Special Election in San Juan Capistrano Today

SJC Measure B Piece0001


In case you didn’t know, there’s a special election in San Juan Capistrano today which seems to place libertarians at odds with property owners.

The OC Register reports on the issue at hand in a pretty good summary:

“The referendum, known as Measure B, will ask San Juan voters whether the City Council’s November approval of a General Plan amendment and rezoning for La Novia/Meadows should stand. The development would include a 500-horse equestrian center, 130 multifamily residential units, and commercial and office space on more than 150 acres spanning both sides of La Novia Avenue east of I-5. The project is to include the 135.1-acre San Juan Meadows along the south side of La Novia Avenue and the 18.7-acre Distrito La Novia site to the north.

A previous plan approved by the city in the 1990s would include about 440 houses and apartments, a hotel and a church or school.

A “yes” vote on Measure B would uphold the November council decision. A “no” vote would wipe out that decision and the city could not approve a similar plan for a year. The city could consider a different proposal from Advanced Real Estate Services, or ARES, could choose to build the 1990s plan, as it has said it will do if Measure B is voted down.”

We also received this explanation on the issue from the “Yes is Less” side:

A Misguided Referendum

“The referendum to overturn the Distrito La Novia development has from its inception been driven by arguments that are simply untrue. Some of the opposition is in reality a smokescreen for those opposed to enhancing our equestrian facilities (even though the closest of those complaining are at least a quarter mile away from the proposed new horse stables).

They claim that the City is changing the rules after they bought their homes by allowing a change to the General Plan. What they fail to mention is that the General Plan change has absolutely nothing to do with the equestrian facility. The General Plan amendment merely changes the old hotel site at Valle and La Novia from a very specific zoning that only allows a 300 room hotel being built, to a more flexible zoning allowing a mix of commercial and residential. Tying the General Plan change to the equestrian facility is just plain wrong, yet those opposed knowingly keep using this argument.

Other opponents likely believe that saying no means that the status quo will remain and nothing will be built. Unfortunately, that is highly unlikely. Unlike the 2006 golf course referendum, this referendum is not about open space being converted to high-density development. Instead, this is about land that is zoned for development and is already approved for 440 homes. Those 440 homes could be built tomorrow and the City would have no ability to stop it. The alternative, which the referendum is trying to overturn, is actually a greatly reduced project on the Meadows side.

Instead of 440 homes on 135 acres, it is only 94 homes and a new equestrian stable. Across the street, instead of a massive hotel and church or other facility, there will be 130 residential units along with a new market, boutique retail and a small office building. Overall, the project reduces the number of residences by over 200 and increases the acreage of open space that will forever remain well beyond that which we would have under the original plan approved in 1998.

• Does the City have to pay anything or incur debt in order to get this reduced project? No. If anything, the City will gain literally millions of dollars of new tax revenue, as well as major improvements, such as the realignment of the I-5 off ramp at Valle and La Novia, at no cost to our taxpayers.

• Will this project be denser than the 440 home development project previously approved? No. In fact, the FAR (Floor Area Ratio which is a measure of building density) is only .28 compared to the General Plan allowed maximum of .40

• Is the City violating any property rights of the citizens by its approval of this plan? No. Does anyone seriously think you have a right to control the development on land over a quarter mile away from your property? 

• Will there be a 4 story parking lot that will be higher than other structures in town? No. The parking garage only has about 2 stories visible above ground. Additional parking is buried underground.

• Does the approval of this project automatically grant the developer the ability to build a 500 horse stable? No. Horse stables require a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) which means even if the project is approved; the equestrian facility must still go through a separate set of hearings and approvals in the future.

And relative to the equestrian component, the developer could seek a CUP for stables even under the current 440-home approved plan without any General Plan or zoning change.

However, you shuld view the equestrian component from a different perspective. If we are truly serious about San Juan Capistrano remaining an equestrian community far into the future, we need to recognize the very real trend that the State and Federal agencies are imposing more regulations that over time will likely force out or severely curtail the equestrian facilities along the creeks. In the face of these trends, we need to look for opportunities to encourage stables on private land away from the creeks. This property is unique in that it is large enough to easily accommodate a stable that will equal our town’s largest stables today in an area that is removed from existing homes on three sides. In addition, any stable will need to meet very stringent standards that were non-existent when our current stables were built. Such a high-end equestrian facility will increase the value of nearby properties, a fact reflected by history as well as similar situations elsewhere in the State.

We have seen some mis-informed letters to the editor that claim this referendum is about stopping the development of our open space. Instead, advocates of this referendum want to have you vote for more density of development, less open space and millions of dollars less in tax revenue to the City. Where’s the logic? There seems to be some other agenda, as we believe most of our citizens will vote YES for reducing development, enhancing our equestrian character and increasing open space.”

The polls close at 8PM; get out and vote.

  1 comment for “Special Election in San Juan Capistrano Today

  1. June 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    The Yes on B side won about 54 percent to 46 percent; 30 percent turnout mostly by absentee ballot

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