Originally posted at 7:59 a.m. Jan. 22, 2014. Edited to add new photo.
The San Juan Capistrano City Council considered rezoning three vacant lots in town for future affordable housing projects and nicked one of them from the list Tuesday.
A 9.5-acre parcel at the corner of Camino Las Ramblas and Via California will not allow very high density housing, up to 30 units an acre, the council decided. But one across from JSerra Catholic High School will, as will a lot just east of the I-5 Freeway in the center of town.
After a 1.5-hour hearing to consider another partly low-income project near San Juan Hills High which packed the council chambers, it was déjà vu all over again with residents who live in various tracts off Las Ramblas saying they don’t want to live near a housing project either.
“It used to be a big valley we could walk our dogs in. Since then it’s become a dumping zone to dump dirt,” said resident Britta Gallery. Residents said they were told is that it would a park or a school – not high-density apartments.
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Nelson Miller, a planning consultant in the process of handing the reins to a new planning director, said just because the city zones a property for high density doesn’t mean that’s how the land will ultimately be developed. However, the state does obligate all cities to plan to accommodate affordable housing, making it a possibility.
The Las Ramblas project would have been rezoned to allow 228 units.
“This is not what we signed up for and I think it’s a very poor fit,” said Brenda Lepper.
Many of the nine residents who spoke said the apartments at Las Ramblas next to the freeway -- the city's one and only apartment complex -- already bring a criminal element to the neighborhood. An affordable housing project would only exacerbate the problem.
Jim Maffetore said he was one of the victims in a recent rash of burglaries. Two of the three suspects came from the Capistrano Pointe Apartments. He also predicted traffic problems, parking problems and a hit to nearby property values.
The council did move to rezone the other two lots. Planners envision 48 units on the 4-acre parcel across from JSerra, a city-owned property known as the Groves, and 216 units at the 9-acre Ventanas project south of Calle Arroyo’s westerly end next to the freeway.
But all five agreed the Las Ramblas lot was off the list.
“It’s not compatible with surrounding areas, very similar to what went on early this evening,” with the apartments proposed next to San Juan Hills High School, said Mayor Sam Allevato.
The council now has until October to find and rezone another lot in town that will bring the potential number of affordable housing units in the city up to 371, said Charlie View, the city’s new planning director.