Economic growth should respect city’s character, to improve forgotten areas
By Wayne Eggleston
A new year is upon us. And a new City Council that for the first time in decades has the same development views as the majority of its residents. Topics like open space, small-town atmosphere, developments that respect our heritage and character and a sacred civic trust that will not sell valuable city-owned, beach-front land dedicated to parking/beach park land to a developer for a shopping center. These are just some of the views supported by our new council majority.
I remember in the mid-’90s when the city voted to demolish two historic structures in the Pier Bowl and build a 72-unit motel, which would have destroyed a valuable public view corridor. Fortunately, due to a botched private sale and a 10-page Coastal Commission letter stating numerous reasons why they would not approve it, this monster was never built. And how about the massive Los Angeles-style Ralph’s development voted down 3-2 by the council? Thank you Lori Donchak for your common sense vote.
In 1998, the council overwhelmingly voted to turn Casa Romantica into a Mexican restaurant, “Taco Romantica.” That issue propelled me into serving on city council for the next 12 years. Fortunately, an “angel” came along and contributed $1.3 million to turn our most historic structure into a very successful cultural center. These are just some of the ill-conceived votes by a city council that was eventually voted out of office.
A new day has dawned with a majority of our leadership in concert with those who wish for economic growth, but not by turning our “Spanish Village by the Sea” into another Huntington Beach. Organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce need to recognize that the majority of council members and citizens are very supportive of the above issues. Our chamber was unfortunately on the opposite side of these issues. I am a member of the chamber and have many good friends in the organization. I joined hoping to lend another perspective. It is time for the chamber to recognize that we can have economic development and at the same time maintain our unique small-town atmosphere without creating traffic congestion and “Huntington Beach South.” Remember, the treasures of our past and our unique charm provide for the future.
Several 2013 priorities for our city council include the following: completing the General Plan update, extending the beach trail, improving traffic, revitalization of North Beach, the Miramar Theatre, the city manager transition, economic development, funding for La Pata extension, implementation of the bicycle plan and improving resident communication.
If I may suggest to the city council an issue that seems to get lost in discussions regarding master planning and large developments, and that would be improving small “hot spots” around San Clemente. An obvious one is North Beach. Why not place boxed trees along the city-owned property and Miramar property next to the sidewalk, which would give the impression that “something” is being started? At the very least it would help clean up the area.
Another “hot spot” is the 100-200 block of South El Camino. I wrote about this area several months ago as being afflicted with “broken window syndrome.” We still have dirty sidewalks, litter, broken fences, vacant storefronts and sidewalks that need to be replaced.
These small “hot spots” get lost in the bigger picture issues, and that is a shame, as they do not require master planning but just plain old upkeep and maintenance. Improving these small areas would make them sparkle and help the businesses—think economic development.
Let us wish our city council a happy and productive New Year.