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Zoomars Dinosaur Clears First Hurdle

The Cultural Heritage Commission gives the controversial statue a thumbs up. Next up, the Planning Commission.

Although the majority of residents who came to City Hall Tuesday to discuss the Zoomars dinosaur would rather see it go the way of the, well, dinosaurs, the Cultural Heritage Commission voted to support the Apatosaurus.

Only three members of the commission attended, and they voted 2-1 to recommend to yet another panel, the San Juan Capistrano Planning Commission, that it approve Zoomars’ plans for an educational area, which include:

  • The 13-foot dinosaur statue, also known as Juan
  • Shade structures
  • Fossil dig areas
  • Native American huts, known as kiichas           

Zoomars is situated in the heart of the Los Rios Historic District, known as the oldest residential neighborhood in California.

The Planning Commission has already heard the issue once, when asked to approve Juan after the fact. He did not curry favor. Now the statue is part of a bigger proposal.

“That was unexpected. We have a chance,” said petting zoo owner Carolyn Franks, wiping tears of joy. “Minds are opening. That’s a good thing.”

Not all. All three emails sent to the Cultural Heritage Commission urged a no-vote. Three of four residents who spoke did, too.

“If the dinosaur is allowed, it will set a precedent. And soon the area will turn into an amusement park, like Knott’s Berry Farm,” said Ilse Byrnes, who has opposed Juan since his arrival in late spring.

Sheree Ito of neighboring business Ito Nursey said the Apatosaurus has brought too many visitors to the area.

“The plans for Zoomars that has gone beyond an intensity designed for the district,” Ito said. “That property is so over-developed for this at this point.”

But Commission Chairwoman Rhonda deHaan said bringing more people to San Juan Capistrano and getting them to experience history is only a good thing.

“Kids go there. It’s fun. They learn when it’s fun. It’s a great way to get people to Los Rios who would never go and never learn about it,” she said. “It’s important to keep our history. I would think this would be an awesome chance to share it.”

Commissioner Nathan Banda agreed.

“What a great opportunity for the kids who live here who can’t afford to go to the Discovery Center in Santa Ana or the transportation,” he said.

deHaan added that she agreed that Juan fits the definition of a passive recreational use, which is allowed in the historic commercial zoning.

"It’s a statue. it’s not really doing anything. It’s, to me, as passive as it gets," she said.

Commissioner Jan Siegel was the one official dissent. She said she didn’t appreciate how the “in the middle of the night without any permits or approval, the dinosaur was moved in to its current position.” She called the new plans “an attempt to throw mud at a wall and see what sticks.”

The Planning Commission is expected to review the proposal in December.

Lon Uso November 28, 2012 at 08:56 PM
says the flawless one!!!
Kim November 28, 2012 at 08:57 PM
You know why..as you pointed out in one of your previous blogs, "this is about politics and egos". I had hoped it would be about the issues, but, apparently that's too much to ask for.
Kim November 28, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Dr.Lon, don't tell me at this late date you are going to chime in...."says the flawless one". You still believe I am one of the Kim's...get over it, I told you I am not! What happened, did you miss the drama last night in town and are now just catching up?
Lon Uso November 28, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Marry, you do get it!!! people think that revenue for the city and its businesses will magically appear. These people put their hearts, souls and fortunes to start and run businesses in town only to be regulated to death by people that tend to take themselves a bit too seriously. That is why downtown will never be redeveloped and businesses will continue to fail.
wschrimp November 28, 2012 at 09:18 PM
The politics I was speaking of, is not what you are talking about. I was speaking of the need to appease some of the families with old roots in the city (even though not all families with historical roots are opposed to Juan) over what would be good for the city. The Cultural Heritage Commission is an Advisory Board. They have no power other than to advise other city commissions and the city council. Part of their duties as you pointed out are #1, "Promote awareness and appreciation for the City's cultural and historical significance through preservation and promotion of traditional folkways associated with the community". Obviously the yes votes saw that bringing more people into the city and into the Los Rios District would be a positive in having more people exposed to the history of San Juan. This is the best way to Promote awareness and appreciation for the City's cultural and historical significance, you cannot do so if you don't bring in more people.
Lon Uso November 28, 2012 at 09:30 PM
The whole notion of getting rid of flawed leaders is delusional and a bit arrogant. We are all just human beings and as such flawed. I look more at the hearts and intentions of people to judge them. No matter how smart and capable someone is, at some point in time, someone will disagree with them, and in SJ it is going to happen a lot more often. And Kim, I don't know what Kim you are. For all I know your real name could be Bob
wschrimp November 28, 2012 at 10:01 PM
That's right Lon. This Kim claims to be a Juaneno descendant. Amazing how the writing styles and content are all the same! I guess it just me a "Kim" thing.
Kim November 28, 2012 at 10:02 PM
WSChrimp..glad to see you did your homework regarding the CHC..point is, if this city is so desperate to have visitors that we need a dinosaur as a lure, we truly are on the skids. Have you forgotten we have a jewel of a Mission, multiple historical sites to visit, and an open space to be envied. Stooping to erecting a huge, ugly, out of place dinosaur in an historical area is just plain pathetic, not to mention it is purly for Franks financial gain only..erected without permits at a questionable time of night! I doubt the kids visiting the dinosaur (amusement park) are taking in the history of the Mission and Los Rios Street. And you tout in your last sentence that "this is the best way to promote awareness and appreciation for the City's cultural and historical significance"..you have got to be kidding.
Kelley November 28, 2012 at 10:12 PM
I really don't understand why this has become such a huge issue? It's not an eyesore, kids love it, and it brings people into our town that dine and shop and spend their money in our town. In the big scheme of things, Juan the dinosaur is such a small problem. Move on people! Get over it! If you have that much free time to whine and complain about a dinosaur statue, please find a better use of that time. Carolyn really does have the towns best interests in mind whenever she makes decisions about the zoo. If you don't like those decisions, don't go to the petting zoo. It's pretty simple.
Steve Behmerwohld November 28, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Lon, WS, & Mary, Everything that Kim (BOB) is against in town (which is most everything) is a "conspiracy" against her (him) & the rest of the Kim (Bob)s in town. I was at the meeting and I didn't see any "Kim"s. It took a lot of guts for Rhonda and Nathan to vote their conscience and not bow to outside pressure.
wschrimp November 28, 2012 at 10:21 PM
You obviously have never had a business nor do you have any idea of how a business runs. ALL BUSINESSES ARE RUN FOR FINANCIAL GAIN. Why are you trying to make it seem like a bad thing. I am simple pointing out that this is mutually beneficial to the city and surrounding businesses. You just keep regurgitating the same comments over and over. You also have no real in site into this issue other that what you have read or been told. As someone that has worked with Ms. Franks on a non financial basis only, before this issue and since, you have no idea of how many of her customers have gone to the Mission or that the Mission sends families to Zoomars also. You also have no idea of what really happened, only your misguided opinions. Boy, for someone complaining about all the wasted time on this issue, you sure like to keep chiming in.
wschrimp November 28, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Kelley you are so right. There has been too much time and money wasted on this issue on both sides. You are so right, Carolyn always has the best of intentions. It is very simple, Juan can only be seen from River street, so if you do not want to see him, DO NOT GO THERE!
Kim November 28, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Well shrimp..you seem to know it all, or think you do with all your inside information, so we'll leave it at that. However, I don't think the city will. Thanks for the complement of mirroring most of my comments and even using my adjectives like "chiming"..coming from a publisher, it is quite a complement!
Kim November 28, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Steve, I saw you there last night, why didn't you speak on behalf of the dinosaur which you obviously support? Perhaps you were waiting to see how the vote went before you stuck your foot in your mouth!
Dusty W Otero November 28, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Nathan is right leave the dinosaur in the petting zoo,,,and lets move on people...I was not there last night ,and I did hear that the owner of the zoo,,,was crying with joy ,,when you cry you are not lying about how you feel about this purpose...I know that she pays lots of money every month on her mortgage payments and taxes and on and on just like I do...I am a property owner too in our town,,,so leave her alone please...
Kim November 28, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Oh no, now we are going to have Dusty weigh in on who should be the next leader of the Band of Mission Indians? Where does this end, what about staying on topic Dusty?
Dusty W Otero November 28, 2012 at 11:26 PM
What History do you have in town KIm...you want to see some history look at my website www.smartybelt.com and scroll down to I am Mission native American,,,and see what the final determination said about my family lol...please drop this issue...its the season to be Jolly...peace to you...
Kim November 28, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Dusty..this is not my issue to drop...talk to the City, not me. They don't seem to want to drop it, there must be a reason why. I am giving my opinion as are you. And like you, I am a Juaneno and have a very loooooooong family history in San Juan. Peace to you as well, and enjoy this festive time of year.
Alberto Barrera November 28, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Is this really still an issue?
Dusty W Otero November 29, 2012 at 12:56 AM
In my town I see so much change that WHAT TOPIC.....lol ok Kim I will try...have a nice evening..
Penny Arévalo (Editor) November 29, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Zoomars responds to a commissioner's comments in this letter to the editor: http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-the-truth-about-the-dinosaur-s-arrival-in-sjc
ca November 29, 2012 at 02:55 AM
AGREED!!
ca November 29, 2012 at 02:58 AM
who are you? seriously.... you are wound way too tight...
Lauren C November 30, 2012 at 07:27 PM
To all who support Juan- cheers! Kim however seems to need some education on children, politics, and what it means to be a member of a community. To you, here are some of my views that will hopefully broaden your view point on the matter. I resent your comments about deHaan and Banda should resign. In agreement with Mary, Lon, wschrimp, and others- everyone is imperfect. An informal poll showed that 80% of San Juan Capistrano citizens were in favor of Juan the Dinosaur. Eighty percent! That doesn’t sound like a marginal win but a landslide. While the 20% may be more vocal about their opinions, you are not the majority and do not have the city’s best interest at heart. While you may disagree with them, I do not see you making a stand in front of so many people, expressing your beliefs as to what you think is right (not only for yourself in your limited experiences, but also for the good of the community). Again, while the minority has been more vocal about the issue, that does not mean in the slightest regard that they are fully representing the opinions and needs of the majority. While you may not have agreed with deHaan and Banda, they were merely fulfilling their responsibility to the city by expressing what they believed would be most beneficial to all parties involved (as opposed to the more vocal select few).
Lauren C November 30, 2012 at 07:42 PM
It is true that Juan the dinosaur does bring a great deal of publicity to our small town. Interestingly enough however, you are part of what brings them to River Street since most people go to Zoomars to see what everyone's been talking about! So if you're so tightly wound and upset about this whole situation fine- then speak your thoughts at the appropriate places and times. Otherwise, bringing up the topic and speaking so forcefully only serves to bring out more interest as people will flock to Zoomars to see what all the fuss is about.
Lauren C November 30, 2012 at 07:43 PM
While you may have a differing opinion, in actuality, publicity to historic districts is a good thing! More people coming to an area means that more money will be put into our small businesses and supporting our economy. Though it would be great to say that we get a constant influx of people coming into San Juan for its beautiful mission, I can understand how after several visits the initial excitement for it could wane. While I myself am a member of the mission, I am still drawn to Zoomars for its fun and child-friendly vibe (a feeling that is much less sensed in the mission where children can quickly become antsy and bored). Even those who are initially brought to San Juan to visit Juan the dinosaur will not necessarily avoid the mission. Since the two venues, Mission San Juan Capistrano and Zoomars, are so dissimilar, I do not honestly believe them to be mutually exclusive, forcing people to choose one over the other as I’m sure many people would opt to visit each for their respective benefits and interests in due time.
Lauren C November 30, 2012 at 07:44 PM
In addition, I find it amusing that you seem to reject Juan on the basis that it is ‘ugly’ and not historic. Perhaps one of the reasons why Juan is unsightly to you is because Carolyn has not had the opportunity to repair him properly. It is possible that you lack the foresight to see how beautiful and wonderfully educational to children Juan has the potential to be. As for your claims that Juan is not historic enough to fit your liking, I must admit I am a bit confused since as far as I’m aware, children learn about dinosaurs in their history courses beginning in elementary school or earlier. The dinosaur is not only not visible to anyone outside of River Street, it is also not harming a soul. Interactive programs such as the miniature archeology exhibit Carolyn hopes to establish are not only extremely educational, they are fun and entertaining for children; inspiring them to thrive in school and society, inciting excitement for education, and giving parents a chance to relax for a moment as they watch their young ones take part in an activity that very well may shape their future (or at the least bit, occupy a few minutes of their time).
Penny Arévalo (Editor) November 30, 2012 at 07:45 PM
A poll is a great idea! We can easily do one at Patch and let it run for a few weeks before the Planning Commission meeting, Dec. 18. Thanks!
Lauren C November 30, 2012 at 08:20 PM
In any event, I apologize for the length and the number of these postings but felt as though someone should set Kim straight. As I had mentioned before, while the minority may be more vocal, it is important to listen to what the majority says, as it is the goal of all commissions and their chairs to keep the entire community’s best interests at heart.
rachel o February 02, 2013 at 04:18 AM
Mr. Nieblas who started all of this ruckas, maybe he should spend more time getting his own family in order instead of picking on a statue of a dinosaur. As my mom used to tell me, what goes around, comes around. It looks like it just came around for Mr. Nieblas: http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/san-juan-man-charged-with-elder-abuse

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