By Mayor Pro Tem Tim Brown
In our Spanish Village by the Sea, it has always been a balancing act to preserve our heritage while welcoming the new. As a community, we are richly blessed. We enjoy open space, natural beauty, scenic architecture, historic treasures and a safe and tight-knit community where neighbors know and care for one another. This was not by accident, but a product of vision. For example, our city founders sought to design a village that would take advantage of the sea bluffs and canyons, so they designed our streets to match the contour of the land and not cut through it. Despite our growing pains, it is this type of considerate growth and vision over time that has made our community what it is today. San Clemente has shown it is possible to marry the preservation of our historic resources with modern day development.
A key to our future is the 248-acre Marblehead Coastal project, which has remained a mystery to many residents over the past decade. One of the most frequent questions I receive from residents I meet is, “What’s going on with Marblehead?” As one of the last remaining undeveloped oceanfront properties in California, it has tremendous potential and will have a significant impact on San Clemente once developed. The product of a development agreement initially approved in 1997 and that received final approval in 2007; this project will bring variety of additional services, dining opportunities, retail options, a hotel and housing to San Clemente.
Marblehead Coastal has a history older than many of us, and past project timelines did not deliver. With the bankruptcy resolved, Lehman Brothers (dba “LV Marblehead” for this development project) is moving forward with work on the project’s infrastructure-related requirements, meaning that the unfinished westbound Pico improvements will wrap up by the end of summer. Within a month, work will begin on two of the four parks and the trail system, with completion by late 2014. This means more than 100 acres of parks and trails to an already robust trail and park system. Later this year, they will also begin to finish work on the Vista Hermosa link from I-5 to Pico (completion by late 2014). By this summer you can also expect to see grading of the commercial site for the outlet center. Not until LV Marblehead finishes work on Vista Hermosa and Pico (adding lights/traffic signals/landscaping/sidewalks) and other infrastructure will they begin selling parcels to builders for new housing. Traffic congestion remains an ongoing concern and we have accounted for increased traffic and can even look forward to a major OCTA and Caltrans I-5 Pico Interchange project on the horizon to help further alleviate those issues. As a part of the agreement, the City Council ensured that the project maintained views along the Vista Hermosa corridor, open space with habitat-preservation and recreational amenities for the public’s enjoyment.
For newcomers to San Clemente unfamiliar with the project, who were lured here for the small-town charm and gleaming ocean that practically wraps our town; concerns exist about how this project will fit with Ole’s vision and our small town feel. The City Council is aware of these concerns and will continue to go to great lengths to ensure that San Clemente’s legacy for harmonized development, since its’ founding, will remain intact. We expect that at the end of the day, Marblehead Coastal will be a quality development project that residents and visitors to our city can both enjoy.
As San Clemente’s founder, Ole Hanson, said in the 1920s, “I get credit for building San Clemente. I am doing my best, but San Clemente’s development was as natural as a well-watered and fertilized tree to grow. It is on the coast. Its climate is superb. It is far enough from San Diego and Los Angeles to fill a real necessity. Besides, people love the beautiful things.”
One of my favorite things about being on City Council is that I get to witness our residents deep passion for San Clemente, a common understanding that this is a unique and beautiful place to live in and be proud of. As we look forward to the future, it the responsibility of all of us to ensure that we welcome development that fits in harmony with the community we have created and that we call home.
Tim Brown is Mayor Pro-Tem of San Clemente and is in his first term on the City Council. He was first elected in 2010.