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Archive for February, 2009

    At Tuesday’s Special Council meeting Councilwoman Trish Kelley made a statement denying City Hall was considering the creation of a mixed use development for the Mission Viejo Village Center at LaPaz and Marguerite.

    She was referring to a study commissioned by City Hall in early 2007.  A subsequent report by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) found, in order to “pencil out,” redevelopment of the Stein Mart shopping center would require a multi-story approach with housing on top of commercial space.  

    “False statements running rampant, that the Council wants to bulldoze the shopping center and build any kind of housing on top of businesses, are scare tactics,” Kelley said.  “We all said thanks, but no thanks [upon receiving the ULI report].”

    Kelley did not identify a meeting when the council took action rejecting the ULI concept.  The Dispatch is unaware of any council meeting where such a vote or decision was disclosed.

    Kelley also said any renovation plan would be extremely difficult to coordinate because there are 13 different property owners within the Center.

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    There were 183 Freshmen who started Trabuco High School on a high academic note during the first semester.  The school announced the following students achieved the Principal’s Honor Roll with grade averages between 3.75 and 4.60:

Natalia Achucarro, Nicholas Adair, Cristie Aguilar, Jordan Alferos, Romeo Alonzo, Ramisa Anjum, Taylor Aralis, Andrew Archer, Jennifer Arthur, Nicholas Ashley, Ramin Attai, Kyle Aufderheide, Mackenzie Baber, Aubrey Baker, Robert Baker, Jesue Barajas Olagu, Nicholas Barba, Tiffani Barham, Kirsten Behm, Keelin Black, Kaleigh Borgschatz, Mohammad Bouzari, Katy Brannigan, Jacob Buchowiecki, Johanna Byrne, Ashlee Cato, Jeffrey Cendejas, Sagar Chaudhari, Mackenzie Concepcion, Theodore Consing, Brandon Cornejo, Madison Crawford, Murphy Danahy, McKenzie Davidson, Haley Davis, Mailena De la Cruz, Matthew Dodos, Danielle Draper, Kimberly Driessen, Melanie Driessen, Crystal Eng, Sabrina Epton, Shawna Etemadi, Ashley Evans, Lauren, Faraone, Dannah Finkle, Brittany Fox, Michelle Froelich, Felicia Goh, Tiffany Goncalves, Kaitlyn Greene, Leylee Gudarzi-Panah, Tyler Hadley, Renna Harris, Veronica Hejny, Alex Hernandez, Tim Hoang, Jordan Hoiberg, Miguel Horta, Veronica Huckabone, Brian Huh, Victoria Immel, Brittany Jackson, David Johnson, Jessica Johnston, Lauren, John, David Jue, Casey Jurgensen, Arshiya Karimi, Brooke Kather, Sabrina Katigbak, Makena Kaylor, Bryce Kelley, Rabeea Khan, Keehwan Kim, Natalia Kim, Sarah Kim, So Hee Ki, Montana Kleppe, Brian Kmetz, Sydney Kochli, Jennifer Konishi, Camille Kopischke, Katherine Kuhlman, Megan Lao, Kaelan Lee, Kendall Lee, Chantelle Leveille, Matthew Levin, Shayna Lurey, Christopher Luttrell, Danielle Leong, Brandon Lee, Jason Lee, Adrienne Liu, Erick Macias, Samuel Maddox, Devin Marcus, Kevin Marshall, Sergio Martinez, Jessica Matranga, Francis Mburu, Makenna McGrann, Gunnar McGriff, Caitlin McLaughlin, Shay Mehr, Melissa Minkovsky, Megan Mixer, Katherine Mobley, Kari Morohashi, Alec Mouri, Sean Nakada, Shyen Nasseri, Blair Nelson, Andrew Nguyen, Steven Okada, Rianne Okamoto, Vivian Or, Kyle Parry, Danielle Payne, Bryce Paul, Emma Penrod, Michael Peterson, Trevor Petersen, Christin Pfeiler, Judy Phung, Jonathan Poon, Kathryn Ranck, David Reed, Alexandra Reich, Danielle Reyes, Reham Riad, Remon Riad, Rojena Riad, Courtney Ringenback, David Rodriguez, Kenneth Rodriguez, Zachariah Roseth, Namratha Sathish, Alan Schneider, Austin Schulenburg, Olivia Schwerdtfeger, Dallin Sheldon, Brandon Shum, Gayathri Sivadas, Steven Sjelin, Cassandra Smith, Olivia Smith, Shanna Sottosanto, Natalie Stein, Jeffrey Steinberger, Taylor Steinhilber, Christopher Stetzer, Jinseok Sung, Sarah Tagger, Mehdi Talle, Travis Taniguchi, Savina Tarca, Nicholas Tasato, Sean Taylor, Karli Thompson, Craig Tinz, Elijah Torres, Kevin Tran, Vanessa Trice, Kyle Truong, Kayley Turner, Christine Ubay-Ubay, Monica Ukah, Kelly Ulrich, Cristobal Verdugo-Simon, Aleksandar Vitomirov, Jessica Vu, Swete Waghela, Jason Wang, Joshua Wetmore, Amber Williamson, Alexis Witkin, Melanie Wong, Elizabeth Wood, Joseph Woolf, Zachary Zamora, and Aria Zommers.

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     Recently the Trabuco High Academic Decathlon team earned a trip to the state finals by finishing second among 39 schools in the Orange County Competition.  The Mustang team of juniors and seniors will travel to Sacramento to engage other state finalists March 13-16.

    The makeup of each school’s nine member team must include three A students, three B students, and three C or below students. Decathletes take 30 minute multiple choice tests in the subjects of Economics, Art, Music, Language and Literature, Mathematics, Science, and Social Science. In addition, each team member gives a planned 4 minute speech and a 2 minute impromptu speech, sits through a 7 minute interview, and has 50 minutes to write an essay.

    The winner of the State competition will represent California in the U.S. National Championships in late April.

    The nine team members for Trabuco are Clarice Nguyen, Ophelia Yin, Hillary Lam, Asma Husain, Deborah Kendrick, Maria Zhou, Zachary Aralis, Hanna Barrett, and Farbod Fathi.  They were coached by biology teacher Matt McDermit.

    The Mission Viejo Diablos finished 5th in the county competition.

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    Last night the SVUSD Board of Trustees decided to reconsider its January decision to save O’Neill Elementary School from permanent closure.  The March 10 agenda will include an item to reconsider that 3-2 vote.

    The state adopted a budget last week, and school districts are beginning to receive early numbers for planning purposes.   Tom Turner, District spokesperson, told the Dispatch the numbers “were worse than hoped.”  

    After voting to save O’Neill last month, Trustee Dore Gilbert stated he wasn’t ready to close O’Neill until he learned what was going to happen in Sacramento: “Until that sky crashes down . . .  I am unwilling to rip apart a community over half a million dollars [annually],” he said.

    At last night’s discussion of the budget, Dore Gilbert and Don Sedgwick still seemed comfortable with their previous votes to save O’Neill.  Nancy Kirkpatrick, who also voted to save the school, appeared concerned, however, that state budget numbers signaled serious potential losses in programs and personnel. 

    Superintendent Fish appeared openly displeased with the January decision to keep O’Neill open.  He warned parents to be prepared for significant elimination of programs throughout the District to offset the cost of continuing to operate O’Neill.  Fish also warned that other schools could face closure in subsequent years based on projected declines in enrollment.

    If O’Neill is closed, the Board is prepared to consider additional closings for the following year, 2010-2011.  The three other schools remaining on the short list prepared by the Facilities Planning Committee were Del Cerro, de Portolo, and Santiago.

    The potential see-saw action leaves residents feeling whiplash.  In addition to losing the neighborhood school, the O’Neill neighborhood is concerned about the potential use of the property.  Frank Manzo, chairman of the FPC, previously indicated there was no intention by the District to sell closed schools.  The aim, he said, was to use the property in a manner consistent with the mission of education.

    O’Neill was Mission Viejo’s first elementary school.  It has achieved a reputation for having outstanding teachers and staff members, providing outstanding results with students.

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    Tuesday night’s low income housing workshop was a drama between residents and special interests.  The meeting focused on low income housing quotas and redevelopment funding.  It also touched on whether the City should go beyond legal compliance to actively expedite ‘affordable’ housing.    

   Special interests in the ongoing housing debate have included 1) developers who potentially benefit from high density zoning and government subsidies, 2) organizations whose representatives are paid to advocate subsidies for low income groups, 3) employers who benefit from subsidized housing for their workers, 4) real estate organizations promoting more housing, 5) business groups promoting higher density to create more customers, and 6) lawyers specializing in redevelopment and affordable housing.

    Most residents said they preferred the City to divide and distribute its low income housing obligation around town.  Councilmembers JP Ledesma and Cathy Schlicht agreed with that approach, but Frank Ury and Trish Kelley seemed to prefer undoing previous decisions in order to bunch the 147 units in one location, apparently adjacent to the new Target Store.  Lance MacLean was absent. 

    Kelley argued that if developers construct projects with only 15% affordable housing components, it would require building 1,000 new homes to attain the current obligation of 147 affordable units.  Ledesma was quick to counter that the Council already zoned five parcels for high density to accommodate 1,000 new homes, concluding those 1,000 will eventually be built anyway.

    Late in the meeting Ury seemed to open the door to increasing the percentage of affordables for each project, perhaps up to 30%, and then rescinding the high density zoning on a couple of the sites that were designated for this purpose in 2007.

    The elephant in the room was Trish Kelley’s opposition to constructing low income housing in her part of town.  Although her position was confirmed by the Dispatch, she nevertheless denied making such statements to individual residents; but then she pulled out a map purporting to demonstrate there are more apartments in her part of town, south of Oso, than in the rest of the City.

    When Mayor Ury was elected, he professed to be philosophically, economically and politically opposed to taxpayer subsidized housing.  Last night he explained that  “part of his job” since being elected is to cooperate with state housing officials. 

    Ury complained about the Dispatch reporting the Council was previously meeting secretly on this issue, although the Council has for several weeks been discussing it exclusively in closed session meetings without public access.  He also rejected characterizations of state policy being nanny urbanism and social engineering.

    State policy came into focus when the City’s redevelopment attorney gave an example of the subsidies.  She pointed to a project in Aliso Viejo where townhomes in a new project have a market price of $350,000 but can’t be considered affordable unless priced at $135,000 – requiring a $215,000 subsidy per unit by taxpayers or developers.

    The example points out a crippling difficulty with low income housing.  At that subsidy rate, the City’s $6 milllion redevelopment fund could only underwrite 30 homes of its 147 quota.  Developers can’t afford to subsidize unless they obtain very high density permits which will allow them to recoup losses with profits from other residential units.

    Several possibilities were mentioned by residents and councilmembers for using $6.4 million from redevelopment funds for subsidizing low income projects.   There didn’t appear to be a consensus on a single approach.     

    Because the City established a redevelopment zone in 1992, its Redevelopment Agency will accrue about $1.3 million annually until 2042 which must be used to facilitate low income housing.  The Redevelopment Agency is legally a separate entity from the City, although both are governed by the city councilmembers.

    The workshop confirmed the Dispatch’s previous report that a pending project, adjacent to the Mission Viejo Country Club, in Kelley’s part of town, was creating some urgency.  The City has a limited time period to decide on that developer’s application.  If all affordable housing is consolidated elsewhere, that developer could proceed with a high density project without any low income units.  

    Tina Neukirk, a resident of the Aegean Hills neighborhood, advocated dispersing the affordable housing throughout the City in an unhurried fashion.  She received the evening’s greatest applause from the audience when she told council members, “We expect you to fight for us, our city and our sovereignty . . . not to roll over, but to stand up and fight!”

    No action was taken at the workshop.  Affordable housing allotments are given to cities every 3-5 years.  The next numbers will be assigned in 2012.

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Just as children are weened off the bottle, our city and state governments need to be weened off the deficit spending they have engaged in for too long.

I believe the socially critical, early 90’s rap group, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, said it best in their song “Television, The Drug Of The Nation“…

T.V. is mechanized politics’
remote control over the masses…
where image takes precedence over wisdom
Where sound bite politics are served to
the fastfood culture

Where straight teeth in your mouth
are more important than the words
that come out of it

Our elected officials are more interested in the image of Mission Viejo (with $360,000 of wasteful spending on Rose Float) than what’s actually happening here. It’s the same in Los Angeles with Villaraigosa, and the state of California with its out-of-control spending. And yet, in the end, who do Californians elect? The same cretins that got us in this mess to begin with.

Katsura Yokoshima

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    Over the past few years the City has dedicated five sites for low income housing to comply with state guidelines.  Tonight a Special Meeting of the City Council will be held to discuss the allocation of the 154 affordable units and the distribution of several million dollars in redevelopment funds, which must be used to promote low income housing.

     Projects have already been approved for two sites.  The 7.4 acre vacant parcel adjacent to the new Target Store at Los Alisos and Jeronimo was approved in 2006 for 144 residences, including 22 low income units (15% of project).  The developer, Steadfast Company, withdrew after selling the property to Target.  Target is currently attempting to sell the land.

    A second project was approved in 2005 on Los Alisos for the northern end of Mission Viejo at a former K-Mart.  The development would consist of 250 attached townhomes, of which 38 would be low income (15% of project).  The developer, UDR, has not yet proceeded with construction.

    In 2007, three additional parcels were zoned R30A to accomodate high density housing.  Developers can construct 14-30 units per acre under that zoning.  The “A” designation indicates the developer may construct a project “by right.”  Although construction must comply with City code and undergo an administrative architectural review, the City cannot impose other requirements or conditions on use.

    Following that re-zoning, the State Housing Agency certified Mission Viejo’s compliance with state law for facilitating affordable housing.  It was the City’s responsibility to create zoning conducive to private developers purchasing land suitable for low income housing.

    Of those three locations, Site A is a 2.74 acre lot adacent to the Mission Hills Shopping Center (Von’s) on Los Alisos near the 241 tollroad.  Eighty-two units could be built with 13 affordables (15%).

    Site B is located at Oso and Montanoso adjacent to the Mission Viejo Country Club.  It was previously zoned for recreational use, but the Club wanted to sell the property to raise money for renovations.  High density housing zoning yielded the highest price for the land. The developer is in the final stages of planning the project.  A total of 213 units can now be built, as long as it comprises at least 15%.

    Site C  is adjacent to the Animal Shelter.  It is an 8.5 acre City-owned property formerly zoned for recreational use.  It would accomodate 255 units, with a minimum of 15% low income.  The City would sell the parcel to a future developer. 

    It appears tonight’s housing meeting will be to discuss the use of about $6 million in redevelopment funds.  The funds must be used to promote low income housing.  It can be distributed 1) as a subsidy to developers, 2) for converting or renovating existing housing to affordable units, 3) for directly subsidizing qualified low income buyers, or 4) to purchase land or affordable housing units.

    State law sets a threshold period for redevelopment housing funds must be used, but the funds are considered legally committed or encumbered when a binding agreement exists for use of the funds, even if a project is in the distant future.

    Tonight City Staff is expected to tell residents that County officials can takeover MV’s redevelopment housing funds, using the monies to force a county affordable housing project in the City, unless the fund is used within the statutory framework.  In reality, the system doesn’t work that way since Counties historically don’t involve themselves in the State redevelopment obligations of cities.

    The concern of residents is that tonight the Council will try to pave the way for purchasing the Target parcel with redevelopment funds so it can place the entire allotment of low income housing on that one location.  It appears the City’s previous zoning plan to fairly distribute the affordables may be threatened by council members who don’t want it in their parts of town.

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