10/01/05 NewsBlog Full Text

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.


Editorial Comment

Mission Viejo NewsBlog Staff

What’s happening to local news coverage? Fledgling newspapers and TV stations in Orange County have come and gone. Saddleback Valley News has been publishing a smaller, regionalized version with pictures and letters reprinted from The Register. Is local news a thing of the past?

When former SVN editor Warren Esterline retired earlier this year, residents didn’t expect SVN’s city coverage would decline. Esterline is a longtime Mission Viejo resident, whereas reporters who cover our city don’t live here. Except for Marilyn Grein’s Business Watch column, the paper’s local flavor has waned.

Over the years, SVN provided a valuable forum to air issues through letters to the editor. Whether the new editor, Marie Padilla, objects to controversy or city politics is moot. Letters exposing city issues aren’t getting in.

Community activists in the 1995-2005 anti-airport campaign benefited from new campaign weaponry afforded by the Internet. It’s no coincidence that Carl Schulthess, Mission Viejo city leader for Measure F & W, conceived of weekly news coverage in the form of the Mission Viejo NewsBlog. Maybe he’ll write about how NewsBlog came to him.

With the ease of forwarding email, distribution possibilities become astronomical. Those contributing to Mission Viejo NewsBlog hope for such success. If you believe in the NewsBlog’s value, please pass it on. Please also consider sending a letter to the editor via the link provided.


City Council Meeting, September 19, 2005

Mission Viejo residents had no representation on the council at the Sept. 19 meeting. The council voted 4-0 (with Gail Reavis absent) for a new housing development on the former Kmart site.

Around 15 public comments came from residents who opposed the project, including four written comments. The one in favor was mysterious, with a resident saying he was speaking for someone who was speaking for an organization. The outsiders promoting this project were connected with the developer.

Instead of representing the residents, “our” council advocated for the developer. The underlying question of why the city should accept more housing went unanswered. The project offers no benefit to the city, and long-term costs and services for the new residents will far outstrip developer fees.

Nearly all residents who commented, asked the council to put a measure on the ballot allowing residents to vote on zone changes. One councilman remarked that residents had already voted when they elected the council members, who would now make all decisions for them. He sarcastically suggested putting a Xerox machine out front for those who were all asking for the same thing. If we get the message, we shouldn’t bother commenting at all.

After the campaign promises in 2002 and 2004 from these council members of listening to the residents, alleviating traffic congestion, bringing in economic development, advocating for constituents, etc., the truth is now clear. I hope responsible adults will run against these so-called representatives in the next election.

Connie Lee

Resident, Mission Viejo


March 2005

My home is in close proximity to the commercially zoned area near the intersection of Jeronimo and Los Alisos, next to the Unisys site; immediately next to the parcel Steadfast Properties, of Newport Beach is attempting to coerce our City Council into re-zoning for residential use. As President of my Homeowners Association I am very familiar with the overwhelming problems in the area of Los Alisos and Jeronimo and the problems created by overcrowded neighborhoods because I live in one.

The city staff and council members might have the attitude “it’s just one more housing complex,” but Mission Viejo already has too many high-density projects. Haven’t we expressed the opinions and feelings of the general populace by attending council meetings, specially called citizens meetings and scoping meetings, to speak out in opposition? What does it take to let them know how we feel about developers approaching our city and insulting the residents by trying to force us to make changes that benefit the developer rather than our city and it’s residents? Each time they’ve come it has been with a different “plan”. 

They are NOT listening. Our elected officials do NOT owe Steadfast or any other developer any loyalty; however our elected officials do owe the voting taxpayers the respect to listen and vote against re-zoning.

Traffic, parking, overcrowding and vandalism have reached nightmarish proportions in my neighborhood. I would not wish any of the problems we experience due to overcrowding on another neighborhood. I find it difficult to understand why our elected representatives are not considering the residents in dealing with the unscrupulous developers. We do not need or want more housing. The burden on residents cannot be mitigated by developer fees.

I would invite anyone to drive into Aliso Villas and try to find parking before 7am or after 5pm. It is embarrassing to invite visitors for an evening and don’t even consider having company over the weekend, there is absolutely no place to park. Residents arriving home after 5 or 6pm had better have on their walking shoes; if they are carrying groceries be prepared to carry them at least 2 blocks to their home, if they are lucky enough to find parking that close!

I’m baffled why any elected representative would hold the door open for more development, more cars, more overcrowding and more crime. Our city is not taking care of existing problems and should not beg for more. I ask my fellow citizens to join me in urging the City Council to VOTE NO TO RE-ZONING any part of Mission Viejo, keep commercial commercial and residential residential.

Kathy Miramontes
Aliso Villas Condominium Association


March 29, 2005

Mission Viejo, the “California Promise” What is happening to the “California Promise”? I moved from Santa Ana when the old orange groves were removed and replaced by apartments, then we moved to East Anaheim and the 91 freeway was build. In 1972, we moved to Mission Viejo because of “the promise” to live in a Master Planned Community where everything was spelled out, commercial, residential, schools, retail and light industry, no more surprises, it sounded like paradise.  Most people moved to Mission Viejo for the same reason; the desire to live in a city that “ensured the orderly physical growth of the community.” Mission Viejo's long-range planning goals and master strategy are embodied in its General Plan. 

So, what happened to the promise? Why would our city council consider changing the land use law to suit a developer, rather than keep “the promise” to the residents that voted them into office?

Mission Viejo residents do not want a zoning change; we want to keep the promise, our elected officials are not listening.

Steadfast purchased commercially zoned property at the corner of Jeronimo and Los Alisos on the north end of the city. Now they want to build a residential development on a commercially zoned parcel, and make us change our zoning laws. They should have purchased property already zoned residential. What was their mistake, should not become our mistake. Let’s send a message to other developers and the city council, utilize the property within the city the way it is zoned. The Master Plan has worked for 33 years; if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Lammerchina Allen
Proud Mission Viejo resident since 1972


March 2005

To the Editor,

I am a resident of Mission Viejo and wanted to voice my opinon regarding the cities plans for development near the intersection of Los Alisos and Jeronimo.

I agree with much of the letter written last week by Kathy Miramontes, who objected to Steadfast's proposed housing development next to Unisys. I live near Unisys, and the problems of overcrowding, traffic, parking and vandalism have become huge burdens to homeowners.

The Steadfast representative who wrote a letter last week said current plans were developed with input from Mission Viejo residents. What part of "no housing" does he not understand? Residents have been very clear and uniform in their rejection of Steadfast's housing plans.

I am encouraging Mission Viejo residents to come out swinging against this proposed housing development. It's time for Steadfast to develop the property for commercial use or sell it to someone who will develop it appropriately. Our city has enough housing, residents and cars. We need economic development -- jobs, services and tax revenue from business -- not more homebuilding.

It seems that the City Government of Mission Viejo does not have the best interest of the residents in mind, It is they who should be working on our behalf on issues such as this.

Wayne Drudy


June 2005

Dear Editor:

As a homeowner in Mission Viejo, and a Target customer where ever they are located, I would like to say, with great enthusiasm, “CONGRATULATIONS TARGET!” for purchasing all 23.5 acres of the commercial parcel on Los Alisos Blvd. and Jeronimo next to Unisys.

For readers who are unfamiliar with the issue, Steadfast has been trying for two years to build high-density housing on the site zoned for commercial use. It's a relief to our neighborhood to learn Target bought the whole parcel, although its store will occupy only 13 acres.

Along with Target, the residents are to be congratulated for the addition of a retailer that will generate sales tax revenue for our city and jobs for residents. Some city officials who want more housing had falsely claimed the parcel was unmarketable for business use. (Remember this at election time!)

I hope Target continues to be a community-conscious corporation. After welcoming Target to our neighborhood, we should remind the corporation that residents expect commercial development on all 23.5 acres in accordance with the zoning. The neighborhood would greatly benefit from a new restaurant or other business destinations alongside Target.

Hats off to you TARGET!

Kathy Miramontes
Aliso Villas Condominium Association


It seems our city has stepped onto the slippery slope of providing more high density housing into our city, kowtowing to the demands of out of town developers and buckling under the pressure of the State and the do-gooder Public Law Center’s social engineering for more ‘low income housing’. (“City approves new housing”, SVN, Sept 23). Never mind a master plan that has served our citizens well for decades by providing a community where thousands of families have invested their futures. Never mind that population increase and traffic congestion in our city will only get worse, with no city plan for its improvement. Never mind that few, if any, or our surrounding communities seem to be burdened with the yoke of providing additional low income housing. But, of course, we in Mission MUST provide more socially engineered low income housing, regardless of the economic realities. So a weak-kneed city council and planning commission caved in. Get ready for the ‘new Mission Viejo’.

Further down that slippery slope is the commercially-zoned property at the corner of Jeronimo and Los Alisos. Steadfast Corporation (another out of town developer) has been pressuring the city staff and council for several years to put many homes and low-income apartments at the property next to Unisys. It is not clear that our current city council majority and planning commission are not pre-dispositioned to allow this degradation to our community.  If you are unconcerned about the problems related to more high density, low-income housing, then do nothing. If you care, then speak out to the planning commission and city council, and/or vote them out of office.

Frankly, I am tired of out of town developers, such as Steadfast, coming into our community, investing millions to buy property while being fully aware of our existing zoning restrictions, and then schmoozing or pressuring our city staff, planning commission, and city council into changing our city master plan, and zoning and building regulations to suit their own profit objectives, with little or no regard to the current citizens of our community.

Don Wilder
26672 Las Tunas Drive
Mission Viejo, CA 92692
(949) 364-5728