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The 44,000-square-foot, $16 million facility will have a main theater with seating for 450, a ‘black box’ teaching theater with about 130 seats, a dance studio and large rooms for orchestra, band and choral groups.

A ray of diving light for St. Margaret's enters the new performing arts center.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO- (CA)- St. Margaret’s Episcopal School Headmaster Marcus Hurlbut, who oversees 1,240 students across preschool, primary, middle and upper divisions, says he feels blessed that only a small family of skunks has managed to interrupt the school’s construction of a 44,000-square-foot performing-arts center on its San Juan Capistrano campus.

“The construction superintendent got chased out of the building one night by the skunks,” Hurlbut said. “We are sure they are still living on the campus somewhere … we have quite a nocturnal population.”

St. Margaret’s 44,000-square-foot performing-arts center is scheduled for completion in May.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

At a time when many segments of education, business and government are cutting back, St. Margaret’s students, parents and supporters have responded to the theater project with a can-do attitude, Hurlbut said. “We’re building, and we have people who buy into it – literally.”

When completed at the end of May, the new facility is to have a main theater with seating for 450, a more intimate “black box” teaching theater with about 130 seats, a dance studio and large rooms for orchestra, band and choral groups.

SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

School arts director Darcy Rice said the center will feature 11 soundproof practice rooms for tutoring and instruction in a design in which even the lobby will be put to work showing off students’ artwork.

“St. Margaret’s values the arts, and for students, it’s essential that it’s studied.” Rice said. “The faculty works hard so that students are in some way touched by the arts. We want students to be artistically involved … to experience art.”

It all starts here.

For students in behind-the-scenes roles such as stage design and prop building, a large shop, work area and scenery storage room will sit alongside a costume-making room for the school’s productions and a rental program in which St. Margaret’s provides costumes for other productions across the county.

On Monday afternoon, workers assembled metal-framed free-floating “clouds” which, when installed high above the main stage and lined with wood, will have electric controls used to “tune” and enhance sound according to the performance.

Details like that, as well as a central audio control room where students will be able to record with professional quality, bring the price tag for the center close to $16 million and the construction time to more than a year.

Practice makes perfect.

Hurlbut said the center, contracted to Torrance-based Del Amo Construction, is on schedule and on budget.

Though St. Margaret’s expects to get the keys to the new building in May, the school will spend the summer afterward moving in. It has not set a firm schedule for productions. Hurlbut and Rice hope to work in community events as well as school performances.

“We’re not sure exactly what it will be yet, but I know it will be good,” Hurlbut said.

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After protesters turned out to a similar event in August in San Clemente, a power-plant ‘open house’ at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center leaves some visitors convinced that ‘nuclear power is fine.’ Others have concerns about their chances in a radioactive emergency

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO- (CA)- Southern California Edison, operator of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, visited the San Juan Capistrano Community Center on Thursday evening for an “open house” on how the power plant works, along with a primer on emergency planning and security.

About 70 people attended for a dinner buffet, children’s activities and a tabletop tide pool featuring sea creatures found in the tidal zone around the plant.

Article Tab: san-planning-emergency-pl
Mary Bierce of San Clemente and Norma Lelli of Dana Point try to locate their homes in relation to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on an Interjurisdictional Planning Commitee map illustrating a protective zone used to determine emergency action in case of an accident at the plant. SONGS’ operator, Southern California Edison, held a public “open house” in San Juan Capistrano on Thursday evening to explain how the plant works, as well as its environmental impact, security and emergency planning.

A similar exhibit in San Clemente in Augustattracted protests from San Onofre opponents who want the plant shut down pending improvements in safety and crisis planning. Thursday’s event in San Juan had no such protests.

San Juan is about 10 miles north of the plant; San Clemente about 2½ miles.

San Juan Capistrano architect Gerald Muir, 63, who was born and raised in south Orange County, said he attended to gain more knowledge of nuclear power. He said he was impressed by the intricacy of the plant’s electricity generation.

“I’ve never been adversely concerned about it,” Muir said. “Nuclear power is fine, but I would like to see more solar.”

Mary Bierce of San Clemente and Norma Lelli of Dana Point stood in front of a map illustrating theInterjurisdictional Planning Committee‘s 10-mile protective zone surrounding SONGS. They were trying to locate their homes in the emergency planning and evacuation area outlined by the committee, which consists of many government, industry and volunteer agencies. Bierce and Lelli concluded their chances of getting out of the area would be slim in the event of a radioactive release at SONGS.

“It’s going to get real goofy in San Juan with everyone going north” from San Clemente, Dana Point and north San Diego County, Lelli said.

“We’re going to have to make friends with someone who has a boat,” Bierce said. “I think we should go down to the harbor and get started.”

San Onofre opponents also believe evacuation plans are inadequate and that the emergency planning zone should be extended to a 50-mile radius around the plant.

The city of San Clemente is seeking federal funding assistance for a planned project to extend Avenida La Pata north to San Juan Capistrano to provide another evacuation route besides I-5 and Pacific Coast Highway.

San Clemente resident Clay Gable said he felt comfortable with his knowledge of nuclear power but attended Thursday’s event to learn more. He said he’s glad he did after hearing Edison engineers describe the plant’s triple-redundant cooling system. Now, he’s more convinced than ever of the need more nuclear power, he said.

“Nuclear power is fine,” Gable said. “We need to be more energy-independent from the Middle East.”

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A 21-inch nonpressurized line damaged by a pile-driving contractor for Caltrans is to be fixed in seven or eight days, Caltrans says. Meanwhile, San Juan Capistrano has set up an above-ground temporary replacement to carry the damaged line’s 2 million gallons of waste per day.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO -(CA)- A section of sewer line in San Juan Capistrano that apparently was damaged by a pile-driving contractor for Caltrans will be repaired in the next seven or eight days, a Caltrans spokeswoman said.

San Juan maintenance workers doing a regularly scheduled sewer-line inspection last Wednesday discovered a large amount of gravel and sand, plus reduced waste flow, at a manhole beside I-5 near theCalifornia Department of Transportation‘s freeway widening project at San Juan Creek Road and Camino Capistrano, according to San Juan Capistrano Utilities Director Keith Van Der Maaten.

Article Tab: A temporary sewer line placed by the San Juan Capistrano Utilities Department empties into a manhole at the Capistrano Home Center near where an underground sewer line was damaged during work on an I-5 widening project at San Juan Creek Road and Camino Capistrano.
A temporary sewer line placed by the San Juan Capistrano Utilities Department empties into a manhole at the Capistrano Home Center near where an underground sewer line was damaged during work on an I-5 widening project at San Juan Creek Road and Camino Capistrano.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Further investigation revealed that a 21-inch nonpressurized sewer line adjacent to the Capistrano Home Center at 31896 Plaza Drive was damaged during pile-driving work by project contractor Beador Construction, according to Tracey Lavelle, spokeswoman for Caltrans District 12.

The sewer line runs beneath I-5 carrying 2 million gallons of San Juan Capistrano’s total 3 million gallons of waste output per day. The exact extent of the damage is unknown, Lavelle said, though she added that no leaks or public exposure to sewage have occurred. No interruption of service to homes and businesses is expected during the repair, she said.

According to Van Der Maaten, all costs associated with the repair are to be paid by Caltrans.

In the meantime, San Juan Capistrano has placed an above-ground temporary sewer line to divert flow around the damaged area. It runs several hundred yards beneath the I-5 overpass and along San Juan Creek, extending to a manhole at the Capistrano Home Center, with the same capacity as the existing line.

Van Der Maaten said the city is monitoring sewage flow around the clock, with two pumper trucks on standby from a local contractor and six more available from San Clemente, the South Coast Water District and the Santa Margarita Water District if they are needed.

Businesses at the Capistrano Home Center – which includes Dunn-Edwards PaintsComfort Gallery MattressLA Carpet and Renaissance Home Furnishings – said the sewer-line damage has not affected business, despite a lingering tell-tale odor.

Renaissance Home Furnishings owner Dennis Penman, who will mark 13 years at the location next month, said he’s more concerned about a sound wall to be built that he said will cut off the view of his business from the freeway.

“The city has been great through all this (freeway project), but then you could ask me about Caltrans and I would have a lot more to say,” Penman said.

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Former Marine Corps mortarman Cole Bent, 20, of San Juan Capistrano has had a lot of help from the community as he battles back from surgery to remove two brain tumors.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO -(CA)- Cole Bent has big plans. A book on Egypt sits on his nightstand in San Juan Capistrano to help him prepare for his planned visit there. He plans to go to South America as well, though he doesn’t have a book about it yet.

This might not be unusual for a lot of 20-year-olds, but for Bent and his parents, Brian and Rivka, and his younger sister, Esther, it’s big news.

Article Tab: club-time-physical-cole
Cole Bent receives physical therapy at the Ole Hanson Beach Club in San Clemente, where he gets donated pool time.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

It has been about seven months since Bent, an Eagle Scout and former Marine Corps mortarman, was diagnosed with ependymoma, a form of cancer mostly seen in young children. Surgeons at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo removed two golf ball-size tumors from alongside Bent’s brainstem March 14, four days after he blacked out during a tennis game. Doctors told him before the surgery that his chance of survival was 20 percent.

His comeback owes much to his neighbors in the community, who have helped him and his family at every turn.

SEE A SLIDE SHOW HERE.

Having been told by his doctors that physical therapy would be essential to his recovery, Bent’s family decided to move him into Esther’s room and find help for him. Bent was experiencing poor stability, swallowing, coordination, strength, balance and sight, as well as a 30-pound weight loss within three months after the surgery. His mother thought getting him into a swimming pool would be a good place to start therapy.

The Ole Hanson Beach Club in San Clemente was the first stop, and within a short time, Bent was in the pool and working out, courtesy of Vickie Mierau, a retired aquatic therapist, using pool time donated by swim instructors Debra Thurn and Kayne Schroeder.

That was just the beginning of the community effort, Rivka Bent said. As the family began the endless task of copying and faxing medical records, insurance claims and other documents to providers, the Marine Corps and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Bill and Susan Odelson of Paper Annex in San Juan Capistrano ran “Cole’s tab,” which always has a zero balance.

Then there are the good Samaritans all over south Orange County whom the Bents know only by their first name: Greg at Staples, Buddy at Frio Yogurt, Arthur at The Old Barn, to name a few.

Even man’s best friend has made a mark – Galena Creek Kennels Siberian Huskies in Roseburg, Ore., gave a therapy dog, Piper, as a companion for Bent’s therapy.

Bent, a lance corporal in the weapons section of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines based at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, began to experience nausea, dizziness and problems with concentration after his unit was deployed to Afghanistan in June 2010. Three months later, a visiting medical officer noticed his problems and sent Bent home a month ahead of his unit.

Bent was discharged in early February before he knew about his actual condition, his family said. He is still working out the details of his separation from the Marine Corps and currently does not have veteran’s benefits.

Brian Bent, an artist specializing in fashion and design, has been able to cover much of his son’s $1.5 million in medical-treatment costs through his employer’s insurance, Anthem Blue Cross, though the family is still facing a pile of unpaid household and ancillary medical bills.

“I wish I had a spare $50,000 lying around,” Rivka Bent said. “I could sure use it.”

Though he moves slowly and speaking is tiring for him, Cole Bent’s condition is improving by the day – not that he’s giving himself a choice. He has a medal he wants to pass on to someone else who is recovering from a crisis.

The medal was given to him in June by double amputee Harry Snowden of San Juan Capistrano, who received it after completing his first lap around the Saddleback College track on prosthetic legs in 2009. Snowden was given the medal by stroke survivor Fermin Camarena, who is paralyzed on one side of his body and is now a recumbent-bicycle competitor. He received the medal for completing the 2008 Loma Linda University Medical Center Poss-Abilities 5K Walk/Run/Roll triathlon.

Bent met both at Saddleback College while he was taking a physical-therapy class. The medal is engraved with the names of its recipients, along with the year they got it.

“We are focusing on the good things, like the fact that this whole thing happened here and we can help Cole, and how appreciative we are of our community,” Rivka Bent said. “It really takes a village.”

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Treasures for another time.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO -(CA)– Students, teachers, parents and civic leaders gathered together at San Juan Elementary, Orange County’s oldest school founded in 1850, on Friday morning, dedicating a time capsule containing writings, photos, artwork and videos by the students themselves.  The school, 160 years old last year, has plans to open the time capsule, buried in the lawn in front of the school office  covered in cement with a brass dedication plaque, in 40 years for its 200 year old birthday.

A time capsule so cool, you have to touch it.

The group poses with their project.

Reposrtedly, the school has a time capsule from 1930 they have not been able to locate yet; it will be very interesting when they do and according to the administration, they are narrowing down the possibilities.

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The band "Defamation"

When is this going to start?

Axe Man for the band "Numb Desire"

Mucho Mariachi.

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Are you ready for your close-up Mr. Grunion?

DANA POINT, -(CA)- A small silvery fish was a big star to more than 300 adults and children who descended onDoheny State Beach late Tuesday night to see hundreds of grunions swarm the sand during the 20th annual Grunion Night.

Doheny State Beach interpreter Vicki Wiker and state park ranger Jim Serpa hosted the event, displaying a large collection of ocean and beach artifacts, including whale bones, seal skulls, otter pelts and small jars of sea water containing grunion eggs buried in sand. Serpa hoped the eggs would hatch by having visitors gently shake the jars to simulate an incoming tide.

All their eggs are in one jar.

Many people consider the famed “grunion runs” to be a myth, much like “snipe hunts,” Serpa said. That’s likely because they’ve picked the wrong nights to try to watch the 6-inch-long fish ride high tides ashore to mate and lay eggs, he said.

Grunions generally spawn the four consecutive nights after a new or full moon, when tides are highest. A typical run can include hundreds or thousands of grunions and last two hours. Runs can be seen on beaches between San Francisco and Baja California, Mexico.

It will take more than one grunion to feed this crew.

A good indicator that the grunions are coming is when birds like the black-crowned night heronappear on the beach several hours before a run and grunion “scouts” come ashore to check the safety of the beach.

“Once the scouts return and give the OK, they’ll come in, and at that point, nothing can stop them,” Serpa said.

Female grunions immediately bury themselves in the sand tail first, up to their pectoral fins. As many as eight males will encircle themselves around a female, depositing “milt” that makes its way down her body to fertilize the reddish pink eggs she has laid four or five inches below the surface of the sand. The mating ritual can take 30 seconds to several minutes as the toothless fish wait for waves to take them back to sea. The eggs hatch in the sand about two weeks later and the baby grunions ride the waves out to the ocean.

Serpa said state and volunteer efforts to clear Doheny of debris washed onto the beach from San Juan Creek are crucial to the grunions’ survival, providing them a clear path to the business at hand. Several Boy Scouts who helped during a recent cleanup showed up Tuesday night to watch the grunions.

Grunions spawn from March through August. They may be caught using only your hands and only during March, June, July and August – April and May are “observation only” months. The California Department of Fish and Game requires grunion hunters 16 or older to have a fishing license.

 

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The circle of love at this years Swallow's Day.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, -(CA)- The 53rd Annual Swallows Day Parade went off without a hitch on Saturday morning in San Juan Capistrano.  The parade is meant to celebrate the return of the swallows from their winter homes in South America.  The swallow is a small migratory bird that typically builds their distinctive homes inside the Spanish tile roofs of the city or beneath the eaves of more modern homes in the area, using mud and grass collected after spring showers.

Good manners go a long way, cowboy.

More than 150 entries participated this year which began promptly at 11 a.m. but not before a real horse drawn stagecoach from Spurs and Satin of California, a crowd favorite, cleared the way, acting out  robberies and gunfights in the street as they fired blanks from their six shooters into the air.  The parade led off with a banner and the last USMC Mounted Color Guard still active in the Marine Corps, led by Gunnery Sgt. Pete McConnell on his wild mustang “Rookie.”  The 1st Marine Division Marching Band Followed in addition to an element from the 1st Battallian/11th Marines, San Juan Capistrano’s adopted Marine Unit.

This girl was having a good time and it shows with her big smile.

This year’s Grand Marshals, Art and Maria Galindo, owners of the popular southland chain of Mexican eateries, “Las Golandrinas,” which translates to “the swallows” in Spanish, rode in a white horse drawn carriage, waving to the crowd and having a great time.  The Juaneno Band of Mission Indians walked the parade in native and ceremonial dress.  Area educational institutions like the Mission Parish School and St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, participated in cowboy, Indian, charro, friar with some in animated springtime flowers, bees, lady bugs and fairy costumes.  The “San Juan Capistrano Ballet Folklorico,” in addition to “Mariachi San Juan,” came with trumpets, violins, guitars and gutarrones, a traditional large and tub shaped mariachi guitar like instrument, playing and singing while performers danced in unision wearing colorful Mexican dresses.  Horse groups of all types paraded including Charros, a type of Mexican cowboy, and riders from Rancho Mission Viejo in western wear.

The Grand Marshals; Art and Maria Galindo.

San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association organizers expressed concern that it would rain on their parade but remained positive and their enthusiasm carried the day beneath some cloud cover but not a drop fell.

Mom's are always there when you need them.

Many parade participants stopped to wish friends and family along the route including one horseman from the ‘El Viaje de Portola” who stopped across from the Mission San Juan Capistrano to hand out beads to a family member and chat.  He was admonished with hoots and hollers from other cowboys in the group to catch up.

This guy should be in the movies.

“I am coming, I’m coming…” He shouted  back but not before seeing someone else he knew and stopping again to chat and hand out more beads.

No one gets away with anything at the Swallow's Day Parade.

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Boyscout puts up a flag pole in San Juan Capistrano.

Triton makes a shot on goal

Walking back from Trestles Surf Beach.

Turkey bowling like the Indians used to do.

Every 1st Marine Division Band show, ends with a bang and streamers.

SCAT kids have a lot of energy.

He probably didn't buy Bush's book.

He’s thinking about the hole in his lung tuberculosis gave him.

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SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO (CA)-Ray Brewer, a HUD field director, led the assembled 400 people or so, in the pledge of allegiance, and it was at that moment that what should have been a Norman Rockwell scene turned into something more like Alice in Wonderland.  The atmosphere had been building up to that time and I wondered what would happen next.  The city of San Juan Capistrano had offered the Community Center to host a foreclosure prevention workshop with the participation of HUD, the FHA, California Home loan Lenders (Wells Fargo, HSBC and Chase) along with various NGO organizations like the OC HOPOC, the NHSOC, and the Orange County Legal Aide Society.

Congressman Ken Calvert (R-44) appeared to greet the attendees and while Calvert’s demeanor was genuinely in awe with the turnout, his presence brought a communal low growling buzz that started when they began the announcement with “Congressman.”  Thankfully, everyone remained calm but just barely so.  Curiously, the organizers were very relaxed and easy to work with although very direct in that they insisted on the utmost respect and consideration for participants.  It wasn’t a point too far away for me as the parent company for The Orange County Register, Freedom Communications, and for whom I was freelancing today, was in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings.  The intimate mechanics of trying to hold onto one’s home was obvious to me and deserved any matter of compassion and understanding I could give.

I did not originally think that there would be that many people at the event.  Foreclosure isn’t something that happens in America, even if national news said it was up, besides, watching it on national news is something that happens to people everywhere else like, snowstorms, tornados and hurricanes. 

Peter Scheldon, a staff reporter, was to write the story and so I waited outside the entrance, looking for a photo angle of the crowd.  My assignment was to shoot interviewees that agreed to have their photo taken for the article.  It didn’t take long for people to notice my cameras and a calm un-easiness carried itself back through the line.  A man walked out from the line seeking an empty bench at the side of the door and exclaimed:

“…Oh look, we can get our picture taken and they’ll put us in the crime blotter…”

 

It was impressive that so many people had brought their children although I wondered if it meant that the current economic downtrend would continue and instinctively, parents had thought to make it a learning experience.

Most people, obviously tense and in different stages of grief and uncertainty, were relieved to get some help and direction; it seemed likely that not everyone expected good news but at least something was being done and they were not alone. 

Scheldon, the reporter, arrived and in the midst of his interviews, I shot their faces as they poured out the months and years of dealing with struggle, stress and wonder.  It occurred to me that the people I saw were a mix of all the people I would usually see at any event I was assigned to shoot.  In fact it was not hard to imagine the people I would shoot this day were overwhelmingly the same people I would see helping out at any other assignment at a church, community or sports event.  This was the middle class and not what anyone would assume to be an “at risk” group of people.

There was one gentleman interviewed that sat silently and patiently waiting for his turn with a counselor.  He was not scared nor afraid but simply concerned and clear in his intention to get some help; this was not a man that was used to having an issue like this and having to share it.  He had been interviewed  by Scheldon and so I asked permission to keep shooting him, which I did.

He sat in the main room, waiting his turn, listening to the speakers that talked about anything from the government’s position on loans, fraud and bankruptcy.  I noticed he was not as talkative as several others that were interviewed but he was an old tree; confident, gracefully proud and sadly curious to what had to be for him, a new experience.

I followed him to where he sat down and spoke with a counselor.  I got a few shots, trying to be as unobtrusive as I could with two huge cameras and a blinding flash.  He held firm, wavering a bit beneath uncomfortable questions from the counselor but answered unblinkingly.  He had my attention and more importantly, my respect; this man is tough I thought as I imagined what it would be, to look across a pile of papers and face the help he needed.

I was done with my shots and I waited to catch his eye.

Thank you and good luck.” I said, and I meant it.

 

“Thanks!” he said, looking up for a moment before setting his eyes back on the attorney sitting before him and without bothering to look up he added, “I’m going to need it.”

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