The Feb. 5 meeting of the City Council will have a few interesting additions to the usual fare. The Council will choose two Parks Commissioners and they are being asked to act on two proposals to build more homes.
Item 23 on the agenda is the selection of two Parks and Recreation Commissioners for a new four-year term. There are nine applicants, including two existing Commissioners seeking re-appointment—the existing chairperson John Irish and member Amanda Morrell. People with good memories will recall that Morrell recently applied for a post on the Planning Commission and that Irish has for many years served with distinction on the Parade Committee.
The other 7 applicants are Merry Axelrod, J. Brett Miller, Gracie Duran, Bernard Esposito, Victor Scherr, Nilima Gupta, and Jeffrey Werkmeister.
Both Morrell and Irish have been supporters of Peter Herzog, and if things go the way they did at the Planning Commission, this means they will probably not be re-appointed. Parks and Recreation has been one of the bright spots in Lake Forest, partly due to the good work of the City’s Director Gary McGill, but also to the work of the Commission.
Item 24 on the agenda is a discussion of the request from two developers to speed things up. Brookfield Residential proposes developing 151 attached homes on a 9 acre site comprised of the former Pontiac/Buick/GMC dealership. Trumark Homes proposes developing 72 detached homes on the 7 acre site formerly home to Foothill Ranch Chevrolet.
On these pages we’ve discussed the traffic tsunami and the problems Lake Forest currently faces with traffic. It’s the #1 concern of our citizens. The City Council has already approved 4,000+ new homes that will bring more than 20,000 cars, vans, and trucks into our city on a daily basis, bringing the stalled traffic to a complete stop. The only benefit these new homes brought to our city was the thousands of dollars that City Council members added to their campaign coffers from developers. The thought of adding more than 220 homes to the existing 4,000+ lineup makes me shudder.
By the way, we have not only these 4000+ new homes to worry about, but Mission Viejo is planning to add new homes adjacent to El Toro Rd in the Portola area, and the traffic from these new homes will funnel through El Toro Rd which is their nearest access, adding even more traffic to our city in geneal, and especially to the Foothill/Portola area.
If you’ve been reading my recent articles about crime, you know that one of the biggest correlates of crime is city size. The more people you have, all things being equal, the higher your crime rate. Moreover, Lake Forest already has one of the highest crime rates in Southern California (3rd highest out of 10 cities), so the idea of increasing our population by more than 15 percent is sheer madness. We will not only cripple our traffic problem, we will increase an already troublesome crime rate.
I have sympathy for developers who are simply trying to make a buck. But must it be done at our expense? And must it be done now, when we already have a major traffic problem and when our crime rate leaves a lot to be desired? Surely there is a time and place for development and no one should favor “development at any cost.”
BTW – tonight when the developers appear before the City Council it will be interesting to see whether they or anyone on the Council mentions the money which these companies and their representatives have contributed to existing City Council members’ re-election campaigns. I hope they do and I hope the City Council members who are honest enough to admit they took money, which isn’t illegal, will recuse themselves from any vote.
Before we approve any more homes to be built in Lake Forest, the City needs to see what the impact of all these already approved 4,000+ new homes and the 20,000 cars, vans, and trucks that go with them are going to have on the City. Such a study must also take into account the new Sports Park that will attract more traffic into an already congested area. Add the new homes being approved by Mission Viejo along El Toro Rd. And then add the new traffic that will be generated by the eventual opening of the Great Park, as people from Mission Viejo and RSM go through our City as an alternative to going through the 5 Freeway.
Then, because none of these new developments come with new schools, factor in the enormous school arrival and pick-up traffic that will be coming from Foothill/Portola into the center of the City as kids are bounced from existing schools to make way for the new arrivals.
When that is done, factor in a 15 percent rise in population and the impact that will have on our crime rate.
If we have a valid study of these issues, then it’s time to consider adding more homes. But until that is done, adding to the traffic problem and the crime rate in Lake Forest would be a serious mistake.
Stay tuned. Tonight promises to be an interesting meeting. Please attend if you can and make your wants and needs known. City government works best when we are all involved.