Written Pieces as of 01-19-12

San Juan to create housing authority
By JOSH FRANCIS 2012-01-19 06:10:39

The San Juan Capistrano City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve two resolutions to set up a city housing authority and to take over the functions and assets of the Redevelopment Agency when it is dissolved Feb. 1 in accord with state law. Cities throughout California have had to create or choose successors to their redevelopment agencies after state legislation to dissolve the agencies was upheld by the California Supreme Court on Dec. 29. San Juan's new housing authority will take over at least one affordable-housing project known as Little Hollywood. The housing authority will have seven members, including the five City Council members and two other members who are customers of the new housing authority. City Attorney Omar Sandoval said 24 tenants live in the Little Hollywood development. The authority's first director will be Councilman Derek Reeve, who was appointed by Mayor Larry Kramer after the council's vote to create the agency. Reeve, the only council member who supported the state's effort to eliminate redevelopment agencies, said he is concerned about the need for a housing authority in the future. Sandoval said if the authority takes no action for two years, it can be dissolved.

No resident-led invocations in San Juan
By JOSH FRANCIS 2012-01-18 17:14:29

Invocations at San Juan Capistrano City Council meetings will be led only by council members after the panel voted 4-1 on Tuesday night for a policy that negates Councilman Derek Reeve's decision to choose area residents to lead the invocation every fifth meeting, when his turn to do it comes up. The invocation occurs before the council discusses agenda items and is usually a prayer that one of the five council members leads. It is not mandatory to participate in the prayer. The first resident-led invocation last month mentioned "the son of our Lord," raising concerns over whether that was appropriate for a council meeting. Reeve wanted a discussion on whether a policy was needed on "merely mentioning a deity" during an invocation. The council voted in favor of a policy allowing only council members to lead nonsectarian invocations. The policy reinforces the council's unofficial practice before Reeve decided to allow residents to do it. "I feel very strongly that we should keep the invocations to the council members," Councilwoman Laura Freese said. Allowing anyone else to do it is "opening up a can of worms," she added. Reeve said he wanted to choose residents of varying faiths to lead invocations as a way to repair San Juan Capistrano's image of being "unfriendly to religion" in the wake of controversies including Reeve's naming his dog Muhammad, after the Muslim prophet, and the city fining a couple who used their home for Bible studies. In December, the first community speaker to lead the invocation was Gary Stache, a leader at Vineyard Community Church in Laguna Niguel.

Councilman Sam Allevato said that although Reeve wanted to make invocations open to any religion, "mentioning any deity could make anyone feel uncomfortable." Reeve told the council he does not want speakers to use the invocations to proselytize for their religion, but he maintained his position that community members should be allowed to lead them. Mayor Larry Kramer said he opposes anyone other than council members leading the invocations. "We're not a church, we're a public institution," he said. "The idea of the invocation is to bring everyone together." The council discussed with the city attorney the possible ramifications of invocations leaning in favor of one religion. Court cases on the issue include one in Lancaster, where the city was sued after an invocation making reference to Jesus Christ was seen by the plaintiffs as biased toward Christianity. The city won a ruling in that case; however, it is being appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. San Juan resident Steve Behmerwohld suggested the local council eliminate the invocation, saying it is a waste of time. "An easy way out of this whole thing is just to do away with the invocation," Behmerwohld said. "I think you guys do a good job and I don't think you need divine intervention."

San Juan golf-range lights get go-ahead
By JOSH FRANCIS 2012-01-18 11:18:30

San Juan Hills Golf Club will be able to install lights for its driving range after all, now that the San Juan Capistrano City Council has voted unanimously to overturn the Planning Commission's denial of the proposal. The council voted Tuesday to overturn the commission, which had voted 3-2 on Nov. 22 to deny the club's request for a conditional use permit, citing concerns about adverse effects on adjacent residences because of the lights and added noise from nighttime use of the range at 32120 San Juan Creek Road. The city received 44 letters about the issue, 38 of them in support of overturning the commission's decision and six in favor of the commission. City staff had recommended that the council overturn the denial, saying the proposal is consistent with the community design element of the city General Plan and that the lights would not be bright enough to seriously affect nearby residents. Under the plan, the driving range is to feature outdoor lights installed on existing 50-foot poles and three new 25-foot poles. Representatives of the golf club said the lighting would have minimal effect on the surrounding area, describing the system as the first of its kind. Karin Pekala of Musco Sports Lighting, a consultant for the golf course, said the design of the lights will significantly reduce light pollution. She said the course agreed to drop the footcandle measurement (of luminance) to five from the standard 10. Pekala said the light emitted from the range would be comparable to the light from a full moon. She said the course will be one of the first to use special visors on its lights to shield the community from glare.

Some residents were skeptical, however, calling on the council to test the lights before giving the club a permit for the installation. Others questioned the validity of the claim that trees surrounding the range would provide adequate cover from the light. San Juan resident Mark Nielsen said the golf course's estimate of 85 percent tree cover around the range is too high, saying it is closer to 60 percent. San Juan Hills Golf Club management said it plants new trees frequently and is not opposed to planting more trees and shrubs in conjunction with the new lights. The council also agreed to let the course keep the driving-range lights on until 10 p.m., as proposed. City staff had recommended a 9 p.m. shutoff to try to reduce noise from nighttime use. "This will improve the recreation quality of San Juan Capistrano ... and it boosts the economic engine of the city," Councilman Sam Allevato said. Councilman Derek Reeve said he is concerned about the surrounding community, but "the benefit outweighs the cost." Staff said the city has the capability of testing the foot-candle measurement, and the council directed it to do so once the lights are up. Among the biggest supporters of the lights is the San Juan Hills High School golf team, whose coach, Jim Tinker, said the lighting and increased student access to the driving range will help support and improve his team, which won a CIF division championship last year.

San Juan acts to combat speeding on La Ronda
By JOSH FRANCIS 2012-01-19 06:16:25

After fielding complaints from San Juan Capistrano residents about speeding on Camino La Ronda, the City Council voted 4-0 on Tuesday night to narrow the street by painting a 4foot-wide island on the middle of it. Mayor Larry Kramer recused himself from the vote because he lives near the street in question. The city previously had taken measures intended to improve traffic safety on La Ronda, including enhanced enforcement of the 30 mph speed limit. The council said that action, though effective, did not solve the problem completely and that the city received criticism about alleged excess enforcement by the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "We need an engineering solution, not an enforcement solution," Councilman Sam Allevato said. "Narrowing a road will slow down traffic." Some residents wanted the city to reduce the speed limit to 25 mph and place speed bumps on the street. But city staff said that isn't likely to happen or solve the problem. For speed bumps to be used, a street must have a speed limit of 25 mph or less, staff said. But to reduce a street's speed limit, it must be in a residential zone or traffic studies must support the need for a reduction. The council had two options for narrowing the street. One included creating bike lanes and eliminating parking on one side. The council agreed that eliminating parking would be detrimental. The plan to create a center island will allow the city six months to evaluate its effectiveness. If the safety problem is not determined to be solved, the city will take up the issue again.

City Council hits snag in appointing representatives to county boards
By JOSH FRANCIS 2012-01-04 10:32:49

LAKE FOREST – The Lake Forest City Council appointed new representatives to several agencies at its meeting Wednesday, but the appointment process did not go as smoothly as the council had hoped due to new state rules regulating city council procedures. The new state regulations, which went into effect this year, barred members of the council nominated for positions in which they would receive a stipend exceeding $250 from voting on their appointment. Mayor Kathryn McCullogh, who was acting as mayor for the first time since 2001, repeatedly called the rules "stupid" and constantly urged those attending the meeting to call state regulators responsible for the rule changes and "tell them how stupid it is." At one point, the council was voting on an alternate to represent the city on the Orange County Fire Authority Board, but after two nominations were made – one for Councilman Peter Herzog and one for Councilwoman Marcia Rudolph – McCullogh was so frustrated with the rules that required there to be a majority vote, which meant all three remaining council members had to vote for one nominee despite two of the council members being the ones who nominated the two different candidates. McCullough decided to take a break and when she returned Councilman Scott Voigts changed his vote and the meeting continued. Also at Wednesday's meeting:

• County Supervisor Patricia Bates congratulated the city on its 20-year anniversary. Lake Forest became Orange County's 31st city in 1991. • The council appointed Mark Tettemer to the OCFA board and appointed Voigts to the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency as its representative. • The council added an agenda item for its next meeting to talk about the installation of a video camera to tape and broadcast meetings on the city's website. • The council voted 3-2 in favor of membership in the Association of California Cities Orange County.

Lake Forest new year a redevelopment ‘gloom and doom’
By JOSH FRANCIS 2012-01-04 10:23:01

LAKE FOREST In their first meeting of 2012, Lake Forest's City Council again expressed disappointment with the state's decision to dissolve all redevelopment agencies following a court ruling upholding the validity of Assembly Bill 1x 26. Though the council emphasized the court's action will not impact the city as significantly as other municipalities in Orange County, the reverberations of the ruling will still bring some fiscal pain for Lake Forest. Councilman Peter Herzog said the city is required by the state to maintain affordable housing projects but the city will lose the ability to continue with at least one of those projects. The project, a four-unit apartment building, would have provided a safe haven for families meeting the income requirements. The agency's plan was to rehabilitate the building and work with Families Forward, an Irvine nonprofit group that assists families in financial crisis. The group would have also leased the units. "The only thing that has been achieved is the loss of local control," Herzog said, "Redevelopment agencies gave local governments more power." Mayor Kathryn McCullough called the briefing about the future of redevelopment agencies a "gloom and doom" presentation and repeatedly criticized the state legislature for its "selfish power grab." The agency was also in negotiations with Orange County Public Library to remodel the exterior of the El Toro library and improve the library's parking lot which unless the city

decides to incur the cost to do such out of its general fund, will not be able to move forward with those plans. The city chose to become the successor agency to its redevelopment agency which will give the city more power to control the winding down and dissolution of the agency. The decision, however, also increases the city's liability for breaching contracts they made with third parties prior to Assembly Bill 1x 26 going into effect. Although the city opted unanimously to become its own successor their actions will still need to be approved by an oversight board, which will consist of eight members of various taxing entities and two appointees chosen by the mayor that will be in charge of overseeing actions taken by the successor agency. The city is also responsible for some of the costs associated with that oversight board. There was also criticism about a provision which allows for the board to force the city of Lake Forest to breach a contract thus the city would then be liable for any penalties or lawsuits as a result of such an action by the oversight board. "So two out of 10 (oversight board members) will be from your town and the rest will be from who knows where telling your town what to do," Herzog said. The city staff advised the council that although the city is responsible for administrative costs for the new successor agency, the city should be able to afford those as well as any penalties or lawsuits as a result of any contract breaches because of the city's good financial status.

-Staff Writer Erika Ritchie contributed to this report

Violent robbery can't dampen jeweler's holiday spirit
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-12-19 17:12:19

A San Juan Capistrano jewelry store where two robbery suspects were shot to death by employees in June is offering free food to the needy this holiday season. Despite the sluggish economy and two high-profile theft cases the past few years, Monaco Jewelers decided it has enough holiday cheer to share with people who might not usually be seen in a place with such high-end merchandise. The store served food for the first time Friday as manager Ron Pashaian put out sandwiches and drinks. On Saturday, there were Christmas cookies and candy. "It is a nice idea to try to give back to the local community, especially in times of people's needs," Pashaian said. Pashaian said it's challenging to make such a gesture because of the store's security concerns, which require employees to "buzz" people in. Those concerns remain heightened in the wake of the June 24 attempted robbery in which two men, at least one of them armed, were shot and killed by two employees. In July 2009, burglars robbed the store of $5.8 million in jewels. But Pashaian said he hears two or three stories a day about people's struggles. Among them is Stacia Brigham, who said she fled New Mexico with her three daughters because of domestic violence. Pashaian said people like Brigham visit every day with stories so compelling that he feels he has to do something. When Brigham first entered the store in October, she looked homeless and told him she had three daughters and nowhere to go, Pashaian said.

The store also is a pawn shop, purchasing gold and jewelry and giving customers loans. Brigham had a few pieces of jewelry she used as collateral to get a loan. Pashaian said he gave her a little more than he usually would because of her story. "I just relocated from New Mexico to SoCal after living in a domestic-violence shelter on and off for the past two years, and this man and his store got us enough to get an apartment and save for a car," Brigham said. Brigham now works as a public-relations specialist in Orange County and is working with Monaco Jewelers to offer free meals and snacks to people with stories similar to her own. TOUGH TIMES "This is the toughest time since the Great Depression," Pashaian said. Since 2008, a majority of customers seeking loans and selling valuables are former mortgage brokers and real estate agents, Pashaian said. Just four years ago, they were buying the jewelry they now have to sell back. The percentage of customers looking to sell items has risen to about 50 percent this year, Pashaian said, while the share of customers looking to buy jewelry has dropped to 30 percent. The remainder of the customers are seeking loans, typically for four months, with grace periods and the possibility of an extension. Pashaian said the store will try to delay reselling customers' valuables as long as it can and will work with them to get their items back if they want. INCREASED SECURITY Despite the two recent crimes, Pashaian said he's keeping an open door, though he is cautious. "You can't judge people by their type. ... We try and exercise caution and awareness of who has come in," Pashaian said. "We will help people, but kindness attracts people who ... want to take advantage of that." Since the June 24 attempted robbery and shootings, the store has increased its number of surveillance cameras and hired an armed security guard.

Widow forges new life as ‘inspiration' to kids
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-12-12 07:57:27

After losing her husband of 23 years, San Juan Capistrano resident Karen Banse was determined to spend the rest of her life helping others. Her husband, Will, died in 2008, and Banse became a volunteer at Kaiser Permanente, the hospital where he spent his last moments. She stayed for two years before helping to teach reading to second-, fourth- and fifthgraders at Kinoshita Elementary School in San Juan. Then she looked across Via Positiva and noticed the Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley. "I've always been athletic and I found that I really wanted to get involved with sports," said Banse, 64. She approached Nicole Watson, a unit director at the club, and decided to volunteer there coaching tennis, basketball and softball. "The best thing that happened to me," she said. "I walked into the Boys & Girls Club and there was a banner; it said 'Softball sign-up.' I thought, 'That's it, that's what I want to do.'" Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Banse tried almost every sport available to her. While playing softball in the Burbank League, Banse helped her team win the championship six of seven years, she said. Banse hadn't played softball in a long time but was excited to help coach the Boys & Girls Club's 15-member team of girls ages 12 to 15. Though she doesn't have children of her own, she "doesn't have to be a mother to love children," she said.

Banse, along with Dan Grassman, a teacher at Marco Forster Middle School, and Chris Waters, the club's athletic director, helped the team go 12-2 in its season from March through June and finish third in a league composed of teams from other Boys & Girls Clubs in Orange County. To Banse, softball is more than a sport – it's an opportunity to learn life lessons. "Winning and losing, ups and downs, you're not going to win everything or throw a strike every time," Banse said. "You just have to be prepared for a roller-coaster ride in life." Kacie Tatman, 14, a freshman at San Juan Hills High School who was on Banse's team, said, "It's really nice to have a coach who doesn't just hang out on the field but who does a lot for us off the field." Tatman made the high school's freshman/sophomore softball team and will be starting practice in the spring. She said Banse has offered to practice with Tatman and five other girls on her team who also were on the Boys & Girls Club team last season. Not only that, Banse is willing to drive them to practices and games once the season starts. "She will help you with anything you want," Tatman said. Banse even took Tatman and a teammate to San Diego for a day to build a relationship with the girls. In addition to coaching 12 to 14 hours a week, Banse played on the club's staff softball team, part of a Dana Point co-ed league. Banse was the team's oldest member, but "don't let (my) age fool you," she said. She played first base and "can still catch and throw it," she said. Watson said managing the Boys & Girls Club is hard because of funding concerns, but having volunteers like Banse allows the organization to offer elementary and middle school students the opportunity to succeed in various aspects in life. "Volunteers are greatly cherished," Watson said. "They allow us to do things we would not otherwise be able to do." She praised Banse as "an inspiration to our youth." "She's awesome, she's really awesome," club Executive Director James Littlejohn said. Banse said she plans to continue her volunteer work at the club as long as she can. For more information on volunteering, contact Watson at nbelair@bgcapo.com. 949-240-7898 or

The club is open from 2 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. holidays and during school breaks.

The center, which also has a location in Aliso Viejo, is funded primarily through grants, donations and membership fees. Fees are $50 per year; the club offers financial aid.

Doc to celebs writes book for average back, neck pain sufferers
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-12-08 18:34:18

A San Juan Capistrano neck and back doctor has written a new book that shares techniques he has used on patients including baseball legend Tom Lasorda, Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and actor Sylvester Stallone. Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, a neurologist who practices at the Arcadia-based Fortanasce Neurology Center, attended USC and Yale University and has been a San Juan Capistrano resident for eight years. His six published books include "Life Lessons From Little League," "Life Lessons From Soccer," "The Official American Youth Soccer Organization Handbook," "The Anti-Alzheimer's Prescription" and his latest, "End Back & Neck Pain," published by Human Kinetics. Though he has treated many celebrities, he says you don't have to be famous to benefit from his new book, which sells for about $12 on Amazon.com and also is available at Buy.com and in bookstores such as Barnes & Noble. "Ninety-five percent of people will get low back or spinal pain, and 48 percent will have recurring pain," Fortanasce said in an interview. Fortanasce wrote the 210-page "End Back & Neck Pain" with Robert G. Watkins and David Gutkind. He calls it an "empowerment book" that can teach readers how to prevent pain by starting isometric exercises, which do not require gym equipment or strenuous effort. They involve working joints and muscles while in static positions. "Why doesn't anybody tell you about isometric exercises? Because guess how much equipment they can sell you teaching isometric exercise? None," Fortanasce said. Fortanasce said the book will help the average person tell why he or she is experiencing neck and back pain, without seeing a doctor.

"The book teaches you how to know what your pain sounds like," Fortanasce said. That gives readers a chance to treat their pain with no-cost exercises, he said. One celebrity who testifies to Fortanasce's techniques is former Dodgers manager Lasorda. "I had bad neck pain and I needed to go see someone and here came Dr. Fortanasce," Lasorda said in an interview. "I had pain and then it was gone." Lasorda said he and Fortanasce have been friends more than 10 years. Lasorda said hasn't yet read Fortanasce's new book but plans to when he has time. Fortanasce often checks up on Lasorda and his wife and sometimes stops by to say hello, said Lasorda, a resident of Fullerton for more than 50 years. "In my opinion, he's a brilliant man," Lasorda said. "He cares about people, and people love him." Fortanasce doesn't claim his exercises will cure everyone's pain or that there is no need for chiropractors or medications. But he said the techniques can dramatically reduce the need for both. Fortanasce said one reason he wrote the book is that the cost incurred by Americans who pay to be diagnosed and treated for back and neck pain is more than $40 billion a year, the third-highest medical cost in the country. As a person gets older, problems associated with back and neck pain get worse. "There's not enough prevention," Fortanasce said. Fortanasce has donated more than $500,000 to Little League baseball through profits from "Life Lessons From Little League" and "Life Lessons From Soccer." He also was instrumental in Little League switching to softer balls and the use of helmets on the field after one of his godchildren was hit on the head by a line drive. He was inducted to the Little League Hall of Excellencein 1994.

Councilman with dog Muhammad urges religious inclusion
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-12-07 10:07:35

A San Juan Capistrano councilman who was scolded by some of his colleagues after making remarks during a September public meeting about naming his dog Muhammad after the Muslim prophet is trying to repair the city's image with a new tradition in which he plans to select different members of the community to periodically lead invocations at council meetings. In a statement, Councilman Derek Reeve said, "San Juan received an unfortunate reputation the last few months as being unfriendly to religion. This, of course, is a false reputation. We are a very religious and spiritual town, and I want to show it off." In addition to Reeve's comments about his dog, which angered some Muslim groups, the city was involved in a controversy over a San Juan Capistrano couple who were fined by the city for hosting large Bible studies in their home. That dispute was resolved recently when the city agreed to refund the fines and clarify its rules on such assemblies. Reeve said that every fifth council meeting, he will select a different member of the community to lead the invocation before the meeting. "I want all segments of our community, including religions, to be represented," Reeve said. "San Juan is all about public participation, and frankly, not inviting the public to participate is not reflective of our values." The council regularly uses the invocation as a time to pray, though it does not require anyone attending the meeting to participate in prayer. The council also has had musical performances of a religious nature during meetings and often invites children from area schools to perform.

Reeve said this is not the first time a council member has allowed members of the public to lead an invocation, but he said he couldn't remember the last time it was done. "There is no rule prohibiting this, and I hope the others will follow my lead," Reeve said when asked whether he had discussed his idea with the other council members. The only requirements for speaking during the invocation are that the person be a San Juan resident and that the invocation not be used to promote political objectives, Reeve said. Reeve said on his Facebook page that “the first member of our community to lead the invocation is Gary Stache. Gary has lived in SJC the last 13 years. He is married with four children, all of whom have attendedCapistrano Valley Christian Schools here in San Juan. Gary is an executive vice president at CB Richard Ellis Newport Beach, where he has been selling commercial real estate investments for more than 30 years. He is a church leader at the Vineyard Community Church in Laguna Niguel.” Reeve said anyone interested in leading an invocation can contact him at SJCReeve@aol.com.

Filter repairs may bring San Juan water plant to full capacity
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-11-17 13:51:28

San Juan Capistrano will put $250,000 into repairing sand filters at the city's groundwater recovery plant to increase the plant's ability to supply water. The plant's target is to produce 5.2 million gallons of water per day, but damage to two of the four filters resulted in sand getting in, reducing the plant's capacity. It now can consistently produce up to 4.1 million gallons per day, according to Keith Van Der Maaten, San Juan's utilities director. Grant Taylor, city development-services director, said the cause of the filter damage is unknown. Van Der Maaten said the plant doesn't have to be operating at full capacity to meet demand. But in the summer, when water demand increases, it would be beneficial to have the additional capacity available, he said. The cost of the project is being offset by money from a $3.1 million settlement with Chevron over leaks of a gasoline additive from two Chevron stations years ago. The chemical, MtBE, was discovered in San Juan groundwater in January 2008. A date for the filter project is not set, but the city will receive settlement funds for it in December, the city said. With the repairs, the filters should be fine for up to 50 years, Van Der Maaten said. However, the current filters were at full function less than 10 years before the repairs were necessary.

The City Council voted 3-1 on Tuesday night to approve the project. Mayor Sam Allevato was absent. The majority of council members said they'd like the repairs to begin right away to ensure the plant can meet summer demand. "I want to work on these two items immediately," Councilman Larry Kramer said. "I want that 5.2 MGD badly." Councilman Derek Reeve dissented, saying he questions whether the city should even run its own groundwater plant. "My only concern is that quality water be provided to residents in the most efficient manner possible. I am not persuaded that the city running its own GWRP accomplishes this. In fact, I am increasingly convinced it does not," Reeve said in an email Thursday. "There are pertinent questions that must be answered before we proceed, but unfortunately, the majority of the council insists on continuing to develop the GWRP on blind faith that it is the only answer." The city took over the plant in November 2008 from SouthWest Water Co. The plant began operation in December 2004. To operate it for a year costs about $4.6 million, according to a city report in May.

Ex-San Juan dog is homeless no more
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-11-17 09:50:55

A dog that was rescued and adopted in San Juan Capistrano and then left homeless again 3,000 miles away now has a new family in Massachusetts. Triton, a 5-year-old German shepherd mix, was adopted Friday by an employee of the boarding facility where he had been living since being taken in by Great Dog Rescue New England in June. He ended up there when a veterinary clinic in Chelmsford, Mass., turned him over to GDR after his owners dropped him off at the clinic in March, requesting that he be euthanized because he had killed the family cat. The vet refused, and GDR director Joanna Reck has said she doubts the owners' story. The Ark of San Juan, an animal-rescue organization in San Juan Capistrano, had taken Triton out of the Orange County Animal Shelter last November and adopted him to a San Juan family in January. The family later moved with Triton to Massachusetts. Now, Triton has a new owner, Katelyn Jean, 24, of Reading, Mass., who works for The Ruff House, a boarding facility in Westford, Mass. Jean, who has worked there just three months, said her relationship with Triton was "love at first sight." "He got attached to me. He didn't give me an option. (The adoption) had to happen," Jean said. "He's doing very well," she said, adding that Tuesday was Triton's fifth birthday. Jean said she believes Triton gnawed on crates he was put in during his journey from San Juan to Massachusetts, costing him most of his teeth.

Triton, or "Chunk," as the folks at The Ruff House call him, will get to visit the facility when Jean is working, which she says is ideal since Triton had suffered separation anxiety before. Jean has one other dog, a 3-month-old husky/labradoodle/collie mix who she said is getting along with Triton. "They love each other," Jean said. Jean said she "did a little dance in the kitchen" after adopting Triton. The Ark of San Juan raised more than $2,200 in October to fly Triton back to San Juan Capistrano if adoption arrangements couldn't be made in Massachusetts. "We are all so happy, as we knew the right home was out there for him," Kathy Hammersly, an Ark board member, said Tuesday. Most of the money The Ark raised will be reallocated for other uses, Hammersly said. Some will be refunded at donor request.

Commissioner with poor attendance gets second chance
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-11-16 09:38:27

A member of the San Juan Capistrano Cultural Heritage Commissionwho has missed half the panel's meetings in the past year will get another chance to fulfill his duties after the City Council voted Tuesday night not to declare his seat vacated. Commissioner Nathan Banda told the council he has been through tough times this year. He and his ex-wife were in a six-month custody battle over their daughter, and he had been working more than 60 hours a week while maintaining a position on the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians Tribal Council, which he resigned in July, he said. He also has been paying medical bills associated with a newborn premature daughter by his fiancee. All those things made it hard to attend every commission meeting, he said. Banda said he has been promoted at work and is able to maintain a more flexible schedule that will allow him to meet attendance requirements. The city allows members of commissions and committees to miss no more than 35 percent of scheduled meetings in a 12-month period. Banda said that despite his absences, he managed to send his notes to the commission and remain active in commission business. The four council members in attendance Tuesday (Mayor Sam Allevato was absent) agreed that Banda deserves a second chance based on his previous record and his active role in

the community. Banda has been on the Cultural Heritage Commission since 2007 and was reappointed in July. Councilwoman Laura Freese said Banda was an outstanding commissioner before his personal struggles earlier this year and was even a regular attendee at council meetings, she said. Councilman Derek Reeve also praised Banda, saying he isn't sure the city could find someone more qualified if it declared a vacancy. Banda will be given a clean slate, and his poor attendance record will be wiped out. However, council members told him he would be removed if his attendance doesn't improve in coming months. Councilman Larry Kramer said he is concerned that "everyone has to work harder" when Banda is gone. The Cultural Heritage Commission was scheduled to meet next Tuesday at City Hall, but the meeting has been canceled, the city says.

San Juan to cut its share in new reservoir
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-11-16 07:48:11

San Juan Capistrano plans to reduce its participation in the new $53 million Upper Chiquita Reservoir to free up money to purchase generators to run the city's groundwater recovery plant in case of a power outage. The City Council voted 4-0 Tuesday night, with Mayor Sam Allevato absent, to move forward with a staff recommendation to cut the city's share of reservoir capacity to 6.67 percent from 10.15 percent. The move could save the city close to $1.5 million in costs associated with the reservoir, according to San Juan Utilities Director Keith Van Der Maaten. That would cover the estimated $900,000 cost of the generators and other local water projects to be determined, Van Der Maaten said. San Juan is a partner with the city of San Clemente and the Moulton Niguel, Santa Margarita and South Coast water districts in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the reservoir, which was completed last month near Rancho Santa Margarita. The 244-million-gallon reservoir is intended to provide additional water in case of a loss of supply from the Metropolitan Water District, the agencies' primary source of imported water. San Juan decided to reduce its share of water at the reservoir to 50 acre-feet from the current 76.1 because of unforeseen interest costs and the potential financial effects of continuing at 10.15 percent participation, Van Der Maaten said. He said the city could not afford the cost of maintaining the original agreement, reached in 2009. The city never signed an official agreement, so it can reduce its participation without penalty, he said. The Santa Margarita Water District has agreed to buy the 26.1 acre-feet that San Juan is giving up, Van Der Maaten said.

Council members agreed that having backup power at the groundwater facility is more important and cost-effective than the additional storage area at the reservoir. "This will be a real benefit to the city of San Juan Capistrano," Councilman John Taylor said. Councilwoman Laura Freese, who has been pushing for generators at the plant since she was elected, said she's happy to see the project moving forward. The plan is to install two generators at the groundwater facility and one at each of the five city wells. "We discovered through the analysis that the groundwater recovery plant has a larger role ... if we were to lose that in a power outage than losing additional storage in the Upper Chiquita Reservoir," Van Der Maaten said. The reservoir would supply San Juan with water for only up to 10 days, he said. However, Capistrano Beach resident Richard Gardner said "having a generator that you'll never use ... is an absolute waste of public funds." He said a situation in which power is out longer than 10 days is unlikely and that drawing water from the reservoir, even with the reduced storage, would be sufficient. City staff now will address fuel delivery and the design of the generator project. Fuel costs for the generators would vary depending on costs at the time of an outage and how long the outage continues. There was no timetable set for the project to be completed. - Staff writer Rob Vardon contributed to this report.

San Juan sweetens incentives for local holiday shopping
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-11-03 10:58:18

San Juan Capistrano wants you to shop there this holiday season. And to prove it, the City Council has approved a holiday promotion that intends to provide discounts to shoppers at participating businesses and temporary amnesty for businesses from decoration and sign ordinances. Shoppers might even get a break on parking tickets. The program is to begin Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving, and last through the end of the year. The council voted unanimously Tuesday night to move forward with the "Shop San Juan Capistrano During the Holidays" program, which the city and Chamber of Commerce hope will bring more holiday shoppers to San Juan businesses. In a letter to the city, Mark Bodenhamer, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, wrote: "This type of partnership is ideal for our community. It benefits the businesses, promotes the unique 'small-town' charm that we offer in historic downtown San Juan Capistrano, and has little to no financial impact on the city." The cost of promotional pieces is to be paid by the chamber. The city would lose some revenue from fines and from fees for store banner applications. The program was spearheaded by council members Laura Freese and John Taylor. Their plan includes incentives to shoppers such as 10 percent discounts at participating stores for residents of San Juan, Dana Point and San Clemente and $1 off the admission price to Mission San Juan Capistrano for all members of a party who spends at least $10 at a San Juan restaurant. They also proposed amnesty from parking citations throughout downtown, except at red curbs and fire hydrants. Freese said Tuesday that the city must comply with the Sheriff's Department on parking enforcement and ticketing. Sheriff's Lt. John Meyer, chief of San

Juan Capistrano Police Services, has said warnings could be issued instead of citations for some offenses. The city hopes not to repeat cases like last year, when Buy My Bikes was cited for including a large blow-up Santa Claus in its holiday decorations in front of the store. This season, the city will allow businesses to decorate without fear of being cited for violations of sign and decor rules. "Anything that is in the holiday spirit would probably be fine," Freese said. Freese said she would support a holiday decorating contest this year, following up on a suggestion last month by Councilman Derek Reeve and a local business owner for a lighting contest to help spruce up downtown. "It's just something, another type of motivation to get people to spend money in our town during Christmas so they don't go up to the Mission Viejo mall and they don't go online to buy their Christmas gifts," Freese said.

Landscape design contract approved for historic adobe
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-11-02 09:03:03

San Juan Capistrano's Blas Aguilar Adobe will get new native landscaping as part of a city project that also will make repairs to the historic structure and rebuild historical outdoor features. The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a $36,525 contract with San Juan-based RJM Design Group to design the landscaping for the site at 31806 El Camino Real. In April, the city project was awarded a $498,434 state grant through the Nature Education Facilities section of Proposition 84, a park bond approved by California voters in 2006. Councilwoman Laura Freese asked whether the grant would cover any costs associated with improving signage for the adobe. "That's the only thing that's sorely lacking there," she said. "It is a treasure that too many people miss because of a lack of signage." Teri Delcamp, San Juan's historic-preservation manager, said the grant covers all costs associated with enhancements to the adobe but that signage is not included in the landscaping plan. Sign improvements perhaps could be an addition to the first design phase for the work on the adobe, she said. The adobe house was one of several that Mission San Juan Capistrano built in 1794 for soldiers and local American Indians who worked at the mission. The Blas Aguilar Adobe is on the National Register of Historic Places. According to a report by Grant Taylor, the city's development-services director, the project is tentatively scheduled to begin in October 2012 with seismic stabilization of the south wall,

repairs to the roof and reconstruction of external features. The landscape and hardscape work would start in April 2013, with the entire project completed in July 2013. Other items approved by the council Tuesday night include: • The emergency expenditure of $49,700 for SAK Construction to install a protective lining on 400 feet of sewer pipe that the city found had been degraded by sewer gases. The discovery was made after the line was damaged and repaired by a Caltrans contractor that had been doing pile-driving work for an I-5 widening project in the San Juan Creek Road area. The money for the lining will come from capital-improvement funds for sewer replacement. • A contract with San Clemente-based Rohan & Sons Inc. to maintain the city's cooling and heating units. The contract will cost the city $5,768 per year for three years, with three oneyear optional extensions. That's about $3,300 per year less than the next-lowest bidder, a staff report said. The city will be billed additionally by the hour for any necessary repairs. Mayor Sam Allevato abstained from voting on the issue because Rohan & Sons has done work at his residence, he said. - Staff writer Rob Vardon contributed to this report

Forster Mansion operator mum about events shutdown
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-11-02 16:26:24

The operator of San Juan Capistrano's Forster Mansion isn't sharing the reasons for ending the historical home's special-events business the day before the City Council was to hear an appeal seeking reinstatement of a permit for the events. In a letter to the city dated late Monday afternoon, mansion operator Arpi Evans withdrew the appeal and wrote, "Effective immediately, there is no longer an events business located at 27182 Ortega Highway at the historic Forster Mansion." The council canceled its scheduled public hearing on the matter Tuesday night. Mayor Sam Allevato said the city was given no explanation as to why Evans withdrew the appeal. In an email to The Orange County Register a few weeks ago, Evans said, "I would like to discuss all of this with you." But since then, Evans has not responded to many phone calls and emails about the revocation of the permit and the withdrawal of the appeal. The Planning Commission voted Sept. 13 to revoke the permit for the century-old landmark. Evans had been conducting weddings and other special events at the mansion since 2008, at first without a required permit and business license. Evans was issued a conditional use permit by the Planning Commission in July 2009. A modified version was approved by the City Council later that year. But nearby residents complained that Evans violated the permit through excessive noise and issues with sanitation, hours of operation, parking and lack of permits for food, alcohol and other things.

That led the commission to revoke the permit. Evans appealed to the City Council, and city staff recommended the council uphold the commission's decision. With the appeal withdrawn, the mansion cannot host any special events, City Attorney Omar Sandoval said. Councilman John Taylor said he would have had to hear the appeal to render judgment on the issue. But he added it would have been "difficult to go against the commission's ruling on this one." "She obviously violated the conditions of her CUP," Taylor said. "I feel sorry for anyone who loses their business, but you have to comply with the rules." Evans has not responded to questions about the effect on people who had booked events that will not be held. Nor have three clients who had reserved the mansion for events. Evans filed for bankruptcy this year and sued the former mansion owners, accusing them of fraud, according to a report on Patch.com. Evans did not respond to questions from the Register concerning the lawsuit or the bankruptcy. Sandoval said Evans was the subject of two citizen's arrests in 2009 after complaints from residents about loud noise and unpermitted events at the mansion. According to Sandoval, an Orange County Superior Court judge accepted a plea deal Oct. 13, 2009, in which Evans would pay a fine and be placed on six months' probation. If no violations occurred in the six months, the case would be dismissed, and it was.

SDG&E powers up word of mouth for electric project
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-11-02 07:26:02

San Diego Gas & Electric Co. says it made more than 1,000 house visits the past two Saturdays to spread the word about its plans to replace an electric substation in San Juan Capistrano and upgrade the power corridor in San Juan and San Clemente. Duane Cave, director of external affairs for SDG&E, told the San Juan Capistrano City Council on Tuesday night that the company will continue to go house to house until its Nov. 16 public information presentation at San Juan Hills Golf Club, 32120 San Juan Creek Road, San Juan Capistrano. Another meeting will be in San Clemente the following day at Bella Collina Towne & Golf Club, 200 Avenida La Pata. The meetings will be held both days from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. During the door-to-door visits in San Juan and San Clemente, SDG&E representatives handed out fliers, accompanied by bilingual speakers, notifying residents of the utility's plans to replace a substation at 30127 Camino Capistrano, Cave said. During an Oct. 18 council meeting, Cave said the project is needed "because in south Orange County our service territory is continuing to grow. Energy demand has tripled in the last 26 years." The project involves demolishing the current substation that was built in 1918 by Southern California Edison. The new 45- to 50-foot-tall structure would be on the same 6-acre site. In addition, new power lines on taller steel poles would be installed in San Juan and San Clemente that would supply more power, Cave said. The current lines outputting 138kV would be upgraded to more-reliable 230kV lines, according to the company's fliers. The initial cost estimate for construction is $435 million, Cave said Tuesday. Construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2013 and be completed in 2017. Though construction is

two years away, SDG&E wants the community to know about it and provide input, Cave said. However, San Juan Capistrano resident Rhen Kohan said there was not enough notice of the project or this month's open houses. She said she found out about the project in the news media, not from SDG&E. Cave maintained that Kohan's case was isolated and that the company's outreach to residents is sufficient. Cave said SDG&E will present updates to the San Juan and San Clemente city councils as plans for the project forge ahead.

SDG&E plans upgraded substation in San Juan
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-23 08:40:55

  San Diego Gas & Electric Co. says it will replace its San Juan Capistrano substation in an effort to improve the reliability of electrical flow to the city. Duane Cave, director of external affairs for SDG&E, said the plans are preliminary but that "this project is needed ...because in south Orange County our service territory is continuing to grow. Energy demand has tripled in the last 26 years." The project involves demolishing the current substation that was built in 1918 by Southern California Edison. The new 45- to 50-foot-tall structure would be on the same 6-acre site at 30127 Camino Capistrano. In addition, new power lines on taller poles would be installed in San Juan and San Clemente that would supply more power, Cave said. Cave said construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2014 and be completed in 2017. He said SDG&E will provide more information at a future City Council meeting and at two public presentations to be held in San Juan and San Clemente. The company also will advertise its plans in local newspapers and through information delivered door to door, he said. Cave said the company plans to apply for conditional use permits for the project next year and conduct environmental-impact studies in 2013. Several San Juan Capistrano council members this past week expressed a need for the new substation to conform to the "San Juan look." Cave said "we want to make sure we're fitting in" and that the company intends to gather community input on the design. Some council members also were concerned about removing the old substation building, which they view as historical. "Is there any possibility to keep that existing building facade, as it is kind of a historic element in that part of town?" Councilman John Taylor asked.

Cave said SDG&E looked into constructing the new building behind the current one but decided it isn't feasible. There are no cost estimates for the project yet. Cave said the planned changes would not have prevented the massive Sept. 8 power outage that struck SDG&E in much of south Orange County as well as San Diego County and western Arizona. But he said the upgrades might have enabled the company to restore power in San Juan Capistrano more quickly.

Car dealers lead in sales taxes, but does San Juan need more?
By JOSH FRANCIS and ROB VARDON 2011-10-20 10:52:42

  More than one-fourth of San Juan Capistrano's sales-tax revenue came from local car dealerships in the 2010-11 fiscal year, which ended June 30, according to an analysis by a municipal-services contractor. Jerry Peeler was hired to review the city's sales-tax income and suggest ways it could increase revenue. One of those suggestions was to try to bring in more new-car dealers. City Council members said they support the current dealerships, but some are hesitant to "put the eggs all in one basket" with further incentives to attract new dealers, similar to what the city did in July 2010, when it offered a yearlong 75 percent discount on some development fees for new auto dealerships and hotels. Also last year, the city Redevelopment Agency decided to give a $5 million incentive to Tuttle-Click Automotive Group to take over Capistrano Ford, which was scheduled to close. "With 27 percent of our sales tax coming from (car dealers), we're so heavily weighted in that direction, and when you look at where we got hurt a lot in the last few years, it's because we were so heavily weighted there," Councilman Larry Kramer said at Tuesday night's council meeting. The city's tax revenue from new-car sales declined 1.5 percent from the previous fiscal year and 2.4 percent in the second quarter of 2011 as compared with a year earlier. Peeler attributed that partly to a sales shift toward lower-priced vehicles, resulting in lower sales taxes. Peeler forecast that overall revenue would be sluggish the next few years, and he suggested the council try to attract more auto dealerships, especially higher-end brands such as Land Rover and Jaguar.

According to Peeler's report, eight of the city's 25 largest sales-tax generators were car dealerships. He recommended the city zone sites with freeway visibility to attract new dealers and then provide help with issues such as access, signage, storage and lighting. The presentation showed no expectations of a significant increase in revenue the next few years because of the state's economic slump – including an unemployment rate continuing at about 12 percent – and increased sales on out-of-state websites like Amazon.com, which has refused to collect California sales tax. According to Peeler, it would take 5 percent economic growth to decrease the unemployment rate by 1 percentage point. This year's state economic growth is projected at 1.5 percent and next year at 1.8 percent, Peeler's report said. Peeler also suggested the city try to attract businesses in industries such as solar power, telecommunications, software and biotechnology. Sales-tax revenue generated from general retail was largely unchanged in 2010-11 – up 1.3 percent from the previous fiscal year, the report said. For the first two quarters of 2011, the city accumulated more than $10 million in sales-tax revenue. It made about $20.5 million all of last year, officials said. Revenue has declined since the economic downturn began in 2008. The city made $26 million in sales taxes that year; it made nearly $30 million in 2007. Another concern for San Juan is the impending closure of two gas stations and two fastfood restaurants as a result of the I-5/Ortega Highway interchange renovation scheduled to begin in December 2012. That could cost the city $300,000 to $400,000 in revenue, officials said. However, one factor not included in Peeler's report is the new Costco gas station, which he said could increase revenue. Here are some other points from the report: • While new-car dealers led the way in sales-tax generation, department stores accounted for 14 percent of San Juan's total in 2010-11, and restaurants accounted for 11 percent. • With gas prices rising, sales taxes from service stations were up 12 percent year over year and 36 percent in the second quarter of 2011 compared with the second quarter of 2010. Service stations accounted for 7 percent of the city's overall sales-tax revenue last fiscal year. • On the quarter-to-quarter comparison, sales taxes from furniture and appliances fell 22 percent. • Revenue from sales of office equipment dived almost 34 percent year to year. • Quarter to quarter, sales-tax revenue from construction and building materials increased an average of about 13 percent.

See a link to Peeler's PowerPoint presentation here.

I-5/Ortega aesthetics satisfy San Juan
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-19 08:21:46

  San Juan Capistrano's elected leaders expressed general satisfaction Tuesday night with the city's negotiations with Caltrans over features of the planned reconstruction of the I5/Ortega Highway interchange. San Juan's "aesthetics team" consisting of members of staff, the Design Review Committee and the Planning Commission presented a report to the City Council following 10 meetings with representatives of theCalifornia Department of Transportation spanning January 2010 to August this year. The discussions included intersection and bridge design, sidewalks, retaining walls, fencing, right of way, lighting, landscaping, utilities, signs and more. Caltrans has certified an environmental-impact report and completed 95 percent of the design work, including a reconfigured Del Obispo Street intersection and a $57.5 million single-cloverleaf freeway interchange. The project would eliminate two gas stations, a Jack in the Box and an Arby's. Among the city's biggest concerns going into the negotiations was the look of the bridge that would be rebuilt over the freeway. Caltrans agreed to install pavers for the bridge's sidewalk as well as underneath the bridge. It also agreed to install a brown guardrail on the bridge to correspond with San Juan's downtown colors. The council was supportive of those features and of the idea of extending the pavers from the bridge west to the downtown area, which would cost the city about $132,000, according to a staff report by Grant Taylor, director of development services. Council members agreed that money from the city's capital-improvement program should be allocated for the pavers. Councilwoman Laura Freese was absent. Extending the pavers to the east as well would cost the city an additional $44,000, Taylor said, but the council decided not to pursue that.

The city will be responsible for maintaining the pavers on the bridge and the portion of the sidewalk that will connect the bridge to downtown. Staff was directed to gather information on maintenance costs. Another issue of concern to the council was ownership of parcels of land left over after the interchange's completion. Those remnants would be bid on, but property owners adjacent to the parcels may get first rights to them. Council members did not object to businesses getting purchasing priority but did say they want to work with property owners to plant vegetation on the parcels to fit the look of the city. "I think it's a great project; it's going to be a massive change for San Juan," Councilman John Taylor said. "It's really important, I think, to get some of these remnant parcels, especially one that could be a great monument for the entry to the town." The council views the Ortega/I-5 interchange as the main entrance to the city and would like to build a welcoming feature there. Staff was directed to find possible funding sources if the city tries to purchase leftover land. Another cost to the city would be undergrounding utility lines, which the aesthetics team advised the council to do to prevent the project from looking ugly, said team member Rob Williams. The council directed staff to gather cost estimates and research possible funding sources for that. The council also directed staff to look at ways to enhance a retaining wall on the freeway, possibly with vegetation, as well as decorating an overhead sign that will be installed during the project. The aesthetics team submitted 50 requests to Caltrans, which agreed to about half of them. One item Caltrans could not agree on is planting vegetation on a parcel that Caltrans would not have access to after the construction. A new retaining wall mandated by state code would block entry to the parcel, and the only way Caltrans could access it would be to cross private land, which it will not do, according to a Caltrans representative. The parcel will be paved during the project, Caltrans said. Caltrans also did not agree to wider sidewalks on the bridge, as state law would not allow it. Caltrans plans to begin construction on the interchange in December 2012. A landscaping contract is to be issued about a year after that, Taylor said. Project completion is scheduled for November 2014, he said. The project would be funded mostly through Measure M, the county's half-cent sales tax for transportation. - Staff writer Rob Vardon contributed to this report

Permit OKd for more repairs on slide-damaged coastal bluff
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-18 10:40:37

  The Dana Point Planning Commission unanimously approved a resolution Monday night to allow issuance of a coastal development permit for repairs on a coastal-bluff property damaged by a mudslide in October 2010 that caused closure of part of Pacific Coast Highwayfor nearly two weeks. A letter sent to Community Development Director Kyle Butterwick by resident Carole Weling expressed concern about repairs already done because of what Weling called the city's lack of notice to residents near the property at 34885 Doheny Place. The property was initially repaired by the homeowner after the city authorized emergency work to stabilize the site, Butterwick said. "This was a great tragedy for this homeowner. However, that does not give them – or the city – a 'pass' on notice of the work/codes, at least in some form of information to the surrounding neighborhood at the time work is being done," Weling said in her letter. The repairs made before issuance of the coastal development permit were intended only to secure the site and prevent another slide, city officials said. With approval of the permit, the property can be repaired further, including planting new vegetation on the slope to help prevent erosion. "Refinements are confined to just his parcel; it has no affect on any other properties adjacent to this property," said Butterwick, who added that he talked with Weling about her concerns. Weling did not speak at Monday's commission meeting. Butterwick said Weling's concerns seemed to be about public notice and not the technical details of the repairs. He said the city did give public notice about Monday's meeting.

Weling also wrote in her letter that "my best information is that the lateral break/crack/slumping/erosion problem can be slowed but not stopped. Also, please advise why 10-foot pilasters and gates are any part of an 'emergency work' project that circumvents city notice codes." Butterwick said the pilasters and gates were a result of the emergency repairs made by the homeowner. The mudslide was caused by erosion and subsurface water seepage at the face of the bluff, according to a city staff report. Two dry wells were installed to fix the water seepage. Concrete rods were put under the property's patio to ensure it would not fall onto PCH. A guardrail damaged by the slide was replaced. Residents will be notified of new work on the bluff with signs posted around the property, officials said. Construction and repairs will take place within city-mandated time restrictions, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, except for federal holidays. There is no specific timeframe for when the additional repairs will be made, though the permit will expire in two years.

Councilman with dog Muhammad out as Concordia instructor
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-10 18:20:44

  San Juan Capistrano Councilman Derek Reeve is no longer a part-time faculty member at Concordia University in Irvine, where he was teaching two political-science courses this fall. Reeve recently received criticism from some council colleagues and Islamic groups for his comments about naming his dog after the Muslim prophet Muhammad. He also has been accused of plagiarizing blogs he wrote for a local news website. Reeve and a Concordia representative confirmed a report by Patch.comthat Reeve is no longer an employee of the university. Neither would say why. Reeve told the Register he is unable to discuss whether his departure had anything to do with his recent controversies. "Unfortunately, at this time I am not at liberty to comment," he said. "Hopefully that will change in the coming weeks." Reeve also is a part-time instructor at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. A representative there said Monday that Reeve is still employed at Saddleback. Reeve was accused in September by the San Juan Capistrano editor of Patch.com of plagiarizing parts of several blog entries he wrote for the site. Reeve stated in a guest column published Oct. 6 in the Capistrano Valley News (The Orange County Register's weekly newspaper in San Juan Capistrano) that he had "carelessly submitted previously published material."

"In the legal and education professions in which I work, I take pains to add footnotes to identify the origin of ideas," Reeve wrote. "But in everyday communication, and most especially blogging, the atmosphere is much more relaxed and informal." Both Concordia and Saddleback have rules and disciplinary measures for students who plagiarize. Neither campus stated whether a faculty member can be punished or fired for plagiarism. Saddleback College's Faculty Code of Ethics and Professional Standards contains no entries specifically about plagiarism, though part of it states that professors must practice "intellectual honesty." Concordia's faculty handbook also doesn't list specific guidelines or consequences related to plagiarism by an employee. It does list certain works that are "copyrightable," including literature, music, drama, choreography, pictures, graphics, sculptures, motion pictures, sound recordings, architecture and more.

U.S. crackdown threat doesn’t deter closed Dana Point pot shop
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-10 18:58:43

  Despite a warning of a federal crackdown on commercial marijuana providers issued Friday by four U.S. attorneys representing California, a lawyer for a medical-marijuana dispensary shut down in Dana Point said the shop will continue fighting the city in court. Jeff Schwartz, attorney for Beach Cities Collective, said he plans to continue with an appeal of a judge's ruling in March that the dispensary must pay Dana Point $2.4 million in damages in a lawsuit the city won in Orange County Superior Court. Beach Cities also was ordered in July to pay the city $138,000 in attorney fees. Schwartz said the federal warning is targeted at marijuana dispensaries that are operating and that since Beach Cities is not open, "the crackdown does not have an effect on our case." He said Beach Cities lost an appeal of Dana Point's lawsuit victory but he has petitioned the state 4th District Court of Appeal for a rehearing. He said he expects an answer by Oct. 31. Schwartz said if the appeals court is not willing to rehear Beach Cities' appeal, he will petition the California Supreme Court. Beach Cities Collective and another medical-marijuana dispensary, Holistic Health, sued Dana Point and members of the city government in separate cases after the city shut down the dispensaries in January on claims of code violations. Beach Cities sued in April for $20 million in damages. Holistic Health sued in June for $30 million.

Both dispensaries' lawsuits were dismissed last month by Superior Court Judge Glenda Saunders. Dana Point won about $7 million in judgments this year in three separate lawsuits against Beach Cities, Holistic Health and The Point Alternative Care after alleging they were operating illegally by selling marijuana for profit to people without prescriptions, constituting a public nuisance. Under California law, only nonprofit collectives can provide marijuana and only to people with a doctor's recommendation. Dana Point City Attorney Patrick Munoz said he favors a federal crackdown on marijuana dispensaries. "It's about time," he said Friday. "Had they done this earlier, it would have saved us the tremendous amount of time and money we spent to shut down the dispensaries in our city." Dana Point has spent more than $400,000 on legal costs connected to its lawsuits against the three pot shops, Munoz said. The dispensaries were ordered closed by judges' orders. Garrison Williams, founder of Holistic Health, said he is concerned about the potential federal crackdown but said he has not received a warning letter from the U.S. attorneys. Holistic Health has appealed a court order in May that it pay Dana Point $2.68 million, and Williams said he hopes the federal issue won't affect his case. Williams said he opened his shop in the first place because of a statement by the Obama administration in early 2009 that there would be no federal action against medical-marijuana dispensaries that obeyed state laws. "He (Obama) needs to reconsider what he is doing," Williams said. "His administration is making the wrong decision." Williams said his shop operated as a nonprofit medical dispensary and did not deserve to be shut down. Williams said the only way the federal government can be dissuaded from following through on its warnings is for medical-marijuana advocates to show opposition to the crackdown. He said he received dozens of supportive emails when Holistic Health was being challenged by the city but that no one showed up at City Council meetings to voice that support. - Staff writers Brian Joseph and Erika Ritchie contributed to this report.

San Juan OKs toll-road extension plan
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-12 07:00:59

  San Juan Capistrano's City Council signed off Tuesday on a proposal by Orange County's toll-road agency to connect the first phase of a southern extension of the 241 toll road to a spot near Ortega Highway. At a special City Council meeting, Thomas Margro, chief executive of theTransportation Corridor Agencies, said the preferred plan is to build the future connection at a new road north of Ortega Highway. Under that plan, three new roads would be built, including the longest, Cow Camp Road, which would run parallel to Ortega. The new section of the toll road would extend the 241 four miles to San Juan from its current end at Oso Parkway between Las Flores and Coto de Caza. Though many members of the public voiced support for the project, council members had major concerns about the possibility of a direct connection to Ortega Highway. Some also expressed a preference that the road continue into San Clemente rather than end in San Juan. "I prefer you build it all the way to La Pata," Councilman Larry Kramer said. "My second preference is that it go to Pico." Avenida La Pata and Avenida Pico are both in San Clemente, where a possible second phase of the 241 extension could connect. TCA eventually wants to connect the toll road to I-5 somewhere in far south Orange County. Tuesday's 3-1 council vote was intended to give direction to Mayor Sam Allevato, San Juan's representative on the TCA board, for when the board meets Thursday to consider

moving ahead with environmental and engineering assessments for the extension's first phase, including the proposed new roads. Margro said TCA staff would return to the board and San Juan next October with additional information coming out of those studies. The lone dissenting vote Tuesday came from Councilwoman Laura Freese, who said she favors the toll-road extension but not with it potentially ending near or at Ortega Highway, which she said would add to traffic congestion on Ortega. "We're just not ready for that; not at this time. So that's why we need to share it" with San Clemente, Freese said. San Clemente officials have said repeatedly that they oppose any toll-road connection to Avenida Pico or I-5 in their city. The four-mile segment, projected to carry 41,000 of daily traffic in 2035, would originally be two lanes in each direction with a median wide enough for additional lanes or future transit options. Councilman Derek Reeve was absent from the meeting because of a schedule conflict but said previously that the TCA proposal appears to facilitate the Rancho Mission Viejo company's plan to build up to 14,000 homes and 5 million square feet of retail and commercial development – what he said "amounts to a whole new city on the eastern border of San Juan Capistrano." "Imagine what that will do to our small town," Reeve said last week. "The traffic alone that this will generate will be a nightmare for our residents." The toll-road extension would provide a link for that future community to Rancho Santa Margarita and northeast portions of Orange County. Construction of Rancho Mission Viejo infrastructure, including Cow Camp Road, would go on while the toll road is under construction, TCA says. The TCA's Operations and Finance Committee last Wednesday gave initial approval to the Phase 1 extension and authorized staff to develop engineering plans, environmental assessments and a financial strategy. The assessments and financial strategies are expected to take up to a year. Construction on the new segment could begin in early 2013 and be completed in 2014, TCA says. The California Coastal Commission and the U.S. Commerce Department killed the last proposed extension in 2008 because of environmental issues with the route, which would have gone through San Onofre State Beach park, as well as questions about financing. - Staff writers Rob Vardon and Alejandra Molina contributed to this report.

San Juan to tackle crime with community specialist
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-06 08:50:55

  San Juan Capistrano leaders approved a recommendation by the city's chief of police services to create a comprehensive community-oriented policing program that is expected to help prevent crime and save the city about $43,000 the rest of this fiscal year and about $65,000 during the next two years. The change will delete one motor patrol position and one patrol deputy while adding one civilian crime-prevention specialist and an administrative sergeant. The patrol positions would be filled by current officers and by reserve deputies the city will not have to pay for. The crime-prevention specialist's duties will include: • Establishing Neighborhood Watch and Business Watch programs • Holding monthly town-hall meetings to answer questions and hear comments • Overseeing a Public Safety/Neighborhood Enhancement Committee that would meet monthly to address public-safety and quality-of-life concerns • Working with city code enforcement and county agencies to address issues such as transients and blight

• Establishing youth programs to provide alternatives to truancy, crime and gang involvement • Maintaining a website with information on crime in the area. The site also would display emergency-preparedness information and allow residents to make requests to give police a better idea of what concerns them. "I'm looking forward to seeing this work," Councilman Derek Reeve said. With the City Council's 5-0 vote Tuesday night, the new program will take effect Nov. 4 and run through June 30. The council then will need to decide whether to continue it. Sheriff's Lt. John Meyer, San Juan Capistrano's police chief, encouraged the council to give the program at least a year. He said he is convinced the program will help reduce crime rates: "I know this will work." Sheriff's Lt. Paul D'Auria, chief of police services in San Clemente, said at Tuesday's council meeting that it took three years for a similar program there to make a big difference but that it has greatly enhanced crime prevention and community involvement. With the staffing changes, San Juan's policing contract with the Sheriff's Department will cost $7,158,471 this fiscal year, down from $7,201,484.

Dog park gets fee waivers as San Juan plays hurry-up
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-06 07:05:38

  The San Juan Capistrano nonprofit organization that is developing part of the city's east open space into a 0.8-acre dog park won't have to pay $12,742 in permit fees after the City Council voted Tuesday night to waive them. The vote was 4-1, with Councilman Derek Reeve dissenting. In addition to the fee waivers, the council granted site access to the Open Space Foundation so it can begin surveying the land. The council unanimously approved the project in June and has been hastily moving forward on plans to build the park on a 3-acre site off Camino Capistrano, just north of Junipero Serra Road. Councilman Larry Kramer called on city staff and all other parties involved to expedite the planning process so that phase of the project can be completed within the six- to eightmonth timeframe presented to the council. "I just want to urge you, since this was one of our top priorities on our strategic plan, to move a little faster – in fact, a lot faster," Kramer said. Grant Taylor, city director of development services, said staff expects to finish within the presented timeline but did not offer specifics. The council supported the idea of a special meeting with all city committees and commissions involved in the process to help expedite it, though no date was set for such a meeting.

All site improvements associated with the dog park, including materials, construction, environmental review and archaeological monitoring, will cost the Open Space Foundation about $270,000, Taylor said. The park's design is being funded separately, he said. In June, the city agreed to pay $22,165 in capital-improvement funds for design and engineering work. The park is to have separate spaces for large, medium and small dogs, with a 5-foot-tall chain-link fence separating each one. Access to the park will be from an equestrian parking lot on the south side of the site, according to Taylor. There will be an access road from Camino Capistrano to the parking area. The design is subject to review by the Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Commission and the Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commission, Taylor said.

Deadlines delayed for Christian school’s building plans
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-05 16:09:32

  Saddleback Valley Christian Schools is getting its wish for a delayed timetable for applying for building and grading permits for a new classroom building and a gymnasium at the San Juan Capistrano campus. The San Juan City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve pushing back previously agreed deadlines. The school now has until February to apply for permits for a 21,050-square-foot classroom building and until December 2012 to complete it. The school initially had hoped to start construction by the end of this summer, but financial problems and issues with a new trail have prevented that. The application deadline for a 14,000-square-foot gymnasium was amended to Aug. 9, 2013, and its completion pushed back to February 2014. A provision in the amended agreement allows the school three one-year extensions for the new gym, which could push its completion to February 2017. The school currently uses a temporary structure as a gym and chapel. The new classroom building and new gym are the second and third parts of a construction project that completed its first phase in 2008 with a two-story, 39,100-square-foot building and the 8,000-square-foot temporary chapel and gym. SVCS representative Phil Schwartz said completion of Phase 3 (the gym) will depend on economic conditions but added that an increase in the school's student capacity would ensure more money flows into the school so it can move ahead with its plan.

The school, at 26333 Oso Road, has 792 students, well above a 500-student cap established in 2005. City staff recommended the current figure become the new cap to allow the school to move ahead with its projects. Council members Laura Freese, John Taylor and Derek Reeve wanted that figure increased to give the school some flexibility. Councilman Larry Kramer and Mayor Sam Allevato were hesitant to raise the capacity without basing the cap on a specific traffic study or fire safety code. "It should be based on something," Kramer said. "I have trouble saying it's going to be a certain number because that's what they have." SVCS representatives told the council the school could handle 1,050 to 1,100 students with its current facilities. City Attorney Omar Sandoval noted that since 2005, Oso Road, Camino Capistrano and Junipero Serra Road have been enhanced, and he said there doesn't appear to be a traffic issue if the student capacity is increased. The council voted unanimously to raise the cap to 850, subject to additional traffic studies near the school if city engineers deem them necessary. Issuing of permits for the new construction is contingent on the school completing an interim multiuse trail to replace one damaged during storms last winter. The interim trail is not complete, and the city Planning Commission urged the school to finish it before zoning approval and building permits are issued for its other construction plans. The interim trail near Trabuco Creek is nearing completion, according to city officials. After that, the school will need to decide on a location for a permanent trail, subject to review by city commissions. The trail's surface maintenance will be the city's responsibility, but the school will be responsible for all other aspects, a city staff report said.

Los Rios traffic plan gets go-ahead in San Juan
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-05 13:23:25

  A plan to make up to $2 million in traffic-related enhancements to San Juan Capistrano's historic Los Rios Street got the go-ahead from the City Council on Tuesday night. The council voted 4-0 to approve the plan, with Councilman John Taylor abstaining because he lives near the street. The plan will cost $1.8 million to $2 million, according to city staff. Councilman Derek Reeve had some concerns with funding but said, "So much work has gone into this and there's been so much input, I don't want to say anything to screw it up." Three workshops were held to gather community input on the plan before it went before the Development Advisory Board, Transportation Commission, Cultural Heritage Commission, Design Review Committee, Planning Commission and City Council. Final and specific costs will be presented to the council at a later meeting. There are no set funding sources for the project. Mayor Sam Allevato suggested that city staff apply for funding from outside sources such as Measure M2 transportation grants to reduce the financial effects on the city. The plan presented by consultant MIG Inc. includes four phases, according to a city report: • The first phase is a sign program to direct people visiting the street to park on adjacent Paseo Adelanto to limit traffic on Los Rios. • Phase 2 will create additional public parking on the street, with additional signs directing visitors to the new parking.

• Phase 3 will reconstruct a portion of Los Rios that connects to Del Obispo Street to eliminate left turns onto that street. • Phase 4 would install an automated access gate or turnarounds for residents and emergency vehicles. After the first three phases are finished, the city will need to decide on which Phase 4 option to go with. Phase 4 also could be dropped if the city determines there is no need for it, the report said. Allevato urged staff to work to get the plan in motion. "This council is obviously very aware of how important Los Rios Street is, and we will do what we can as far as funding to get this happening," he said. Los Rios Street is the centerpiece of California's oldest continuously inhabited residential neighborhood, which has existed more than 200 years.

'Smear campaign' vs. Muhammad dog councilman denied
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-05 09:18:55

  San Juan Capistrano Mayor Sam Allevato and officials of a local news website denied allegations by Councilman Derek Reeve that they are part of a "smear campaign" against him. In a guest column this week for the Capistrano Valley News – a weekly newspaper owned by The Orange County Register – Reeve answered criticism from Allevato and Councilman Larry Kramer of his comment during a Sept. 6 council meeting that he had named one of his dogs Muhammad, after the Muslim prophet. Kramer and Allevato called the comment offensive to Muslims – many of whom consider dogs unclean – and inappropriate public conduct for a council member and asked for an apology. The Muslim groups Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Circle of North America also have called for an apology. Reeve has offered no apology and said in his column that Allevato and Kramer "have launched a smear campaign against me." He has said he chose the dog's name to make a statement against oppression in other societies and to illustrate freedom of speech to his children. Reeve has been supported by many speakers at subsequent meetings, and 77 percent of 481 respondents to a Register online poll said Reeve should not apologize. Allevato said he and Kramer asked for an apology because a city staff member and an area business owner who attended the Sept. 6 meeting are Muslims and were offended by the comment. "With the Muhammad issue he was stepping into an area where (he was) affecting city business," Allevato said.

Kramer declined to comment about Reeve's column, saying he is interested only in city business. Reeve also has been accused by the website Patch.com of plagiarizing parts of commentaries he wrote for the site. In his column, he called those allegations "piling on" and an "attack." Patch editor Jenna Chandler wrote an article titled "Did city councilman plagiarize?" that contains instances in which Reeve appeared to have used unattributed material from articles written by journalists for The Oregonian and The Hill. Reeve said in his guest column: "I was invited to blog on the Patch and carelessly submitted previously published material. This involved one informal published blog that Patch made into three without my consent. This was a blog worthy of Facebook, not a formal article, yet now the editor has the chutzpa to compare this to a student's thesis, which is like comparing apples to gorillas." Janine Iamunno, vice president of communications for Patch, responded that "the editor of San Juan Capistrano Patch did meticulous research and all due diligence before publishing the story about Councilman Reeve's actions. We stand behind our reporting and will let the public decide for themselves." Chandler said in comments posted on her website that she was unbiased and factual in her article. She did not elaborate when asked for further comment. In his column, Reeve equated Patch with The Huffington Post, a website that, like Patch, is owned by AOL. He clarified that comment in an interview, saying he was implying that Patch is biased against him because of its association with The Huffington Post, which he considers a left-leaning organization. Allevato said he is aware of the plagiarism allegations against Reeve but said "the city is not liable for the plagiarism." "We don't want to deal with his personally inflicted problems," Allevato said. "(This) calls into question his credibility, (but) it's really up to the public and the employer." Reeve is a political-science professor at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo and at Concordia University in Irvine. Representatives of those institutions could not be reached for comment. Both institutions have definitions for plagiarism, though they do not specifically pertain to faculty. See Concordia's here. See Saddleback's here. Reeve's column accused Allevato of using unattributed material from other sources in his "Mayor's Message" that appears on the city website and in the Capistrano Valley News.

"I don't take from other writings," Allevato said. He said the city contracts with a publicrelations specialist who reviews reports and statements he makes and that she has never made him aware of any plagiarism in his messages. Allevato said he has not discussed any of the plagiarism allegations with Reeve and does not intend to. "I'm done with it," Allevato said. "This does not further the interest of the citizens of the city of San Juan Capistrano."

San Juan dog park may get $12,700 in fee waivers
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-03 22:19:24

  The San Juan Capistrano City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on whether to grant the San Juan Open Space Foundation a site-access license and more than $12,000 in fee waivers for grading and building permits for a new dog park. The 0.8-acre park will be on a 3-acre site off Camino Capistrano, just north of Junipero Serra Road. The council unanimously approved the project June 7. SEE LINKS TO PREVIOUS STORIES ON THIS PAGE. The fee waivers will cost the city $12,742, which will come from a Capital Improvement Project account, according to a city staff report. All site improvements associated with the dog park, including materials, construction, environmental review and archaeological monitoring, will cost the nonprofit Open Space Foundation about $270,000, according to Grant Taylor, city development-services director. The park's design is being funded separately, he said. The park is to have separate spaces for large, medium and small dogs, with a 5-foot-tall chain-link fence separating each one. Access to the park will be from an equestrian parking lot on the south side of the site, according to a staff report by Taylor. There will be an access road from Camino Capistrano to the parking area. The design is still subject to review by the Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Commission and the Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commission, according to the report.

Also Tuesday, the City Council is to decide whether to accept a $2,500 donation offered by CR&R Waste & Recycling Services to offset the increased cost of transporting the city's Christmas tree to be displayed at the annual holiday event. Since 2008, Victor's Custom Christmas Trees has provided the city a fully decorated 50-foot Oregon tree at no cost except for a $5,000-a-year transportation charge that the company recently said would increase to $7,500 this year because of higher fuel and labor costs. At a recent meeting, the City Council directed its staff to seek out a community donation to ensure the tree would be on display at the holiday event Dec. 3. As many as 10,000 people typically attend the annual tree lighting at Historic Town Center Park. The city would pay $7,500 to Victor's Custom Christmas Trees for delivery costs, and the $2,500 donation would offset the additional charge, city staff says. Tuesday's council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 32400 Paseo Adelanto. See the full agenda here.

Pot shops vow to keep fighting Dana Point after lawsuits dismissed
BY JOSH FRANCIS 2011-10-01 07:52:11

  Lawsuits by two medical-marijuana dispensaries against the city of Dana Point have been dismissed in court, but the dispensaries' leaders insist the fight is not over. Beach Cities Collective and Holistic Health sued the city and members of the city government in two cases totaling $50 million in requested damages after the city shut down the dispensaries this year on claims of code violations. The city also alleged the dispensaries were operating illegally by selling marijuana to people without prescriptions, constituting a public nuisance. Under California law, only nonprofit collectives can provide marijuana and only to people with a doctor's recommendation. The city has been awarded nearly $7 million in court judgments in its own lawsuits against three dispensaries: Holistic Health, Beach Cities and The Point Alternative Care. City Attorney Patrick Munoz said this week that Orange County Superior Court Judge Glenda Saunders dismissed the lawsuits by Holistic Health and Beach Cities when they declined to make requested amendments to their complaints. Holistic Health – which was ordered in May to pay the city $2.68 million in damages – sued Dana Point in June for $30 million, accusing the city of violating the dispensary's right to due process by shutting it down in January without an inspection. Beach Cities Collective – ordered in March to pay the city $2.4 million – sued the city in April for $20 million.

Both Beach Cities and Holistic Health had unsuccessfully appealed their code-enforcement shutdown to a hearing officer hired by the city. The city also was awarded $1.9 million in damages this year from The Point Alternative Care, which has not appealed its closure or countersued. In 2009, six marijuana dispensaries were open in Dana Point. Today, all of them have either relocated or been shut down. See a chronology of the legal battles here. Despite the latest defeats for Holistic Health and Beach Cities Collective, their nearly twoyear battle with the city is not over, according to their founders. "It's an abuse of power and the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. It's outrageous," said Holistic Health founder Garrison Williams. "We have a right to be in Dana Point and we will get a court to allow us back in Dana Point." Beach Cities founder Dave Lambert also said the fight is far from over. "The city attorney does a good job at making this seem like it's over," Lambert said. Munoz countered: “I don’t know why they think it’s far from over. It’s a dead corpse.” Williams said the city offered Holistic Health a settlement that would bar the dispensary from taking any further legal action against the city in exchange for Dana Point waiving its right to collect attorney fees from Holistic Health. Williams called the proposed settlement a joke. Munoz said Williams’ lawyer contacted him about the settlement and not the other way around. “They don’t have anything to trade; we have nothing to settle,” Munoz said. Williams added criticism of the county judicial system, calling it a mockery. "The judges in O.C. Superior Court are a joke," Williams said. "I don't recognize their authority. They haven't made an intelligent decision regarding medical marijuana." Williams said he isn't certain whether he will appeal the dismissal in an appellate court or file a new federal lawsuit against the city. Any action will probably come in six to eight weeks, he said. "The city has flat-out damaged us and violated our rights, lied under oath, slandered us in the newspapers," Williams said. "They think this is going away, but it's not." Williams said that he is prepared to continue this fight for three to five more years and won't settle for anything short of reopening his dispensary in Dana Point. Munoz said the city will aggressively pursue the combined $5 million in judgments owed by Williams and Lambert.

“We will pursue them for the next 20 years if we have to,” Munoz said. "For us at the city level, it’s obvious to us that these guys are just drug dealers,” Munoz said.

Ex-San Juan dog gets second chance at new home
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-30 12:42:38

  After being left at a Massachusetts veterinary clinic by owners who had adopted him from an animal-rescue group in San Juan Capistrano, Triton will be permanently placed in a new home in Massachusetts, saving him from potential euthanasia. The Ruff House boarding facility and Great Dog Rescue New Englandnotified The Ark of San Juan this week that they will take responsibility for finding an adoptive home for Triton, a 4-year-old German shepherd mix, and cover all costs associated with caring for him in the meantime. The Ark had been trying to raise $2,000 to return Triton to San Juan Capistrano in case there were no takers for him in Massachusetts. "We all believe this is the best result for Triton," said Ark board member Kathy Hammersly. "We all were concerned about the stress of travel for this boy. The gentleman at Ruff House had me in tears the way he spoke so lovingly about Triton. We could not be happier for Triton. He is safe." Triton has been in the care of Great Dog Rescue of Andover, Mass., since June. A veterinary clinic in Chelmsford, Mass., turned over the dog to GDR three months after his family dropped him off at the clinic, requesting that he be euthanized because he had killed the family cat. The vet refused, and GDR director Joanna Reck has said she doubts the owners' story. Triton currently is staying at The Ruff House in Westford, Mass. The Ark rescued Triton from the Orange County Animal Shelter in November and he was adopted by a San Juan family in January. The family later moved with Triton to Massachusetts.

The Ark has raised $2,214 to bring Triton back to San Juan. Now that he will be adopted in Massachusetts, donors will have the option of having their money returned or put toward The Ark's other rescue, care and adoption expenses, Hammersly said. "So far, only one donor has requested a return of the funds," she said. "The remaining donors have asked for their donation to be used where most needed."

Illegal-worker crackdown on hold in San Juan
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-29 19:55:49

  The “San Juan Capistrano Right to Work Act,” a proposal by Councilman Derek Reeve to prohibit employers in the city from hiring people who are in the country illegally and allow the city to act on violations, is on hold indefinitely as state and federal legislation plays out. Councilman Derek Reeve submitted a memo this month calling for a law to ensure that “those who have the legal right to work in the United States of America acquire jobs” that might otherwise go to illegal residents. The act would require an employer “to not knowingly employ, contract or subcontract an unauthorized alien.” The requirement would match federal law, Reeve said, while not placing any additional regulations on businesses, such as requiring use of E-Verify, an online system that confirms a job candidate’s legal eligibility to work. The proposal was part of the Sept. 20 City Council agenda, but the meeting ran long and the item was continued to Oct. 4. But Reeve said in an email Thursday that he had withdrawn the issue from next Tuesday’s agenda because “there are a number of unanticipated events taking place in Sacramento and Washington that may have an impact on my proposal. I decided to place it on hold until some of the dust settles.” Congress is considering legislation that would require nearly all employers to use EVerify. A state bill (AB1236) known as the "Employment Acceleration Act" has passed the state Senate. It would prohibit the state, cities, counties and special districts from requiring an employer, other than those government entities, to use the E-Verify system. The bill is awaiting a signature or veto from Gov. Jerry Brown.

The city of San Juan Capistrano and many other government agencies require use of EVerify for their own hiring and that of their contractors. According to Reeve's proposed ordinance, the city would investigate any formal complaint of an employer hiring an illegal worker. Upon written notice to the employer, the city would seek records confirming the legal status of the worker in question. If the city determines the complaint is valid, it would notify local law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about the case. On a first violation, the city would demand that the employer fire all illegal workers and sign a declaration within 10 business days under penalty of perjury that it had done so. A second violation would cost the employer its city business license. San Juan Capistrano Mayor Sam Allevato said this and other recent items brought to the table by Reeve, including an unsuccessful proposal to repeal a concealed-weapons ban in San Juan parks, have not been within the city's capacity to deal with. "Spending time on (this) does not further the interest of the citizens of the city of San Juan Capistrano," Allevato said. Allevato said his priority is keeping council meetings focused on the most important topics facing San Juan. He said the "Right to Work" proposal likely would be voted down because of questions regarding its necessity and legality. See Tuesday's full council agenda here.

Christian school wants later deadlines for expansion
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-29 14:29:39

  San Juan Capistrano's City Council will consider proposed amendments Tuesday night to an agreement with Saddleback Valley Christian Schools, which seeks a new deadline to apply for building and grading permits for a two-story, 21,050-square-foot classroom building for its campus at 26333 Oso Road. If approved, the request would push the application deadline to February and the project's completion to December 2012. The school initially had hoped to start construction by the end of this summer. The school also wants to postpone the deadline to file for building permits for a new 14,000square-foot gymnasium. It did not state a specific time, citing uncertain economic circumstances. The new classroom building is Phase 2 of a three-part construction plan. The gym is Phase 3. The first phase was completed in 2008 with a two-story, 39,100-square-foot building and an 8,000-square-foot temporary chapel and gym. City staff recommends approval of the new timelines for Phase 2, the new classroom building. For Phase 3, the new gym, staff supports a specific deadline for permit application of Aug. 9, 2013, with project completion in February 2014.

A proposed provision would allow up to three one-year extensions for the Phase 3 construction, which could give the school until February 2017 to finish it. An architectural agreement for the next two phases was approved in 2005, but economic problems prevented the school from going forward with the plans, according to Ed Carney, a school administrator. The school recently returned to the San Juan Capistrano Planning Commission for reapproval. The issuing of the permits is contingent on whether the school completes construction of a multiuse trail to replace one damaged during storms last December. The interim trail is not complete, and the Planning Commission urged the school to finish it before zoning approval and building permits are issued for its other construction plans. The commission expressed concerns with the trail design's protections against erosion, according to a city staff report. The interim trail is being built at the top of a slope near Trabuco Creek. The trail's surface maintenance will be the responsibility of the city, but the school will be responsible for all other aspects, a city staff report says. Before Phase 2 building permits are issued, the City Council also must approve trail enhancements to convert the interim trail to a permanent trail. The school has not released details of how much Phases 2 and 3 will cost. See Tuesday's full council agenda here.

San Juan dispute over Bible study heading to court
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-27 23:01:41

  After being fined $300 for hosting a Bible study in their home with upward of 50 people attending, a San Juan Capistrano couple are taking their case to Orange County Superior Court in hopes of getting the penalties overturned. Chuck and Stephanie Fromm were fined a total of $300 in two citations this year – one for $100 and the other for $200. City Attorney Omar Sandoval defended the actions of code-enforcement officers, saying some neighbors had complained about a parking mess created by the large gatherings. The Fromms have appealed the case unsuccessfully to a hearing officer from Newport Beach-based Citation Processing Center, according to Dan Felix, a San Juan codeenforcement official. Many local residents and other supporters of the Fromms have objected to the fines, calling on the city to repeal them and allow the couple to host the Bible studies. "It's upsetting on the one hand, gratifying on the other by the outpouring of worldwide support and by the discussion taking place on a higher level of importance than a mere neighbor dispute," Chuck Fromm said. "People are awakening to the importance of the Bill of Rights." The Fromms now are appealing the penalty in Superior Court. A hearing scheduled for Oct. 7 has been postponed because the couple will be out of town. A new date hasn't been set. If the fines are not overturned, the couple intend to sue in federal court to get the city ordinance in question struck down, according to their attorney, Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute.

The Bible studies occurred every Sunday morning, which Sandoval said violated city zoning codes prohibiting a residential building from being used as a gathering place for more than 50 people on a regular basis. The couple could apply for a conditional use permit, but those are issued only after traffic studies, environmental-impact reports and various other studies, Dacus said. Sandoval said the Fromms missed a 15-day deadline to appeal the initial $100 fine to the hearing officer and therefore can appeal only the $200 citation in court. Stephanie Fromm and the Fromms' daughter Nicole said they believe both fines can and are being appealed in court. "We should not have to pay anything beyond property taxes to use our own home," Stephanie Fromm said. Dacus said he doesn't know whether the first citation can be appealed, but he added that if the court does not overturn both fines, a federal suit would follow. He said the City Council could prevent that by dismissing the fines, amending or repealing the codes and issuing an apology to the Fromms. The council has taken no action on the matter because it has not appeared on an agenda. Dacus said the city had received one complaint from a resident on Branding Iron Road, where the Fromms host their Bible studies. "The city has no legitimate reason for action against this couple," Dacus said. "We create space on our street by placing traffic cones in front of homes and by livestreaming the Bible studies," Chuck Fromm said. "Also, with permission from the HOA, we use our community clubhouse, located on a different street with its own private parking lot." Dacus said the couple do not collect offerings and that they operate like any other Biblestudy group, of which he said there are more than 20 in San Juan Capistrano that have not been faced with similar challenges from the city. "What business is it of the city to put such mandates on how large or how small your group has to be?" Dacus said. One resident asked at last week's council meeting, "Can you stop me from having 50 people over to watch football?" The city issued a statement last week saying the Fromm case "involves the question of when a property developed for residential use has been transformed into a place of public assembly. ... Zoning and building codes treat residences differently than places of public assembly because of public welfare and safety reasons." Councilman Derek Reeve was upset about the pending legal battle with the Fromms and requested that the issue be placed on a future council agenda.

The city has been barred by the court from issuing any new citations, pending the Fromms' appeal.

School’s student mentors help everybody belong
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-27 08:32:28

  If you just started high school or middle school this year (or if you're a parent and your child just did), you know how disconcerting it can be to be the new kid on the block. But at Saddleback Valley Christian Schools in San Juan Capistrano, students are helping one another transition from one grade level to another through the Link Crew and WEB (Where Everybody Belongs) programs. Thirty-four students have been trained to mentor about 200 new or transitioning students at Saddleback Valley Christian's high school, which started Link Crew in 2010. WEB, a similar program, started at the SVCS middle school this year. The campus serves preschool through 12th grade. Both programs are administered by the Santa Cruz-based Boomerang Project, which teaches what it calls enhanced orientation and peer-interaction techniques. SVCS Principal Mike Henjum read about the programs and attended a $2,195 training course for three days on how to offer a more fun and interactive orientation program for his school. He used what he learned to train Trish Bergan, who is now Link Crew coordinator at the school. Bergan selected several students to train as the campus's first Link Crew Leaders. Grace Mayers, a high school junior at SVCS, said the programs have made it easier to reach out to new students and those making the jump from middle school to high school. "I really enjoy it," Mayers said. "It really helps me to grow as a leader." Brandon McIntosh, a senior, said the program brings down the grade barrier. "Now we view freshmen more as friends rather than just freshmen," he said.

Each student mentor must be nominated and meet certain academic criteria. Training is provided at no cost to the student. Last school year, Henjum asked middle-school instructor Michele Chenault to attend training for The Boomerang Project's WEB program so Saddleback Valley Christian could bring WEB to the campus this school year. Chenault and associate Megan Whaling were tasked with selecting 15 students to mentor 88 new or transitioning seventh- and eighth-graders. The Link Crew and WEB are responsible for organizing games at freshman and middleschool orientations, where the mentors can meet some of the newcomers. WEB member Breanna Bell said, "We just go around and help mainly seventh-graders who maybe don't fit in and we just kind of mentor them." Noah McDonald, a new seventh-grader, said WEB made him feel welcome. Seventh-grader Matthew Bunnel, who skipped sixth grade, said the program made him feel more secure. "At the orientation we played a bunch of games that brought us together," seventh-grader Mandi Livingston said. Chenault and Whaling said they've seen tremendous growth in students on both sides of the WEB program thus far. "Now I know how to interact with people and not be so shy," WEB mentor Julia Green said. Henjum said the programs also have helped reduce the need for school disciplinary action against students by making the kids more accountable to one another. "They've made my job easier," he said. "If you can teach through your students, it's great," Whaling agreed. "There's no better model."

Best Martini

1. Infusion
25612 Crown Valley Parkway L-1, Ladera Ranch, 949-3641100 infusionladera.com • The small restaurant and bar is tucked away in the Ladera Ranch community. • The list of 25 different mixtures includes several unique to Infusion. • Family owned and operated since opening in 2006. Why they're No. 1: The Triple X martini is one of several Infusion creations. The bar has served more than 25,000 Triple X martinis over the last five years. It's described as "easy to drink, fruity, and popular with the 30s crowd." With a loyal following that includes more than 600 fans on Facebook for the single location, Infusion has continued to thrive because of its award-winning martinis. During the weekend the restaurant is typically filled to capacity with over 70 guests at a time waiting for their chance to get a martini mixture they can only get at Infusion. "I hear compliments all the time, customers are always telling me this is the only place I can get a good martini," bar manager Mike Halley said. Claim to fame: The Infusion restaurant and bar is one of the few places in Orange County where customers can get a wide variety of martinis with the all around experience of a small family-owned restaurant. The restaurant features a small open-air kitchen and a bar that seats 10 with a good view of a big-screen TV. Fan favorite: "This should be listed as best martinis not martini. There is not one martini I've had here that I didn't like." – Grasie Contreras, Laguna Hills Fun fact: Owners Lonnie and Claire Sheppard designed the restaurant and opened a Mexican-style restaurant across the street last year.

2. Mastro's
Mastro's Steakhouse, 633 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, 714-546-7405 Mastro's Ocean Club, 8112 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, 949-376-6990 mastrosrestaurants.com • Elegant high-end chain with nine locations in the West, luring discriminating clientele. • Martinis are made using a full-size shaker which allows customers to fill up again. Claim to fame: Mastro's not only focuses on the taste of its martinis, but also the look and elegance of every drink on its list. "We have an extensive list of martini selections. A couple of the crowd favorites are the Skinny Diablo, a very tasty low-calorie tequila-based drink, and our signature Mastro's Cosmo, which is an infused vodka dry-ice-smoking cosmopolitan. This martini is not only visually appealing it also tastes magnificent," Mastro's Vice President Jason Miranda said. Fan favorite: "Stiff drinks, great bar scene, mean martinis." – Robert Navarro, Costa Mesa Fun fact: Real pressed fruit is used in the lemon drop and berry martinis

3. Opah Seafood Grill
26851 Aliso Creek Road #C, Aliso Viejo, 949-360-8822 13122 Jamboree Road, Irvine, 714-5088055 opahrestaurant.com • Ten creative martini blends highlight the cocktail menu. Claim to fame: The Opah Seafood Grill is known for its lively atmosphere, live entertainment and creative drink blends. The martini list features drink mixtures such as a pomegranate martini, which includes citrus vodka, pomegranate juice, triple sec and a splash of simple syrup. Four different "drops" – watermelon, lemon, blueberry or strawberry – also are among the martini choices. Fan favorite: "Their bartenders are experts in the world of martinis. They speak for themselves – just stop by any Friday or Saturday night. Try to inch your way up to the bar." – Carol Rice, Laguna Niguel Fun Fact: Opah was named after the moonfish, which is often viewed as a symbol of good luck when caught. – Reported by Josh Francis

Best Sushi

1. Yama Sushi and Grill
27782 Vista Del Lago C-22, Mission Viejo, 949-7169262 yamasushionthelake.com • The restaurant has a waterfront view of Lake Mission Viejo. • The sushi is imported from all over the world. $1 Tuesdays means salmon, albacore or shrimp sushi at $1 apiece. • The restaurant offers sushi-making classes, which include lessons, a sushi-making kit and a chef's hat. Special wineand sake-tasting dinners also are held periodically. Why they're No. 1: "We have the most qualified sushi chefs, and we always use the highest standard ingredients," owner Don Lee said. Claim to fame: "The most-popular dishes are our creations like our yellowtail carpaccio, crab cakes, the Crazy Yama and the samurai roll," Lee said. Yama Sushi offers entertainment, holds banquets on the back patio and will even take its chefs on the road to prepare sushi feasts for a party or business meeting. Fan favorite: "Yama Sushi has excellent deals on their amazing cuts of sushi. The ambiance is unbeatable. The owner is friendly, kind and generous! – MonciaDurazo, Rancho Santa Margarita. Fun fact: The menu includes more than 100 sake beverages.

2. Sushilicious
15435 Jeffrey Road, No. 119, Irvine, 949-5522260 sushilicious.com • Revolving sushi bar showcases the food on a conveyer belt that moves throughout the restaurant. • The restaurant was named by owner Daniel Woo's 5-yearold daughter who said that sushi is delicious. Claim to fame: Sushilicious has freshly prepared sushi with creative names. The dinner plates have an electronic chip underneath that shows the amount of time the plate has been out to make sure the sushi is fresh. One of the more popular dishes on the menu is the Lil Miss Sunshine roll; a California roll topped with fresh salmon and a twist of lemon, baked with a heavenly cream sauce. The wellknown sushicalifragilisticexpialadocious is a soy wrap with crab mix, cucumbers and mixed greens topped with shrimp tempura in a creamy spicy sauce. Fan favorite: "Clean and fun place. Great food; cooks make the dishes right in front of you before placing them on the belt." – Christian Young, Irvine Fun fact: With its hip modern décor, the restaurant has become a hit among young sushi enthusiasts who are interact with Sushilicious via its Twitter and Facebook pages.

3. (TIE) Riptide Rockin' Sushi and Teppan Grill
27741 Crown Valley Parkway,Suite 325, Mission Viejo, 949282-0182 riptidesushi.com • Thursdays are all-you-can-east sushi night. Claim to fame: The Riptide is known for having a large menu selection, with more than 100 items that include both sushi dishes and non-sushi dishes. "Everything we get is fresh and flown in that day," owner Dan Louriano said. Riptide focuses on providing customers with the freshest products and making the atmosphere enjoyable and friendly. Fan favorite: "You will never not have a good time here. Atmosphere is amazing and the sushi is mouth-watering." Ashleigh Elliott, Oceanside Fun fact: Riptide: The owner is the drummer in the band that plays at the dueling-piano bar downstairs.

3. (TIE) Taiko Japanese Restaurant
14775 Jeffrey Road,Suite K, Irvine, 949-559-7190 • Cozy venue, great quality sushi and friendly service have kept customers coming back for the more than 30 years Taiko has been in Orange County. Claim to fame: Known for its tradition of customers waiting in a long line just before opening to get a taste of the restaurant's sushi that is served in large portions on sashimi plates. "It's not an a-la-carte kind of place," one customer described it. Popular items on their menu include spicy tuna hand rolls and baked salmon rolls. Fan favorite: "Best quality and freshest sushi I have ever eaten. The chefs are great and most have been there over 20 years." – Pam Winchester, Mission Viejo Fun fact: Taiko means "drum" in Japanese. – Reported by Josh Francis and Erin Mondt

Best Skate Park

1. Etnies Skate Park of Lake Forest
20028 Lake Forest Drive, Lake Forest, 949-9165870 etniesskatepark.com • There is free admission every day for Lake Forest residents; others must obtain an ID card for $5. • An expanded section opened in August; it is the largest free skate park in the United States, according to the city. • The park draws 60,000 visits by skaters annually. Why they are No.1: "Some of the things that make us stand out is that we are over 60,000 square feet, which is more than (major O.C. parks Vans and Volcom) combined," skate-park coordinator Nick Gates said. "We have a variety of (elements) from world-class street, flow, bowls and pools. There is something for everybody at our park." Claim to fame: After its completion in 2003, the Etniespark quickly became the premier destination for skaters in south Orange County and has held multiple championship tournaments and events. The park features a street course larger than any other O.C. skate park and the only cradle (a half-dome-shaped concrete ramp) in Orange County. Fan favorite: "Everyone is like family. It's the best skate park, they have a cradle and their cement isn't chipped away like at other parks," — Dakota Schennum, Lake Forest Fun fact: There is 92,200 linear feet of rebar in the park. That's more than 17 miles, enough to stretch from the park to the ocean at Laguna Beach.

2. Vans Skatepark
20 City Blvd. W. Bldg. A, Suite 2, Orange, 714-7693800 vans.com/skateparks • 20,000-square-foot indoor wooden skate park • An annual membership is $25; members save $5 per day on admission. Claim to fame: Known for its wooden elements and ramps as opposed to the concrete construction at most other area skate parks, Vans offers unique courses in a large, indoor park. "There is a big difference between wooden parks and concrete parks," said Robert Viquez, the park's supervisor. Wooden parks require more upkeep but offer skaters a smoother, quieter ride. The park is sectioned off into a peewee area for beginners and a main street course for more advanced skaters. "The advanced skaters and adults are respectful of the kids and the beginners," Viquez said. Park members pay $7 per day during the week and $10 per day on weekends. The park offers weeklong summer camps for beginners that start in July. Fan favorite: "I come here every day. It's the best skate park because they have every kind of ramp and the employees are really nice," — Archer Braun, Pasadena Fun fact: The skate park's famous Combi Pool is an exact replica of the one at Upland's renowned Pipeline skate park, which closed in 1988.

3. Volcom Skate Park of Costa Mesa
900 Arlington, Costa Mesa, 714-7545326 volcom.com/skatepark • Free admission every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., except Tuesdays, when it opens at 3 p.m. Claim to fame: The park is large enough to accommodate many skaters and has elements to challenge children, teens and even adults. The concrete skate park includes a mini pool and a street course that features several grinding rails, stairs and mini ramps. Though not staffed, the park benefits from a few adults who skate at the park and offer free group lessons to beginners. Fan favorite: "It's a fun skate park. It has something for everyone, there's not a lot of riff-raff; a lot of parents even come here." — Rene Prospero, Costa Mesa Fun fact: The canopy located in the skate park is shaped like the Volcom stone logo, visible from above. — Reported by Josh Francis

Fox's O'Reilly: Muhammad-dog official a 'pinhead'
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-23 07:11:33

  San Juan Capistrano Councilman Derek Reeve has made the national stage, but not in the most flattering manner. Reeve, who has sparked controversy with his public comment that he named his dog Muhammad after the Muslim prophet, was labeled a "pinhead" by Fox News Channel commentator Bill O'Reilly during the "Pinheads & Patriots" segment of his show "The O'Reilly Factor." "Why offend Muslims if you don't have to?" O'Reilly said on Thursday's show. "You want to teach your kids about intolerance, there are plenty of other ways to do it." SEE VIDEO OF THE SEGMENT HERE. Reeve made the Muhammad comment at a Sept. 6 council meeting. He has said he named his dog after the prophet to make a statement about oppression in other societies and to illustrate freedom of speech to his children.

Reeve's response to O'Reilly was a short entry on his Facebook page: "I'm a pin head, lol (laugh out loud)." Reeve did not immediately respond to an email request for further comment. Many Muslims consider dogs to be unclean, and the Muhammad statement brought criticism from Councilman Larry Kramer and Mayor Sam Allevato and demands for an apology from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Circle of North America's Southern California chapter. Reeve has offered no apology, and many people who attended this week's council meeting urged him not to.

Muslim group wants official to apologize for dog Muhammad
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-22 07:42:31

  The Islamic Circle of North America's Southern California chapter issued a statement praising San Juan Capistrano Councilman Larry Kramer for criticizing fellow Councilman Derek Reeve's comment about naming his dog Muhammad, the name of the Muslim prophet. The group also said it wants Reeve to apologize. Kramer said during Tuesday night's council meeting that Reeve's statement during a Sept. 6 meeting was offensive to Muslims – many of whom consider dogs to be unclean – and that "as leaders we should be setting a higher standard of behavior." Kramer suggested in a memo on the council's meeting agenda that it take action to ensure "decorum" by its members. The council took no action after Reeve and several people in the audience took offense to the criticism. SEE RELATED LINKS AND A POLL ON THIS PAGE. But ICNA backed Kramer in a statement Wednesday afternoon from its deputy secretary general, Waqas Syed: "ICNA-SC commends Mayor Pro Tem Larry Kramer for his letter distancing himself from such comments and for calling them what they are: 'offensive.' As all Americans, ICNA has always firmly supported the fundamental American value of freedom of speech for all, including elected officials. While it reminds that elected officials, due to the nature of their office, also have the responsibility of representing all their constituents and of observing a higher standard of morality than private citizens."

Kramer and Mayor Sam Allevato received harsh criticism from audience members after the two called on Reeve to apologize for his comment that he had named one of his dogs Muhammad. Reeve said Tuesday that he had done so to make a political statement against oppression in other societies regarding issues like this one. He offered no apology. "Mr. Kramer is criticizing me on how I raise my children," Reeve said. "I will teach them and educate them on these principles (free speech) until the day I die." Syed called on other members of the City Council to "clearly state their positions" regarding Reeve's comments. With the exceptions of Kramer and Allevato, the other members took no formal stance on the issue Tuesday night. Council members John Taylor and Laura Freese said they acknowledge Reeve's right to free speech and that they didn't think the matter belonged on the agenda. Neither was targeted for criticism from residents at the meeting. Syed called on the council to "impress upon Mr. Reeve to offer a public apology." Some members of the audience labeled ICNA, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim organizations as terrorist fronts. CAIR had responded to Reeve's comment about his dog with a statement that called on Reeve to apologize for "showing disrespect toward Islam's revered prophet Muhammad by making a derisive public comment." Syed cited "growing cases of bigotry and Islamophobia" in Orange County and said his organization would not rule out a protest in San Juan Capistrano similar to one it organized in March against comments by Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly that the group considered "anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim." "But for now we have no plans," Syed added.

Councilman chastised after saying he calls dog Muhammad
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-21 07:09:58

  A San Juan Capistrano City Council member faced harsh criticism from some of his colleagues Tuesday night after a comment he made at an earlier council meeting in which he said he named his dog Muhammad, the name of the Muslim prophet. Mayor Sam Allevato and Councilman Larry Kramer said Derek Reeve's comment Sept. 6 was offensive to Muslims who were at the meeting, including some city staff members. Many Muslims believe dogs are unclean animals and therefore do not own them, Allevato said. "As leaders we should be setting a higher standard of behavior," said Kramer, who suggested in a memo to the council that it take action to ensure "decorum" by its members. See a link to the memo here. "We should be asking ourselves what is best for the people of San Juan Capistrano," Kramer said. Allevato agreed, saying: "When you're up here on this dais, you have a different role. You're an elected leader of the 37,000 people who we represent. We're here to represent everyone." Reeve, who was elected to the council in November, took offense to the criticism from Kramer and Allevato and became emotional during his response. Reeve said he named his dog Muhammad to make a political statement against oppression in other societies regarding issues like this one.

Reeve also objected to comments from Kramer regarding how he raises his children. "Mr. Kramer is criticizing me on how I raise my children," Reeve said. "To hell you say – I will teach them and educate them on these principles until the day I die." This isn't the first time Reeve has raised eyebrows with some of his positions. This summer, the council rejected his proposal to change city rules to allow people to carry unloaded guns in local parks. Earlier this year, Reeve went against some of his fellow council members' efforts to save San Juan Capistrano's Redevelopment Agency by writing a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown calling the agency a way to funnel money to "politically connected cronies" and to pile up debt. And on Tuesday night, Reeve was to introduce a proposed "San Juan Capistrano Right to Work Act" that would authorize the city to investigate, report and take steps to punish local employers on grounds of hiring people who are in the country illegally. The council postponed discussion of that proposal because Tuesday's meeting was running long. After Reeve's response on the dog issue, many people in the audience praised him and continued to show him support throughout the meeting. Reeve said he had received hundreds of emails from residents across Orange County saying they would speak out in support of his First Amendment right to free speech. One woman who spoke at the meeting said she had been involved in a similar situation after she attended a rally in February in Yorba Linda where Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly made remarks that many in the Muslim community found offensive. Other speakers criticized the prominent Islamic organizations Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Circle of North America. Some called them fronts for terrorism. CAIR had responded to Reeve's comment about his dog with a statement that called on Reeve to apologize for "showing disrespect toward Islam's revered prophet Muhammad by making a derisive public comment involving his dog named Muhammad." Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of CAIR, wrote a statement expressing disappointment of what he called an offensive trend in Orange County: "It is unfortunate that we are witnessing a trend of local elected officials engaging in actions offensive to Muslims or promoting outright anti-Muslim bigotry. We want to remind these elected officials that our great nation was built on the values of respect, inclusivity and religious pluralism." Several speakers urged the council to apologize to Reeve and to ignore CAIR's response. During a break in the meeting, Reeve said he had received no emails or calls from CAIR or ICNA. Most of the emails he received supported him, he said. The council took no formal action on the issue.

Reeve said he hopes the matter is over. "I think they (the council) got the message," he said.

San Juan keeping option to buy Rancho Capistrano land
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-22 12:24:06

  San Juan Capistrano isn't ready to give up its option to buy 116 acres of Rancho Capistrano while it awaits progress on a proposed retirement community on a portion of the ranch. The City Council set conditions Tuesday night on which San Juan would waive the option, all contingent on the retirement development winning approval from various agencies. The option allows the city to purchase most of a 150-acre spread thatContinuing Life Communities wants to buy at Rancho Capistrano. The developer wants to build a 415-unit continuing-care retirement community on 34 acres of that land. The rest would be open space. In January 2009, the City Council approved the option agreement to buy the remaining 116 acres for $10 million to keep as open space or for agriculture or recreation. The option was to last four to five years. Since then, Rancho Capistrano, which encompasses 170 acres, changed ownership from Crystal Cathedral Ministries to Hobby Lobby, which then donated it to Saddleback Church of Lake Forest. CLC retains its rights worked out with Crystal Cathedral in 2004 to purchase 150 acres, but it has run into problems finding access to its proposed development. Currently the only access is a private rail crossing on the east side of the property that the California Public Utilities Commission objects to turning into a public crossing to serve the project. Last month, CLC told San Juan it was negotiating with a Mercedes-Benz auto dealership to provide access from the west side through Laguna Niguel. Laguna Niguel officials said they had not received a formal proposal for such an accessway and that it would need approval from their city's Planning Commission and City Council, according to a San Juan staff report.

CLC also asked that San Juan rescind its purchase option, and it offered to provide 95 acres of open space at no cost. But Mayor Sam Allevato said he wants details on how much the land is worth before the city waives its option to it. The council decided unanimously that its waiver of the option agreement would be contingent on the following: • CLC's retirement project gets approval from the San Juan City Council • The project gets approval from the Laguna Niguel City Council • The proposed access is approved • The project is approved by other agencies that may need to review it "I really want this development. I think it's a great one; I think it's exactly what we need," Councilwoman Laura Freese said. "I want to have a sit-down with the city of Laguna Niguel, the Mercedes-Benz dealership, you guys (CLC), us (San Juan) and hammer this out and just get this going." Though San Juan is retaining its option for now, Allevato and other council members have said the city has no intention of purchasing the land while activities of its Redevelopment Agency are limited by a stay issued by the state Supreme Court in a lawsuit by the League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Association. The groups are challenging new state laws that would cause some cities to eliminate their redevelopment agencies. The stay prevented the state from moving ahead with its plan but also prohibited most activity by redevelopment agencies, including incurring new debt, transferring assists, entering new contracts, acquiring property and modifying current agreements, according to San Juan City Attorney Omar Sandoval. The council Tuesday also heard from board members of a local soccer league who said the development could hinder access to soccer fields on the property. They told the council they hope to be brought to the table for talks regarding the development. The concern stemmed from an agreement with the city in which no loud activities could take place near the proposed retirement community. But Troy Bourne, a representative of CLC, ensured the board members and parents who have children in the league that CLC has no intention of getting rid of the soccer fields. Bourne said the agreement says recreational sports such as soccer are not considered a nuisance and therefore would not be prohibited. "We were never saying you can't play soccer there," Bourne said. "We're trying to say you can't have a motor park there.”

Work to proceed to get 12-acre open space ready for public use
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-22 14:43:21

  San Juan Capistrano plans to go ahead with enhancements on 12 acres of open space adjacent to Ortega Highway called the Lemon Grove, including an irrigation system, citrus planting and trails. The city acquired the land, at Ortega Highway and La Pata Avenue, in January 2010 as part of a $27.5 million purchase of 132 acres that also include Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. The City Council on Tuesday night was presented with initial improvements that staff said could be completed in 10 months, including the irrigation system – which would allow Valencia oranges to be planted on the site next spring – and trails built on the property next summer, a staff report said. Park benches also would be installed. The project is to be paid for through a capital-improvement fund that has a budget of $500,000 in fiscal 2011-12. The orange-tree planting would be funded through a separate agreement with Rancho Mission Viejo, staff said. The irrigation system is estimated to cost about $92,000, plus $10,000 to $15,000 to connect the system to a water source, according to city staff.

Staff also recommended that the city use underground utility lines to power facilities that would be constructed on the parcel, removing the existing wooden poles. Councilwoman Laura Freese said she is against running the utilities underground and agreed with Mayor Sam Allevato that the project should be done in phases to get the parcel open for public use quickly. "I don't want any of these steps to hold things up," Freese said. "Put the grass down and get the people out there as fast as possible." Councilman Larry Kramer suggested the council allow the Open Space, Trails and Equestrian Commissiontime to come up with a plan to get the Lemon Grove ready quickly and to come up with long-term plans as well. Staff said there would be time for further review of the plans by committees and commissions, even though the staff has direction to continue with the project. Allevato suggested the Lemon Grove be renamed, as its lemon trees have been removed. A community contest will be launched to help name the area.

Speed limit cut to 30 mph on Dana Point street
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-14 07:43:58

  The speed limit on Selva Road in Dana Point will be reduced to 30 mph from the current 35, according to a final City Council decision Monday night. A traffic improvements subcommittee conducted a traffic speed survey after Selva Road was reduced to one lane on each side from two on each side between Pacific Coast Highway and Oceanfront Lane. The survey concluded that with the reduction in lanes, the average speed of travelers decreased to 30 mph. The speed limit will be changed in accord with state law. There was no timetable for when updated signs will be posted. The council also: • Appointed Mayor Scott Schoeffel and Councilman Bill Brough to screen and interview applicants for Dana Point’s new Arts and Culture Commission. They will make recommendations to the full council at a later meeting. • Selected 11 people to serve on the Dana Point Youth Board and nine others as alternates who would be replacements if any of the 11 commissioners leave. Chosen to be on the board were Amanda Anderson, Hugh Fitzmaurice, Jordan Hall, Nate Magee, Sarah Martino, Lauren O’Connor, Morgan Tolles, Fabiana Munoz, Chris Kwok, Matthew Lim and Calin Clifford.

The Youth Board discusses issues of importance to area children and teenagers and encourages young people to participate in community affairs. The board meets at 4 p.m. the first and third Thursdays of each month from September through June.

San Juan group tries to rescue dog for second time
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-13 07:31:11

  After learning that one of the dogs it adopted out had ended up with an animal rescue group in Massachusetts, The Ark of San Juan is raising money to try to bring him back to San Juan Capistrano for another chance at a new home. Triton, a 4-year-old German shepherd mix, was adopted from The Ark by a local family in January. The family later moved with Triton to Massachusetts. Then The Ark, a 3-year-old nonprofit organization that rescues unclaimed animals from San Juan Capistrano at the Orange County shelter in Orange, learned this summer that Triton was in the hands of Great Dog Rescue New England, a rescue and adoption group in Andover, Mass., according to Ark board member Kathy Hammersly. The family had turned him over in March to a veterinary clinic, which sent him to Great Dog Rescue in June. GDR scanned Triton for an identification microchip and discovered he had belonged to The Ark, so GDR contacted Hammersly. “Talk about a shocking phone call,” Hammersly said. “(They said) ‘One of your dogs is out here in Massachusetts,’ and it took us awhile to figure out what they meant.” Though GDR said it would try to find a home for Triton in Massachusetts, The Ark is working to raise $2,000 to bring him back to San Juan. Triton is listed as available for adoption on the website petfinder.com. Hammersly said Monday that The Ark has raised about $1,700 so far toward the total needed to fly Triton back to Southern California on Pet Airways. If Triton is adopted in Massachusetts, The Ark will refund donors or ask that their contributions be reallocated, Hammersly said. GDR gave no deadline for Triton’s adoption

or return to San Juan, she said. GDR has not asked The Ark for money for Triton’s care while he’s there, she added. Like The Ark, GDR does not have a permanent facility and relies on foster homes and boarding facilities to care for animals awaiting adoption. Triton currently is in a boarding facility called The Ruff House in Westford, Mass., which is caring for him free of charge, GRD director Joanna Reck said in a phone interview Monday. Reck said Triton’s owners turned him in at Countryside Veterinary Hospital in Chelmsford, Mass., saying he had killed the family cat while the animals were home alone. The owners requested that Triton be euthanized, but the veterinarian refused because the dog was healthy, Reck said. She said she doubts the owners’ story. Hammersly said Triton had separation anxiety while he was in San Juan, and Reck said he continues to suffer from it. He initially was placed in a foster home in Massachusetts but didn't fare well, Reck said. Reck said GDR has received one adoption application for Triton but that it likely will not be approved because the applicant spends seven hours a day away from home.

Dana Point police programs to get $144,000 in unspent money
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-13 15:35:43

  The city of Dana Point will reappropriate $144,628 in unspent money from the 2010-11 budget to fund several law-enforcement programs. The money was originally allocated to the Citizens Option for Public Safety program, which had a surplus of funds, so the City Council decided unanimously Monday night to reappropriate that money to a Law Enforcement Service Fund. That fund will finance Stop Trashing Our Parks, Hide It, Lock It or Lose It and It’s Your Business, in addition to increased bicycle patrols in city parks and maintaining a full-time school resource officer for Dana Point’s three public schools. The STOP program will increase police presence at city parks and beaches to boost enforcement of laws against littering, graffiti and vandalism. Hide It, Lock It or Lose It is a community education program designed to help Dana Point residents and visitors prevent theft. It’s Your Business aims to seek input on how the city can enhance police services for businesses. Business owners are asked to take an online survey on safety issues that concern them most.

Council overturns commission’s denial of planned market
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-07 09:13:17

  The San Juan Capistrano City Council overturned the Planning Commission’s denial of a plan by a convenience store that now will be able to move into a vacant building formerly occupied by St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store at 32252 Camino Capistrano. Dan and Rick Friess, who own a business in the complex where Mercado El Rey plans to set up shop in a 4,641-square-foot space, say the store would violate city zoning codes regulating parking and intensified use. The brothers said the market should be classified as a food store, grocery store or supermarket, which would require more parking spaces than the “general retail” classification the thrift store operated under. They said the convenience store should be required to replace a rear storage area with six additional parking spaces. City staff, saying both the previous and proposed uses had the same parking requirement, approved a permit for the store. But the Planning Commission overturned it on a 3-2 vote following an appeal by the Friesses. Mercado El Rey then appealed to the City Council, which made its decision Tuesday night. In 1982 and 1991, the thrift store was granted permission to make changes to the property that did not conform to the zoning code but were allowed to limit the amount of garbage dumped behind the store. Mercado El Rey representative Ziad Faraj said the market intends to use the rear storage area and will not tear it down to create new parking. “This is not going to cause a parking situation,” Faraj said. “We have 12 spaces, and we’re adding two more. That makes it 14.”

Faraj said the market’s Lake Forest location has no more than five customers on average at one time. He used that figure to argue against the notion that the San Juan property’s use would be intensified. Terry O’Shea, who has occupied a nearby office for 29 years, said parking is already hard to find and would be even more of a challenge with the market there. The council voted 3-1 to approve Mercado El Rey’s appeal, with Councilwoman Laura Freese abstaining, saying the Friesses were clients of hers in the past year. Councilman Derek Reeve cast the dissenting vote, saying he was concerned about the parking issue and whether the city could face legal action as a result of its approval. “The use would be fine if they replaced the storage with parking,” Rick Friess said after the vote. “We will be continuing to fight this.” He would not elaborate.

Trout project leaves more questions than answers
BY JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-07 13:18:36

  A project that would remove sand barriers on Trabuco Creek that block migration of steelhead trout, an endangered species, raised more questions than it answered at Tuesday’s San Juan Capistrano City Council meeting. The presentation appeared to catch the council off guard and unaware of a fishway alternative alignment project proposed by a chapter ofTrout Unlimited and Camp Dresser & McKee, a construction and engineering firm with a specialty in environmental management. Camp Dresser & McKee representative Wendy Katagi said she had discussed the proposal with city staff and was surprised to meet with opposition from council members. “There were briefings with the staff, but the staff didn’t advise the council," Katagi said. "The city has been a partner all along, but not now.” City Manager Karen Brust did attend meetings with CDM, Trout Unlimited and the county but said she was in no position to take action because the City Council had not directed her to. Brust said Tuesday’s presentation was to show and explain the project, how much it would cost and answer any questions from the council. “The council is very supportive of environmental enhancements,” Brust said. “They just need more information.”

Council members Laura Freese and John Taylor said the project was new to them, and because of that, and the fact that they could not get answers to some of their questions Tuesday night, they asked the groups to get those answers and present them at another time. “There are too many loose ends,” Freese said. “Too many unanswered questions.” The project is estimated to cost $2 million to $10 million. Katagi could not give a more specific figure. Brust noted there are rumors of such a project costing upward of $200 million, which Councilman Derek Reeve brought up as a concern. Katagi called such rumors ridiculous, saying the county agreed to take the lead on the project. “This is the first I’m hearing about this,” Taylor said. “So we are limited in what action we can take.” The council also expressed concerned with where grant funding would come from for the project and who would receive the grants. City Attorney Omar Sandoval advised the council against taking the lead on the project, as much of Trabuco Creek and the area surrounding it are under the control of Orange County Flood Control.

Metrolink holiday train to return to San Juan
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-08 12:18:09

  Santa Claus will return to San Juan Capistrano this year riding the rails on Metrolink’s Holiday Toy Express train. The City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to pay a $2,000 fee for the train to stop in the city Dec. 4. The train had made appearances in San Juan before skipping south Orange County last year because of Metrolink budget cuts. The Holiday Toy Express makes scheduled stops throughout the county to collect toys for charity drives while Santa and other holiday icons perform a short stage show aboard a brightly decorated and lighted train. SEE SCENES FROM A 2009 APPEARANCE HERE. Some council members thought the train stopping in San Juan would complement the city’s tree-lighting event Dec. 3 without costing too much. “For $2,000, to be able to have another event, (it’s) quite spectacular,” Mayor Sam Allevato said. “It’s another reason to bring more people downtown.” Councilmember Laura Freese voiced concerns about the schedule and cost but decided to go along with the plan because “I don’t want to be the Grinch.”

'Sick' of trash, San Juan eyes own highway cleanup
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-07 16:00:05

  San Juan Capistrano Councilwoman Laura Freese says she’s “getting sick and tired of seeing trash in our beautiful town,” and she wants the city to do something about it. So on Tuesday night, Freese and city staff members suggested the City Council integrate a “Clean Up San Juan” event into the annualcreek cleanup that Freese said is a huge success. Freese is concerned about the several freeway on- and off-ramps in the city and has approached the California Department of Transportation, which owns those properties, to initiate a cleanup. She said Caltrans has not taken significant action to alleviate the problem. Caltrans spokeswoman Gloria Roberts said Caltrans already has community cleanup programs such as Adopt-A-Highway and has cleanup crews that deal with trash on freeway ramps. Council members liked the idea of a cleanup, but member Larry Kramer pointed out the potential liability associated with a large-scale community cleanup effort on a freeway ramp. “I have trouble with people, I’ll call ‘em civilians, on the streets,” Kramer said. “The liability issues bother the heck out of me.” Freese said city staff would need to look at the safety and liability issues. “As long as there’s trash in our streets, there’s going to be more trash,” she said. “If we clean it up, people are not going to be as likely to throw their McDonald’s bag out the window.”

Another issue is that Caltrans would need to give the city permission to clean up the properties. Roberts said some training is required for volunteers for highway cleanup because of safety concerns. She said it is too early to say whether Caltrans would support the city’s cleanup effort. The Marine Corps has volunteered for projects like that, but Mayor Sam Allevato said he has concerns about Marines picking up trash. “I just think that maybe they deserve better; we can use them in better ways,” Allevato said. “I just think that’s beneath the dignity of the Marine Corps.” The council took no action on the matter but gave staff direction on how to pursue the project, including ways to fund it. Since the project would involve volunteer labor, the cleanup would cost little, staff said. City Manager Karen Brust suggested the city talk to McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Carl’s Jr. and other area businesses about assisting in any future trash-removal projects.

O.C. cyclist to ride with injured vets to honor 9/11
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-07 17:38:52

  A San Juan Capistrano woman will commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by taking a 530-mile, weeklong bike ride with dozens of injured military veterans to the three spots where hijacked airliners crashed Sept. 11, 2001. BarBara Whorley, a trauma-resolution coach in San Juan for four years, will leave Liberty Park at New York Harbor on Sunday – the anniversary of the terrorist attacks – with about 350 veterans as part of the Ride2Recovery 9/11 Challenge, a fundraiser for rehabilitation of injured vets. The ride also raises money to buy and build custom bikes for veterans to participate in such rides. The 9/11 ride will continue to the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville, Pa., and end at the Pentagon on Sept. 18, according to Debra Spano, a Ride2Recovery spokeswoman. “It is beyond words to see our country unite for that moment in time – no politics or opinions; instead, just supporting the individuals who put their lives on the line so we can be free,” Whorley said. Whorley began working with injured and traumatized war veterans during summer 2010. She now devotes much of her time to that, she said. “I fell in love with the military community, so they became my main focus of work to the point I recently created a nonprofit arm to my company,” Emotional Self Sufficiency of San Juan Capistrano, Whorley said. Whorley does not charge veterans as she tries to help them overcome post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues through a training package called “7 Tools and Techniques for Reducing Symptoms of Anxiety and PTSD.” She and her team of veterans and civilians work with individuals or groups in one-day workshops and train clients to use the techniques to help fellow vets.

In March, Whorley was asked to participate in a veterans ride in Texas. She drove beside the cyclists in a support vehicle, offering vets emotional support during the journey. Ride2Recovery founder John Wordin then asked her to ride with veterans on a 370-mile trip from Washington, D.C., to Virginia Beach, Va. Wordin had learned after the Texas ride that veteran Clay Hunt, a member of the organization, had committed suicide. Whorley said Wordin was concerned about something like that happening again and wanted to ensure that riders would have someone to talk to on their rides. “Many of the vets came up to me and said just knowing I was on the ride supported them and they felt safer knowing if they had an issue I would be right alongside them,” Whorley said. She recently returned from riding the 270-mile Great Lakes Challenge in Minnesota. She said she has been riding 100 to 200 miles a week with riders from Camp Pendleton to train “so I can keep up.” “I do this work because of all the Clay Hunts and their families left behind with all the questions suicide leaves unanswered,” Whorley said. “With the suicide rate of our returning troops and vets at 18 to 22 a day, the divorce rate climbing for our military families (and the) homelessness of our troops, I realized I needed to be available.” One of the most notable people Whorley has met was Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Ziegler, the first victim of the Fort Hood shooting rampage in 2009. Ziegler was given only a slim chance of recovery, but less than two years later, he participated in a bike ride with Whorley and is going back to school to get a master’s degree, she said. “It is amazing to witness (when) trauma is no longer dictating how they feel today,” Whorley said.

No refund for San Juan water ratepayers
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-09-07 06:53:05

  San Juan Capistrano’s water rates will stay the same, but ratepayers will not get a refund or rebate that some residents had demanded, the City Council decided Tuesday night. Some ratepayers requested a refund because the city raised its water rates last year by 22 percent on average to finance $18 million in new bonds for groundwater and recycledwater projects but has not issued the bonds. Longtime City Hall watchdogs Ian Smith, Clint Worthington and John Perry spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting to call for refunds or rebates for the rate increase. San Juan Capistrano operates its own groundwater recovery plant to help deliver water to residents and businesses. However, the plant has not been working at top capacity, leaving the city to purchase more water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The plant has had complications, including effects of decades-old spills of the gasoline additive MtBE from two Chevron stations. The chemical was discovered in San Juan groundwater in 2008. The city and Chevron reached a settlement in which the company agreed to pay $3.1 million, and the city dropped a plan to add a fee to water bills to deal with the contamination issue. But MWD also increased the rate for imported water by 30 percent, creating higher costs the city did not anticipate, Mayor Sam Allevato said. City Attorney Omar Sandoval recommended the city not issue a refund to ratepayers, citing a nearly $8.2 million deficit in the Utilities Department, which oversees the city’s water operation. A second opinion by Michael Colantuono, a lawyer who advises local governments on utility matters, said the city would face a larger deficit – $18 million to $40 million – if refunds were

given. He told the council it had three options: refund ratepayers, manage with current rates or increase rates. Colantuono said the council’s action to raise rates but not use the funds to finance the intended bond issue is legal as long as the money is used for water-related projects in the future. Sandoval added that the funds from the rate increase were not specifically allocated or restricted to the projects the bonds were to pay for. Colantuono said the funds cannot be used for anything other than maintaining and improving water service for ratepayers. He added that it is smart for a city to manage a reserve for water expenses, given the unpredictability of water costs and availability. “It is very hard to budget for a water utility,” he said. The city is currently managing the Utilities Department on reserve funds. The department is to undergo an audit to determine whether rates are appropriate and whether adjustments are needed in its operations. The city last week hired Northern California water-service veteran Keith Van Der Maaten to take over as utilities director beginning Sept. 26. “If we’re bringing in too much revenue, then as the law says in (Proposition) 218, we would need to make rebates,” Allevato said. The only way a rate increase can be defeated is if half the ratepayers object in writing to the City Council, Colantuono said. Councilman Larry Kramer said he hopes the added revenue will help dig the Utilities Department out of its budget hole. “We might have to raise rates again,” Kramer said. “I’m really hoping we don’t have to do it. I’m hoping this current rate can last for some period of time.”

New bracelets promote awareness of grief, loss
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-08-30 11:57:00

  After noticing a disconnect between people suffering a loss of a loved one and their other friends and relatives, an Orange County woman decided to try to ensure that people who are grieving would not be forgotten. Debra Woog of Lake Forest, a practicing therapist with a specialty in grief and loss, designed “grief bracelets.” She hopes they can help people not to forget those in mourning. “The idea came to me as I became aware of the way grief customs have changed over the decades,” Woog said. “There are so many people who are very quickly forgotten after about six weeks of a significant loss. “Most people do not know what to say to a grieving person and they just hope that they can move on and not talk about it anymore,” she said. Woog began handing out the bracelets at Capo Beach Calvary in Dana Point, where she runs a grief support group. The group is on a break but will start meeting again Sept. 21 in the church cafe, Woog said. It will continue from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. every Wednesday throughout the year. Participants can start at any time. Capo Beach Calvary is “very supportive,” Woog said. “I discussed the idea with my head pastor and he loved it. I did a summer workshop in July on the changes over the years on how persons grieve and on grief awareness. The turnout was encouraging.” She and her husband, Ken, started a website, griefware.org, to spread awareness of the program.

The bracelets Woog designed on the website 24hourwristbands.com are black with white letters. She ordered 150 of them last month at 60 cents a bracelet. Woog said she has given out about 15 bracelets so far and has not charged anyone for them yet. The bracelets have two purposes, Woog said: • To remind the person wearing one that he or she is grieving and will be cognitively and emotionally unsettled for a while • To invite others to ask about the bracelet and ask the grieving person, “How can I help?” Woog also encourages people whose friends or family members may be grieving to wear the bracelets as a reminder to stay connected and understand the grieving process. On one side of the bracelet, the words “I remember you” are engraved in white letters for people who are close to someone who has suffered a loss. The other side reads “Please remember me,” a reminder from a grieving person to those close to them. Woog recommends that people wear the bracelets at least a year. Decades ago, it was custom for mourners to wear black armbands and clothing for at least that long. Gail Nieblas of San Clemente has been wearing a bracelet since the second week of August and her brother since late July after their mother passed away. “The bracelet reminds me of my mother and that it’s OK to miss her,” Nieblas said. “And it helps me feel like she’s close to me always.”

Area Boy Scouts camp out with seniors
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-08-22 13:00:19

  San Clemente – Dozens of senior citizens recently gathered to watch a local troop of Boy Scouts pitch their tents, prepare food and listen to music from a live band in the court yard of the Silverado Senior Living home. The Boy Scout Summer Camp Night was the inaugural for both the troop and the Silverado group. Four members of troop 113 of San Clemente and their scout master, Bob Hangan, set up their campground; then the four boys met with some of the seniors and shared experiences and stories with each other. "It's actually kind of cool because we get to talk to them and find out who they are and introduce yourself," Nick Welter, a member of troop 113 said. The residents at Silverado are all senior citizens who suffer from some type of memory loss including dementia, Alzheimer's or strokes. Although their short term memory is affected, the facility's administrator Carole Shaw said their long term memory is not. When they see the Boy Scouts setting up camp, it brings them back to their child hood, she said. "Here at Silverado we really like to bring children and the seniors together because that's something that really does work well for both generations," Shaw said, "Camping is something that is exciting to both generations," she added. Scout leader Bob Hangan Jr., who is the son of Bob Hangan Sr., a resident of the home, brought his son Christopher, who is a member of the Boy Scout troop. "Hopefully they (Scouts) see while they're here, as you get older in life, there are still opportunities to enjoy these type of things," Hangan Jr. said. His father sat down with him at the event and discussed what the boys were setting up and what kind of tools they were using. The elderly Hangan was admitted to the Silverado

Senior Living home after he suffered a stroke which resulted in memory loss according to Shaw. The senior Hangan showed pictures of himself and his two sons, Bob and Glen, in the 1970's, drinking beer with some of Bob senior's old co-workers. He also shared memories of his first Christmas with his wife after seeing a picture of her; he was married to for 70 years before she passed away. The event also featured a musical performance from the Darden Family Band. The group includes Liz Darden and three of her daughters; Clarah, Selah and Tabithah who live in Fullerton, but make the commute to the Silverado every month to play music for the residents. After the performance, residents and their families enjoyed s'mores and spent time watching the Boy Scouts continue to construct, and then tear down their camp. "This is our first camping event, and we've seen that it's gone well, so I think it will become an annual event for us," Shaw said. The boys in the troop also said they want to come back and do this again next year. "It would be great to do this again if it's a different theme. We can adapt pretty well, so I'd love to come back," Welter said. The Silverado home in San Juan houses 91 residents. There are two other senior homes run by the company in Orange County, including one in Tustin and one in Costa Mesa. The company is an upscale senior living center which models itself after a hotel rather than a retirement home Hansel Ramirez the Silverado's public relations specialist said.

Legal worries push back vote on sex-offender ban
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-08-17 07:05:35

  Though all members favored the idea of keeping sex offenders out of San Juan Capistrano city parks, legal concerns about a proposal to put the idea into law prompted the City Council to postpone a vote on it Tuesday night. "I think there are too many question marks still," Councilwoman Laura Freese said. "Even though our hearts are wanting this stringent mandate, I don't think we're ready for it yet." The council decided to research the legality of the ordinance and vote on it at a later meeting. City Attorney Omar Sandoval presented the council with two options for an ordinance to ban or restrict registered sex offenders from city parks. Option 1, modeled after Orange County's Child Safety Zone ordinance approved in April, would allow authorities to charge registered sex offenders with a misdemeanor if they enter a city park without written permission from San Juan Capistrano Police Services. Penalties would include a fine of up to $500 and/or jail time for up to six months for the first violation. Second and third violations would mandate jail time and fines of up to $500. Option 2, a modified version of the county law, would allow Police Services to grant date-, time- and location-specific written permission for individual registered sex offenders if they have a reason to be there under specific guidelines, such as accompanying a minor for whom the offender is the legal parent or guardian, or using the park for free speech or assembly, lawful employment, voting in an election or attending a religious service. Signs would be put up in all city parks. A requirement for either option is that notifications be sent to registered sex offenders who live in San Juan.

Sandoval said the city has 17 registered sex offenders, 13 of whom have been convicted of offenses against minors. The city is home to nearly 35,000 residents, nearly one-fourth of whom are younger than 18, according to a city staff report. The council was shown a video of Phillip Garrido, a paroled sex offender who pleaded guilty this year to kidnapping and raping Jaycee Dugard, as an example of why such an ordinance should be implemented. "I think this is a very important issue and a very important thing to prohibit because sex offenders who are not on probation or parole are actually more dangerous, in my opinion, than the sex offenders who are on probation or parole," said Susan Schroeder, chief of staff for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. Council members had differing opinions on which option they would like to see implemented, but they had concerns with both. Orange County sheriff's Lt. John Meyer, chief of police services in San Juan, said only Sheriff Sandra Hutchens could grant permission to allow a sex offender to enter a park and that the Sheriff's Department has no intention of granting any permissions. That being the case, "the city would be exposed to the liability" for any lawsuit that may occur if the ordinance is enacted, Sandoval said. "I'm not too crazy about this," Councilman Derek Reeve said. "We have an ordinance but we don't make the decision, and you (Meyer) already said you don't foresee ever approving one. ... It just seems like we're opening ourselves up potentially to a lawsuit for a law that no one seems to know if it's even constitutional." Sandoval answered questions about a legal challenge brought in San Diego in which that city removed restrictions from an ordinance similar to the one considered Tuesday. San Diego settled with the Public Defender's Office in that case, Sandoval said. "They didn't want to be the first test case on this matter, and the surrounding cities are also on a holding pattern because nobody wants to be the first city to get sued," Sandoval said. The San Juan council also would have to decide which parks to ban sex offenders from. The county ordinance lists specific parks where offenders are banned. "I think we really need to take a very close look at each of these parks and determine which of these would be more workable," Mayor Sam Allevato said. The District Attorney's Office has sent letters recommending that each city in Orange County consider adopting sex-offender bans like the one in effect at county parks, recreational facilities and beaches. In June, Westminster passed an ordinance identical to the county's, and it went into effect in July. Irvine adopted a similar ordinance but only banned sex offenders who have

committed an offense against a minor.Rancho Santa Margarita and Huntington Beach are among other Orange County cities moving toward adopting such bans. According to Schroeder, the county ordinance and the ordinance presented to the San Juan council are not ex post facto laws (one that applies retroactively to punish an act that wasn't illegal at the time it was committed). The DA's Office conducted months of research to support that claim, she said. "I believe (the county ordinance) is constitutionally sound," Schroeder said. She said she is confident that San Juan eventually will pass the ordinance. - Staff writer Vik Jolly contributed to this report.

Christian school's expansion plan takes step forward
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-08-10 07:40:35

  Saddleback Valley Christian Schools' plan to expand with a new classroom building and a gymnasium cleared a hurdle Tuesday night when the San Juan Capistrano Planning Commission approved an architectural agreement for the buildings and a public multipleuse trail being built through the school property. The school next will have to get City Council approval in order to receive zoning and building permits. The council will not review the issue until September, according to city Development Services Director Grant Taylor, which will delay the school's plan to begin construction before the start of the 2011-12 school year. Construction now would likely be pushed back to late September or early October. The architectural agreement covers Phases 2 and 3 of a school master plan for its campus at 26333 Oso Road. The first phase was completed in 2008 with a two-story, 39,100square-foot building and an 8,000-square-foot temporary chapel and gym. An architectural agreement for the next two phases was approved in 2005, but economic problems prevented the school from going forward with the plans, according to Ed Carney, a school administrator. The agreement expired earlier this year, and the school was returning to the Planning Commission for reapproval. The plan for Phase 2 includes a new 21,000-square-foot classroom building, removal of several temporary buildings and an interim multiuse trail to stand in for an existing trail along Trabuco Creek rendered unsafe by winter storms. Construction would take up to six months, according to the project's general contractor, Brad Newell. Phase 3 includes a new 14,000-square-foot gymnasium.

Newell would not comment on the cost of the projects. That information will be revealed to the city engineer once building and zoning permits are issued. The Planning Commission had postponed a vote last month on the construction plans amid concerns about the school's ability to maintain the multiuse trail, which commissioners consider a vital part of the project since it provides a link to the city's northwest open space. The interim trail will consist of gravel, compacted dirt and a 2-inch layer of fine mulch. It will accommodate equestrian, bicycle and pedestrian use. Commissioner Tim Neely was the lone dissenter in the panel's 5-1 vote on the architectural agreement Tuesday night, saying, "I'm still unconvinced that two inches of mulch will actually work as a combination trail for bike purposes as well as equestrian and other purposes." Commissioner Gene Ratcliffe also was concerned about whether the trail would be suitable for all users, but added, "I think this is satisfactory for the interim trail." Commissioner Robert Williams said, "I'm very pleased with the direction and how easy the applicant has been to work with, so I have no problem with this." Commission Chairman Sheldon Cohen was absent from the vote. According to the agreement, the school is required to adhere to 1999 Orange County trail standards. The commission suggested the City Council consider changing the agreement to require adherence to current standards. The commission also called for inspection of the trail's upkeep after six months. The school has proposed a permanent trail, but its location has not been determined.

Capistrano Ford renovation faces design concerns
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-08-10 10:37:16

  The height of a proposed tower for cell-phone service raised concerns Tuesday night among members of the San Juan Capistrano Planning Commission considering a plan by the owner of Capistrano Ford to remodel property near the dealer's current site and move there by April. Tuttle-Click Automotive Group presented its plans for a former Dodge dealership at 33301 Camino Capistrano, just north of Capistrano Ford's current location at 33375 Camino Capistrano, which it leases from Toyota. The current site was formerly a Nissan dealership. Tuttle-Click wants to spend almost $12 million, split between purchasing the property and remodeling it, according to Chris Cotter, president of Tuttle-Click. Capistrano Ford's lease agreement with Toyota gives it until April to move to a new location. The project would add a second floor to the former Dodge location and include a new enclosed service area, a remodeled showroom and a cafe. The total size of the building after the remodel is estimated at 34,000 square feet, Cotter said. "The new facility would be significantly bigger than our current facility," Cotter said. He said the move would add about 15 permanent jobs to Capistrano Ford's current payroll of about 75 employees. The plan also includes a new cell tower and parking area. Cotter and project manager Robert Bollin presented two designs for the proposed building Tuesday night – one including a 45-foot-tall architectural tower at the center of the building that would conceal two or three cell towers, and one of the same building with a 38-foot architectural tower. SEE ILLUSTRATIONS HERE. The cell towers would help provide wireless service to customers of Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, according to a city staff report. Tuttle-Click must move the three wireless towers currently on its leased property to the new location, as required by its lease agreement with Toyota.

Planning commissioners opposed a 45-foot tower, as well as the dealership placing a large Ford logo on it. "Let me reiterate, in no way are we supporting or condoning your sign location or sizes," Commissioner Jeff Parkhurst said. Bollin responded that the site is "very challenged. The height of the tower element is strictly driven by the cell towers as well as Ford Motor Co.'s requirement that the building be visible to customers on the freeway as well as Camino Capistrano." The problem stems from a vendor requirement that the towers be five feet apart in height to prevent interference from another tower. If the architectural tower is reduced to 38 feet, it will not be able to conceal all three wireless towers, Cotter and Bollin said. Bollin suggested one wireless tower could be moved to another part of the property but said Tuttle-Click would need approval from one of the wireless vendors to do so. Commissioners said they would prefer the towers be concealed within the building. Commissioner Gene Ratcliffe was concerned with the consistency of the building's design, saying different heights and windows don't unify the look. Cotter agreed, saying: "The building doesn't flow well. It was something I didn't notice until it was mentioned tonight." Tuttle-Click will need to go before the city Design Review Committee for a review of changes the company makes to the design. After that, it would have to go back to the Planning Commission and eventually to the City Council. The company plans to keep the current Capistrano Ford location open until the new building is ready, Cotter said.

San Juan gives final OK to redevelopment 'pay to play'
BY JOSH FRANCIS AND VIK JOLLY 2011-08-17 16:13:15

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – The city will "pay to play" with the state to keep its Redevelopment Agency. The City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday, putting a final stamp of approval on an ordinance to keep the agency rather than abolish it. Councilman Derek Reeve voted no and Councilman John Taylor recused himself because of a conflict of interest. The council added language to accommodate a pending lawsuit by the League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Association challenging the legitimacy of eliminating redevelopment agencies, saying its ordinance would not be implemented unless and until the stay issued by the California Supreme Court in that suit is lifted. The council was working to act by an Oct. 1 deadline after Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills into law this summer designed to end redevelopment agencies statewide in their current form. Cities with such bodies get to keep a larger share of property-tax revenue than those without them. The revenue, or tax increment, is then used to help create affordable housing or developments in areas designated as blighted. San Juan has had its agency since 1983. Under the new rules, cities must either dissolve their redevelopment agencies or pay an annual fee to keep them, dubbed "pay to play." For San Juan that amounts to a first payment to the state of about $1.9 million, with subsequent payments of about $450,000 per year. The majority of the council felt the benefits of having an agency outweighed the liabilities. The state Supreme Court announced last week it will hear a challenge by community redevelopment agencies, which are trying to strike down the provision of the state budget that threatens to put them out of existence, The Associated Press reported. The court will make a decision by mid-January but its action prevents the state from moving ahead on its plan until the case is resolved.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Brown administration, told AP that the order should not affect the state budget because the first voluntary payment is not due from redevelopment agencies until Jan. 15. Abolishing the agency would mean a $73 million loss to San Juan and the agency combined, according to a city staff report. - The Associated Press contributed to this report.

San Juan sets out to save July 4 fireworks
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-08-17 17:01:13

  Fourth of July fireworks may be bursting over San Juan Capistrano next year after all. After some discussion in June of using lasers instead of fireworksat the 2012 show to save money, Tuesday's City Council meeting opened with Councilman Derek Reeve telling the council he's optimistic that the fireworks show will be saved. This year's display was shortened slightly to help cut spending. The fireworks contract this year was $31,500. "We're making wonderful progress and I am very optimistic we're going to have fireworks next year," Reeve said. Reeve said the city has enough money for a $15,750 down payment on next year's show after a $16,000 donation from San Diego Gas & Electric and $1,500 donated by the city's 50th-anniversary committee. The deposit is about half the show's total cost. The rest of the money would be paid next April or May. Reeve and Councilwoman Laura Freese have been working unofficially with area businesses and the Chamber of Commerce to raise funds for the city's Fourth of July event. "I'm not just talking fireworks, but the event as a whole," Freese said, referring to a daylong festival that culminates with the fireworks display. "It is too important to let it fall by the wayside." SEE A SLIDE SHOW FROM THIS YEAR'S EVENT HERE. The entire 2012 event is expected to cost $80,000 – $48,000 for the festival, which the city budgeted for, and $32,000 for the fireworks, which it did not.

The council appointed Reeve and Freese to an ad-hoc committee to officially represent the council in the efforts to save the show, with direction to raise money toward the cost. "It's going to be a real challenge to even get all the fireworks paid for," Reeve said. "We have some great ideas to get more sponsorship on a more limited scale. Maybe all the fireworks are possible – a goal that should be shot for."

Uncertainty delays open-space decision in San Juan
BY JOSH FRANCIS 2011-08-17 20:32:01

  SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Uncertainty about property access and the city's redevelopment quagmire with the state continue to entangle a developer's proposal to build a retirement community and create public open space at Rancho Capistrano. The City Council on Tuesday night agreed to postpone until Sept. 20 any decision on whether to terminate an option to buy a portion of the 170 acres that Oklahomabased Hobby Lobby recently donated to Saddleback Church of Lake Forest. See a map at right. Continuing Life Communities, which retains the right to purchase 150 acres of the property, hopes to build a retirement community on about 34 acres. In 2009, it granted an option for San Juan Capistrano and its Redevelopment Agency to buy 116 acres for $10 million that the city could retain as open space. A second plan CLC pitched in 2010 would give 113 acres as public open space as an enticement for city approval of the proposed retirement community. A long-standing issue for CLC is figuring out a way to access the land across railroad tracks on the east side, which involves multiple government entities and legal issues. City Council members on Tuesday tabled a staff recommendation to terminate the city's option to buy the property, choosing to wait until legal issues are sorted out among cities and the state. The council voted Tuesday to adopt an ordinance to keep its Redevelopment Agency by paying the state about $1.9 million initially and about $450,000 per year thereafter. Otherwise, new state laws would require the city to abolish the agency. However, a pending lawsuit by the League of California Cities and the California Redevelopment Associationchallenging the legitimacy of eliminating redevelopment agencies resulted in the California Supreme Court issuing a stay preventing the state from moving ahead on its plan.

The stay also prohibits most activity by redevelopment agencies, including incurring new debt, transferring assists, entering new contracts, acquiring property and modifying current agreements, according to City Attorney Omar Sandoval. That means San Juan's Redevelopment Agency, composed of the five City Council members, cannot act on the CLC proposal or the option agreement. "I hope this delay doesn't create too much problem, but our hands are tied by the Supreme Court," Councilman John Taylor said. Council members said they are eager to move forward with the project but need to wait until the stay is lifted. Council members also expressed concern about the access issue and what Laguna Niguel may want in order for CLC to use Laguna Niguel for access to the property on the west side. "There's so many moving parts right now, it's really difficult," Mayor Sam Allevato said. "What I'm struggling with is, until we get definitive answers on certain things, especially RDA (the Redevelopment Agency), whether you guys (CLC) can really get access through Laguna Niguel." Troy Bourne, CLC's vice president of planning and development, said: "It's difficult for us to negotiate in good faith with the city of Laguna Niguel when they say, 'Demonstrate to us that San Juan is serious about your proposals.' If you're not willing to act on this, then how can we expect a neighboring city ... to get serious in negotiations with us?"

Animal-rescue group goes it alone despite obstacles
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-08-05 02:11:11

  When the OC Animal Care shelter has an unclaimed dog or cat from San Juan Capistrano, The Ark of San Juan receives notice. As one of about 125 area groups that partner with Orange County to rescue animals from the shelter, The Ark's mission is to find homes for San Juan animals in danger of being euthanized. "It is very difficult. There are many, many animals. It's overwhelming sometimes," said Jean Janicki, The Ark's president. It's even more so now that The Ark is the only such rescue organization left in San Juan. The Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort, which had adopted out more than 1,250 local homeless cats and dogs since 2000, decided in July to function solely as a fundraising foundation for other animal-aid groups. CARE's executive director, Marsha Schwartze, has said there is no need for two animal-rescue groups in San Juan Capistrano. SEE A SLIDE SHOW ON THE ARK HERE. SEE VIDEO ABOVE. The number of stray dogs and cats that OC Animal Care picked up in San Juan jumped nearly 40 percent in 2010 (to 228) from the year before (165). In 2008 and 2007, the numbers were 172 and 186, respectively. The increase left local groups stretched thin in efforts to find homes for the animals, particularly as the number of people adopting pets has declined in the struggling economy. 'JAM-PACKED' WITH ANIMALS The county shelter in Orange contracts with 17 cities for animal services and serves all unincorporated areas in Orange County, according to Katie Ingram, the shelter's community-outreach supervisor. On average, the shelter receives 30 to 60 animals per day but might get upward of 100 on a busy day, Ingram said. It has space for about 500 dogs and 250 cats, though it also houses a few rabbits and other animals, she said.

"This time of year, with it being summer, we are fairly full with dogs, and because it's kitten season in the warmer months, cats are reproducing, so we're pretty jam-packed with cats as well," Ingram said. She estimated the shelter conducts 25 to 30 adoptions a day. In 2010, there were about 11,000, she said. But animals aren't kept at the shelter for long, and if the shelter decides it can't adopt out an animal because of age or behavioral or medical issues, the animal may be at the shelter only about two weeks before being scheduled for euthanasia. That's where groups like The Ark of San Juan come in. The Ark is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008 by a small group including former CARE board members Kathy Hammersly and her husband, Jeff Parkhust. Hammersly had sued CARE two years earlier over operating procedures and allegations of illegal conduct. The lawsuit sparked a series of countersuits and appeals costing the sides a total of about $100,000 in legal fees. The battle ended in February with California's 4th District Court of Appeal siding with CARE. "There has been a grave need to address the animals brought to county and left to be euthanized," Janicki said upon The Ark's founding. Since then, the group has rescued more than 245 dogs and cats, and 181 have been adopted, according to Larry Van Vleet, a founding member. That includes six pending adoptions, in which the animal is already in its new home, Van Vleet said. Some of the rescued animals have died as a result of medical problems before getting new homes. Since The Ark began, the county shelter's euthanasia rate among animals from San Juan has dropped 82 percent, the group says. FINANCIAL AND SPACE PROBLEMS But The Ark continues to be challenged by the fact that it has no permanent facility to house animals. "We have been in this business for three years now and we do not have a roof over our heads, so we have to rely on foster homes and ... boarding facilities and veterinary clinics, and they all cost money," Janicki said. Through the group's partnership with PetSmart Charities, The Ark recently was given space in the cattery at PetSmart's San Juan Capistrano store, where it can house about a dozen cats, Janicki said. As of Thursday, The Ark had a total of 56 animals in its care, according to Van Vleet. Because of the shortage of housing space, many of The Ark's 20 volunteers and seven board members – none of whom is paid – foster animals in their homes, said Hammersly, a board member and the group's liaison to the county shelter.

"Yes, we are challenged financially; yes, we're challenged from a resource base; yes, we are challenged by the number of animals coming in for a whole variety of reasons – the economy being the main one," Hammersly said. The group typically operates on about $6,000 a month, which allows it to care for up to 60 animals at a time. Nearly 93 percent of the money goes to pay for the treatment of animals and other costs associated with rescuing them, Hammersly said. The rest of it goes toward administrative and insurance costs. Hammersly said The Ark tries to stay within budget, though there are more animals from San Juan needing rescue. The group operated at a deficit in 2009, according to tax records. More recently, The Ark spent an estimated $8,000 in June and $4,500 in May, Hammersly said. FUNDING AND EXPENSES The group charges a $150 adoption fee ($200 for puppies and kittens less than 4 months old), but Janicki said that doesn't come close to covering costs. To meet the rest of its funding needs, The Ark accepts donations and holds fundraising events such as a dinner and raffle last month at Ciao Pasta in San Juan Capistrano. "We are trying to get folks to donate monthly so we can support an adoption center with a specific capital fund," Janicki said. The group also gets help from individual fundraisers such as 13-year-olds Ilyssa Szalwinski and Emily Smith, San Juan Capistrano residents who rescued a stray German shepherd they found wandering the streets. The two collected $156 for The Ark in July by going door to door in their neighborhood. "We just have a soft spot for animals in our hearts," Smith said. The girls said they plan to continue fundraising for The Ark. Though the county shelter waives its $120 to $200 adoption fees for the group, The Ark is responsible for paying $25 to $100 to spay or neuter the animals it rescues. The group also has to pay for vet visits and treatment if an animal is sick. That can cost $250 to more than $1,000, Hammersly said. The Ark also spends time analyzing and training rescued animals. Cynde Van Vleet is the group's animal behaviorist, helping them transition to a foster home and eventually a permanent home. The transition process for dogs usually involves teaching them to walk on a leash and obey commands. ADOPTION DAYS

The Ark holds adoption events from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays at PetSmart, 33963 Doheny Park Road in San Juan Capistrano, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every other Saturday at San Juan's Petco store, 32391 Camino Capistrano. CARE was an adoption partner with the PetSmart store for nine years before the chain cut ties with the group in January. CARE officials said they were told they weren't adopting out enough animals. The Ark stepped in for the weekly adoption days. Last Saturday, The Ark held an adoption event outside Petco to showcase animals including Ranger, a 3-year-old Staffordshire terrier mix; Billy, a year-old Cairn terrier mix; Rexy, a year-old Labrador mix; and Pierre, a 4-year-old poochon (a bichon frise/poodle hybrid). No animals were adopted from the event. But shortly before, one of the group's dogs, a 3-year-old female Staffordshire terrier mix named Oreo, got a new home.

MORE ABOUT THE ARK OF SAN JUAN Mail: P.O. Box 117, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693 Phone: 949-388-0034 Email: arkofsanjuan@cox.net Website: arkofsanjuan.org Donations: You can donate money by mail or online via PayPal. Pet supplies such as collars, leashes, toys, food and crates also are welcome. Call for details. The Ark is a 501(c)3 nonprofit group, so all donations are tax-deductible. Adoptions: The Ark requires a home check in which a member of the group visits to see if the prospective home is suitable for the animal. (The county does not do that or require an adoption application.) Download an Ark dog adoption application form here. Download a cat adoption application form here. Fundraisers: Upcoming events include "Shop for a Cause" on Aug. 27, for which you can buy a Macy'sdiscount shopping pass for $5 from The Ark, which keeps the proceeds.

O.C. man rescued from 40-foot hole during charity climb
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-07-21 09:52:59

  A Dana Point man's first mountain-climbing trip as part of a charity expedition turned out to be more adventurous than he bargained for when he had to be rescued from a 40-foot fissure in the Eldridge Glacier just north of Anchorage, Alaska. Dennis Pysz, 62, was one of eight employees of Coldwell Banker and Century 21 on a sixday mission to climb four Alaskan peaks to raise money for children's charities. On the third day of the journey, the group, which also included two professional guides, was hiking on a snow bridge when the ground suddenly cracked and gave way. Pysz fell into a 40-foot-deep, 12-foot-wide opening overlooking a 200-foot drop. "I wasn't nervous or scared," Pysz said Wednesday. The team had trained for such a scenario, he said. "You have all the faith in your team that they're going to be there for you, and they were. They jumped right to it," Pysz said in a video taken by a fellow hiker that captured some of his rescue. See it above. Pysz, the oldest climber on the trip, was tethered to a group of three other hikers walking ahead of a group including Rick Davidson, president and chief executive of Century 21. Two members of Davidson's group broke through the ground and were pulled out. Both groups began to turn back, and as they did, the hole opened and Pysz fell in. "We established mechanical anchors and tied rope off to get people off," Davidson said. The three other members of Pysz's group went to work pulling him out. Only one had performed such a rescue before. The others were rookie climbers who had only trained for the scenario.

Davidson, who has been hiking for 15 years, said it was the first time such a rescue was needed during any of his climbs. Rescuing Pysz "was a boost to everyone's confidence," Davidson said. The July 6-11 expedition, which was delayed by inclement weather and shortened to six days from eight, was part of Century 21's Climb for Kids charity effort, which provides money to Easter Seals and Big Brothers Big Sisters. The goal of the trip was to climb four peaks totaling 30,000 feet and raise $30,000 in donations. Hiking night and day, the team scaled the four peaks and raised more than $50,000, of which Easter Seals will get $40,000 and Big Brothers Big Sisters the remainder, Davidson said. SEE A SLIDE SHOW OF THE TRIP HERE. Each member of the annual climb pays his or her way, Davidson said. He and other employees of Century 21 and Coldwell Banker are already planning next year's climb of two volcanoes in Mexico. Pysz, a Century 21 employee since 1974 and an associate broker in San Clemente the past 15 years, is working with Century 21's South American offices to gain their participation and support for the trip. Will he climb again? "I'm not sure," he said. "I'm in shape and would consider it." Still, he said, "the highlight of the trip was when I fell into the crevasse."

Local families host Colombian orphans in search of homes
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-07-09 08:37:16

Two south Orange County families are providing two Colombian orphans a place to stay for a month while a charity tries to line up adoptive homes for them and seven others. Dana Point residents Leonard and Jody Van Zanten and their three children are hosting 10year-old Andres. San Juan Capistrano residents Patty and Bill Drewes and their three kids are hosting 14year-old Mery. SEE PHOTOS HERE. Ocean Hills Church in San Juan will host a picnic from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday to help the international nonprofit organization Kidsave provide information to families who might be interested in adopting the visiting children. The Dreweses are members of the church at 32222 Del Obispo St. The picnic will include activities such as crafts and games. It is the first of four public events that Kidsave will present this month where families can meet the kids and learn about the adoption process. The others are: July 16: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., games and ice cream sundaes at El Dorado Regional Park, 7550 E. Spring St., Long Beach July 23: 2 to 4 p.m., bowling at All Star Lanes, 4459 Eagle Rock Blvd., Los Angeles

July 30: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., scrapbooking party at St. Irenaeus Catholic Church, 5201 Evergreen Ave., Cypress The host families were briefly introduced to their guests in a Skype call before the children arrived in Los Angeles last Sunday. The children, ages 8-14, are considered to have little to no hope of finding a permanent family in their own country, according to Kidsave. Most live in orphanages; some live with foster parents who are unwilling or unable to adopt them. This is the first time the Van Zantens have hosted a child through Kidsave. They heard about the host program, called Summer Miracles, through family friends two years ago and decided to participate this year because they are interested in adopting in the future, said Jody Van Zanten, 42. The Van Zantens' three children – Kiana, 14, Elijah, 12, and Jenna, 6 – have gotten along well with Andres, Jody said. Kiana and Elijah have taken Spanish classes in school and are helping their parents communicate with Andres. Kidsave works specifically with children older than 5 because they typically are overlooked for adoption, according to Nicole Miovsky, 26, a family-visits coordinator for the organization, which operates out of Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The Van Zantens were inclined to host a child for Kidsave because of their concern about older children being forgotten, Jody said. The family has included Andres in all its usual activities, she said. "We are an active family and he has jumped right in ... going to the beach, playing soccer at the park, playing games at home, barbecuing in the back yard, etc.," she said. "I think the fact our children also speak Spanish helped his transition and allow them more immediate opportunities to communicate." This also is the first year the Dreweses have hosted a child. Patty and Bill have three children, and their youngest, Gevona, 14, is fluent in Spanish and interprets for her parents and Mery. Gevona, who is slightly older than Mery, is getting a long-hoped-for chance to be an older sister, said Patty, 52. "Mery gets so excited for everything," Patty said. "She tried her first blueberry pancake the other day and was so excited about it." Bill, 53, took Mery on her first boat ride on the Fourth of July along with Gevona. The Dreweses heard about the Summer Miracles program through Penny Arevalo, 45, a San Juan Capistrano resident and journalist. The Arevalo family adopted a child named Zac in August 2010 after hosting him for Kidsave in summer 2009. "We never had any intention of adopting," Penny Arevalo said. "We completely fell in love with Zac unintentionally."

Kidsave was founded in 1997, and "more than 1,700 older children, ages 5 to 18, have participated in the Summer Miracles program," Miovsky said. "More than 80 percent of these children have permanent families as a result of the program."

Dana Point man will climb Alaskan peaks to help kids
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-07-01 12:50:39

A Dana Point resident plans to climb four different Alaskan peaks beginning Sunday to help raise $30,000 for Easter Seals and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Dennis Pysz, 62, is one of eight participants in the climb, which will feature employees of Coldwell Banker and Century 21 headed by Century 21 President Rick Davidson. Both companies are subsidiaries of real estate company Realogy. There also will be two professional guides. Pysz has been a real estate agent in south Orange County since 1974 and an associate broker in San Clemente the past 15 years. He is the only climber from California. "The goal for the climb is 30,000 feet," he said. "We hope to achieve that with four separate climbs to different peaks." After arriving in Anchorage on Saturday, the team will take smaller planes to the Eldridge Glacier, where the climbers will set up a base camp at 6,000 feet, Pysz said. They will make four climbs during their eight days on the glacier, just north of Anchorage. SEE A MAP OF THE REGION BY CLICKING THE "MAPS" TAB ABOVE. SEE PHOTOS HERE OR AT LEFT. Davidson has participated in six such climbs, according to Pysz, who heard about the climb at a company convention in Las Vegas last March. "I approached (Davidson) at the meeting and told Rick I want to participate in the climb," said Pysz, who is going for the first time. See YouTube images from last year's climb here.

The group already has met its goal of raising $30,000 through this year's climb, Pysz said. Donations were accepted from individuals as well as businesses through the website www.climbforkids.info. The Realogy companies are the largest corporate contributors to the Easter Seals organization, with more than $102 million donated, Pysz said. As the oldest member of the climbing group, Pysz had to prepare physically and check with his doctor to make sure he's healthy enough. The doctor declared him in perfect health and physical condition, Pysz said. Pysz's wife, Daneen, a personal trainer and the owner of I Make It Digital, a company that is helping to sponsor the climb, helped him get in peak-scaling shape. "I am ready for the physical challenge," he said. Pysz said he'd like the Realogy companies to include more organizations in charity climbs like this one and possibly have more than one climb per year. "I want people to know how important it is for individuals to contribute to charities," he said. Pysz said he will be contacting his wife via satellite phone from Alaska and she will post updates on his blog.

San Juan to vote Thursday on $21 million budget plan

The San Juan Capistrano City Council plans to vote Thursday on a $21 million operating budget proposed for the 2011-12 fiscal year and a $125 million, seven-year capitalimprovement budget. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 32400 Paseo Adelanto. See the full agenda here. But first, the council is scheduled to hold one more budget planning workshop at 3 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. The public is invited. The council also reviewed the budget plan last Thursday. According to a staff report for that meeting, the city's general-fund projection for the coming year is $21.1 million, down $4.4 million compared with the current year, largely due to the absence of proceeds from bond sales and grants. General-fund expenditures are estimated at $21 million, down $2.7 million from 2010-11. The new fiscal year begins Friday. Several council members said they'd like to cut $15,750 from the new budget that would be used as a deposit on next year's Fourth of July fireworks show. Deposits to the show's contractor (half the total cost) are typically due in April or May. The city plans to look at other ways to fund the deposit, such as partnering with local businesses to raise money. The rest of the fireworks cost is in the budget, the city says. Councilman Derek Reeve said he is against cutting any city funding for the show. Staff also suggested that the city's $30,000 budget for public relations be cut in half. The council, except for Reeve, disagreed, with some members pushing for more public relations with the help of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. The Public Works Department could see one of the biggest budget hits, with a $154,700 cut proposed for things such as trail maintenance, bike-lane striping and open-space thistle abatement.

The city plans to increase payments by $571,000 for electricity, police services, water, transfers to debt service and other items. Personnel costs are projected to increase $426,000 because of previous employee agreements and rising costs of benefits, including about $190,000 for retirement, workers compensation and others, $128,000 to restore a one-time decrease from last year, $46,000 for employee step increases and other costs. The capital-improvement budget, covering 2011-12 to 2017-18, includes a projected $125 million for projects, including $6.9 million in the coming year, according to a staff report. Projects during the next seven years include safety renovations at four railroad crossings, repairs on Rancho Viejo Road between Ortega Highway and Junipero Serra Road, a community garden and picnic area on 13.5 acres of the Northwest Open Space, a dog park, rehabilitation of the Blas Aguilar Adobe, sewer replacement and more.

2 robbery suspects dead at jewelry store

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – A jewelry robbery turned deadly Friday when gunfire erupted at a busy South County shopping center, leaving a pair of robbers dead. An employee shot and killed two men during the attempted robbery while a third escaped, managing to elude a police manhunt. At least two men armed with a handgun entered Monaco Jewelers in the 33000 block of Doheny Park Road about 11:15 a.m. during what police described as a "takeover-style" robbery. Gunfire broke out, and an employee shot the two robbers, said Lt. Steve Doan of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "We're working to determine who shot, how many times and who had weapons," Doan said. A third robbery suspect was seen running from the store, although authorities are investigating whether he actually entered the business during the shooting. Patrol cars, a SWAT team and police canines descended upon the shopping center shortly after the shootings, blocking traffic on Doheny Park road as they searched for the third suspect, who they described as a black man, about 6 feet tall, wearing a light-colored shirt and dark pants. A nearby Costco store was evacuated as authorities searched the business. About three hours after the shooting, investigators called off the search, determining that the man had escaped from the area. One man was detained during the manhunt and arrested on an unrelated warrant, but police quickly determined that he wasn't their suspect.

Employees trekked back into nearby businesses just after 4 p.m., as authorities reduced their crime scene to encompass only the jewelry store and adjacent shopfronts and intersections. Sheriff's Department homicide investigators continued to comb over the jewelry store, as Orange County Coroner's Office officials removed the two bodies from the scene about 6:45 p.m. Friday. Authorities have not identified the two men. A Toyota that the three men were seen sitting in before the robbery was taken by Sheriff's Department officials, who believe that the robbers used the vehicle to get to the jewelry store. "We don't know whether it was the only car they had," Doan said. Authorities don't believe that any customers were inside the store during the robbery. No employees were injured. Investigators interviewed two employees after the robbery, Doan said, as they looked into the circumstances that led to the shooting. "What caused them to believe they should fire?" Doan said. "Was that person in fear of their life or someone else being injured?" In addition to the jewelry store's main entrance, security doors controlled by employees were in place, Doan said. A bullet shattered one of the outside glass doors. Police are investigating whether the three men were tied to three other jewelry robberies in Mission Viejo and Laguna Niguel in recent months. "There are some similarities, but there are also distinct differences," Doan said. It wasn't the first time that Monaco Jewelers had been targeted by thieves. In July 2009, the store reported a loss of $5.8 million in jewelry after burglars tunneled their way in through the roof during the Fourth of July weekend. In what investigators described as a well-planned burglary, the thieves then somehow opened a 6-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide steel safe with drills. The store's insurance company at the time offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the suspects. VIDEO: http://www.ocregister.com/video/?videoId=1021351366001&play=now

Gunfire shortens Costco gas station opening
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-06-24 19:03:12

Residents of San Juan Capistrano, Dana Point and San Clemente were pleased at the prospect of cheaper fuel provided by a Costco gas station that opened Friday morning at the bulkshopping chain's San Juan store. But they weren't able to enjoy it long, as the first day of business was cut short after about 3½ hours when shots rang out in a neighboring Monaco Jewelers in a botched robbery attempt that ended in two deaths. Costco and the new gas station were evacuated as sheriff's officials investigated the robbery. For years, many San Juan Capistrano residents have traveled far to fill up to avoid some of the highest gasoline prices in Orange County. At $3.81 for regular and $4.09 for premium, the new Costco station is about 20 cents per gallon cheaper than the average gas prices in San Juan. "I think the price of gas has been high in this town for a long time and I think this is going to change that," City Councilman Larry Kramer said. "More people are going to buy gas in town. People who would drive out of town before, like myself, will now come into town," Kramer said. "It's going to be good for the residents and for the city." Kramer said he also believes that for the first time in years, residents from neighboring communities will travel to San Juan to fill up. The new station is at 33961 Doheny Park Road, near the Dana Point/San Juan border. San Juan Capistrano residents were delighted with the new station, as buying gas will become a lot more convenient for them. "I'm very, very excited," said Steve Behmerwohld, 61. "I'm at Costco several times a week, so I'm a huge Costco fan, and this makes my life a whole lot easier."

Residents of neighboring Dana Point and San Clemente also were excited. "This is great, because we come here three to four times a week for shopping, so it's fantastic to have one this close," said Dennis Pysz, 62, of Dana Point. He was the first customer at the new station at 8 a.m. Friday. A grand-opening ceremony was held at 10 a.m. with a small crowd of residents, city staff members, and members of the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce. The San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce supports the opening because of the boost to competition and tax revenue the station will provide, said Mark Bodenhamer, chamber executive director. Costco, the city's largest tax-revenue source, expects membership and sales at the store to increase once the gas station is open for a while, said Steve Heller, 47, the store's general manager. The station creates three or four jobs, according to Sarah Walker, the store's marketing director.

Instructor has left ’em dancing for 30 years
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-06-17 19:10:22

San Clemente is honoring an instructor who has taught kids to dance in the city's Recreation Department for 30 years. Karen Lucy grew up with a passion to dance and has shared it with thousands of students, mostly young girls. She received a plaque at this week's Beaches, Parks & Recreation Commission meeting in recognition of her service, and on Tuesday she will be honored by the City Council. Lucy, 50, began her career in the 1970s, teaching and dancing professionally with dance companies in New York City. When she came to San Clemente in 1981, she was offered a job. She began teaching jazz at the recreation center, and as her career progressed, she began to teach ballet. "Sometimes I just wanted to sleep in, but then I got to work and I saw the kids, and it gives you a purpose," Lucy said. To her, that purpose is instilling confidence in her students. "It's a hard world, and the girls don't need to come in and feel like they have to compete," Lucy said. "I wanted to make them walk out and feel great about themselves." Several of Lucy's students have become successful dancers and dance instructors. Heather Van Hulle, 36, who now owns Xtreme Dance Center in Lake Forest, was a student of Lucy's from age 12 to 15.

Van Hulle had just moved from Thousand Oaks to San Clemente when she found Lucy's class. There were few dance studios around San Clemente at the time, Van Hulle said, so when she found Lucy, she attended every class she could. "She was very, very great with us," Van Hulle said. "She took good care of us. She took us in like family. "What she does best is help kids find self-confidence," Van Hulle added. "I walked away with more self-confidence than any other time in my life." Laura Barnett, 31, was a student of Lucy's in 1986 and now teaches beside Lucy at the recreation center. Barnett said her time as a student encouraged her to follow Lucy's footsteps and become an instructor. "I just knew that's what I wanted to do," Barnett said. Lucy's interest in her students also impressed Barnett. "She's someone who really cares about people and not just a paycheck," Barnett said. Lucy says this job will be her last. "After this job I think I'll be retiring, but every new group, it's hard to leave them," she said. "I enjoy the kids and how special I made them feel and how special they make me feel."


Amtrak investigating train engine failure in San Juan
By JOSH FRANCIS 2011-06-14 12:51:09

A day after an engine failure on Amtrak train No. 572 in San Juan Capistrano delayed dozens of passengers, a diagnostic test was scheduled to determine the exact cause of the failure. The Orange County Fire Authority responded to a report of a train fire at 12:37 p.m. Monday, but there was no fire, said Greg McKeown, spokesman for OCFA. An engine began to smoke and the crew stopped the train at San Juan Capistrano's downtown station, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. Magliari said Tuesday that the engine failed because of overpressure in the crankcase. The locomotive was taken to a facility in Los Angeles to determine the source of the problem and fix it, Magliari said. After a 2¼-hour delay, the 62 train passengers were transferred to another train and continued to their destination, Soledad. No one was injured, McKeown said.

VOICES “Every year we are reminded about drunk driving and texting while driving.” - Kyle Murphy, 16, San Clemente High School ASB president “Their choices have consequences, and they could have an impact on the rest of their lives.” - Mary Fortmeier, PTSA parent education co-chairwoman Reported by Josh Francis

Navy Cross awarded to San Clemente Marine killed in Afghanistan
BY JOSH FRANCIS 2011-06-08 08:58:09

A San Clemente resident and Marine who was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan in 2009 will be awarded the Navy Cross for his efforts that saved fellow Marines. Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan, 20, was selected for the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism while serving on a Marine expeditionary brigade in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, according to the Navy Cross citation. The Navy Cross is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a service member by the Navy and the second-highest honor given to military service members, behind the Congressional Medal of Honor. While on patrol Aug. 26, 2009, Hogan’s squad was attacked and an enemy fighter tried to detonate an improvised explosive device. “Lance Cpl. Hogan observed a kite string leading onto the road from an adjacent cornfield being pulled taut in an attempt to activate the improvised explosive device,” according to the citation. Hogan acted to protect his squad by throwing his body into another Marine and shouting at others to get away from the explosive. “This desperate effort to warn the rest of the patrol bought the remaining Marines valuable seconds to begin moving away from the improvised explosive device before it detonated,” the citation stated. The device detonated soon after Hogan’s warnings, fatally wounding him and injuring others.

Hogan was a 2007 graduate of Tesoro High School in Las Flores, where he ran cross country. He joined the Marines after graduation because he wanted to do something different, said his father, Jim Hogan. Last week, Donald Hogan’s family was told unofficially by his former regiment commander and battalion commander that he would be awarded the Navy Cross. Hogan originally was up for the Silver Star, the third-highest honor that can be given to a member of the military. But after reviewing the circumstances of his actions, the Navy instead awarded him the Navy Cross, according to Jim Hogan. “My wife and I were very grateful for the people who worked diligently to put in for an award,” Jim Hogan said. The family plans to receive the medal in a ceremony in December, he said. “Donald’s battalion is deployed in Afghanistan, and we are waiting until they return sometime in October to have the ceremony,” Jim Hogan said. He said his family is proud of Donald for this achievement and was proud of him two years ago when he joined the Marines. “Donald is an example of how one Marine can do so much to protect others,” Jim Hogan said. The family plans to display the award at the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment’s post at Camp Pendleton.

MyCoast faces technical difficulty
By Josh Francis and Hannah Fry, Staff Writers | Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2010 12:00 am The MyCoast portal is back up and running after students at Orange Coast College found themselves unable to register for classes last week when the system experienced technical difficulties. MyCoast is a system used by the Coast Community College District to enable students to register quickly and conveniently, according to the district’s Director of Public Affairs Martha Parham. But the district was notified Nov. 29 that the site was experiencing technical difficulties, which led to emergency maintenance and the system being unavailable, Parham said. Officials at the OCC help desk were unaware of why the sites went down. The help desk received numerous online support request forms related to the system being down, according to one help desk employee who wished to remain anonymous. The number of students that were unable to register when the system experienced difficulty was not available by press time. Parham said a decrease in hourly staff is a problem the district is currently facing and therefore when challenges with MyCoast arise, there are less people to address them. “With a limited staff, there is no time to take care of the services students need,” Parham said. The techs from the district and SunGard Higher Education, the company that the district hired to build the sites, worked for 32 hours to restore the system, Parham said. SunGard Higher Education representatives did not respond to requests for an interview. Many OCC students said they were unable to register for the classes they needed because of the portal being down.

Lisa MacManus, a 21-year-old nursing major, said that although she had priority registration, many of the students who had to register that day were not able to log on until a day later. Megan McLaughlin, a 23-year-old business major and member of the Coast swim team, said half of her teammates were unable to get the classes they needed. She also said that even after contacting OCC’s help desk, she was still not able to register until the next day. “I didn’t get any of the business classes that I need for my major,” McLaughlin said. Parham said after the site was restored more than 1,000 students logged on within two minutes of the site being up — therefore displaying error messages to anyone who attempted to log on after the site reached capacity. Kristin Clark vice president of student services explained that the capacity for the MyCoast site, which serves OCC, Golden West College and Coastline College is 1,000 people, but during registration periods the site often sees more traffic — which is why there are staggered registration appointments. “It was horrible timing,” Parham said. “We’re very concerned with how the system impacts student registration.” Parham said she is unsure of how the IT department is planning on correcting similar problems in the future.

Union miffed at Harkins
By Josh Francis, Special to the Coast Report | Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 12:00 am
Protesters displaying a large “Shame on Dennis Harkins” sign have been hard to miss in front of the Arlington entrance of the Orange Coast College campus for the past few weekday mornings. OCC President Dennis Harkins became the target of local labor union 1247 after the district contracted SCS Flooring Systems, a non-union contractor, who will be placing the floor in the new ABC building. Representative for the local 1247 labor union Matt Weir said SCS Flooring has consistently violated state labor codes. The protesters in front of OCC would not comment. Weir also mentioned that the union had previously filed a lawsuit against SCS Flooring Systems for violating labor codes in regard to prevailing wage, in the construction of another project. Their main issue is that SCS Flooring received the bid to place the floor in the ABC building despite its questionable labor practice record. The union is targeting Harkins because he is the top of the chain according to Weir. However, not much was mentioned about his actual involvement in the bidding process. Assistant Director of District Facilities Jerry Marchbank maintains that Harkins had nothing to do with hiring the company. “Dennis Harkins had no involvement in the selection of the contracting company,” Marchbank said. “The decision was a process decision made by the district.” Marchbank also said the Coast Community College District contracted Golden State Labor Standards, a compliance monitoring company, to review the hiring of SCS Flooring Systems. They found no issues that would prevent SCS Flooring from receiving the contract.

Despite several calls and emails to Harkin’s office from the union, none of them have been returned, according to Weir. The district did respond to the union but maintains there was nothing wrong with the bidding process or the hiring of SCS.

Abortion foes target OCC
By Josh Francis, Special to the Coast Report | Posted: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 3:50 pm Members of a pro-life advocacy group in Orange Coast College’s Free Speech Zone Tuesday said they were on campus to spread their message through graphic images and informational pamphlets. The Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, which visits high school and college campuses, strives to inform students on their views on the controversial abortion issue, members said. “We are trying to educate college students who may be considering abortion,” Daniel Rivera, a member of the advocacy group said when asked why the group was on campus. The group visits a campus at least four times every week, Rivera said, not to spark debate but to present their side of the issue. Rivera also said that the group encounters some hostility when they visit college campuses. “People who don’t like the signs try and knock them down,” he said. The detailed flyers the group handed out on Tuesday in the Quad contained reasons why abortion is wrong as well as graphic images relating to abortion. They also created large boards displaying the same images in the flyers as well as reasons as to why they believe abortion is wrong.

Coast Report VIDEOS

Bruno Serato  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMEhFabX2zY  World Dance Celebration  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CMa0MLdmLU  Fullerton Protest  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9CLyguiabE  ASOCC transition dinner  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0soqt3dQqk  ASOCC responds to Coast Report  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vYa_ZCGpA8  Pirates of Penzance ‐ slideshow  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXut2h0UyGI  Coast Report upset over funding  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzBuGi470JE  Gigi Ibrahim  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgd0NZr8zLE  Cancer awareness  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1mny2F5BWo  Slacklining struggle  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKizOiN42TI 

Earth Day  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMlajeJp3pE  Soaring gas prices  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlfurUMdnZ0  Harassment  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io94SAyWSTU  Green Day  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyZBgfFImt4  Deborah Pauly ‐freedom of speech *Award winning  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L‐i7LOdGQQ  Senior Day  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXdH5U_RSXc  Health fair  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia6IIfOeZiQ  Creme Tangerine  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPoaq9t5A0g  Christian protester  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWq9UFEas4Q  Dr. King's right hand man visits OCC  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmuSsnSwVJM  Smoking debate  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQnCfeA_I6c  ABC building  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpsYJaUW0xs 

Parking struggles   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cKzK4rOt8E  Yacht donation  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8dlMyUTyN4&context=C37d1098ADOEgsToPDskKTjbHySBW0ihm 8jvLtKL8z  Man pepper sprayed  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2pRxDqVwFs&context=C3361144ADOEgsToPDskKfRLFjrHDikn3865 79Fw1z  Occupy OC  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL9KTB5CmH0&context=C3be0275ADOEgsToPDskKP11lScZEHZ5GY DUZnazmF  OC Register Videos 

  Hooping  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/hooping‐309944‐says‐bush.html?videos  Jewelry Heist  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/police‐305965‐jewelry‐store.html?videos  Ark of San Juan  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/animals‐310917‐ark‐group.html?videos  Boy scout campout  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/silverado‐313276‐senior‐boy.html?videos  INDEPENDANT  Grocery strike looming  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ns1aG5Oz6FU 

Photos  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/animals‐310917‐ark‐group.html?pic=1  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/silverado‐313276‐senior‐boy.html?pic=1  Although my list of photography work is small I have a lot of experience shooting photos for journalism  and non‐journalism purposes. I also use many of the same skills I would use for videography for  Photography. Shooting pictures is not a problem and I find I enjoy shooting photos for a story I am  writing.