Staff Report CC:09/19/05

Another view: from those who actually attended the meeting

Representatives of the developer UDR/Pacific Los Alisos L.P. got approval for their housing project on Mon., Sept. 19, with a council vote of 4-0. Council Member Gail Reavis was absent. The 250-unit condo project could be built by November 2006. The project includes 38 one-bedroom affordable units, for which the developer is asking a subsidy of up to $6 million from the city.

The Sept. 23 Saddleback Valley News carried a story written by reporter Maria Hsin, who did not attend the meeting. Hsin in her article apparently interviewed Wayne Quint Jr. after the meeting. Quint also did not attend the meeting but sent a written comment read by Richard White. Quint’s pro-developer quote in the paper was not part of the Sept. 19 comment read by White. Ten of the 11 speakers did not support the project, and all four written comments submitted by residents were in opposition to the project. Quint was the only resident commenting in favor of the project, and he was the only resident quoted.

Among remarks during public comments, nine speakers and writers asked for a vote by the people to approve any zone change. Comments also included nine mentions of keeping the property commercial, and five speakers pointed out that the housing project lacked support of Mission Viejo residents. Two speakers said the state’s affordable housing goals were meaningless, and one expressed concern about building a housing project downhill from an earthen dam.

City resident Mickey MacDonald said in her public comments, “I’ve heard rumors of a mortuary wanting to buy this property, and a church is also interested.”

Following public comments, Councilman Frank Ury said, “We’ve listened to a whole bunch of people complaining.” Despite nine residents advocating for commercial use and one who asked for economic development on a citywide basis, Ury said, “The only thing we’re going to get advocacy for [from the residents] is dirt.”

To residents’ request that the council put a measure on the ballot for voters to decide on zone changes, Councilman John Paul Ledesma responded that zone changes have been controversial for years. He said, “We’ve had plenty of time to put forward an initiative, and that’s not where we are.” His response indicated he wouldn’t consider it because it had not already happened.

Council Member Trish Kelley asked questions about the affordable housing component but appeared to focus on developer fees, mentioning the topic repeatedly. She said, “We will receive park funds from the developer that we would be able to use for some projects around town.”

By contrast, no council member addressed net loss because of the city subsidy or the long-term cost to the city for services required once the housing project is built. Mission Viejo resident Dale Tyler in his public comments also mentioned the loss of tax revenue by rezoning commercial property to residential.

The council discussed costs of the affordable units. Despite below-market prices for affordable units, all buyers would pay homeowners association fees of up to $250 per unit, plus Mello-Roos fees. Homebuyers in the project are also subject to Lake association dues.

Council Member Lance MacLean advocated for the developer throughout his comments, eventually making the motion to approve. Councilman Ledesma seconded the motion prior to the 4-0 vote to approve.