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Voters Approve Distrito Development

Measure B passes with 55 percent of the vote.

To B—that the answer.

By a comfortable margin Tuesday, voters in San Juan Capistrano gave developers the go-ahead to build a disputed 500-horse equestrian center, hundreds of homes and commercial, office and retail outlets just south of the .

Of the 30 percent of registered voters who cast ballots in the citywide special election, to Measure B, edging out those who believed the project the town’s “rural” lifestyle.

Supporters—an array of movers and shakers including the local , a majority of the City Council and the California Realtors Association—celebrated their victory at El Adobe in downtown, the same spot where they launched their two months ago.

“This was the right decision,” Mayor Sam Allevato said from the dais in City Hall upon adjourning the night’s City Council meeting just as the Orange County registrar of voters posted the election's final results.

Allevato went on to cite a list—from new jobs and more tax revenues for city coffers—of ways in which the development would benefit San Juan Capistrano. The 153.8-acre lot where the Distrito La Novia-San Juan Meadows project may now be built currently sits vacant, straddling La Novia Avenue east of Valle Road.

There was no party for resident John Perry. He was among the residents who led the fight for a referendum against the project and was one of the three who subsequently led the No on B canvass.

Speaking to Patch.com on the phone from his home that skirts the putting green of the golf course, Perry said the outcome of the election was "disappointing" but not unpredictable, given the amount of money Lake Forest-based Advanced Real Estate Services pumped into its campaign.

"This sounds like sour grapes, but this town is for sale," he said. "Little people under these circumstances do not have a chance. When you get outspent 25 to 1—or whatever the number turns out to be—it's such an unfair advantage."

Citizens for Sensible Development, a committee formed to oppose Measure B, spent roughly $7,000 on its campaign at last count.

Perry preferred older plans for the property that were overturned with a vote of the City Council in 2010. The plans from the 1980s called for a resort-style hotel with a conference center, more single family-houses and a public institutional building, such as a school or a church.

Opponents said the 2010 plans would increase traffic, send water rates soaring and harm existing businesses.

The plans are the result of negotiations between two former city councilmen and ARES executives, as well as input from the public.

If Measure B had failed, an entirely new plan could have been hammered out. Those who opposed the 2010 plans had hoped for such an opportunity.

When Perry and others led their fight for a referendum earlier this year to get the measure on the ballot, he said, ARES representatives offered to scale back the 2010 project. They have characterized it as including a retail strip mall with 40 apartments on top, a market, restaurant, offices, 90 condominiums and an equestrian center that could ultimately house 1,500 horses.

They have also argued it will have a four-level parking structure and 10 three-story buildings on 18 acres. But Perry said he had no power to change the blueprints and had already promised citizens they would have the final say on the matter via the election.

With Measure B upheld, supporters said residents can look forward to a project that is less dense than the 1980 plans, will preserve open space accessible to the public and will provide more equestrian opportunities in the "horse capital of the West."

City Councilman Derek Reeve reacted optimistically toward news of Measure B's approval. He was the lone member on the council to oppose it.

"For anyone that is disappointed," he told the nearly empty chambers in City Hall, "San Juan Capistrano is going to remain a wonderful city to live in, and there is no doubt about that."


Vote Count Percentage Yes 3,372 55.5% No 2,704 44.5%
Turnout Percentage Total Registered Voters 19,805
Precinct Registration 19,805
Precinct Ballots Cast 1,828 9.2% Early Ballots Cast 0 0.0% Vote-by-Mail Ballots Cast 4,262 21.5% Total Ballots Cast 6,090 30.7%
Lyda Cooper June 08, 2011 at 05:59 PM
I voted Yes on Measure B because after studying both sides of the issue I felt it the best decision. I live off La Novia and Capri and I would have preferred no development as the opponents first told us could happen if we signed their petitions to get the measure on the ballot. I felt duped by them and not happy with their deceptive approach and strong arm tactics outside the supermarkets. I was also unhappy when I saw how they destroyed and/or removed many of the "Vote Yes" signs posted throughout the city but especially the ones on La Novia which I travel daily. I did not see that with the "Vote No" signs. Each side had the right to post without interference from the opponent. I voted what I thought was the better of the two projects but it helped to know I was not joining the ranks of some radical residents of the city. L. A. Cooper, San Juan Capistrano
kathy holman June 09, 2011 at 02:26 PM
The votes have been counted and the residents of San Juan Capistrano have shown that they have again taken the time to educate themselves on ballot issues and have used real "common sense" when it comes to the future of our city. A small handful of discontented people ran a deceitful opposition to the ballot issue "Measure B". Sadly, over eighty thousand dollars from our city's reserves were wasted on a frivolous election that also cost local developers thousands of dollars to defend their honor an integrity. Day after day a cast of characters sat in front of our local supermarkets spewing lies and exaggerating facts regarding the development of one of the most beautiful projects ever planned for our city. The developers have taken the high road throughout the entire approval process and not once did they lower themselves to the level of the opposition. I look forward to watching the Distrito La Novia/ San Juan Meadows project come to fruition. Katherine Holman, San Juan Capistrano
Small Town Girl July 31, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Poor City of SJC has been duped by ARES, Advanced Group, Capistrano Terrace Ltd. into thinking Yess is Less....and yes these are the "same people" filing under different business entity names.
smoothpuss2 August 01, 2011 at 12:36 AM
It is time that Freese and Allevato be remove from the City Council at the next election in 14 months for backing ARES. The voters will remember.

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