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By Mark Nielsen
Despite those who look for the negatives about our town, there has recently been some very positive news from independent third parties. The OC Register reported the OC Housing News listed SJC as one of only OC cities in to show an increase in housing prices from December, 2010 to December, 2011. In fact, San Juan Capistrano beat out Newport Coast to claim the title of Best Performing Market, with housing prices here up 4.7 percent year over year.
The weakest markets were places such as Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo with pricing drops of 12.2 percent and 9.2 percent respectively. This belies the criticism that some have leveled at our city by wrongly claiming the city is in decline and businesses and individuals will avoid moving here. The opposite is true.
These past weeks saw the much anticipated ribbon-cutting of a new hotel in town, the Marriott Residence Inn, which is anticipated to bring upward of $350,000 a year to the city. Obviously, the owners see Capistrano as a great investment. Costco invested millions in expanding the store and adding a gas station. Not only can some of us finally find reasonably priced gas in town (if current prices anywhere are reasonable), but the expansion will increase significantly the annual sales tax revenue and is a testament to Costco’s long-term commitment in our city.
Our city continues to attract investment as other businesses expand. Tuttle/Click Ford is renovating the dealership, the owner of the Pedro’s Taco land is before the Design Review Committee with a new restaurant (Mission Grill), and San Juan Hills Golf Course continues to expand and upgrade. Though I did not agree with the driving range lighting decision, I still support the golf course’s continued investment in our community.
Even the much-maligned Utility department and Ground Water Recovery Plant had positive comments from the auditor. The auditors stated the GWRP “will likely prove to be a positive investment over the long term from both a reliability of service standpoint and a cost of operation…” They also state “Bond proceeds were used for their intended purposes” and “the technique used to finance the GWRP was not unusual, nor was its ownership and control through lease arrangements with the San Juan Basin Authority.” However, they did find that the water district “had an inadequate rate structure dating back to at least 1997…” and “the utility failed to adjust rates in a timely manner.” In fact, the prior Capistrano Valley Water District into which the city merged in 2003 “was losing money during the last 6 years of operation,” and the auditor was critical of the city for not raising rates earlier.
While there are always areas that need improvement, our city is in better shape than many others, even those around us. Though the economy has hurt many businesses across the nation, we continue to have new businesses come to town, others expanding their commitment, and home prices showing greater strength this past year than others around us. Sometimes the glass really is half full!
Mark Nielsen is a local business executive who was Mayor in 2009 during his four years on the City Council. He is a director of the SJC Open Space Foundation and has lived in San Juan Capistrano for over 20 years.