Consistently brought people together to do great things for our city. I see far too much divisiveness. We now have two advocacy papers in town, and each one seeks to demean the efforts of the other. I believe in working together, not dividing our community with ugly rhetoric. The success of my collaborative approach is evident in the many accomplishments outlined below.
Residents also recognize that I do my homework on issues and work hard to learn the truth. One resident observed, “You think and research issues, and you add insight into complex issues. Keep up the tremendous work for the city.” I take that as a serious challenge to do my best to live up to their praise.
Treated our city budget as if it were my own
-Consistently voted for conservative budgets living within our means.
-Backed refunds to residents of payments that had been improperly levied.
-Supported settlement of lawsuits that were facing us when I took office.
-Supported reorganizing our water system to provide reliable water at fair rates.
- Brought increased payments from Orange County for trash brought to our landfill, and the City will receive $7,000,000 over 10 years for street and road maintenance.
-Brought LED street lighting, saving $440,000 over 10 years and much more after that. I have also sought conversion to solar power that has the potential to save another $80,000 per year.
-Brought incentive program that will encourage our new hotels to maintain the highest standards over time and bring us the highest possible transient occupancy tax revenues as well as bringing more business to the City in general and increasing property values.
-Brought two 4-star hotels, Trader Joe’s, Ganahl Lumber, will bring many good jobs while bringing millions in revenue to our City.
Pushed back against over-sized development
When I first came onto council, two over-sized developments had been rushed through by the previous council. I was instrumental in the repeal of each.
First, the Laguna Glen project, with 508 units was just too intense for its space. It was repealed, and in its place a we have approved the opportunity to create a neighborhood with 75 percent less homes. I also reached out to the Vermuelen family representative to conduct a workshop for the residents and proposing builders to discuss ways to make “The Farm” a great neighborhood.
Second, the Urban Village project, with its 33 townhouses and large hotel, was just too intense for its Historic Town Center space. We repealed it and worked with the property’s owner to create a much more appropriate hotel proposal, which we approved.
Third, I discouraged a developer who wanted to place a strip mall right next to the Mission. That made it possible for the Las Banderas Hotel project, long sought by the City, to move forward.
I will continue to resist projects that are too intense or otherwise inappropriate for the historic character of our town.
Brought good jobs to San Juan Capistrano
In approving new businesses such as Trader Joe’s, Ganahl Lumber and 4-star hotels, I considered not only that they would in themselves create jobs, but that they would encourage other businesses while not unfairly competing with existing businesses, thus maximizing the job creation for our City. My goal has always been to encourage business that enhances our town and provides our residents with needed services.
Been instrumental in the development of a Successful Trolley System
When I ran for City Council, I was asked what I would do to reduce traffic and stress on our parking downtown. I recommended a trolley system as a part of the solution, especially one that could connect with other surrounding cities. Then City Manager Karen Brust helped make it a reality, and Mission San Juan Capistrano supported our efforts with marketing and a Trolley Tracker App that made it possible who predict the trolley’s arrival time at any stop. Thousands of residents and visitors made trips on the trolley instead of in cars.
Our first year with one trolley was ridiculed by some, but it was still a success. Because we met the numbers required for OCTA grants, we were able to apply in 2017 for a two-trolley grant that allowed us to have greater frequency and connect with our neighboring cities. This year, we have received a nearly $1,000,000 grant that will allow us to purchase two trolleys and operate them for the next five years. Should we have demand and funds, they could be used during all parts of the year. More and more residents and visitors are finding the trolleys a convenient and fun way to travel to our neighboring cities, even as far as Laguna Beach, and every time they make that choice, a car trip is avoided, and a parking space is left available. It is not the whole answer, but it is one answer – and a successful one.
Consistently worked to protect our neighborhoods
When I came onto City Council, I was appointed as a liaison to the Los Rios neighborhood. Over the last four years, I have gotten to know many of the businesses and neighbors who live in that historic neighborhood. I have worked to diminish the harmful effects of inconsiderate commercial photographers, protect the homes and historic trees, and keep it a livable neighborhood with businesses in its midst.
I have also brought together neighbors in other parts of our City to help solve problems caused by over-crowding or over-concentration of sober living businesses in residential areas.
When an overly dense development was proposed where a park had been promised at Pacifica San Juan, I was one who voted to send them back to the drawing boards to include the needs of current residents in their plans. I have consistently listened to neighbors and endeavored to respond to their needs wherever possible.
championed important infrastructure improvements
- Money for Streets and Roads
- Sustainable LED lights, Solar Power
- Water System Reorganization
- Putuidem Village Cultural Center, Equestrian Staging Area & Picnic Area at NWOS
- Skateboard Park and New Sports Field
Our Ground Water Recovery Plant has value, but it would better serve us as part of a regional system. Thus, I have advocated for reorganization which is in process through OCLAFCO.
When I first came onto City Council, I was shown a plan for the Northwest Open Space that included a small section for interpreting the history of our first peoples in San Juan Capistrano, the Acjachemen. Knowing that this important segment of our community had longed for over 250 years for recognition for their contributions of culture and traditions, I advocated strongly for a greater presence for this portion of the park development. I also insisted that all the branches of the Acjachemen community should be represented in the committee that was to create the area that is now known as the Putuidem Village Cultural Center. I have worked together with them over the last several years, and it will now come to life on the site of the original village along with an ample picnic area and expanded equestrian staging area. I am proud of what has been created and the small part I have been privileged to play in bringing it to reality.
One of my first experiences as a new City Council Member was in attending a Youth Advisory Board Meeting where the prospect of a skateboard park was discussed. Many young people were there with their parents, who had also wanted such a park when they were kids. After listening to all their comments and those of the board, I pledged to them that I would do what I could to make a Skateboard Park a reality for our youth. I have worked over the last several years with the Parks and Rec Commission, our Youth and Staff to first find a great location for a Skateboard Park at our Sports Park, and then to facilitate the creation of a world class design which has been approved by the City Council. Now, I’m working with a non-profit organization to raise funds to build it.
More sports fields, perhaps at our Northwest Open Space, are also needed, and I favor them as well.
Inspired Restoration of the Egan house
The Egan House had stood vacant for a number of years before I wrote an article for our local newspaper that inspired the Griffith Family to purchase the home built by Judge Richard Egan in 1883 across from El Adobe. They set to work to restore its brick exterior and shore up its foundations so that it could stand for another 100 years. They also extended the outdoor patio. All was completed in a way that preserved the authenticity of the Italian Victorian building that is such an asset to our Historic Town Center.
Because of the efforts of our beloved Ilse Byrnes, Judge Egan’s former home was also named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Now, as Ellie’s Table, The Egan House is a popular place for freshly baked pastries and coffee or a delicious lunch.