Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Village Green Preservation Society, San Juan style

There was a nice article yesterday in the LA Times on my home town, San Juan Capistrano.

SJC, as it's colloquially known, is near the edge of the vast expansion of southern Orange County, CA, towns. The first town I lived in when I came to the US, Laguna Hills, grew 14% in the 1990s. Next door town, Laguna Niguel, an unimaginable 37%. SJC itself grew 28% in the 1990s. (Growth has since tapered off.)

But Laguna Hills and Laguna Niguel are little more than what the British call New Towns - purpose built bedroom communities designed for growth, with great wide roads and vast landscaped hillsides leading to sprawling developments. In contrast, San Juan Capistrano is a very old town, complete with the only Spanish Mission in Orange County. It has masses of wild land and tens of adobes (original Spanish buildings). I hadn't realized until very recently that the tiny roads and great undeveloped hills were actively being preserved, but I had realized that the Mission, the adobes, the Old Town and many other landmarks were being fought for by historians and preservationists.

View from the end of town. The ridgeline is the border with Laguna Niguel, a high-density community.
The open space is deliberate.

The LA Times article is about Ilse Byrnes, 86 year old wife of one of our town councillors, long term resident and a leading preservationist. I knew that she had worked towards preserving adobes, but had not realized she was the leading campaigner against the town's 40 foot dinosaur, which was recently removed from the petting zoo. I liked the dinosaur. I hadn't realized she was leading the fight against SDG&E's proposed three-storey electricity substation and major monstrosity. I hate that thing - it would destroy the atmosphere in that area of town, which is already quite marred enough with the current pylon farm, its chainmail fence and its sinister buzzing.

From the article:
When Carolyn Franks, who owns a petting zoo on Los Rios Street, bought the dinosaur statue, thinking it would help children get excited about learning, Byrnes was indignant. She wrote to a local news site, calling the statue a "monster" — a word she's fond of. She wrote that Franks showed no respect for history and that she was trying to turn the beloved historical district into Jurassic Park.
"I've tried talking to her many times about just being a little more open-minded," Franks said. "Things just aren't how they used to be. Kids want now. They don't want then."
Well, as it happens, dinosaurs are quite historical. Older than the Montanez Adobe (1794), anyway.

But it's gone now, and anyway we can all get behind the fight against San Diego Gas & Electric's plan.

Mind you, we already have the type of thing below. The city built these amazingly complex gates to try to convince the train engineers to stop leaning on their horns all the way through town at all hours of the day and night. It worked. They may be ugly but at least we can sleep now.

09/18 Edited to correct the length of the dinosaur in the petting zoo, and also to point out it wasn't an actual living dinosaur that you could pet. Here's a news item on the dinosaur. 

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