Decision on Apartments Proposed Next to San Juan Hills Delayed

City engineers will study whether newly added traffic measures will help traffic in an already congested area.

What the new apartments would look like. Graphic courtesy the city of San Juan Capistrano.
What the new apartments would look like. Graphic courtesy the city of San Juan Capistrano.

The developer who wants to build a 100-unit apartment complex next to San Juan Hills High School has come up with yet another plan to manage traffic near the campus, prompting the San Juan Capistrano City Council Tuesday to delay voting on the project until city traffic engineers have a chance to analyze the proposal.

In August, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the council deny the project in part because traffic already is congested near the school.

Phillip Schwartze, representing Woodbridge Pacific Group, said the new plans to handle traffic – which originally included a new traffic light but now also include restriping of lanes – would not only negate any traffic the apartment dwellers would cause but also improve the situation above and beyond its current state without the apartments.

The new plan, which city engineers did not have a chance to examine before the Tuesday meeting, would extend the two left-turn lanes from eastbound Vista Montana to La Pata for exiting traffic and add two right-turn lanes from southbound La Pata to Vista Montana to help the school back-up which often queues up far along the roadway.

“We found a way to build a better mousetrap,” Schwartze said.

But Jim Reardon, a trustee with the Capistrano Unified School District but speaking as a resident, said the city doesn’t need the apartment project to do the restriping. He also questioned the motives of the developer, saying he wants the approvals to make the land more valuable. In that way, if the school district ever wants it, it will come at a higher cost, which is ultimately borne by the taxpayers.

Councilman Roy Byrnes noted that the council couldn’t react to conjecture.

Meanwhile, residents who live in the new Valinda tract next to the high school begged the council to follow the Planning Commission’s recommendation.

“I love our home but I agree, our community was a bad idea,” said Linda Davis. “The school created the traffic problem, but we added to it.”

Davis said with the community only half built, an additional 100 units would only exacerbate the problem. As it is, her daughter, who attends San Juan Hills, can’t walk to school because there’s no direct route with sidewalks.

“It’s unsafe, I have to drive her. I play the game Frogger and hope I don’t get hit,” she said.

The council is scheduled take up the development proposal again on Jan. 21. The complex would be the first apartments built in San Juan Capistrano in 20 years, said Schwartze.

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