LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Thank You to the Ranch

Reader says the people behind Rancho Mission Viejo are not the big baddies they're portrayed to be.

By Mechelle Lawrence Adams

Dear Editor:

I’ve never written a letter to the editor before. However, recent negative and inaccurate information about the folks at the Ranch have compelled me as a daughter of Orange County, as a community member, and as a mother to speak up for what’s right and to share for the record what I believe.

First, the Ranch under the leadership of the late Richard O’Neil, Tony Moiso, and Gilbert Aguirre has made SJC a better place for all of us in significant and measureable ways. Those of us involved with the community know that without the individual qualities and leadership of Mr. O’Neil, Tony Moiso and Gilbert Aguirre (and all their Ranch family) this town would not be what it is today. The following is a sampling of what the Ranch has done for SJC in leadership capacities, financially, and with their personal, individual talents:

1. Founded a local annual rodeo for all to enjoy and showcase our rich equestrian heritage.

2. Supported, invested and helped to establish the Boys & Girls Club, to enrich the children of this valley.

3. Supported and invested in the Shea Center – to serve the needs of many in amazing ways using equine therapy.

4. Served, supported, and protected Mission San Juan Capistrano – to be Orange County’s most important California landmark –the Mission just wouldn’t be what it is today without the Ranch.

5. The Historical Society – Served and supported the society to make sure there is a group that can gather to celebrate and teach about local history to new generations. The annual BBQ at the Ranch property is really something to experience! Simply outstanding!

6. El Adobe Restaurant – keeps a cultural iconic restaurant available as a centerpiece to our wonderful array of restaurants and retail. Generations of Americans have and continue to seek out this specific restaurant as part of a bucket list.

7. Mission Promenade – Rehabilitated a failing corner commercial area to deliver a rich and varied retail, restaurant and local shopping experience. Do you remember what it used to look like? No outdoor dining, struggling aesthetics, need for preservation and a worn-down setting.

8. Delivering a much-needed, dual-purpose riding park that serves our local equestrian and soccer communities.

If the complainers are upset about what they think is a recent development proposal or threat to their commute, then they didn’t do their homework. Land uses are planned long before they ever get developed.

We are fortunate that this team, in stewarding a long range plan actually cares, and wants to do so in a way that will still deliver thousands of acres of open space, has reduced its density and thus allowable traffic, and worked to phase the effort. Not all “developers” would do this. But these folks aren’t just developers; they are part of SJC’s history.

As a mother, former city employee and a person who cares deeply about protecting our history, it’s important that all of us understand that the Ranch has long been caring for the land, employing locals, investing in our traditions, and protecting important non-profit programs in this community. Anyone who’s enjoyed any of the eight items in the list above has benefitted from the Ranch.

It’s time to say thank you, rather than to paint a picture of “big bad developer.”

Publicly, it’s just time to say thank you Tony, Gilbert and the entire Ranch team.

Mechelle Lawrence Adams

16 year resident and property owner of SJC

21 years combined working for the city and Mission SJC

And lastly, most importantly, Mother to Dylan and Lisa – San Juan Capistrano lifelong residents

Jonathan Volzke October 31, 2012 at 03:01 AM
His own non-profit that does nothing but build open space access for San Juan Capistrano, Clint. You should join so you can understand it. I know it's easier to attack it when you don't, but try something different. Have you even reviewed the public documents to see how money the Open Space Foundation receives from the Rodeo? Again, the facts would only dilute your argument. The fact: There is more open space accessible to the residents of San Juan Capistrano today than last year, than ever before. As for the rodeo, it benefits the city for it to be held there. Hotels are filled, restaurants are busy, the town holds on to its equestrian and agrarian . I support the city allowing the rodeo to use the land for a weekend a year without charge, just as I support the city allowing the Fiesta Association to put on the parade with various fee waivers, etc. I just continue to shake my head that you are convinced that the only way for your candidates to win is for you attack and attempt to undermine anyone who does not think like they (you) do. You should have more confidence in your candidates and offer up their strengths, rather than being so negative. I do in those I support. Sam Allevato and Ginny Kerr are the best candidates for City Council. Vote for them November 6.
SC life October 31, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Mechelle - not all of us in town agree with you that the Ranch is the altruistic philanthropist that you try to portray them to be. That riding park deal that was done behind closed doors was a big mistake in my opinion. If not for that deal and the way it was done, Tony Moiso and the Ranch (and Brad Gates) would not be the subject of derision and anger in SJC. He could have been the good old boy philanthropist that he has enjoyed being, but he and Gates overreached with that deal. Because of that deal Moiso is now seen as little more than another greedy developer who will stop at nothing to get his huge city built at our expense. Many of us SJC residents are tired of being the ATM for the Ranch’s wish to provide a park for THEIR new city. It’s not lost on us that the “open space” property was outside of town (in violation of the bond that we voted for and of what we were promised) and right across the street from Moiso’s new city he’s building, or that we were lied to about “saving [the property] from development” or that it was “for the residents of San Juan”. That backroom deal was quite likely one of the reasons why the status quo that Moiso bought and paid for is being challenged. As many of us see it, it’s a referendum on greed versus quality of life.
Clint Worthington October 31, 2012 at 03:26 AM
I went to see some of the work that was done by the Open Space Foundation and I was not impressed. At the lemon grove park (Reata), they OSF cut down 17 trees all without a permit. One of the trees was a heritage tree over 36 inches wide that required permission from the Planning Commission. No permits or approvals were ever obtained from the City or Planning Commission. I walked the property lemon grove park with Grant Taylor, Bill Ramsey and Nick Taylor and he stated permits were required. The damage was photographed. The complaint has already been filed. With all due respect Jonathan, no thank you in joining the OSF. I do have a copy of the legal bills that show the taxpayers of our city paid for the incorporation of the OSF and the revision of the Articles of Incorp, and the numerous phone calls the taxpayers paid for with the City Attorney, Brad Gates and Mark Nielsen. In addition, the taxpayers even paid the $15.00 filing fee to the Secretary of State for the OSF. Lets recap: Brad Gates the negotiator for the City purchased the 132 acres and in the PSA negotiated that his OSF would benefit from the proceeds from the rodeo. Then the City Attorney drew up and filed all of the documents for the OSF at taxpayer expense even listing the City Attorney at the City Hall address as the agent of service. It appears to me that the taxpayers are the actual owner of the OSF since we paid for it, therefore all meetings should be subject to the Brown Act
Clint Worthington October 31, 2012 at 03:39 AM
In order to answer your question, I did study the tax return of the OSF that you can obtain on Guidestar.org. I did find interesting that there was one question on the tax return for 2009. Did you receive any type of governmental assistance? The answer was no. The OSF did not include the amount the taxpayers paid for the Articles of Incorporation, conferences with the City Attorney, etc. I have given you the source that you can look it up and verify the information. If you would like me to send you a copy of the legal bills showing the charges to the taxpayers, let me know. The taxpayers were never reimbursed for this expense nor was it done gratis by Omar Sandoval.
Jonathan Volzke October 31, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Again, Clint, the city benefits, not Mr. Gates. He, and the OSF, perform a service that benefits the city. I'm sure if there was something illegal, you and your group would have sued. Again. You're just our own little ghost buster. Fortunately, I ain't afraid of no ghosts.
Clint Worthington October 31, 2012 at 03:54 AM
Jonathan, whenever someone disagrees with you, it is always an attack. Always. In this case, people need to be aware that this letter writer (Mechelle) is not speaking as a concerned resident. She has an agenda. That agenda is the person she is writing about Tony Moiso and the ranch are her boss! There was no full disclosure that the person she was writing about was her employer! Jonathan, are you going to tell me that Tony Moiso is not her employer, Brad Gates did not negotiate with Tony Moiso, the PSA contains verbage that the OSF (Brad Gates) will receive funds from the rodeo ? Those are all facts. You do a great job of dancing around the facts when they are presented to you. Please tell me where any of the above is incorrect?
Clint Worthington October 31, 2012 at 04:08 AM
Where is the benefit? Trees cut down without permits and permission from the City. Taxpayers paying 100% of the cost to Incorporate the OSF. I could go on and on. No reason to sue. It is the City who is harmed and would sue. I am glad that you are not afraid of ghosts. But it would be great if the people that you represent made the correct disclosures and would color within the lines.... So far, they have done neither.
Jonathan Volzke October 31, 2012 at 04:15 AM
SC Life, The RMV development was approved by the OC Board of Supervisors long before the open space deal was reached. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/mission-345695-moiso-rancho.html Some express concern that the city gave up its "right to sue the Ranch," but The Ranch was sued, the plan is the result of litigation with several entities. And again, it's hard to sue in 2012 -- even 2009 when the Open Space deal was reached -- for a plan approved in 2004. Development was approved for the property. Some Common Sense members like to say the land was not suitable for development because it is a flood plain, but the very tract CCS writer Clint Worthington lives in was also in a flood plain. The developer brought it dirt and raised the entire property by five feet -- out of the flood plain. Please see Planning Subarea 1.3 from this report: http://www.ranchoortega.com/blog/archives/112 It reads:This small planning area was originally approved for 20 acres of Urban Activity Center with up to 300,000 square feet of office/retail. We believe that this parcel was part of the land sale to the City of San Juan Capistrano, and that this area may be developed into a city park. The area was saved from development. I understand you have concerns, but please try to approach your questions with an open mind. There are answers.
Mechelle Lawrence Adams October 31, 2012 at 04:38 AM
Jonathan, You are so well written. Btw- Seems just on what I've seen lately it is easier to impugn the character of people and distort those that make a difference.
Jonathan Volzke October 31, 2012 at 04:42 AM
That's funny you say that, Clint. The people you support were publicly called liars by the OC GOP for giving false information and Patch has pointed out "mistakes" in both of Ms. McCarthy's financial disclosure forms. Again, thanks to the current City Council and the OSF, more open space is open and accessible to residents today than any other time in SJC history. That is worth celebrating. Vote Allevato and Kerr.
Clint Worthington October 31, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Jonathan, and the eight year incumbent that you support, Sam Allevato could not get the endorsement of his own party with Diane Harkey standing right next to him ! I was there and I watched her work the individuals in the Republican Central Committee. It could have been his support for Larry Agran. It could have been the money he accepted from the public employees union. Either way, it was no endorsement for Sam or Ginny. Jonathan, you are a homeowner. Can you imagine after owning a home for 22 years that you would owe almost the same amount on it as when you purchased the property. That is exactly what happened to the taxpayers here in SJC. The taxpayers purchased the Kinoshita property and after 22 years we still owe almost the same amount as when we purchased the property ! We have paid down some on the property, I wil admit, but not much. When it became before Sam Allevato to either pay off the loan from the Kinoshitas for the purchase of the property as the loan had matured, or extend the loan further, his decision was to extend the loan and not pay it off !! More interest expense !! So much for Sam Allevato being fiscally conservative. As for more open space being open, maybe if you had read the PSA for the RMV Riding Park, you would have read that there were dates that improvements had to be completed to the Open Space. This was not done out of the generosity of the City Council, it was a requirement in the PSA. You might want to read it. I did.
Clint Worthington October 31, 2012 at 05:44 AM
Mechelle, if you had disclosed at the bottom of your letter that Tony Moiso of Rancho Mission Viejo was your boss at the Mission, your letter would have been more believable. I included the website information that people can look at to verify this information in a previous comment. If this is incorrect Mechelle, then please let me know. I used the official website for the Mission that lists your name on it and Tony Moiso. BTW, it is not easy. I spend a fair amount of time researching the information and providing the documentation so that people can read for themselves and form their own opinion based upon the documents. I am not paid by a public relations firm, nor am I a lobbyist for anyone. If you notice, I don't find it necessary to tell people who to vote for at the end of every comment.
Jonathan Volzke October 31, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Clint, Thanks to the OSF, the 2c Ranch is open, the Northwest Open Space (purchased with the 1990 bond) is open with an improved parking area. The council is generating income with the open space through the Swanner House and the Blenheim Lease, and yes, the CC put the clause in the contract calling for the improvements on the eastern Open Space. More open space is open and accessible today than ever before in San Juan Capistrano. I know you just want to complain, but that is the truth. Vote Allevato and Kerr. I'm still waiting for the post where you blame Sam Allevato for it being dark at night , so you can claim credit for the sun coming up in the morning. (You seem to read a lot. Maybe you should try to read less, so you can slow down and absorb what you're looking at.)
Clint Worthington October 31, 2012 at 06:13 AM
Jonathan, if the "right to sue the ranch" is not such a big deal and would be so difficult to sue, then maybe you can speak to Tony Moiso and have this removed from the PSA. If it is so hard to sue, then Mr. Moiso should have alot of confidence and would not have a problem removing it from the PSA. I cannot find anywhere in the CCS that the RMV Riding Park was talked about being in the flood plain. I can find numerous references to the recorded conservations easements. Of course, who controls those easements, the RMV Conservation ! It just never ends. Jonathan, the definition of a flood plain is repeated flooding. The tract that I live in is not located in a flood plain. However, a good portion of the tract is located within a 100 year flood zone, but it has never been in a flood plain. A flood plain and a flood zone are two entirely different things. Even during the 1969 floods this property did not flood. It is true, the property was raised. Unfortunately Laura Freese's house in the same tract is located in the 100 year flood zone. I believe Dave Adams is also. My home is not, as it is located on one of the higher elevations in the tract. I did check the ranchoortega.com blog that you reference in your comment. Click on "About This Blog". It is a "fictional homestead on the internet". In fact the introduction was written by none other than Don Juan Ortega ! Sorry, you were duped.
Clint Worthington October 31, 2012 at 06:25 AM
Jonathan, the "Council is generating income". How does the council generate income? It is the private business that went into the Swanner home and the clients that spend money there are the income generators. Next, I fully expect you will say that Sam is responsible for the success of Costco ! You are absolutely right Jonathan. I fully agree with you. Sam has left the residents in the dark for along time and we are now seeing the light. I know you are ok with being in the dark because as you say "I ain't afraid of no ghosts". The rest of us Jonathan are going towards the light. (notice, I don't tell you who to vote for at the end or in each comment)
4 square October 31, 2012 at 02:58 PM
The city may derive some benefit from the riding park, but not nearly the benefit that the guy who leases the property does. And this deal was hardly philanthropy on Tony Moiso's part. The Ranch got $30 million cash from the taxpayers of San Juan for a piece of property that couldn't be developed in the middle of a real estate slump. When is the next movie night?
Don Juan Ortega October 31, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Thanks for the link to our blog, Jonathan (and thanks for checking us out, Clint). First, our blog is not for nor against Rancho Mission Viejo. We're just local residents who were frustrated by the lack of information on the RMV development and thought we'd share what we learned via a blog. We also talk about other topics of interest to us, with a heavy focus on Ladera Ranch and San Juan Capistrano. Check us out at www.ranchoortega.com/blog. We're big supporters of Patch, by the way! Planning area 1.3 is the small sliver of land south of Ortega, across from Reata, that San Juan Capistrano is converting into the passive grove park. The Riding Park was actually Planning Area 1.5. From our blog: "The original Ranch Plan contemplated 74 acres of residential development in this subarea, but we believe that this development was eliminated when the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park was sold to the City of San Juan Capistrano. So, to our knowledge, there will not be any residential development in subarea 1.5." This blog post was dated March 13th before RMV released any of maps for the Village of Sendero, so we weren't sure of the details then, but we are now. In one sense, yes the purchase of the Riding Park eliminated development. But my feeling was that RMV never wanted to develop the Riding Park or lose the Rodeo anyway and they used the threat of development as a bargaining chip, but what do I know? I'm just a fictional character on the internet!
Mechelle Lawrence Adams October 31, 2012 at 05:06 PM
My only comment, Tony is not my boss. He was the founding, volunteer, president of the Foundation. My direct boss is Monsignor Holquin. And yes as I said, Tony has supported the Mission. Everyone knows that. On a separate and final note, it is irresponsible of anyone to call this town a bedroom community. That over simplifies a very special and complicated community, founded and steeped in history. Bedroom communities are not disected by a freeway, have a State-run highway, regional creeks and rivers, and a train station and more. They also don't have an international name recognition necessarily, a California landmark, and an equestrian community that brings Olympians and world athletes. Our town is very special, and requires leadership by whomever is elected that brings people together, on a regional level as well as local. We stand to lose too much if we can't build bridges across jurisdictional lines, and work with the communities and impacts at our borders. If San Juan was a bedroom community it wouldn't be so special, it's got a small population but regional issues facing it. Leadership requires talents in building relationships and sustaining them. That is my final comment. Great responses Jonathan and I agree with them. Have a good day.
Whiskey Bent October 31, 2012 at 05:55 PM
Irresponsible of anyone to call this town a bedroom community? What are you guys growing inside those Mission walls?
Jonathan Volzke October 31, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Prop. 13 pretty much wiped out the "bedroom community" in California. Cities now need a balance of retail and commercial to create a tax base to maintain services demanded by residents. That is one of the challenges faced by Capistrano that others -- such as Laguna Niguel -- do not. SJC was laid out more than 50 years ago, with little need for commercial centers. When that changed with Prop. 13 in 1978, the game changed for city finances. Commercial was important, and infrastructure (streets) needed to support it... (And while I know some like to dismiss anyone who disagrees with them, Mechelle Lawrence is an urban planner. I'd go with her on this one.)
sjcnative1 November 01, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Volzke- why should we believe you or Adams? You continually lied to the people of Capistrano with your biased views in the paper. Now I find out your a paid lobbyist. It all make sense now. The laughable part is, you are now stating Proposition 13 is the root of all the problems. You liberals are all the same . As for Adams, she cannot even get the first sentence out correctly without telling a lie. Whenever Volzke writes something, as soon as I get to the first lie, I stop reading. Adams is no different. Excepts this time I only made it to the first sentence before the lie meter swung off the charts.
4 square November 01, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Its been almost 35 years since prop 13 changed the game. In that time the tax base in San Juan has expanded exponentially, mostly because of residential development. That seems to effectively undermine your point about prop 13 relative to San Juan. The city council has been made up of candidates backed by the ranch, for the most part, forever. If anything, they have neglected to foster a commercial/retail balance. The only perceptible attempt to draw business to town has been to throw redevelopment money out and hope for some return. At best, the council shave been simply unresponsive to the needs of the larger community to the benefit of developers. Open space is the smoke and mirrors they have used to placate everyone. But by taking large chunks of property off the tax rolls, open space only makes the issue worse. SInce there isn't much planned for San Juan beyond housing and open space, it does not seem inaccurate to call it a bedroom community.
shelly November 02, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Clint Worthington, Often times when a person writes one letter to the editor they will send it to multiple editors.
shelly November 02, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Clint Worthington, Often times when a person writes one letter to the editor they will send it to multiple editors.
shelly November 02, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Clint Worthington, I googled and only found this letter.
shelly November 02, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Clint Worthington, I googled and only found this letter.
Matt Gaffney November 02, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Good old Clint, never one to let the facts get in the way of a good rant.
shelly November 02, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Clint Worthington, If they are there then perhaps you can post a link because I cannot find them. Thank you.
Clint Worthington November 02, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Matt, I you believe I am incorrect, please show me the documents that I am incorrect. i tell you where you can read the documents for yourself.
shelly November 02, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Clint Worthington, It is one letter.


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