A stalled 10-year-old plan to enhance the pedestrian-friendly ambiance around San Juan Capistrano’s historic train depot will live on, with a pledge from the City Council to try to get it done.
On a 3-0 vote on Tuesday, Aug. 1, the City Council reaffirmed the $1.94 million project, which aims to improve aesthetics, safety and circulation along Verdugo Street. Council members rejected options of canceling the project or reducing its scope in order to reallocate funds to rehabilitate streets around town.
Downtown merchants who attended the meeting to support the Verdugo Street enhancements applauded the City Council’s vote. Council members Brian Maryott and Pam Patterson were absent.
The council directed city staff to meet with the project’s design team, consult with Verdugo Street stakeholders on two design options and return to the City Council for a decision on which way to go.
Steve May, the city’s public works and utilities director, said the project went through an intensive design process from 2007 to 2009, but it stalled in the nation’s economic downturn. This was a downtown redevelopment project, and the state terminated local Redevelopment Agencies.
Funding remained available, however, with constraints, and in 2014 updated design concepts were prepared. But the project was never brought back to the City Council, and in 2016 the City Council scored the project low in a priority-setting session.
At a 2017 budget workshop, council members listed street rehabilitation as the No. 1 city priority. City staff agreed to look for funding opportunities for streets, including taking from projects that are funded but not moving forward. “This is one of those,” City Manager Ben Siegel said.
Several downtown business owners reminded the council that they had attended numerous workshops developing a consensus on the Verdugo Street beautification over the last 10 years and have invested millions of dollars improving their…