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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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Video: San Juan Capistrano and Caspers Wilderness Park

Although this is an older video, it takes a very artistic view at downtown San Juan Capistrano, including the Mission, and nearby Caspers Wilderness Park:

Rancho Santa Margarita City Council Candidates Forum

Can’t get enough of local city council campaigns?  Courtesy of Cox Communications and the South Orange County Economic Coalition, below is a televised forum among some of the candidates for City Council of Rancho Santa Margarita.  Apparently, three of the candidates declined to participate.

According to Cox, “Cox Communications, in partnership with the South Orange County Economic Coalition, is proud to present the Decision 2014 Candidate Forum Series. The Series is provided as a non-partisan public service. The Candidate Forums are not meant to support or oppose any candidates, and were produced independently of any views of the sponsors. All candidates in each race were invited to participate and given an equal opportunity to present their positions on the issues.”

We thank our friends at The Real RSM for bringing this forum to our attention.

SJC Councilman Larry Kramer Named to Lead San Juan Basin Authority

Some news regarding leadership changes at the San Juan Basin Authority, the local agency that manages a key component of the South Orange groundwater supply:

Capistrano Councilman Kramer to Lead Basin Authority with SMWD Director Olson

San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Larry Kramer on Tuesday was selected to lead the San Juan Basin Authority, an independent agency responsible for the management of a 26-square-mile groundwater basin in South Orange County.

Santa Margarita Water District Director Dr. Betty Olson will serve as Vice Chair.

Kramer replaces outgoing Chairman Larry McKenney, who has been appointed to represent southern Orange County on the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles. Representatives from San Juan Capistrano and the Moulton-Niguel, Santa Margarita and South Coast water districts make up the Basin Authority Board. Wayne Redfield represents South Coast, while Scott Colton, formerly an alternate, now represents Moulton Niguel.

The basin has long been seen as a key local source of water. San Juan Capistrano and South Coast Water District use the basin to meet some of the demand of their residents.

McKenney joined the board of the Basin Authority in 2010 and had chaired the authority since 2012. In a resolution honoring his move to MWD, McKenney was lauded for his knowledge of the water industry and his sure-handed but even approach to governing the joint-powers authority.

Kramer, a former submarine captain for the U.S. Navy, was elected to the Capistrano City Council in 2010 and appointed by his colleagues there to represent the city on the Basin Authority. Olson is a Civil and Environmental Engineering professor at UCI who studies water quantity and quality. She was appointed to the Santa Margarita Water District Board of Directors in 1994, and first elected in 1996. She has served as Board President four times.

The Basin Authority meets at Santa Margarita Water District headquarters on the second Tuesday of each month. For more information, see

SJC Campaign Finance Disclosures at the Dispatch

If you are the type of voter who wants to know how much the candidates have raised and who is donating to the campaigns, the Capistrano Dispatch has compiled that information for you here.  Candidates are required to disclose donations in excess of $100, and San Juan Capistrano limits individual campaign donations to $500.

Another Accident At Narrow Canyon Highlights the Danger: Residents Insist “It’s Only a Matter of Time…”

We have heard that there has been another accident at the Narrow Canyon and Aura Lane intersection, near the Goddard School.  This weekend a driver lost control and struck a light pole dangerously close to the pedestrian crossing that is frequently used by neighborhood children and the Goddard students.  This is the same location where a car lost control, striking a nearby residence and causing a severe gas leak when the accident ruptured a gas line.  The Ladera Ranch Civic Council has urged the Orange County Traffic Committee of the Public Works department to take action.  We wrote about that here.  That letter was accompanied by a petition signed by 129 members of The Goddard School community in support of action on the dangerous traffic conditions on Narrow Canyon.  In light of the ongoing dangers (including this weekend’s accident), members of the community are encouraging concerned residents to demand changes at the next meeting of the Orange County Traffic Committee, where the Narrow Canyon/Aura Lane intersection is on the agenda for discussion. That meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 9 AM, and will be held in the Hall of Administration, Building 10, in the Board Hearing Room located at 333 West Santa Ana Blvd. in Santa Ana.  The meeting is open to the public.

Dates for Laguna Niguel’s 2014 Haunted Trails

Are you ready for this year’s crop of local haunted houses?  The Laguna Niguel Haunted Trails program is always a great show.  Below are this year’s dates:

SJC Candidates Answer Questions from the Capistrano Dispatch

We previously encouraged you to read the Dana Point Times which is publishing City Council candidates’ answers to questions concerning the City.   Sister-publication, the Capistrano Dispatch, is doing the same with the eight candidates vying for three seats on the San Juan City Council.  The Dispatch has asked and published answers for three questions.

The first question concerns development:  The city is considering several major development projects that have sparked heated discussions among residents. Which projects are of the greatest concern to you? As a council member, how would you balance the desire to add responsible developments with the need to preserve San Juan Capistrano’s historical character?

You can read the candidates’ positions on development here.

The second question is about (what else?) water:  The state is in the midst of an historic drought and water remains a hot topic in San Juan Capistrano. The city adopted a new rate structure this year, replacing its contested system. Do you think the new rates effectively address some of the concerns of the previous system? Do you think the city’s Groundwater Recovery Plant is a viable solution to future water woes? What else can the city do to address the water crisis?

The candidates’ answers on the water question are here.

The third question relates to San Juan’s parking shortages: The lack of parking in downtown San Juan Capistrano is becoming an increasing concern. What further steps do you think the city can take to enhance parking opportunities downtown? What potential solutions would you offer?

Those answers are available here.

The eight candidates running for San Juan Capistrano City Council are incumbents Derek Reeve, John Taylor and Larry Kramer, and challengers Jan Siegel, Kerry Ferguson, Pam Patterson, Robert Williams and Stephanie Frisch.

Dana Point Times Publishes Candidate Positions on Two Important Questions

If you are following Dana Point politics, there is a vibrant City Council race going on over there.  Among the most pressing issues are the city’s town center and Lantern District projects, the Doheny Village development and the Dana Point Harbor revitalization project.  The Dana Point Times posed the first two of five questions to the candidates and published their answers.  Those two questions are:

Question One: What are a few of the most important issues the city is currently facing—not including Town Center/Lantern District, Doheny Village and Harbor revitalization—and  how would you address them?

Question Two: With major development projects in the city either underway or being considered—Town Center/Lantern District, Doheny Village and Harbor revitalization—and the strong opinions about them being voice by the public and the sitting City Council, which project(s) are of the greatest concern to you? As a council member, how would you balance the desire to add responsible developments with the need to preserve the city’s character?

There are nine candidates running for three open seats on the five-member council.  All three seats are being vacated by the current incumbents, including Mayor Lisa Bartlett (who running for the Fifth District Supervisor), Bill Brough (who is running for State Assembly) and Steven Weinberg (who is being termed out).  The nine candidates are: Alan Wickstrom, Chuck Rathbone,  Harold Kaufman, Jody Payne, Joe Muller, John Tomlinson, Nancy Jenkins, Richard Viczorek and Ryan Divel.

The candidates all responded to the initial two questions and their answers are available here.  The Dana Point Times will publish the answers to the remaining questions weekly through the end of October.

San Onofre Decommissioning Panel Tonight

Below is an update on tonight’s SONGS Community Engagement Panel meeting:

Southern California Edison will hold a public discussion about the future of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) through a community engagement panel composed of local public officials and community stakeholders. The panel is scheduled to discuss emergency planning related to the decommissioning of the Station on Oct. 9, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, 25925 Camino del Avion.

The meeting will focus on Southern California Edison’s (SCE) proposed emergency planning changes for San Onofre now that the plant is permanently shut down and will include a presentation by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission representative. The meeting also will include opportunities for public comment and will be live streamed via

In addition, the CEP will hold a special meeting Oct. 14 to discuss plans to store San Onofre’s used nuclear fuel in dry storage casks. On-site storage of used fuel is necessary until the Department of Energy takes possession of the fuel. This meeting is from 10:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m., also at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, and will include opportunities for public discussion.

Another Opportunity Tonight to Meet the Candidates for SJC City Council

Tonight is another opportunity to meet the candidates for San Juan Capistrano City Council: