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76 Station Razed, Property in Limbo

Ed Franks says transportation officials want to build a 100-foot curb in front of the property at 27164 Ortega Hwy. in San Juan Capistrano, which will "destroy the economic viability" of the land.

Ed Franks’ goal seemed simple enough: build a gas station along a busy street on a piece of San Juan Capistrano land that, until recently, had a gas station for almost 50 years.

But Franks, a Pasadena resident and the de facto manager of the last remaining piece of property of a famous Orange County landowner, has been waiting months for Caltrans to tell him the fate of his land.

“The bottom line: Nothing’s happening, and that’s the truth and the tragedy,” Franks said.

Since August 2010, Franks has been hoping for news about the former site of the 76 gas station on Ortega Highway by the 5 freeway, a site that he says will be ruined by the upcoming Ortega Highway interchange project—an .

After more than 10 years of thinking that the land at 27164 Ortega Hwy. would not be impacted by the upcoming construction, Franks, a 59-year-old economist, said that Caltrans officials told him last August they were planning to put up a 100-foot-long curb along the property line, blocking entrance to the site.

Questionably Profitable

In August 2010, Franks said, Caltrans officials told him he would receive a letter of intent from Caltrans regarding the property in November. The letter still hasn't shown up.

Initially, Franks said he examined the environmental impact report for the upcoming project and found no mention of any impact to his property.

“They've destroyed the economic viability of the property,” Franks said, in a phone interview last week. “The term they use is that they've designated it an 'economic remnant.' "

City spokeswoman Kelly Tokarski said that to the knowledge of those in San Juan's community redevelopment department, there would only be some relatively minor frontage acquisition that wouldn't directly affect the gas station.

Franks disagrees.

“They might as well put up a 10-foot wall," Franks said in an interview Thursday.  

He said that the plot of land is near a very busy interchange, and without the curb, a new gas station could make a tidy profit for whatever company rents the land.

The plot of land is the last piece of land owned by , the unofficial “King of Capistrano.”  

The rental fees from that could earn at least $250,000 a year, which would then be spread among 14 of Egan’s relatives, according to Franks. 

Franks said that he’s talked with Caltrans project managers and asked them to “just give me 30 feet” worth of an entrance, but he said Caltrans' officials said their “hands were tied.”

“I think that what has happened to us is nothing malicious,” Franks said. “It’s just that we were such a small player in this whole deal that nobody noticed that we were going to be destroyed by this whole redo.”

Please, Mr. Postman

The property has been a gas station since at least 1962, according to Franks. The lease that ConocoPhillips had on the property expired in June of this year, and the former 76 site was razed in May.

Franks had hoped that he could rent the property to another gas station company, but he said prospective renters were scared off when they found out about the 100 feet of curb that would block the entrance.

As of Aug. 11, Franks said he was still waiting for a letter of intent from Caltrans stating that the agency plans to buy part or all of his land.

In December, he said, Caltrans officials told him to expect a letter in February. 

“All we can do right now is wait for Caltrans to send us a letter,” Franks said Thursday.

After request for comment, Caltrans spokesperson Tracey Lavelle said Caltrans has “not acquired this property at this time.”

“As with most projects, the appraisal and acquisition process for affected property owners occurs at various times in the project,” Lavelle said in an e-mail.

Not 'Crazy Angry' but Ready to Litigate

And he said that once that happens, he plans to follow the letter with legal action if he doesn't get an entrance.

“We're going to sue them like crazy,” he said. “We've got to. I mean, it's my fiduciary responsibility. I’ve got 14 really angry relatives.”

In another phone interview he said he wanted to emphasize that he is “not crazy angry” but feels that he has “been treated unfairly. “

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