Jim and Pat Gatacre, San Clemente
The city of San Clemente has for as long as I can remember been “business friendly,” which is not always to our advantage. For example, they built a roundabout down by the theater where hardly anyone goes, and removed a roundabout where many people go, Max Berg Plaza Park. We live adjacent to the park. Those are our tax dollars, twice wasted.
What really bothers me is that although we need businesses, this city was built on residential living, that is what Ole Hansen created this city for—people who “invested” in homes here built this city. Businesses would not exist here without homeowners.
Homeowners are “invested” in this city, but we are treated like interlopers, second to every contractor bid I have ever witnessed. Even though we have owned our home here in San Clemente for nearly 40 years, and even though we are second generation in this house, and even though there are at least seven second-generation homeowners in this neighborhood adjacent to Max Berg Plaza Park, we were the last to find out that the city, and an enclave of people living in apartments, were about to change our neighborhood, some of us have lived here for 50 and 60 years.
With Lori Donchak at the lead, a group of apartment residents adjacent to our neighborhood, that felt they didn’t get enough from our city government, pushed to change Max Berg Plaza Park from an oval with triangles at the corners, into a rectangle, narrowing our streets, pushing the park even closer to our homes. They were a year into it, and had nearly completed their plan before second generation homeowners, that are actually invested here, discovered what they were doing.
Thankfully, the Historical Society got involved and stopped them. Max Berg Plaza Park is a San Clemente Historical Resource, so California Law, and the outpouring of support from residents throughout San Clemente, prevented them from completely damaging this beautiful, albeit poorly kept, park – the first area of San Clemente developed by Ole Hansen.
Lori Donchak, Jim Dahl, Joe Anderson and Jim Evert pushed through this project that ended up costing taxpayers a million dollars, half of that Safe Routes to School money. Only City Councilman Bob Baker (#1) voted against this waste and destruction of a San Clemente Historical Resource. Jim Evert supports Dahl and Mortenson for City Council.
What did we get—a sidewalk around the park with huge parking lot lights surrounding it, the triangles were removed and put back almost exactly as they were before, and the free right turn lanes are blocked with unattractive bollards (they had to block the free right turn lanes to get the $500,000 safe routes to school money). There are 30 lights in the park and 14 blazing parking lot lights surrounding it. Forty-four lights for a three-acre park? Step out your front door at night and it’s like being in a shopping mall parking lot.
They also installed 15 accessible ramps into the park, but refused to make even one picnic table accessible. So people with disabilities can access the triangles, and the sidewalk in the park, but can’t get into the park. When I told the city they were required by law, ADA, to make park facilities accessible, they cleverly said, “the walkway is an easement, so we don’t have to because it is not part of the park.” However, they couldn’t spend any of the Safe Routes to School money on the sidewalk because it is in the park. Real champions!
My point, we are investors in this community. Homeowners have chosen to invest in San Clemente and live here. We do not have enough say in what happens, because there is always a “greater cause,” which is usually a contractor that wants to build something nobody wants. And yet we invest a major portion of our income into this community, our homes our largest investment, and if it fails we have nothing, that’s most of us.
I have to ask myself, why are these council members, elected by us to represent us, so inclined to favor building contractors? There are pieces missing in this puzzle. Be careful when you vote!