He is gone from City Hall, but now, thanks to his former council colleagues, his name will not be forgotten.
Controversial former Councilman Robert A. Curtis had a park named after him by the City Council on Monday, a testimony to his role in finalizing a massive land-use agreement with the Mission Viejo Co., which developed this planned community.
The park is part of a $10-million athletic complex built at Olympiad and Felipe roads by the company in return for approval of a 700-home housing development in 1989.
Like Curtis’ career at City Hall, which was marked by a virtual cascade of confrontations with various political enemies, naming the park after Curtis sparked a dispute.
Critics say council members bent their own rules against naming city parks after living persons and decided against the names recommended by the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Councilman William S. Craycraft, the only council member to vote against the name, said Curtis received what amounted to political pay back.
“It’s really a shame,” he said. “We ought to keep politics out of our city parks. This shows that the council is dominated by Curtis supporters.”
But Mayor Robert D. Breton said council policy allows parks to be dedicated to people, living or dead, who contribute to the heritage of the city.
Curtis “is a person of historical significance,” Breton said. “He is one of the founding fathers of the city of Mission Viejo. There were absolutely no politics involved here.”
Shortly after being elected in 1988, Curtis was served with recall papers for supporting the annexation of Aegean Hills against the wishes of the Mission Viejo Co. Although the Mission Viejo Co. and other developers spent nearly $500,000 to unseat Curtis, voters defeated the recall by a wide margin.
Shortly afterward, Curtis negotiated with the company over how much development could take place in the city, gaining several acres of land to build a new City Hall in return for approval of the land-use agreement.
Up for reelection last November, Curtis decided not to run, citing a need to spend more time with his family.