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School Board to Give Its Two Cents on Apartments Planned Near High School

Capo Unified district staff is recommending trustees urge San Juan Capistrano City Councilman to reject the project.

These apartments are proposed next to San Juan Hills High School. Graphic courtesy of the city of San Juan Capistrano.
These apartments are proposed next to San Juan Hills High School. Graphic courtesy of the city of San Juan Capistrano.

The Capistrano Unified school board will consider weighing in on a proposed 100-unit apartment complex planned next to San Juan Hills High School.

District staff is recommending trustees urge the San Juan Capistrano City Council to reject the project because of “significant adverse impacts,” especially to area traffic.

Called Rancho San Juan Apartments, the proposal, which includes some affordable housing, has a tumultuous history as it made its way through the city planning process.

In August, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the council deny the project in part because traffic already is congested near the school. That was in spite of an offer the developer made to install a new traffic light above and beyond what environmental studies had recommended.

In December, the council considered taking action on the apartments, but decided staff needed more time to study yet further traffic changes, including restriping to allow two lanes of traffic to come and go at the intersection of La Pata Avenue and Vista Montana.

The City Council is now scheduled to hear the proposal at its Jan. 21 meeting.

The resolution prepared for the trustees to consider also includes the possibility that the district may want the land to eventually expand the high school, especially after La Pata is punched through to San Clemente.

“The project is located on the last useable vacant property in the vicinity of SJHHS that is potentially suitable for the expansion of the school,” the proposed resolution states.

The school board meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, at the district headquarters, 33122 Valle Road in San Juan Capistrano.

Alberto Barrera December 31, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Expand the school? What else does it need?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) December 31, 2013 at 04:05 PM
well, "need" might not be the word, but to accommodate more students, for the additional Talega students who may come after the road goes through as well as the Rancho Mission Viejo students. The thought is to put parking where the apartments are proposed (state law won't allow school buildings under the power lines) and build on the existing parking lot on the west end of the school.
Dan January 01, 2014 at 03:43 AM
Are the power lines even a factor any longer with the closure of SONGS? Is there any juice even running through the lines now?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 01, 2014 at 11:44 AM
Yes. Those lines bring power from the Talega substation to San Juan and the cities north of San Juan.
Jim Reardon January 01, 2014 at 11:47 PM
There are many issues to be considered in connection with San Juan Hills HS. The most important one is this: SJHHS is a $150+ million investment and I believe we need to protect this investment. Property owners in San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Ladera Ranch continue to pay the debt connected with the construction of this school. Local money covered half the cost directly. Statewide tax funds paid the other half. Today the school is almost full. With the opening of La Pata to Talega, enrollment pressure on the school is about to increase.
Jim Reardon January 02, 2014 at 12:00 AM
The property that is proposed for apartments is the last usable contiguous land adjacent to the school. This land is not presently zoned for apartments. The SJC Planning Commission found the site unsuitable for apartments for a number of reasons, the general incompatibility with the school being one of them. The recommendation of the Commission was to deny the project. The matter will ultimately come before SJC's City Council for final action. This decision is entirely discretionary. The property owner has no entitlement. I've personally asked the SJC City Council to consider the community's overriding interest and large investment in the school and urged them to deny the apartment application.
Jim Reardon January 02, 2014 at 12:12 AM
Some may wish to focus on traffic as the overriding consideration in this decision. I view that as short-sighted. There is an obvious traffic problem today and this needs to be addressed independent of the apartments. Planned county improvements to La Pata will offer some relief. But if we as a community trade the apartment approval for a traffic light, we will have diminished the value of our school and foreclosed any prospect of expanding it to meet increased enrollment demand.
Dan January 02, 2014 at 02:35 AM
But Jim, what about the high pressure gas pipeline?
Jim Reardon January 02, 2014 at 08:56 AM
The gas and electrical transmission lines are existing concerns in the area of the school. Neither of these are desirable near a school, but the opportunity to move the school elsewhere passed more than a decade ago. In my opinion, placing classrooms closer to either transmission line is undesirable. However, the areas of the campus furthest away are now dedicated to parking cars. Parking is a necessity at the school, but it need not be located on prime real estate more suitable for classrooms.
Rachel Vollmer Pena January 02, 2014 at 03:16 PM
More parking is definitely needed. With no adjacent streets to park on, we are quickly going to run out of parking for students. I also think some of the traffic solutions recommended (2 lanes turning onto Vista Montana from La Pata) would also help. La Pata going through to Talega does little to alleviate the traffic entering the school as most of the students are coming from the other direction.
shelly January 02, 2014 at 04:51 PM
Is the property directly under the power lines and the proposal is to build affordable housing under the power lines? And this is okay? They need to build the affordable housing somewhere but this is a horrible place to do it. I think somewhere closer to the downtown area is better. Is there a proposal to built affordable housing off of Camino Capistrano?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 02, 2014 at 08:02 PM
Oops, been told that the lines by the high school are coming from the San Onofre switchyard, not the Talega Substation. But they're live. And yes, there are several proposals for affordable housing. To meet state mandates for providing for affordable housing, the city pretty much needs to make the zoning available for each of those lots. See: http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/three-parcels-in-town-may-allow-30-units-an-acre
PK January 07, 2014 at 10:45 PM
More apartments is the LAST thing SJC needs! 100 units is ridiculous! Don't you think there are too many apartments in the city already? I do. Traffic is a total nightmare there, I avoid the city as much as I can, and if it continue to be over populated and congested, I'll keep avoiding, and keep my dollars spent where I actually can enjoy them.

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