Ortega Highway bridge over I-5 is scheduled for demolition beginning Friday, Dec. 12. The work is expected to take two nights, and the freeway will be closed during the demolition. Motorists on I-5 will be detoured around the demolition work using the Ortega Highway off- and on-ramps. The bridge will be closed to traffic and pedestrians during the demolition.

Plan accordingly!

New Ladera Alerts Service Gives Ladera Ranch Residents Access to Instant Communications in Emergencies

All Ladera Ranch residents who have not yet signed up for the Ladera Alerts text message program ought to do so.  Created by Ladera Ranch residents, Ladera Alerts provides a means of fast communication among Ladera Ranch residents in the event of an emergency.  According to the website, “[t]his free service was created in an effort to communicate vital information quickly and efficiently via cell phone texts, to inform/organize the community to help resolve local emergency situations as quickly as possible.”

Ladera Alerts was recently the subject of an article in the Orange County Register, which is available here.  According to the article, “[t]o use the site, residents need to sign up at with their phone number and neighborhood. So far, more than 110 residents have signed up. When members need help, they report it on the website, which sends a message to two cellphones. The information is verified and then sent out to members via a text message on their cellphones.”

Ladera Ranch is known as an old-fashioned community, where kids still play in the streets and neighbors know more than each other’s names.  The new Ladera Alerts puts technology in the hands of residents, allowing them to help each other out faster and more efficiently in the event of an emergency.

Last Chance to Register for 2014 Dana Point Turkey Trot

This is a reminder for anyone who wants to participate in the Dana Point Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.  Online registration closes at the incredibly specific 11:55 PM on Monday, November 24th and prices will increase for on-site registration. More information and registration is available at

Santa Margarita Water District Begins Phase 2 Construction of Canada Gobernadora Multipurpose Basin

Due to (among other reasons) the severity of the California drought and as a result of following the debate over San Juan Capistrano’s groundwater plant, we’ve been getting more involved in water-related issues here at the Rancho Ortega Blog. One water agency we are following closely is the Santa Margarita Water District.  The Santa Margarita Water District is the second-largest water agency in Orange County, serving more than 165,000 people in Coto de Caza, Ladera Ranch, Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo and San Clemente.  One of SMWD’s mandates is to reduce our dependency on water imported from the Colorado River and Northern California.  To that end, the completion of the multi-purpose basin at Canada Gobernadora will serve the dual purposes of environmental protection and capturing urban run-off in Gobernadora Creek for re-use, freeing up more expensive drinking water for residential uses, so this announcement that SMWD is beginning Phase 2 construction of the basin is good news for water-watchers.  The full press release is below:

Construction Begins on Phase 2 of Multi-Purpose Basin in Santa Margarita Water District

Construction of the lower section of the Canada Gobernadora Multipurpose Basin south of Coto de Caza is getting underway, with the entire Santa Margarita Water District project on schedule to be complete in June.

The completed project will capture and naturally treat urban runoff and storm flows, and use that water to help meet irrigation demands in Coto de Caza.

The Gobernadora Basin project consists of a storm detention basin and a natural treatment system, a system to capture and divert flows to the wetlands, a pump station and a pipeline to deliver flows to the Portola Reservoir, a recycled water reservoir in Coto de Caza.

Located along the 8.5 mile Gobernadora Creek, a major tributary to San Juan Creek, the Gobernadora Basin will rely on an inflatable barrier to intercept a significant portion of the Gobernadora Creek flow for storm detention and treatment of urban runoff.

The project will reduce downstream erosion and sedimentation of the Gobernadora Creek and improve water quality.  An estimated 350 to 750 acre-feet of water are expected to be captured by the project each year. An acre-foot of water is enough to meet the needs of two families for a year, so capturing the run off in Gobernadora Creek frees up more expensive drinking water for residential and other similar uses.

The project is one of several under construction or in planning that are key to SMWD’s goal of reducing its dependence on water imported from the Colorado River and Northern California.

Gobernadora is the fourth runoff detention system built by SMWD. The project cost $22 million, but SMWD received $7.5 million in grants to help offset the cost.

More information about Santa Margarita Water District is available here.

Ladera Ranch Civic Council Meeting on Monday, November 17th

The next meeting of the Ladera Ranch Civic Council will be held on Monday, November 17th at 7 PM, located in the board room at the Santa Margarita Water District building.  Attendees will have the opportunity to meet with new Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.  Former Supervisor Patricia Bates was a good friend to Ladera Ranch and we have reason to believe that Supervisor Bartlett will also be a champion for residents of Ladera Ranch.  More information is available at the Civic Council website here.