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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 2.1.5.3 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!

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