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OPINION: Why the 100 Apartments Next to SJHHS Should Be Approved

The project would bring much needed traffic improvements to the area, the property owner's representative says.

Phillip Schwartze represents the owner of the property next to San Juan Hills High School, where a 100-unit apartment complex is provided. Still of a Patch video by Penny Arévalo
Phillip Schwartze represents the owner of the property next to San Juan Hills High School, where a 100-unit apartment complex is provided. Still of a Patch video by Penny Arévalo

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 

pjd January 18, 2014 at 08:33 PM
Jim Reardon is definitely on the side of common sense.
Tornado Johnson January 18, 2014 at 08:45 PM
I agree with you. Jim Reardon's point of view made much more sense.
shelly January 18, 2014 at 09:33 PM
The rezoning of the land under power lines to build apartments will limit the capacity of SJHHS to grow. This will limit the capacity of SJHHS and with La Pata going through and homes being built down the hill the children of San Juan Capistrano will be crowded out of the only public school in their city.
shelly January 18, 2014 at 09:39 PM
The SJC Planning Committee who studied this issue recommend are against rezoning this land. Please e-mail the SJC City Council and attend the SJC city council meeting on Jan. 21 and tell the city council to represent and care about future and current generations of SJC children and vote NO on rezoning this land adjacent to the high school. sallevato@sanjuancapistrano.org, lkramer@sanjuancapistrano.org, jtaylor@sanjuancapistrano.org, rbyrnes@sanjuancapistrano.org, dreeve@sanjuancapistrano.org
Don_SJC January 19, 2014 at 12:05 AM
Hi there Tornado, just so you don't think I am totally opposed to everything you post, I agree with you here. Both for PJD's double entendre that Jim Reardon is "on the side of common sense" (tell me something I don't know right?) and that Mr. Reardon made the better case. If you read the opinion here the entire thing is just a retelling of the background of this matter. There is no argument for the merits of building the apartments other than in the last paragraph. I find the assertion that building apartments will improve traffic is dubious at best and hopefully the City can meet the State mandated affordable housing goals with projects at the other SJC sites that have been mentioned in past Patch articles.
rob January 19, 2014 at 09:21 AM
Where is the water coming from to furnish all the growth including these apartments. YAY! Less water, more traffic problems, (no matter what's proposed), more smog,. That's OK I forgot, the almighty dollar is more important.
Donna Fleming January 19, 2014 at 12:40 PM
Low income housing across from the high school? How is that a good idea in any stretch of the imagination? Better traffic control? This kind of housing allows for section 8 renters. Lots of cars in a dense housing complex. Children who are latch key kids. Anyone can see down the road and see that this is a huge draw for drug dealers. Low income housing means kids who are unsupervised. Put this complex right next to a high school. Traffic yes, and not just cars.
shelly January 19, 2014 at 03:01 PM
Donna Fleming, One of my dearest friends lived in low income housing in San Clemente for several years. It was not full of latch key kids and drug dealers but it housed families who were working to survive and be together. Let's not make people who live below the poverty line the bad guys here. SJC must build affordable housing. A more appropriate area for affordable housing would be an area closer to access to shopping and public transportation. Traffic, environmental issues and limiting the capacity should be the issues to dissuade this rezone. Children be they rich or poor should not be living under power lines. And when the school district, CUSD, definitively tells the SJC City Council this will impact the ability of SJC children to go to SJHHS, the city's only public high school, the city council should listen and vote for no for rezoning the land. The SJC City Council Mayor and members were elected to represent the citizens and their children and they should do so.
Donna Fleming January 19, 2014 at 03:13 PM
Shelly.... Please use just Donna when responding. I have lived in low income neighborhoods myself. I have come home from work to a break in and my home trashed. My daughter had to move from a complex in Irvine, when a project like this went up behind her. Kids with no supervision get into trouble. Noise, damage to cars and property. My point was, building low income housing next to a high school is an invitation to drug dealers. The drugs and people being smuggled across the border is a problem that is getting worse not better. My kids are out of High School, but if they attended the SJHHS across from the proposed low income housing I would be alarmed.
shelly January 19, 2014 at 04:06 PM
Donna, Being low income or an immigrant does not make you a criminal or a drug dealer. My friends lived in the low income housing in San Clemente very recently and my children spent a lot of time there because my friends children are my children's best friends. My children would not have spent time there if it was unsafe and full of dealers. San Juan Capistrano must build affordable housing. Up near the dump, across from a high school, near no public transportation, near no shopping, near no easy pedestrian access to shopping or a way to town is not good area for affordable housing. What is more concerning is that rezoning this land limits the population capacity of SJHHS because SJHHS will have no room to expand. This is concerning because this means the children of San Juan Capistrano will be crowded out of this school. The children of Talega, Ladera, and RMV will have priority over the children of SJC. SJHHS is the only public high school in SJC. The children of SJC will be forced to go to three different high schools. The boundaries for SJHHS will need to be redrawn and the children of SJC will be left out. The land across from the high school should not be rezoned. My children attend SJHHS. I have a freshman this year and his freshman class has over 650 kids in it. It is the biggest class to enter SJHHS because people are realizing what a great school it is. My children will not be affected by the boundary issues but future generations of SJC children will be. Who is looking out for these children? Our city council is supposed to look out for them. All high schools have traffic issues in the morning and the afternoon. These apartment buildings will add to this traffic problem. But as I stated before the most concerning issue here if the land is rezoned is the fact that the children who live in SJC will not be able to attend SJHHS, the only public high school in SJC. If the SJC City Council votes to rezone this land they are voting against the children of SJC and they are giving away the only public high school in the city. When people move to a city they check out the public schools in the area. Good schools bring up the value of our homes. So voting to rezone this land brings down the value of the homes in SJC.
shelly January 19, 2014 at 04:12 PM
Encourage the SJC City Council to represent the children of SJC and to vote no on rezoning the land near the high school. The children of San Juan Capistrano need a high school and SJHHS is a great one.
GreenInOC January 19, 2014 at 07:25 PM
@Donna Fleming, we all know that only people with low income cause problems for their neighbors, right?! ------------------- http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/teen-party-turns-into-melee-parent-arrested -------------------------------- http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/host-of-outofcontrol-party-explains-his-side-of-the-story
PDF in SJC January 20, 2014 at 12:02 AM
Helloo we're in a drought here. Even when it's pouring down cats and dogs, we're still admonished incessantly to conserve water. If you don't, you pay. ALOT. Yes, let's add 100 more homes. No problem. I know many of the readers here are beyond apoplectic about the water situation here. RMV just added a small town just down the hill from SJHHS. Does anyone consider the impact on the water supply when these developments go up? Multi-story, multi family, "homes". Added to that, have we already forgotten the "traffic improvements" at the Del Obispo RR crossing AND the debacle(s) at J Serra Rd and Rancho Viejo Rd? Please, enough of the traffic signal improvements. Give the residents of SJC a break already. Aren't we plagued enough as it is with the Ortega bridge construction? There's a near riot every afternoon somewhere on Rancho Viejo Rd. Half of Temecula and Elsinore drives through town on Ortega on weekdays and every weekend we host the Ortega Highway Gran Prix of loud motorcycles. The San Juan Creek rollercoaster off ramp is FINALLY done after how many delays? It's like we're under constant assault with street construction and traffic. Now La Pata is about to undergo a huge change what with the expansion from San Clemente. I'd say wait until that is complete, at least, before considering what to do with the empty lot under the power lines. So, CUSD has yet to officially state an interest in that patch of land? Did someone tell them the deadline passed? Try parking at SJHHS during a big playoff game or when there are multiple events there. There is NO off campus parking options like most, probably all, high schools in the county. Football games start with "Welcome to San Juan Hills High School, now go move your car, the tow truck is here". I'd like to see a candidate for city council who had NO plans at all. I'm almost afraid of opening the door each day here for fear the yellow blinking light barricades will be in my driveway.

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