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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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La Pata Gap Closure Project Update

As reported in the OC Register here, the La Pata Gap Closure project is on schedule and making progress:

OC Public Works reports that construction of a $73 million, four-lane highway linking Ortega Highway with San Clemente is on schedule to open for cars by fall 2016.  Thirty percent of the earth work between the landfill and San Clemente also is complete, officials say, and removal of buried trash from the path of the La Pata road extension through Prima Deshecha Landfill is 95 percent complete.  Current work includes grading, drainage installation, utility relocations, bridge construction, the initial increments of paving at the landfill end, said Kevin Oxford, supervising construction engineer. The first of two bridges should be completed in April.

More information is available at or at (844) 452-7282.

Rancho Capistrano Winery Getting Some Positive Attention

Congratulations to our friends at Rancho Capistrano Winery.  Winelines Online, a wine industry web site, has published a very complimentary article about the San Juan Capistrano winery.  An excerpt from the article:

A winery in the O.C.?

Well, it turns out there are at least 10 wineries in Orange County, and they’ve pooled their marketing resources to found “The Orange County Wine Trail.” Two of the 10 are in San Juan Capistrano, but only Rancho Capistrano was open on the day of our visit.  Yes, there was a time when quite a few vineyards could be found in Orange County. These days, however, wine grapes are as rare as the fruit for which the county was named.

The article describes Rancho Capistrano Winery as “A Pleasant Surprise in the OC’s South County” and speaks highly of  owner Kyle Franson and winemaker Collin Mitzenmache.  Read the whole article here.  Better yet, stop by for a visit and a tasting if you haven’t already done so.

Vamos a la Escuela a Aprender: Mapping and Translating the Street Names of Esencia’s First Phase

On Friday we mentioned that development was progressing on the first phase of Planning Area 2, east of Antonio Parkway in Rancho Mission Viejo.  Today, we have some preliminary tract maps showing the street patterns and names for Planning Area 2.1 and giving us a more detailed glimpse into the layout of the new community.  First, below is a map showing the boundary of the first phase:

Area Map of Planning Area 2.1 (source: County of Orange)

Next is a tract map showing the street patterns and names:

Planning Area 2.1 – Street Map (source: County of Orange)

With a couple of exceptions, Rancho Mission Viejo will continue the Spanish naming convention that they used in Sendero.  We know “Esencia” means “essence.”  Below is your glossary for the remainder of the street names:

  • “Tierno” means “tender.”
  • “Airoso” does not have a direct translation, but could be interpreted as a “graceful confidence.”
  • “Saliente” is harder to translate.  Literally, it means “outgoing” or “exit.”  But it has a secondary meaning that could mean “ledge” or “promontory.”  Given that this part of Planning Area 2 is on a ridgeline, I’m guessing that the latter meaning was intended.  Think of it as the equivalent of “Promontory Road”.
  • “Algazara” means an “uproar” or something like “topsy-turvy” in English.  Maybe it’s a reference to the topography of that area, which is being left untouched to protect in place the natural oak strand there.  ”Algazara” can also be translated as a “roughhouse.”  Maybe they should have named the school Algazara.  Regardless of the reason, it is an interesting choice.  Note that it is not pronounced “al-jazeera.”
  • “Aprender” means “to learn,” as in vamos a la escuela a aprender.  The Esencia school entrance is likely going to be located on Aprender Street.  Well played, Rancho Mission Viejo.  Don Juan gives you a slow clap for that one.
  • We had a hard time with “Andaza.” It’s not a Spanish word that we know and our searching revealed only a Hindustani translation for “unique style” and a Persian word for “size.”  We’re going with the Hindi/Urdu meaning of “unique style” although who knows, it might be a made up word or the name of the newest family member.  Rancho Mission Viejo draws street name inspiration from a number of different sources, as we’ve previously discussed.

Of course, there will also be Cow Camp Road and Chiquita Canyon Drive bordering Planning Area 2, and Esencia Drive bisecting the new community.

Next, let’s plot what we know about Planning Area 2 onto this new street map.  Below is a map of Planning Area 2.1 that we’ve previously seen:


As you can see, it shows the location of the age-qualified housing, market rate housing (i.e., not age-qualified), affordable housing and the location of the proposed Capistrano Unified K-8 “Esencia” school.  Let’s map those designations onto the tract map we now have:

original image credit: County of Orange

As you review the map above, recall that in Esencia, we believe the age qualified houses will not be gated off from the rest of the community.  You can see that reflected in the street patterns above.  It’s possible that the vicinity of area 28 will be the oak strand park, although the corner of it (lot 61 0ff Esencia Drive) is the location of the community clubhouse.  The oaks being preserved are heritage oaks, so this area is going to be dramatic open space featuring mature trees.  In the recent satellite image below, you can see the grading going on all around the oak strand, which is being protected in place.


We also believe that there will be a large shared use park between the school site and Tierno Road (lots 63 and 57).  If and when the 241 toll road (or a substitute arterial street) is extended to Cow Camp Road, we believe it will traverse lots 18, 17 and 14 in the map above where it will intersect with Cow Camp Road.   This article describes more of what we know about Planning Area 2, if you are interested.

Note that there is no retail or commercial space in Planning Area 2.1.  All of Planning Area 2′s retail and commercial space is located in future phases, north of Chiquita Canyon Drive.

Second Saturday Art Fair Coming to an End

We are sad to hear that San Juan Capistrano’s Second Saturday Art Fair will close December 13th after seven years.  The Capistrano Dispatch has the story here.  While downtown will certainly be missing something without the art fair, we totally agree with the organizers when they say:

“The Art Fair’s intent was to place artists in locations that show off our beautiful downtown and encourage visitors to return to shop, dine, explore, and help our historic district grow,” Peshkin said. “The Second Saturday Art Fair, designed to help draw attention to the town, has done its job so well, it’s become a victim of its own success. New stores and restaurants now fill the empty spaces where artists used to be. Visitors are plentiful and downtown parking is now a serious issue.”

Perhaps in time another location might be found and the fair revived?  Perhaps Reata Park and Event Center could host the event?  Regardless of what the future holds, a big thank you to the organizers, artists and attendees who made the Second Saturday Art Fair in San Juan Capistrano such a success for seven years.

Status Update on Planning Area 2

Those interested in following the progress at Rancho Mission Viejo’s Planning Area 2 have to do so from afar.  From what we understand, here is the current status of development in Planning Area 2, dubbed the Village of Esencia.  Underway now is phase 2.1 of Planning Area 2, covering 464 acres.  This phase will eventually include 870 residential units, an affordable housing site, and a Capistrano Unified K-8 school that will be named after the community.  We believe all residential parcels in phase 2.1 are already under option by home builders.  Grading on these parcels is in progress with estimated deliveries to the home builders next month.  In addition, crews are working on Cow Camp Road, the primary roadway that will connect Esencia to points west.  Completion of Cow Camp Road, including the bridge segment, is scheduled for the first half of 2015.

Save the Date for Christmas at the Mission

The holidays are always a special time of year at the Mission, and it’s only one month away!  Save the date for Christmas at the Mission, which we be held Saturday, December 6th from 5:30-8 PM as part of community celebration in downtown San Juan Capistrano.  Tickets and more information are available here.

Register Article on San Juan Election

Read the Register’s take on the San Juan City Council election here.  Interesting quote from Sam Allevato where he hints that he might be pondering retirement.

UPDATE (11/7): We’ve heard that at Coffee Chat this morning, Allevato confirmed that he would serve out his term in office.

South Orange County Post-Election Roundup

Want the roundup of the local elections that impact South Orange County?  Here you go:

Orange County’s Fifth District has a new Supervisor in former Dana Point Mayor Lisa Bartlett who defeated Laguna Niguel Councilman Robert Ming to replace Patricia Bates.  Bates easily defeated Ladera Ranch Civic Council member Gary Kephart and will represent the 36th District in the State Senate.  Congratulations to Supervisor Bartlett and Senator Bates!

In the hotly contested San Juan Capistrano City Council race, voters rejected the incumbent majority and voted a new majority to power.  Challenger Pam Patterson was the top vote getter and is joined by incumbent Derek Reeve and challenger Kerry Ferguson.  The three ran as a slate against the current majority and will now join Councilman Roy Byrnes to form a new four-person majority in San Juan Capistrano.  Incumbents John Taylor and Larry Kramer were voted out of office, and challengers Rob Williams, Jan Siegel and Stephanie Frisch finished in 6th through 8th position, respectively.  Reeve and Byrnes have been on the short end of a number of 3-2 votes during the last couple of years, and Reeve ran on the motto “Together, we can fight City Hall.”  Well, Reeve and his colleagues now are City Hall.  It will be interesting to see how they govern differently, particularly with a number of high profile issues pending before the Council.

In Rancho Santa Margarita, Mayor Pro Tem Brad McGirr, Mike Vaughn and Jerry Holloway were elected to the City Council.  Incumbent Jesse Petrilla finished fourth and was not re-elected.  Laurie Biehl, Don Chadd and John Webb finished 5th – 7th, respectively.  RSM voters also voted down Measure Z, a ballot initiative to rezone the former Nissan auto dealership site for general commercial use.  ”No” won with 54.3% of the vote.  If it had passed, Measure Z would have allowed the owners of the former Nissan dealership to build a commercial property on the site.  The commercial property would be financially more advantageous for the property owners, but would reduce the anticipated tax revenue to Rancho Santa Margarita from about $600,000 per year to about 10% of that amount (although in full disclosure, the auto dealership site has been empty for years with apparently little interest in using it for that purpose).  Note that candidates Petrilla, Biehl and Chadd would have likely voted to rezone the auto dealership site had they obtained a Council majority, so RSM voters were consistent in rejecting both.

Dana Point voted to fill three vacant City Council spots, with no incumbents running for re-election.  John Tomlinson was the top vote getter in the tightly clustered results, and he will be joined on the Council by Richard Viczorek and Joe Muller.  Following closely behind were Jody Payne (who finished in fourth place by just 65 votes at last count) and Alan Wickstrom (just ten votes behind Payne).  Rounding out the results are Nancy Jenkins, Harold Kaufman, Roy Divel and Chuck Rathbone.

In San Clemente, incumbents Tim Brown and Lori Donchak were easily re-elected and will be joined on the Council by Kathy Ward.  In Mission Viejo, challenger Greg Raths was the top vote getter for City Council and will be joined by challengers Ed Sachs and  Wendy Bucknum.  Incumbents David Leckness and Rhonda Reardon were not re-elected, finishing fourth and fifth.  Rounding out the voting were Desi Kiss, Steven Thornton and Grant Voss.

Voters re-elected Capistrano Unified School District Trustee Lynn Hatton in Area 7, defeating Julie Collier.  In Area 6, Gila Jones defeated incumbent Ellen Addonizio and in Area 4, Martha McNicholas defeated Craig Alexander.  All three winners are members of the “Children First” slate.

In an interesting footnote for Ladera Ranch politicos, former teenage Ladera Ranch Civic Council member Connor Traut won election to the Centralia School Board, serving schools in Buena Park, Anaheim and La Palma.

Get Out and Vote!

Wherever you live in South County, there is an election going on that affects you.  Do your civic duty and get out and vote!  Note sure where you are supposed to vote?  Find your polling place here.

Handmade Market Coming to Ecology Center

Orange Coast Magazine has published an article about San Juan Capistrano’s Ecology Center and its handmade arts and crafts fair scheduled for Saturday, November 8th.  According to the Ecology Center:

In an effort to celebrate our Southern California community of artists, crafters, makers, skilled laborers etc., we are honored to host the first annual Maker’s Market. Join us outside in the garden to explore handmade goods, everything from hand woven baskets, clothing made with natural dyes, handmade furniture, local art, handmade herbal soaps and more.

Read the article here, learn more about the handmade market here, or better yet, stop by on Saturday.  The event is free and is scheduled to last all day.