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301 new homes proposed between two San Juan Capistrano projects

Two big development projects in San Juan Capistrano – one by the 5 Freeway off San Juan Creek and another on the last piece of privately owned farm land in the city – will soon go to the City Council.

The two projects could add a combined 301 new units of housing in the city, 14 of which would be designated for those making moderate income.

The projects have been in the works for years and recently got the support of the Planning Commission.

A 169-unit project proposed for the 35-acre farm owned by the Vermeulen family is a culmination of the family’s efforts to develop the property, which had been zoned for agricultural business until 2018.

The City Council in 2014 reversed its approval for a developer to build more than 500 units of retirement living and a health care center after opponents collected 3,500 signatures to have voters decide on the plan.

In 2018, council members agreed to allow for 180 houses at the site, saying they wanted to avoid further court action over how large of a development would be allowed.

City staffers have spent months reviewing developer Lennar’s proposal for the site, known as “The Farm.” The plan calls for 169 units of one- and two-story single-family homes, as well as a half-acre public park, to be called Harvest Park, a community trail and a private recreation facility.

Lennar is “ready to start right away” as soon as the council approves the project, the company’s director of forward planning, Andrew Han, told the commissioners.

Commissioners praised the proposal, saying it fits well with the area.

Allowing more development isn’t necessarily what city officials desire, Chair Tami Wilhelm said. “But if we are going to have to, if that’s our new normal, I think being a city that attracts the best of the best is in our best interest.”

Watt Communities has been working with the city for three years on a 132-unit development proposed at a 16.1-acre site at Paseo Tirador. The area was rezoned to allow for high-density housing in 2013 to meet the state’s affordable-housing requirements.

Of the 132 units, 43 would be two-story, single-family homes and the rest would be three-story, attached townhomes. Of the townhomes, 14 units would be earmarked for people making 80% to 120% of the area’s median income.

Planning commissioners said they liked the project at Paseo Tirador, but expressed concern there would be too few units of affordable housing.

The city had said the site could accommodate 230 units for lower-income households. If those units aren’t built as part of this project, the city would have to figure out how to build them somewhere else to meet the state mandate for affordable housing, commissioners said.

That could mean the city would have to rezone other areas or that developers of other projects are forced to build affordable housing, Commissioner Howard Hart said.

But commissioners voted to recommend the council approve the project after city staffers said new state-mandated housing goals would likely require the city to rezone more sites for affordable housing anyway. The latest estimate by the Southern California Association of Governments expects the city will need to plan for 1,052 more homes by 2029, of which 624 would be for affordable housing.

The Farm project will go to the City Council for consideration on July 7, and the Tirador project is expected to be presented to the council on July 21.

Source: Orange County Register

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