By Jim Shilander
The San Clemente City Council approved moving forward with a proposed parking lot on city owned land on El Camino Real near North Beach between Kaylani Coffee and Ichibiri Tuesday. However, the council declined to begin the development process on a proposal for a three-level parking structure located at the corner of El Camino Real and Avenida Pico (referred to as “the Gallery” site).
The El Camino Real lot would add 33 spots at a cost of approximately $700,000 for construction.
City Attorney Jeff Goldfarb explained that the primary concern for the city was the potential future need for beach parking as the historic users of parking in the area, Casino San Clemente, the Miramar Theater and the bowling alley, began to be used again. When the beach parking fund was initially set up in the late ’80s, Goldfarb explained, the city was attempting to provide parking for new development east of Interstate 5. At the same time, he noted, the use of those historic properties, began to wane. Goldfarb said with those buildings being used again, or being repurposed, there may be a need to provide space for residents who had essentially been borrowing spots from their historic users.
City resident Brad Malamud, who is suing the city to recover beach parking funds he said were not spent in a timely manner when they began to be collected in 1989, spoke at the meeting and told the council they were attempting to fix a problem that didn’t exist.
“This whole thing is a sham,” Malamud said. “I don’t know where this is coming from.”
Malamud strongly objected to characterizations about past parking in the area, noting that most of the use of the historic buildings was at night, when parking for the beach was less necessary.
While not discussing the specifics of Malamud’s suit, Goldfarb said at the meeting that he expected a resolution through the courts within six months.
Other residents voiced concern about potentially spending funds earmarked for beach parking that might have to be returned, particularly if they had to be returned out of the city’s general fund.
“I’d ask that the council not spend any of this money until the city’s right to do so is determined by a court of law,” resident and bicycle activist Brenda Miller said. She told the council she feared that if the city spent the funds, it might be forced to repay the funds with monies outlined for other projects, such as the Safe Routes to School and Safe Routes to the Beach programs. “There’s no harm in waiting,” Miller told the council.
Resident Alan Korsen objected to the proposal for a three-level structure, as well as what he thought was a rush to spend the funds.
“It seems like we’re coming up with a bunch of schemes on how to use this money,” Korsen said.
North Beach resident Don Slater told the council that the parking was something that needed to be addressed, for the sake of his neighborhood.
“Every time there’s an event, or a warm day, they come and park in our neighborhood,” Slater said. “They’re in my neighborhood because the parking is free. If you’re going to build parking, it has to be free…That money belongs where it is, to create free parking at the beach.”
Another resident, George Gregory advocated moving forward.
“Build it. Build it now,” Gregory told the board emphatically. “We can afford to do the El Camino Real lot right now.”
The council voted 3-1—with Mayor Bob Baker voting no and member Tim Brown absent—to proceed with the initial projects, including finding out if the Gallery site would even be available for sale.
“I’m just not sold on the need to proceed on this,” Baker said. “I just haven’t seen a demonstrated need for this parking.”