The city of San Juan Capistrano will sell of a piece of land across from JSerra Catholic High School to a developer to build affordable housing, the City Council decided Tuesday afternoon.
The city has for years owned the 4 acres as part of the bigger Northwest Open Space, but at the time of acquisition, the property was planned for an office building, said Nelson Miller, interim director of development services.
But because the state requires cities to plan for affordable housing, the City Council decided last month to rezone the property, now called the Groves at Williams Ranch.
On Tuesday, council members decided they’re not the best ones to develop it.
“My sense is we’d like to get out of the real estate business,” said Mayor John Taylor.
Miller said a number of affordable housing developers are interested and even the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, which had come up with plans for an Irvine Co. project that never came to pass but organizers think will work well in San Juan Capistrano.
He recommended “that we sell it and allow an experienced developer who’s used to owning and operating these types of facilities to run it for us,” Miller said. “It would be more efficient and more productive and a better use of city funds, to follow this path.”
The city had envisioned 26 units on the land, but Councilman Sam Allevato said a private developer would likely want to build out the lot to its maximum capacity, 50 units.
While he prefers less density because the project would have high visibility to those entering the city from north, Allevato said the council may have to concede to the higher number of units to meet the affordable housing laws.
“The right way to go is to turn it over to a private developer and have them come up with a good plan, something the council can live with in terms of density and architecture.”
Councilman Roy Byrnes said the city’s planning process would likely work to “constrain” an out-of-control project.
“My Republican heart beats faster when you talk about private enterprise, particularly today with the government shutdown,” Byrnes added.
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