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San Juan Hills School Access Threatened by Proposed Apartments

School Board is urging City to deny zoning for apartments at San Juan Hills.

Jim Reardon, CUSD Trustee
Jim Reardon, CUSD Trustee

Last Wednesday, the Capistrano USD Board unanimously approved a resolution recommending that the San Juan City Council deny the application for rezoning connected with the proposed 100-unit apartment project on Vista Montana next to San Juan Hills High School. The resolution cites two reasons for this recommendation, 1) traffic, and 2) a capacity problem at San Juan Hills that may result in students residing in San Juan Capistrano being denied access to the school. I want to focus here on the latter issue.

When CFD (or Mello-Roos) financing is used to construct a school, those who pay the CFD tax have a priority access to the school. The law provides that this priority is proportional to the amount of money contributed from each CFD. Much of the money contributed to construct San Juan Hills originated in CFDs, the largest proportion coming from Ladera Ranch and Talega. Contributions from San Juan Capistrano CFDs have been very small. San Juan Capistrano has few districts and they encompass small areas (Pacifica San Juan, Rancho Madrina, and Valinda).

Some have argued that there is no reason to be concerned; that formal school boundaries govern enrollment. While not false, the statement is not helpful because does not consider all the factors that determine where a student enrolls in high school. The priority is a fact today and it is not connected with the school boundaries. When the time comes to adjust the boundaries, the school board will be bound to take the priority into consideration. CUSD will not be able to introduce boundaries that restrict access to the school contrary to state law.

CUSD has an open enrollment policy. Thus, many students have enrolled in schools outside of the formal school boundary framework subject to the capacity limitations of the receiving school. San Juan Hills is a receiving school now but it is almost full. With the opening of La Pata to Talega we can expect a shift in Talega enrollment to San Juan Hills that will cause open enrollment to be limited or eliminated. If there isn't sufficient capacity to accommodate priority enrollment from Ladera and Talega, then it will be necessary to adjust the boundaries to make room for those with priority. Students from San Juan Capistrano (i.e., Marco Forster) are without priority for the most part.

What triggers this situation is the capacity of the school. If San Juan Hills cannot expand to accept the new students from Talega, then those without priority status will be directed to alternative schools either by limiting of open enrollment or a boundary adjustment. If this happened today the alternative schools would be Capo Valley High School or San Clemente High School. Dana Hills High School is currently full. Fortunately, it isn't necessary today, or even next year. But only reason this hasn't already occurred is that access to San Juan Hills from Talega is so difficult at the present time.

This issue arises only now because of a confluence of four events:

    1. San Juan Hills finally nearing capacity,
    2. County approval of the La Pata extension,
    3. Approval of the Rancho Mission Viejo school agreement, and
    4. The developer's application for a zoning change for the apartments.

The RMV agreement projects that future development will generate an increase of 800 students to the high school enrollment. The priority status of these students will depend on how RMV and CUSD arrange to finance the school construction to house these students. If a CFD is used, these students will also have proportional priority wherever the money is spent. San Juan Hills is the closest school to RMV’s Planning Area 2 and Planning Area 3, though distant access to Tesoro may be possible for some (assuming planned roads such as "F" street are built).

When I was elected to the Board, I brought these issues to the attention of my colleagues and district staff almost immediately. Since last January, we have been attempting to engage the developer who, ironically, alerted me to his application before the city for rezoning when he complained of delay in communicating with district staff. Since that time, the district has sought to have a serious discussion with the developer about the project without success. Instead, the developer has informed the school district of his desire to see his application for rezoning through "to the end," before having substantive discussions with CUSD. It is easy to understand why he would take this position, since approval of his application will increase the value of the property in question by a factor of 10!

This has not been a controversial or contentious issue among the trustees as evidenced by our 7-0 vote to approve the resolution on Wednesday night. We all want to protect the public's $150+ million investment in San Juan Hills, and preserve access to the school for everyone who chooses to attend. We also want to avoid disruption to the carefully coordinated  programs at San Juan Hills which serve the unique mix of students living in San Juan Capistrano.

The decision facing the San Juan Capistrano City Council on Jan. 21 is discretionary. This means the developer is not entitled to a positive decision and the City Council does not need a reason to deny the application for rezoning. Nevertheless, very good reasons to deny the rezoning actually exist, as I've just described.

Everyone who enjoys San Juan Hills High School today or who plans to do so future years should contact the San Juan Capistrano City Council to voice an opinion. Whether you live in Ladera Ranch, Talega or San Juan, the capacity of the school and the obvious traffic issues will affect you.

One email will reach the entire council:

cityclerk@sanjuancapistrano.org

View the CUSD resolution here: http://goo.gl/Vo5eS2

Donna Fleming January 20, 2014 at 08:20 PM
JV.. I do not enjoy spreading lies about anyone. Why would I? What do I gain? You always jump in Johnathan with a pro city argument that does not make sense. Like high density housing next to a high school. That is a terrible Idea. Traffic, crime, and it benefits a real estate developer. Not the city, the kids or the community. We have high density housing off Camino Capistrano, and that is where we have problems. Johnathan have you ever lived in high density housing? You would not want your kids hanging out there after school, or during lunch.
Gus Gunderson January 20, 2014 at 08:44 PM
JV you post and then delete when you are wrong. Of course you are involved with San Juan Cares. We have seen the emails. If I was you, I too would want to distance myself as far as I could JV. But you can't. You are in too deep. Now, what is exactly the penalty for not building affordable housing? Since you are so in the know, please explain JV exactly what that penalty is? Then you can delete it when you find out that you once again have made a mistake.
Jonathan Volzke January 21, 2014 at 12:35 AM
So Donna, why do you say I work for the city or have anything to do with the mailers? They're both lies. "Gus," you know you're lying, too. The emails of which you speak show that I was copied on one email and there was no reply. Please, let's debate with the truth. Of course, you have all the credibility of any other anonymous poster here. As for the penalties, failing to provide affordable housing leaves the city open to a lawsuit. See http://www.publicadvocates.org/urban-habitat-v-city-of-pleasanton which is just one case. Mission Viejo went through a similar issue. Now, in this city, there are folks such as Clint Worthington and Jim Reardon, who sue the city and other agencies often. I suspect this whole thing, orchestrated with Reardon, is part of plan to prevent the City from meeting its affordable housing requirements, so he and Worthington and Perry can sue about that, too. They create the problem, then sue because of it. Classic Common Sense.
Jonathan Volzke January 21, 2014 at 12:36 AM
Gus, since you're in the know, could the school district use imminent domain to acquire the land if it's needed for a school expansion?
Jonathan Volzke January 21, 2014 at 12:44 AM
Donna, saying I always jump in pro-city is like saying you always jump in anti-city, which you do. So what?
Donna Fleming January 21, 2014 at 02:14 AM
JV,,,I have been complaining about the high water bills for a couple of years. Complaining to the water company. I questioned the water company personnel about the ground water system. When would we have access to ground water? Then, I didn't know we NEVER would have access to ground water. We were just expected to pay for a system that helped the city pay to water the parks and golf courses etc. The city never told me that I would never have a ground water system. Finally a community member took the issue to court. We got a judgement from Judge Munoz. I was euphoric. Yea, justice. Then the city appeals the judgement. The legal bleeding goes on and Allevato will not do the right thing, which is to write the residents a check for the over billing. Meanwhile we find out parcels of land are purchased by our city council to hold events in a park off La Pata. And, we have to pay to maintain this park. $300,000 a year. It was handled behind closed doors. No one knew about the land purchase. This is why I am watching Allevato and his gang. I no longer blindly trust our city council. Regarding the rezoning of land across the street from the school to build low income housing; that is just a bad idea for a million reasons. Sell the park off La Pata to the developer to develop low income housing. Do not put high density low income housing near a school. That is common sense. And, those are my reasons for watching and questioning everything the city does. I no longer trust them.
Donna Fleming January 21, 2014 at 05:40 AM
The difference JV....is that I jump in for the community, you jump in for the existing city government.
Jonathan Volzke January 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM
Donna, do you recognize you're wrong about most of the things you're mad about?
Donna Fleming January 21, 2014 at 12:40 PM
JV, They say there are no dumb questions, but I think that was a dumb.
Gus Gunderson January 21, 2014 at 02:04 PM
Donna, that is JV MO: you are wrong, but he won't tell you why you are wrong. Facts continuously allude Jonathan Volske.
Gus Gunderson January 21, 2014 at 02:06 PM
JV, since you are in the know, how was the land acquired for San Juan Hills High School? That should answer your question.
Jonathan Volzke January 21, 2014 at 02:34 PM
Come on, Gus, add some value here.
Jonathan Volzke January 21, 2014 at 02:42 PM
Gus, as for Donna's statement, we can start with the "we would never have access to groundwater." We are using groundwater today.
Donna Fleming January 21, 2014 at 02:56 PM
JV,,,Residents do not have access to ground water for their yards. Access means one can turn on a valve. Ground water is only for the parks, golf courses, etc., not homes. I did have ground water in Nor cal and Central Cal. you could turn on a valve and get ground water, used for pools, landscaping, etc. not for drinking or cooking. Judge Munoz ruled that charging residents for a system of ground water thru fees was illegal. What does it take, a rosetta stone? We have been paying for something we do not have and will never have. The city has ground water not the residents. We just have the high water bills. Most cities do not charge residents for ground water used for parks. Just San Juan Capistrano.
Jonathan Volzke January 21, 2014 at 03:00 PM
Donna, are you confusing groundwater, which we get from the Groundwater Recovery Plant and use in our homes and in our yards, with recycled water? We have been paying for, and using groundwater. The city was developing a recycled water system, and that was one of the subjects of the lawsuit.
Gus Gunderson January 21, 2014 at 03:04 PM
Did the court rule that the residents should be required to pay for recycled water that they did not receive?
Jonathan Volzke January 21, 2014 at 03:09 PM
Gus, can the school district use eminent domain to acquire the property for school expansion?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 21, 2014 at 03:14 PM
Yes, we drink the groundwater. Recycled water is a different item, and one to which we do not, as regular homeowners, have access. Two different things, but not on point about the apartments proposed next to the high school. There are many articles and other posts where you can get into the water issue in depth.
Jonathan Volzke January 21, 2014 at 04:41 PM
Penny, do you know whether the school district can use eminent domain to acquire the proposed apartment property for a school expansion?
Christie January 21, 2014 at 04:58 PM
Penny, I hear/read a lot about the production from the GWRP, but (I am asking because I do not know) don't' we need ground water (rain) in order to be producing potable water from it? Thank you.
Clint Worthington January 21, 2014 at 05:16 PM
Christie, a recent study shows that the water table is dropping requiring the wells to be dug further to reach the potable water. Presently, the water is quite harsh and causes the pumps, well lining and all the filters to fail prematurely. The study also showed that the salt water incursion from the ocean is a huge threat to the the decrease in the water table. The cost to try and prevent the salt water incursion is about 100 million dollars. In the time of drought, the Ground Water Recovery Plant becomes useless.
Christie January 22, 2014 at 06:13 PM
Thank you, Clint, but why then are we pursuing this as a 100% source for our water? It doesn't sound possible.
Mark Speros January 22, 2014 at 07:38 PM
You should ask Sam ~ he keeps crowing about the GWRP (as recently as last Saturday at Vons) "covering 100% of the cities needs" Fact - in 8 years of operation, it only succeeded in it's second year. This is after the production goals have been dropped three, if not four times.
Mark Speros January 22, 2014 at 08:03 PM
There were some very interesting issues raised last night, though. First, is CUSD responsible for traffic improvements outside school property? And if so, how far away from a school property do their responsibilities extend? Otherwise, it would seem to fall under the city's jurisdiction, not CUSD's ~ right? (I thought that's why we have city traffic engineers and city planners?) That leads to the issue of CUSD's ability to purchase the land. Last night, I thought I heard the city council admonish CUSD for not buying it outright a long time ago, or using eminent domain now. Yet Jim's report above states they've approached the current property owners several times without success...but last night those same property owners claimed they'd tried to give at least the 2 acre parcel to CUSD without success. So what's the real story? Clearly CUSD hasn't been rolling in money in the last decade, (i.e. layoffs, furlows <sp?>, raising class sizes, etc) so I'm guessing funding comes into play somewhere. Lastly, I was shocked by the first person account of the multi-vehicle accident outside the school. If I heard correctly, no emergency vehicles could reach the site. I realized with that concrete barrier, there isn't a way around unless they drive head on into oncoming traffic - of trash trucks going down hill! Bad enough for an accident, but God forbid we have a Columbine-like incident it sounds like we'd be paralyzed through our out lack-of-planning. By the way, Kudo's to the SJHHS female ASB representative who spoke. She was very articulate, had her facts straight, and presented a well crafted statement. I didn't catch her name, but her's was certainly the second most applauded speech! (Penny, name?)
Smokey Bear January 28, 2014 at 01:43 AM
Stay in School Kids,,,, that is if you can find one.....
Sunshine January 29, 2014 at 12:00 PM
Who would be the developers of this apartment project?
Donna Fleming January 29, 2014 at 01:03 PM
I thought the rezoning was not approved for apartments. Did I miss something? The school needs the land. Mello Roos paid for the bulk of the school, but the kids from Marco still need a school to attend. Of course there is always JSerra, a great school if parents can afford it.
Sunshine January 30, 2014 at 01:09 AM
Sorry, who would HAVE been the developer?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 30, 2014 at 01:46 AM
The landowner is CalPERS. Woodbridge Homes, the one building Valinda and Mirador, was processing the apartment application, but they may not have been the final builder.
Sunshine January 30, 2014 at 03:10 PM
Thanks, Penny! You are always an encyclopedia of knowledge! :)

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