Watching the Planning Commission in action is depressing. Except for Brad Morton, the commission is unfocused on significant issues. Approximately 75 people attended the Dec. 12 meeting, which included a public hearing for Steadfast’s project at Los Alisos Blvd. / Jeronimo Road. The chairwoman and three of the other commissioners droned on about trivia while members of the audience waited to speak. Two hours of droning is excessive by anyone’s standards. By the time public comments began, many residents had gone home. After four hours, the developer had demonstrated no reason the city should accept more housing of any kind on the parcel, and the commissioners apparently forgot to ask why our built-out city should have more housing. No decision was made.
Steadfast’s proposal of splitting the 23-acre parcel between housing and retail makes no sense. The developer gave a convoluted explanation of why Steadfast is involved in a proposal between a retail store and Fieldstone, a homebuilder. Those representing Steadfast are from its low-income apartment division, and they have no experience building condos. Residents who have been following the project for two years know that Steadfast made a bad decision to buy the property with the intent of building 800 low-income apartments in a commercial zone. Even after selling all 23 acres to Target, Steadfast is still contractually entangled in the development mess.
Steadfast for the past year has had an aggressive public relations program to find housing supporters. It held many “neighborhood” meetings to present a one-sided sales pitch. After its costly, year-long effort, it managed to attract around 15 people to the Dec. 12 meeting. Steadfast’s “supporters” included its own employees (who didn’t reveal they are employees) and a strange assortment of other speakers making illogical remarks. One said the affordable units, which are all one bedroom, would be nice for a family of five. Another said affordable housing is needed for policemen, firemen and teachers – who don’t qualify for affordable housing. Some Steadfast shills made one-sentence remarks, only saying they favored the project.
The best-organized neighbors in opposition reside in Lake Forest, and their homes are closest to the proposed project. They get it. They wrote and spoke about the project degrading the entire area. Mission Viejo neighbors should be so wise to organize against the developer’s assault.