The corrido of Ignacio Lujano, the San Juan Capistrano man who has tended to some of the county's last standing orange groves for the past 40 years, continues. The Los Angeles Times, KCAL-TV Channel 9, and KTLA-TV Channel 5 have covered his battle with the city of San Juan Capistrano to boot him out in favor of a maintenance yard, and each story has provoked increasingly disgusted reactions from readers and viewers aghast that city officials would seek to boot out an 84-year-old man and pave over one of the last remnants of King Citrus.
In the face of public anger, San Juan officials are now busy trying to spin their way out of it. They've now issued a press release seeking to "clear the air" in the face of such scrutiny. Problem is, everything they state has already been reported. And they can't help but to try to spin Lujano as a ward of city residents.
"Over the past few years, the City has had to supplement Lujano’s maintenance of the orchards and surrounding area – at taxpayer’s expense – and the City has transitioned the entire maintenance of the property to its Public Works Department," states the author-less release. San Juan residents would hope the city maintain city-owned property with its coffers, no? And then, they continue.
"Since November 2007, Lujano and his family have been living on the property for free. The City also learned that two adult children and their family members, not permitted under the agreement with Lujano, had taken up residence on the City-owned land."
Look, everyone: welfare-cheating Mexicans! Aren't you glad we're trying to kick this geezer off? What jerks.
The strangest part of the press release, however, is the following:
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The City does not intend to build a corporate City maintenance yard at this location. The City will continue to maintain the existing orchard and anticipates restoring portions of the original orchard. The City will use the remainder of the property in the furtherance of other public and open space uses.
That's not what city PR flack Kelly Tokarski told us when we interviewed her for our Lujano story. From my story:
"She said San Juan Capistrano’s open-space master plan called for the Swanner Ranch to become a maintenance yard for the city’s open space and that “this is still the intended use.”
So, which is it, Kelly? And why can't San Juan officials take my phone calls?