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November 6, 2018 — California General Election

City of San Juan CapistranoCandidate for Council Member, Council District 3

Photo of Kerry Ferguson

Kerry Ferguson

624 votes (19.6%)
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Top 3 Priorities

  • Find real solutions to homelessness, helping those in need while protecting residents from aggressive anti-social behavior
  • Managing development in a way that preserves and enhances the history and traditions of our city.
  • Reorganize our water for RELIABILITY and FAIR RATES. Water if life!



Tutor, Wyzant Tutoring (2013–current)
Mayor and Councilmember, City of San Juan Capistrano City Council — Elected position (2014–current)
Member, Community, Housing and Economic Development Committee of the Southern California Association of Governments — Appointed position (2014–current)
Director, San Joaquin Transportation Corridor Agency — Appointed position (2014–2017)
Director, Foothill/Easter Corridor Agency — Appointed position (2014–2017)
Member, Legislative and Regulatory Committee of the Association of California Cities of Orange County — Appointed position (2014–2017)
Owner, M. L. Mallard Ltd. - 3 stores (1981–1999)
President, Creative Yarns International (1993–1999)
History Department Chair, The John Thomas Dye School (1978–1981)
Teacher, Master Teacher, Gifted Program Administrator, Santa Monica City Schools (1965–1977)


UCLA Design (1982)
Attended Scripps College and graduated from the University of Southern California Bsc in Education, Major: History Minor: Spanish (1965)
University of Southern California Bachelor Of Science in Education, Major concentration: History Minor concentration: Spanish (1965)

Community Activities

Docent, Mission San Juan Capistrano (2013–current)
Member, San Juan Capistrano Historical Society (2014–current)
Member, San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association (2018–current)
Member, Faith Lutheran Church Capo Beach (2010–current)
Member and Past President, Capistrano Valley Republican Women, Federated (2011–current)


Kerry Ferguson's roots in this area date back to 1883. Her great grandfathers were pioneers, one engineering and maintaining water systems in Southern California and the other owning a grand hotel on the hill in Escondido, serving as a council member for 10 years and mayor for a year. Her grandfather was a friend of Charles Lummis and involved with Land of Sunshine, in which the Landmark Society that saved Mission San Juan Capistrano was begun. She and her husband, Stuart, chose San Juan Capistrano as their home for its small-town atmosphere and historic character.

As an educator, Kerry served in Santa Monica and Bel Air, as a Master Teacher, pioneer in the field of Team Teaching, Administrator of Programs for the Gifted in Santa Monica and Chair of the History Department at the John Thomas Dye School in Bel Air.

In the Seattle area, she grew a small retail store into three nationally recognized stores and a wholesale business and became one of the top knitwear designers in the country.

Even now, Kerry has a tutoring business working with students from early elementary through graduate school in English and History.

Kerry is known as the hardest working member of the SJC City Council. One resident said, "You think and research issues, and you add insight into complex issues. Keep up the tremendous work for the city." Kerry takes that as a serious challenge to do her best to live up to their praise.

Kerry is also known for her exceptional work helping residents. On Los Rios neighborhood resident wrote, "No one from the City Council has ever shown concern as you do, not even close. Sincerely appreciate it."

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Above it all, I believe it's time for us to

stop demeaning each other, 

to work with each other, 

not against each other,

and to bring our dreams to reality.

I believe the next four years will define our city for many years to come. Great leadership will be required for great outcomes.

I believe San Juan Capistrano is the loveliest, most unique city in Orange County.

I believe what makes us special is our tapestry of varied peoples - Acjachemen, Spaniards, Juanenos, Mexicans, Basques and Yankees - each making a special contribution to our history and to our culture. I treasure them all.

I believe our best years are ahead of us. We stand on the verge of becoming a beloved destination that is not only prosperous but truly lives in our dynamic new century while honoring and sharing our past.

I believe public safety must continue to be our first priority.

I believe District 3 can be a part of our great resurgence.

  • I believe we MUST mitigate traffic congestion during the school year. One way is to utilize our two trolleys. This could significantly reduce car trips on both Del Obispo and Alipaz.
  • I believe a Community Workshop for our residents to share ideas for a development on the Vermuelen property near the Armstrong Nursery is a great idea. I reached out to the Vermuelen representative. They are enthusiastic about it, and they are going to include the proposers, so they can hear from all of us. We can talk about making "The Farm", as they call their proposed development, reflect the farming history of this part of our town with farm style homes and cottages and other amenities.
  • I believe expanding the Ecology Center to create a Modern Demonstration Farm, a Farm to Table Cafe and a Culinary Arts Center, and all with ample parking, is a fabulous idea.
I believe the River Street Marketplace proposal is a beautiful project that would serve our community well, provided the environmental impact report and traffic study support it.   I believe our town can support two outstanding 4-star hotels - Las Banderas and Hotel Capistrano.   I believe some of the goals and provisions of our Historic Town Center Master Plan have become obsolete. We We need to correct inconsistencies with the General Plan and Dorm Based Code and then look at possible major revisions or repeal. This needs to be done with a lot of thought, public input and care.   I believe Verdugo Street should just be the beginning of beautifying every corner of our downtown - our entries, our sidewalks, parking venues, and landscaped parks. Also, sign codes should be enforced consistently and strictly.    I believe we must continue to implement innovations like solar power and LED that save money, help the environment, and help us to remain competitive with our neighbors.   I believe our water system reorganization must be completed in a way that benefits our residents, with greater reliability for years to come and fair rates.   I believe we need to be part of the solution to our county's homeless problems. I will continue to work with ACC-OC and others to address these problems.   I believe the waste, fraud, abuse and over-concentration in the sober living industry must end.   I believe there should be no new roads through established communities. San Clemente's regional traffic study bore this out. Transportation trends are changing rapidly. Miles of extra pavement may be obsolete by the time it's built.   Let's work together to prepare San Juan Capistrano for a bright and beautiful future!    


Position Papers

Real Solutions for Homelessness


     Unsheltered homelessness has increased 53% in Orange County since 2013, with many negative effects on the homeless themselves as well as our communities. Real solutions are needed to help those who are willing to accept it and to protect our communities from the negative behaviors of those who are not willing to accept help.

     Unsheltered homelessness has increased 53% in Orange County since 2013. In our community, this has manifest itself in an increase in camping and loitering in our creek beds and in our parks, among other places. Those who camp leave a great deal of debris, including drug paraphernalia, and other human waste. Some have become very aggressive toward business people and residents. Others have been observed to be involved in substance abuse, theft, breaking and entering, etc.

     There are several private local programs that are effective in helping those who are desiring of help moving out of their homeless condition. However, there are a growing number of unsheltered individuals who prefer a hand out to a hand up.

     So, what do we do about this problem? One answer that has been put forth is to invest in permanent supportive housing, which it is said can save Orange County cities $42 million per year and promises to be of help to the homeless and residents alike. With the help of AB448, signed into law earlier this Summer, the OC housing Finance Trust, a single purpose JPA, has been set up to allow for the mixing of private and public dollars to fund projects expediently.

     The plan is to diffuse the chronically homeless among all the cities of Orange County so that no one city must bear the burden unduly. Our City of San Juan Capistrano could build our own facility that would house chronically homeless with mental health and other services designed to help them become independent once again. The models for this are Mercy House and Jamboree Housing. Both have had demonstrable success in their mission.

      Such a facility would be funded through the OC Housing Finance Trust and SB3, the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018. The trust governance would include the County of Orange, the cities of Orange County, and community shareholders.

     So, what are the advantages of participating in such a program? I believe a program such as this would be helpful to those in real need in our community who are willing to accept real help. Those who refuse help would then be subject to our laws and ordinances asare all of our residents.They would no longer be able to camp "at will" in our community, leaving behind debris of all sorts, and preying on our residents and business people.

     This plan has been helpful in other cities, namely Orlando, Florida and Houston, Texas. I believe it could be helpful to us if implemented properly in an appropriate location.

Development Must Preserve our History and Traditions With Benefits to Residents


Knowing that we can never return to a valley of orange and walnut groves, with many Californio adobes and farm houses, we can still keep that vision in mind as we move forward. San Juan Capistrano Development must preserve and enhance our history and traditions, and traffic congestion must be minimized.

     I've been asked what my vision is for San Juan Capistrano. I often hear laments that we no longer have a city consisting of groves of oranges, walnuts and persimmons. I agree that the loss of that fragrance and beauty in our valley is regrettable. I wish I could bring it back, but I know that we can't. I also know that we can't really replace the many Californio adobes and farm houses that were lost in our previous century.

     So, what can we do to preserve and enhance the history and traditions of our city?

     First, knowing that we can't stop development altogether, we can mold it as much as possible through communication with prospective developers and a proactive approach. By advocating for good development that fits into its space comfortably and appropriately for its surroundings, we stand a better chance of seeing that happen. I have already turned back two over-sized developments with my vote. Another was slated as a strip mall next to Mission San Juan Capistrano. I personally dissuaded the developer from proceeding with that project due to its inappropriateness. He was convinced, and he sold the property within days of our conversation to the developer of the Las Banderas Hotel, which is welcome and developing in a way that complements the Mission.

     On the Vermuelen Ranch site, we will in all likelihood have the medium density homes that mirror their surrounding neighbors. Like many of my neighbors, I would have preferred a less intense use. However, for many reasons, that would only be possible if a philanthropist chose to pay the price the Vermuelens have earned over the years for the 35-acre property and donate it to the City. Failing that, my hope is that it will ultimately be a farm-style neighborhood of cottages and farmhouses with drought tolerant landscape irrigated by a smart-water system that waters as needed, not by guessing. It would also include features such as tankless water heaters, electric charging stations, LED lighting, salvaged woods used decoratively, and solar power, which is now mandated. Raised beds could provide fresh herbs and vegetables year-round, and one or two fruit trees would provide fresh fruit. I recommended to Troy Bourne, as a spokesperson for the Vermuelen family, a community workshop with proposers to allow neighbors to weigh in with their own ideas. He has promised to hold such a workshop.

     Such a neighborhood, with its one-acre pocket park and tree lined trails, would complement the expanded Ecology Center next door. I look forward to this center becoming a world-class facility for educating the public on sustainable living and food raising. It will include a demonstration farm, a culinary arts center, a farm-to-table cafe, the current farm store and a makers' market. Importantly to surrounding neighborhoods, it will include parking for 100 cars with on-site overflow parking available when needed.

     Another parcel that will most likely be developed is the Ito Nursery property adjacent to Historic Los Rios Street. The proposal for the River Street Marketplace would occupy about 20% of the property, with plenty of beautifully landscaped parking. The plan has been developed with the utmost consideration for the nearby residents and businesses. It would offer visitors and residents a place to gather informally and enjoy the ambiance of this part of our city in a relaxed setting. To see how it would look and fit into the neighborhood, check out the accurately scaled model located in the arcade next to Hennessey's on Camino Capistrano. It is open for viewing on late Friday and Saturday afternoons. While I think it is a beautiful plan that has a lot of support in Los Rios and all around the city, I will await the environmental impact report (EIR) and Traffic Impact Study (TIS) before making a final judgment.

     I am happy to see that the Las Banderas 4-star Hotel next to the Mission San Juan Capistrano is under construction at last, and I believe it will be a very welcome addition to our downtown. It will include a small banquet facility, restaurant and ample parking, including parking available for events. It is my hope that Hotel Capistrano will be constructed as well. It is also a 4-star plan.

     The Frontier Properties proposal for a full-fledged Performing Arts Center with underground parking and office/retail facilities was chosen for the Playhouse property. This is something I have been advocating for to build on the established Camino Real Playhouse tradition. I envision all the arts, including music and dance, being presented in such a facility.

     Along with these, Verdugo Street is soon to be beautified, and I'd like  to see that spill on to the rest of our downtown, perhaps using a portion of our Temporary Occupancy Tax (TOT) from the hotels to fund beautification of our city's entrance at Ortega Highway and Del Obispo Streets, Veterans' Park, and our streets and sidewalks in general. Such projects would make us even more proud for many years to come.

    I was honored to have inspired the restoration of Judge Richard Egan's home on Camino Capistrano and the creation of the popular Ellie's Table there. It is also my hope that the French Hotel, as the Oyharzibal Adobe is called, will ultimately be restored, perhaps with a museum celebrating the contributions to our city of our Basque families.

     At the north end of town, we have approved an important project which would at last give recognition to the Acjachemen and Juanenos who lived successfully on the land for 10,000 years and who also built our Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1776. Their descendants still live among us, and I have worked diligently with them for more than four years to create the Putuidem Village Cultural Center, with kiichas and ramadas, a circle of log seating for groups to hear stories and learn about Acjachemen traditions and an interpretive trail all within a setting of natural trees and shrubs. It will also include a large picnic area for anyone to enjoy and an equestrian staging area. It will be great addition to our Northwest Open Space.

    Another group that has been neglected for too long is our youth. I have been instrumental in the development of a great design for a Skateboard Park at our Sports Park, and I am also helping the San Juan Capistrano Skateboard Park Coalition with fundraising efforts. I believe we should add a soccer field at the Northwest Open Space. Having said all that, I think our Youth Advisory Board should be tasked with surveying our youth to find out what they would like to see for the future. They might have a completely different vision.

     When we were ordered to sell the Lower Rosan and Playhouse properties, we had to choose from many proposals. For the Lower Rosan, I advocated for Ganahl Lumber for several reasons. They are well known and respected in our area and family owned. Because their principal customers are contractors, they would not tend to compete with our many home improvement businesses. And, by providing space for auto dealers to store some of their stock, there would be a buffer between them and the adjacent mobile home park. It also will provide steady income to the city, including that from at least one on-site fast casual restaurant.

     These are just a few of my visions for our city. They all have a few things in common. They fit in with our history, fit comfortably in their spaces and benefit our residents. With all, traffic must be taken into consideration, and I have a plan to remove traffic from our main arteries during the busiest times of the school year. To do that, I would recommend running our two trolleys, which we now own and sit idle during the school year, along Del Obispo and the Ortega Highway during the morning and afternoon rush hours between Dana Hills High School and San Juan Hills High School. Such a service could conceivably serve as many as 7 schools altogether. 



Regionalizing our Water for Reliability and Fair Rates - Another Promise Kept!


     I promised in 2014 to regionalize our water system for reater reliability and fair rates. I am keeping that promise through the OCLAFCO process of assessing our system and the ability of nearby water districts to offer greater reliability at fair rates into the future, then choosing the one that can do it best.

     I promised in 2014 to regionalize our water system for greater reliability and fair rates. I am keeping that promise!

     It is laudable that our city sought to create a dependable water supply for the future by building our own Groundwater Recovery Plant. However, because the cost is spread over such a small population, it has made our water among the most expensive in the South Coast region.

     Additionally, a lawsuit challenging the previous Council's rate structure cost us millions, especially after an unwise appeal that lost. 

     The drought in Southern California between 2011 and 2016 showed the vulnerability of our system as we were ordered by the San Juan Basin Authority, of which we are a member, to shut down altogether for a period of time. When we were allowed to resume, it was at one-third of the previous output in acre feet.

     When I took office in 2014, we undertook an assessment of our water facilities and possible methods of regionalizing our system by combining with another nearby water district. Ultimately, we decided upon the OCLAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission of Orange County) process to analyze our facilities as well as those of interested nearby water districts. In charging OCLAFCO, we presented an extensive set of criteria devised by our Utilities Commission, our Staff and our City Council. These were applied to each of the potential providers.

     The first was to be able to show an initial rate reduction and a plan to stabilize rates and control future rate increases. The second was to be able to exceed the City's current level of service. It would include water quality, number of water breaks, water meter reliability, number of sewer breaks with duration of outages, whether they would maintain a satellite office in our city, customer wait times, customer complaints, etc.

     Financial strength is, of course, required. A provider would need to have the highest bond rating and demonstrate financial resources sufficient to acquire and operate our City water and wastewater facilities. It would be important for the provider to have facilities that are in good working order. They would also need to have a plan in place to identify and fund any necessary repair or rehab projects.

     Some measure of local control in governance is essential in order for us to move forward. Our city would need to have a seat on the Board of the Provider. Most likely, this would necessitate the Provider moving to district elections, which at least one is interested in doing.

     Last, it is very important to us to have the Provider guarantee existing Water and Wastewater employees employment until the employee resigns or retires. They also need to have a demonstrable history of good labor relations. Employee pension obligations should be protected. Last, the Provider's use of contract employees needs to be worked out in a way that is fair to our current employees.

     OCLAFCO has used the last year and a half to investigate and analyze all the parties involved. This past month, they presented their first draft of a Focused Municipal Service Review for the City of San Juan Capistrano Water and Wastewater Utility. It declared that all three prospective providers, Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD), Moulton Niguel Water District (MNWD), and South Coast Water District (SCWD), have the infrastructure, systems and financial strength to provide for our needs. Subsequently, each of them tendered to us a letter of interest.

     A City Council Subcommittee as well as Staff are meeting with each of the proposed Providers to ascertain which might be the best to supply our needs. I might have left it up to them to make a recommendation without researching and interviewing myself. However, this is a monumental decision that will affect our city and our region for many years to come. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to attend the OCLAFCO meetings and to conduct extensive interviews with each of the prospective Providers themselves. I have also included one of our very knowledgeable Utility Commissioners, John Perry, in the interviews to add his own questions and insights. Our discussions were frank and wide in scope, including reliability, rates, employee retention, governance and infrastructure.

     Santa Margarita Water District has an impressive portfolio of various programs to provide reliability in the future, including watershed recharge, recycling, ground water, and stakes in desalination, the Cadiz Project and the California Water Fix. Their district is twice the size of ours and thus can produce greater economy of scale. They are contemplating districts, which would facilitate our having a representative on their Board. They believe 30% of all our water should come from local supply. They know our community, having worked with us for years. They believe in balancing supply and conservation and are very careful about adding debt with capital improvements.

     Moulton Niguel Water District puts a high emphasis on conserving water. They also participate in recycling. Further sources would be the Watershed Project led by Santa Margarita Water District and the California Water Fix. They have not elected to participate in a desalination project. Like SMWD, they would seek to retain as many employees as possible, especially since they do not have experience with a Groundwater Recovery Plant. They have been providing services and water to us already. SDG&E's Duane Cave sits on their Board, and they work with OC Coastkeepers on projects of mutual interest. Frankly, both of those are a concern since both have taken actions adverse to our city. Right now, their rates are very low because their infrastructure projects are financed by their property taxes, which are very generous due to the nature of their assessed valuations. I have not yet received a clear explanation as to how acquiring us would affect rates ultimately, nor how we would fit into their governance.

     Whiile South Coast Water District doesn't promise lower rates, they believe their desalination project will one day provide a very reliable supply at reasonable rates. One key point is that they would blend the brine produced by the desalination process with treated waste water, so that when released into the ocean it would have less salt than seawater. They are very interested in our investing in their project. Their only other outside source is from the Metropolitan Water District, which currently provides water to all of us. They, too, promise to keep our employees and to include us in their governance.

     Another possibility put forth by some would be a three-way collaboration between SMWD, SCWD and us. Again, all of these possibilities must be put to the basic test - does it benefit our residents, and in what way? Because water is life, reliability must come first and reasonable rates second. Financial strength, solid infrastructure, employee treatment and adequate representation in governance are also paramount.

     OCLAFCO will no doubt present and pass their final Focused Municipal Service Review in October, and the next step will be for the interested Providers to present their proposals for a Plan for Service, which we will then evaluate in order to make a choice of direction by the first of the year.

     As your District 3 City Council Member, I've made it my business to research and understand each issue that would affect our Water and Wastewater services for the foreseeable future, so that we can have a seamless transition after November. I believe I have the ability to make an intelligent, informed decision for the greatest benefit of our residents. 

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