After my recent post that aired the concerns of Sally Rather — president of the Capistrano Terrace Mobile Home Park Homeowners Association — the park’s owner, Richard Julian, wanted to make a few points of his own.
Rather, who is disabled and has severe asthma, had written a plea letter to City Attorney Omar Sandoval. The letter expressed concern about toxic dust being dug up from the landfill under the San Juan Meadows site, which could see a 775-horse equestrian center. The mobile home park is adjacent to the site.
Rather isn’t the only one worried about toxic gases being dug up from the landfill. As I detailed in a story earlier this month, the Orange County Waste and Recycling Department is concerned that planned mitigation measures might not be enough to allay possible toxic gases. The county is listed as a co-discharger and could be financially liable in the event that gas levels are higher than expected.
“There’s a reason why these former landfills … why things aren’t usually built on them,” said John Arnau, California Environmental Quality Act manager for the waste and recycling department.
Rather also said the park owner had left the residents in limbo after going back and forth on seeking closure of the park. If the development of the San Juan Meadows site were to go forward, she said, then the park’s residents should be properly compensated and relocated before any grading of the site.
Ray Poulter, spokesman for the park’s owners, said Rather’s health concerns are unwarranted. And he argues that even though Julian is part owner of the mobile home park and the Meadows development, they are separate entities and not legally tied to each other.
“Sally [Rather] kind of mixes up apples and oranges sometimes,” Poulter said. “There is no connection between Capistrano Terrace and the San Juan Meadows site”
The argument for Rather’s position is there definitely is a connection — Julian’s part ownership of both properties.
But Julian seems to have the city of San Juan Capistrano on his side. Mayor Londres Uso said it wouldn’t be fair for the city to impose conditions that mandate one property be taken care of before another when they aren’t legally tied together. Uso also said the city couldn’t impose those conditions even if it wanted to.
“Would we have the legal right to force the conditions on one side of the freeway because of conditions on the other side of the freeway?” Uso asked. “I think the city could get in a lot of trouble.”
Poulter also said Rather has misplaced concerns about gas exposure. The Air Quality Management Department — among other agencies — will have air monitors on site during the grading and will order a halt to the work if pollutant levels get too high, Poulter said.
“The facts are when that landfill improvement is done, the regulatory agencies are all over that like a blanket,” Poulter said.
There have been unsuccessful efforts to close the mobile home park since 2006. At one point, residents filed a failure to maintain lawsuit against the park owners, saying the owners had let the park’s infrastructure deteriorate to an intolerable state.
After years of negotiations, Poulter said, it’s still unclear what will happen with the park.
“I don’t know what steps are ahead,” Poulter said.
— ADAM ELMAHREK