The Mission Viejo City Council is considering building a four-level parking structure near Oso Creek Golf Course.
But tentative plans for that structure also include 28 pickleball courts and a clubhouse on the top floor — along with the approximately 370 total parking stalls.
Council members voted 4-1 on July 11 to approve a contract with a consultant to evaluate the funding and financial feasibility of the structure.
The analysis will include cost estimates to construct and operate the parking structure. More details about the design will return to the council at a later date.
Councilmember Cynthia Vasquez voted against the item and questioned if the city needs a new parking structure and where the idea originated.
“If we’re just saying we need a four-story parking structure, where did that number come from?” Vasquez said at the July 11 meeting.
Pickleball — a paddle sport combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong — has boomed in popularity over the past five years. City Manager Dennis Wilberg said including the pickleball courts would address increased demand the city has seen in recent years.
“It was just an idea that the top deck of a parking structure could either be cars or we could turn it into pickleball courts,” Wilberg said at the meeting.
The approved $71,000 contract is the first phase of planning for the parking structure. The second and third phases are slated to explore design, construction costs and traffic impacts over a longer time period.
Some residents questioned if adding over two dozen pickleball courts makes sense for the city and why the agenda report didn’t clearly include that information.
“How come there are pickleball courts in a proposal that’s being labeled a parking structure?” Jill Schindler said during public comment at the meeting.
Wilberg said the item was just meant to address the financial analysis and the council will have the opportunity to vote on the pickleball courts and other details at future meetings.
Supplemental materials along with the staff report explain that the second phase could cost around $340,000 while the third phase could add up to around $1.7 million — totaling over $2 million in planning before the city breaks ground on the structure.
That’s if the city decides to move forward with all three phases.
Wilberg said the total construction would cost the city another $10 to $15 million if approved.
Cathy Schlicht, a former mayor of Mission Viejo and frequent critic of the council, said the agenda was “double-crossing” the public by not including any information on the pickleball courts.
“This is practically a cover-up unless you peel back the onion because the staff report doesn’t show anywhere that this is a multimillion-dollar contract,” Schlicht said during the meeting.
While the approved contract only includes the $71,000 financial feasibility study, future developments in the project would add onto the costs.
Councilmember Wendy Bucknum said that while the consultant put a lot of different ideas into the proposal, some may not be built after seeing financing options.
“The study will tell us what can and can’t be done,” Bucknum said.
The city has spent the greater part of the last decade working toward a redevelopment plan known as the “Core Area Vision Plan.”
This effort is meant to redevelop the city’s Oso Creek trails and shopping centers near city hall.
Residents have criticized the city in the past for big spending on large development projects, including a $12 million purchase of a bankrupt Stein Mart building in 2021, $13 million to purchase Oso Creek Golf Course in 2019 and another $12 million plan to construct an office building and storage space earlier this year.
The council meets again on August 22 at 6 p.m.
Angelina Hicks is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact her at email@example.com or on Twitter @angelinahicks13.
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