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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS

Residents Divided on Need for Gates

Village San Juan Is Safe Enough, Say Some Homeowners

March 12, 1998|SUSAN DEEMER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Homeowners in Village San Juan are debating whether installing security gates at the front and rear entrances to their community will deter crime or merely increase the cost of living there.

Signs in the village already warn of thou-shalt-nots: no roller-skating or skateboarding after dusk; no motorized boats on the community's two shallow, artificial lakes and fishing only for residents; and no overnight parking for residents in guest spaces.

The gate proposal is aimed at malefactors who are undeterred by mere signs or the armed security guards who already patrol the village at night.

"The gate will control bad things we don't want in the village," said Dieter Stute, vice president of the 692-member Village San Juan Homeowners Assn. "A car was stolen on my street, and if we had a gate it might not have happened."

A year ago, the association gathered signatures from 79% of its members in support of the proposed gates.

But some residents complained that the survey was worded incorrectly. They said the association did not supply enough information about the proposal.

The association proposes to install two gates at a cost of $120,000. One would be at the front entrance of the 25-year-old community on Village Road where it crosses Rancho Viejo Road. The other would be erected where Village crosses Trabuco Creek Road.

If the proposal is approved, Village Road would become private, requiring the association to pay for its upkeep. The city would oversee the maintenance of sewers, water, storm drains and a traffic signal at Village and Rancho Viejo roads.

At least 75% of the homeowners must support the proposal before the city cedes Village Road to the community. Residents would choose between a guard station, a video taping device or swing-arm and key gates. Fees, now $80 a month, would increase $6 to $15 a month, depending on the option chosen.

Supporters in the community, where prices range from $110,000 to $250,000 for a mix of single-family homes, townhouses and duplexes, contend the gates will increase property values, slow traffic and keep out vandals and thieves.

Opponents argue against the fee increase and say the gates will be inconvenient. They fear motorists waiting at the main entrance would cause jams or accidents on Rancho Viejo Road.

"There's going to be a bottleneck of traffic," resident Joann Reis said at a January council meeting. "Once the gate is open for a resident to come in, anyone can slip through and security is lost."

Residents Mark and Lisa Grogan say such petty crimes as theft or vandalism do not warrant the need for added security.

"It's not a bad neighborhood," said Lisa Grogan. "It's not crime-ridden. Most of what goes on is partly things from people who live here. When I see a gate in a middle-class neighborhood, I think it's a bad neighborhood."

On April 21, the City Council will decide whether to vacate the road, paving the way for the 10th gated community in San Juan Capistrano.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NEIGHBORHOODS / Village San Juan

Bounded by: Via Escolar on the north; Trabuco Creek on the east; Rancho Viejo Road on the south and Rosenbaum Road on the east

Population: 692 single-family homes, townhomes and duplexes

Hot topic: Security gates.

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