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Open Space Foundation Ramps Up Operations

Nonprofit is opening a website, adding membership and planning to unveil work on northern side of San Juan Capistrano.

Brad Gates remembers growing up in San Juan Capistrano in the 1940s and '50s.

The retired Orange County sheriff says there were about 600 people in town, it was all open space, and you could ride your horse almost anywhere.

Now, 60 years later, Gates and the other members of the Open Space Foundation are looking to keep that feeling alive.

The foundation, a nonprofit volunteer group created to maintain and improve open space in San Juan Capistrano, is ramping up its operations, preparing to unveil a new website, a public membership program and its work on city-owned land in the northern part of town.

Gates, the foundation's president, says that an open house for the renovated 2.5-acre Northwest Open Space Staging Area on June 25 will help residents feel pride in what the foundation is doing.

“[They’ll say] somebody called the foundation … improved that space, and now I’m able to walk my dog, ride my bike, walk along with my wife, ride my horse and park my car and do what I want on property that we’re paying taxes to own,” Gates said.

At 30261 Camino Capistrano, volunteers have spent hours setting up the grounds to act as a hub for pedestrians, horseback riders and cyclists to access the city’s open spaces.

According to Gates, the graded land will include picnic tables, water troughs for horses, horse hitches, about 3,000 feet of fencing and about 3,000 feet of irrigation. 

History

Protecting open space is important to many residents. About 50 percent of the city is open space—that is, undeveloped, natural land—according to the foundation.

In 2005, the city established the San Juan Capistrano Open Space Committee to make recommendations to the City Council about open space issues.

In 2008, some of the members of the committee formed the foundation, with the mission “to promote the preservation, restoration, expansion, improvement and public use of open space within San Juan Capistrano to enrich the quality of life for area residents.”

The foundation raises funds for open space projects that the members vote for. Scroll to the end of the story for a full list of foundation board members. 

Local support

Colleen Edwards, foundation secretary, said the foundation feels that locals support keeping open space open, and she cited the recent passage of two bond measures as evidence.

In 2008, residents passed by 78.9 percent Measure X, an initiative prohibiting officials from rezoning "open space" land to any other type of land without a vote of the residents.

At the same time, voters passed Measure Y, a $30-million bond measure designed to give the city funds to buy, set apart and improve land for open space use. It passed with 70.2 percent of voter approval.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing that could only happen in San Juan Capistrano, where there is such a passion about our open space,” Colleen said.  

An Eye Toward the Future

Though the website sjcopenspacefoundation.org is still under construction, foundation officials expect to finish renovating the page sometime in early June.

With the advent of the new website, they want to make it easier for people to contribute to the cause.

On June 15, at the first of the city’s Summer Nights concert event, they plan to introduce a tiered membership program for individuals and corporations.

“It would be your ability to contribute to the accomplishments that the foundation is working on,” Edwards said. “It would give them some pride in their community.”

Edwards also said they are looking to apply for a number of grants.

The next item on the foundation’s agenda is renovating a portion of land at the Two C Ranch, behind J.F. Therapeutic Riding Center, to make it more like the staging area one at the Northwest Open Space.

Foundation members plan to secure funding and get volunteers once the city chooses a place for it.

Gates, 72, said he remembers being able to ride his horse all over the area when he was growing up, and he wants residents and his descendants to be able to share that feeling.

“I will continue, as long as I’m able, to make sure that we can continue to provide that atmosphere to the people that live in this town and the children that will be raised here,” Gates said.

“That’s worth more money than I could ever get out of doing anything else,” he added.

The open house for the Northwest Open Space is from 3-7 p.m. on June 25  and will include barbecue, wine and beer and cotton candy for purchase.  

For more information, send an email to info@sjcopenspace.org.

Foundation board members

Brad Gates, president

Dick Paulsen, vice president

Colleen Edwards, secretary

Mike Barth

Mike Evans

Matt Gaffney

Tim Neely

Mark Nielsen

Tom Ostensen

smoothpuss2 June 05, 2011 at 05:06 PM
In reading your story it appears that the City is in bed (figueratively) with the Open Space Foundation and there does not seem to be a seperation of the two. Are there any other non-profit organizations that benefit the citizens of our City that get time to speak at the Concerts in the Park? It certainly appears that this relationship is way too close between the Open Space Foundation and the City. I think that there is more to be uncovered here.
jeff s June 05, 2011 at 10:48 PM
would you rather have the city 'in bed' with the 'concrete/pavement and build more useless mini mall foundation'?? i prefer the city to be more inclined to support open space rather than build more ugly useless developments in open space areas.
smoothpuss2 June 06, 2011 at 02:20 AM
Jeff, you know the residents voted for the open space and nothing can be built there. So, the comments regarding an ugly development has nothing to do with the open space as it cannot be built. The point is, it appears that the Open Space Foundation obtains allot of latitude from the City regarding what, how, where, when things can be changed on the taxpayer paid open space. Now, Jeff do you think you and I could go onto our open space and start changing something. That is exactly what the Open Space Foundation does.
loveopenspace June 06, 2011 at 04:27 AM
smoothpuss2, what specific latitude(s) do you contend the city gave to the OSF? Did they not follow some procedural issues or just went out to the open space and started doing work? Seems to me that if a group of volunteers got city permission to improve the open space at a savings to the city for the public to use, that is a good thing. Have you seen the improvements or jst having a knee jerk reaction to the article?
smoothpuss2 June 06, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Why does the City give the latitude to the OSF to do what they want? This is public land, not the OSF desire to do whatever they want. The dog park was moved (granted it was a horrible spot for it), but there was no design review process for this, no public input. It was just done. The good 'ol boys back at work again, but not for the public benefits. If the OSF is such a great entitity, then why is it a private foundation and not open to the public? A private foundation doing work on public land? The public has no absolutely no input with the OSF. I am curious, the ties between the City and the OSF seem fairly tight. Has the City put any tax dollars into the OSF?
scarecrow June 06, 2011 at 07:54 PM
Smoothpuss2: Your comments are not factual. The future dog park site has not been moved. The possible relocation of the dog park site(s) are on the Open Space Commission agenda tonight and the CC tomorrow. The current approved location is too small and had traffic safety issues according to the staff report. After CC makes a decision on another possible site, the plans then go thru the commission(s) review process once again. The original dog park plan did have PRE, Open Space and CC review and those meetings were public meetings. The public did in fact have input to design, location and many other aspects of the dog park. You seem to miss this simple fact or choose not too. Just who, exactly by name, do you think the good old boys are? You throw it out there, let's be specific. The OSF is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) and subject to the public disclosure laws of any 501 non-profit. It is not a private foundation. I understand their membership drive starts on June 15. Perhaps you should put you money where your written non-factual opinions are and join in. Become part of solutions rather than a naysayer and spreading negativity. In fact, attend the Open Space Commission meeting tonight and give your input, then take yourself to the CC meeting tomorrow night and do the same. You can ask the question as to the city's contribution(s) to the OSF.
smoothpuss2 June 07, 2011 at 06:06 AM
My comments are not factual. Then prove me wrong. I predict that a majority of the City Council will role over and vote to move the dog park. If I am wrong, the park will stay where it is. The good 'ol boys are at work. Scarecrow, if the City is not in bed with the OSF then why is it when I looked at the OSF website ,why is the City Attorney, Omar Sandoval listed as the Agent of Service. Why is the City of San Juan Capistrano's address used for the OSF? I don't know of any other entities in our City that use the City Attorney and the City's address. Is that legal to use the City's address for your business? With all those coincidences, I am curious who paid for all the legal work? I hope it was not the taxpayers. The OSF is private as non of the minutes of the meetings are open to the public. None of the members are elected by the public. In regards to attending the Open Space Commission tonight, I am very curious about that comment. That comments is directly what I said in the beginning. One must attend a City Open Space Commission meeting to find out about the OSF. Now that I have been more specific, please tell exactly what I said that was non-factual. Please be specific and give me examples that I can see in writing, as I have given you.
followtheswallow June 07, 2011 at 06:40 AM
Smoothpuss2: You spew the same twisted distortions on most of your blog responses. Proving you wrong is not the point since the facts are what they are and your view of the facts are what they are. The OSF was formed when the Open Space Committee ended it's role after 5 years of work. Omar's work was done pro bono to aid the OSF to organized it's nonprofit corporation. He helped provide legal advise in the formation, then stepped aside. The city did not pay for his legal services. These facts are all a matter of public record of the Open Space Committee. Again, who by name are the good old boys you keep putting out in the blog? Or are they some fantasy group you make up? The OSF is not private. Try looking them up on the Secretary of the State of Calif. Once again you seem to disgard an invitation to attend a public meeting to gather information on the OSF, ask questions and seek the truth. I see that their website is still in development which is not uncommon for new organizations. The location of the dog park will change due to it's small size and traffic safety concerns, not because the city rolls over. Why not hold out on the negative BS until you have had a chance to see the work volunteers have done to improve public access and use of open space?
smoothpuss2 June 07, 2011 at 07:57 PM
followtheswallow: Please tell me what is distorted. All of this information is from the website for the OSF. If the work was truly done by Omar Sandoval, then post a copy of the bill showing the Pro Bono on your website. You can't because it was not provided pro bono. It was paid for by the taxpayers of San Juan through the City. It is a fact. As for the matter of public record of the OSC, why is the matter of the OSF finances and who is paying for it spoken about at a public meeting? If a membership is required, then it is not longer a public foundation. It is now a private foundation that requires membership. Please tell me when and where the OSF meetings are held? Nothing on your website tells when and where these "public" (as you say) are held. The only address listed on your website (see articles of incorp) is the San Juan City Hall. When I attended the OSC meeting last night I was shocked to learn that the OSF wants to charge the City some $80,000.00 to design a dog park ! Please. Why is the City not designing this dog park? This is public land not OSF land. I am just asking questions from the information that you have posted on your website. The more I read, the more I am finding out that the OSF is San Juan Capistrano's "Dirty Little Secret". Something tells me there is more, much more to this that has yet to be uncovered. Please post Omar's bill for the Pro Bono work. It should not be a problem for the OSF.
rick lyons June 08, 2011 at 07:29 PM
I have been following this thread, smoothpuss2 has been throwing out quite a few accusations against the Opend Space Foundation. When I checked the website to see what she wrote was correct or BS, I read thru it and she is correct. I have not seen anything solid evidence that disputes anything that she has said. It appears Smoothpuss is correct as the Open Space Foundation has not come up with any documents to show other wise. I have to agree, the City is in bed with the Open Space Foundation (figure of speach).
SJC Fan June 08, 2011 at 08:41 PM
I support freedom of speech and the absolute right to question our government. However, as much as I enjoy reading Patch on a daily basis, it does get old seeing the same people bitch about just about everything in this town. Instead of complaining, try getting involved or is your involvement limited to three minutes at CC meetings and posting blogs? If you have proof of wrongdoings by our leaders, let's hear it.
smoothpuss2 June 08, 2011 at 09:21 PM
SJC Fan, just a suggestion, read through this thread. No one has been able to answer any of the questions I have asked. No one is complaining. This is information that is on the OSF website and I asked questions. Show me the documents. That is, if there are documents.
smoothpuss2 June 09, 2011 at 02:13 AM
If you think about it, the OSF is funded by the taxpayers. The taxpayers purchased the 132 acres that the RMV Rodeo is at which was part of the purchase agreement (that is being reviewed for Brown Act violations by the California State Attorney General). The OSF is funded by a mechanism arranged by the City with the funds coming from the RMV Rodeo disbursements. It is right there in the 169 page purchase agreement with the City in black and white. If that is the case, then the taxpayers really own the OSF.
Adam June 09, 2011 at 11:36 PM
I had a chance to read the article and the comments today, and thought I might share some insight. I work in the environmental community, specifically managing open space areas; and work closely with many such organizations. The Open Space Foundation is not a unique entity, and in reality; one would be hard pressed to find many municipalities who own large amounts of open space, who don’t have a non-profit support group. Many of these groups likewise operate as membership organizations. Laguna Beach, OC Parks, Newport Beach, Local State Parks, the CNF, and many others all have similar support organizations. Some of these have literally raised millions of dollars for their respective areas, and have donated thousands of hours of volunteer labor. Being a membership organization does not make the entity a private organization. It’s simply an additional way to raise funds for their mission, and foster a sense of ownership and team building for the members. These types of groups are open for any member of the public to sign up as a member, or donate money, resources, and time to the group. Basically, foundations like the OSF simply act as an avenue for the public to become more involved with the areas. They can donate their money (tax deductible), services and labor for the direct benefit of the open space.
Adam June 09, 2011 at 11:37 PM
These foundations also often serve as the public watchdog group to make sure the municipalities are doing what they are supposed to; and help the municipalities get things done in a quicker and more efficient manner. The new multi-use staging area is a perfect example of these types of partnerships. Basically the residents of San Juan Capistrano are getting a new staging area that was funded and built with donated resources (money, equipment, and labor). The part that a city would typically contribute comes in the form of waived fees, and the cost for infrastructure facilities that would probably be provided at some point anyways via the approved CIP’s. This usually comes in the form of water, power, or sewer connections; curb cuts, access roads, etc…. Typically these foundations provide the funding for projects that are not already covered in the CIP’s. Also, having individuals or corporate donors place requirements on their donations is not unusual. Anyone who donates money to a non-profit has the ability to put a condition on their donation. An example would be that if I donated money to the OSF, and requested that it be used only to fund a kiosk or trough at a specific area; they would have to mark my donation as restricted funds to be used only for that purpose. If my request was of a nature that was out of character for their mission; they have the right to not accept my donation.
Adam June 09, 2011 at 11:37 PM
The fact that the RMV has listed the OSF as one of the recipient groups for funds stemming from the riding park is a very common bequest. Lastly, many municipalities do provide close support for these organizations; so having the city attorney assist with the corporate filing as the agent of service is not unusual. Having a close tie does not in of itself mean the foundation simply does the bidding of the city. Many such organizations actually have a requirement in their by-laws that at least one board member be comprised of a sitting park commissioner or similar city agent. Lastly, from what I have personally observed; the OSF simply makes public presentations at committee meetings and council meetings just like any other organization making a proposal. The proposed dog park for example has already gone through a couple of renditions, and it was the Open Space, Trails, and Equestrian Commission that requested the OSF look for alternate locations. Foundations like the OSF are a win-win for everyone; and the photos in the article speak for themselves. They show private individuals donating their time, materials and equipment to create a staging area that will benefit everyone in our community. Volunteerism typically brings out the best in people, and from looking at the photos; this project is a good example. Just some thoughts
rick lyons June 09, 2011 at 11:55 PM
Adam, it is obvious that your comments are well thought out. After reading your comments and smoothpuss, it still has not addressed several issues. Why are the taxpayers in our City paying for the Attorney fees of this organization? I have seen nothing to the contrary to this. Smoothpuss asked for proof that this work was pro-bono, but no evidence has appeared of that. I don't know of any other organizations that are allowed to use City Hall as their legal address. I have to disagree with you that it is a common bequest that RMV has listed OSF as a recipient group. Can you please give me any other examples of where the taxpayers have purchased real property, tha was leased out, and as a part of the purchase agreement there was a requirement that funds be donated to a specific organization. Since this article was written, I have done some further research. It appears that the California State Attorney General is investigating this purchase for possible Brown Act Violations by Mayor Mark Nielsen at that time. From what I read, only the purchase price and terms maybe discussed behind closed doors. All other terms must be out in the open. When the Orange County District Attorney forwards it on to the State Attorney General, that is not good. The more I did into this, the more I realize, smoothpuss is right. The City is in bed with the OSF.
rick lyons June 10, 2011 at 12:04 AM
Adam, did you ever check to see if the OSF ever indemnified the City (taxpayers) with liability insurance? If OSHA saw these photos, OSF would be shut down. The guy with the chain saw, no goggles. Glasses are not goggles. Smoking a pipe while using a chain saw!!! Is smoking allowed on City property? No chaps on while using a chain saw. The guy with the saws all. No protective eyeware, no gloves. He is wearing shorts using a cutting tool !! The guy with the drill in the white tank top. Again, sunglasses are not protective eyeware. Fingerless gloves do not cut it either. Adam, at least you wear the proper protection while riding a bike. These yahooos do not have a clue and are a risk by their behavior to the taxpayers.
Adam June 10, 2011 at 12:41 AM
I cannot speak for any particulars specific to the OSF's volunteers or insurance........many of these questions should probably be posed directly to them via their contact information. My comments are from my personal experience with these types of groups and how many of them are set up. One thing however that I did check was to take a look at their articles of incorporation; and I don't believe that the city's address is their legal address. It is simply the address for the initial agent for process of service. ie..."An agent for service of process is a person designated by the company to accept the delivery of legal papers for a lawsuit. A person serving as the agent needs to provide his/her complete address in California." Their physical legal address as listed on their IRS Form 990 is different. Since they are an organization that has a specific mission of supporting the city open space; it would seem logical that the person acting as the initial agent of service could be the city council. To me, this makes sense since any legal issues arising out of the foundations projects would undoubtedly include the city, since all the work they do is on city property. Again, I'm not specifically commenting to defend or justify the OSF. Just basically pointing out that from my observations, the OSF is not a unique entity. I think some of these specific questions could be answered by directly asking the source: legal address, insurance certs, ect.. Thanks!

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