EDITOR'S NOTE: On Monday, Trustee Jim Reardon of the Capistrano Unified School District detailed why he's against the 100-unit apartment complex proposed next to San Juan Hills High. We asked the representative of the property owner to replay. Here's Phillip Schwartze's response:
For a number of years, the owners of a 9.7 acre site near San Juan Hills High School having been working on approval of a 100-unit apartment home complex that has a 26-unit component that is affordable.
About 4 acres of the 9.7-acre site has been graded and sitting vacant for many years. It was suggested by City Council, at the time of the approval of the overall residential and school master plan, about 10 years ago, that the site would be good affordable apartment site. The city has designated the site for potential affordable housing in the recent draft housing element.
In June of 2012, the land owners initiated the entitlement-to-use process to build the 100 apartment homes. To this end the city prepared an environmental impact report and detailed traffic study that clearly noted the proposed apartment project did not contribute a significant amount of traffic to the area.
The ultimate builder of the apartment site has not been selected. Under any circumstance, after city approval, the apartment homes are at least three or four years from construction and opening. It should be noted any use on the vacant property, apartments or otherwise, would require an amendment to the city master plan and new zoning.
Twice a day, during the school year and during school hours, the school traffic problem exists and is expected to get worse. Because CUSD has no plans to add traffic improvements for either the existing or future 600-800 additional students to the school traffic, the land owners felt it incumbent upon themselves to add a new traffic signal and other traffic enhancing elements to the apartment project plans to improve the situation knowing CUSD is not prepared to do what is needed to improve the situation.
The apartment project now proposes to build a variety of expensive and un-required traffic improvements, including a new traffic signal that would dramatically reduce the traffic impacts now caused by the existing school traffic.
On Jan. 8, the trustees of the school board admitted that their issue with the apartment project was not traffic after all. The CUSD Board is desirous of the San Juan Capistrano City Council to not approve the apartment homes so CUSD might have a chance to buy the property to build a parking lot. However at no time has the CUSD board, in the last decade, discussed a potential purchase of the apartment site or any of the other nearby vacant property with the landowner.
It is now and has always been the intentions of the landowner to have an apartment specialist construct the apartment homes, including the affordable units that the city so desperately needs.
By approving the apartment homes, much needed traffic improvements will be installed and both market rate and affordable apartment homes will be made available.
Should you have any questions please call me at (949) 300-8619.
Phillip R. Schwartze, planning consultant