State of the City: Change

Brown says changes over the next few years will require resident patience

Mayor Tim Brown addresses the number of big changes coming to the city in the coming years, and how the city is planning to tackle them. Photo by Jim Shilander

Mayor Tim Brown addresses the number of big changes coming to the city in the coming years, and how the city is planning to tackle them. Photo by Jim Shilander

By Jim Shilander 

A number of major infrastructure and building projects are likely to cause major headaches over the course of the next several years, San Clemente Mayor Tim Brown said Friday, but residents should look forward to changes he believes will make the city better.

Brown, who served as keynote speaker at the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City event April 11, said the extension of Avenida La Pata, the widening of Interstate 5 and work at Marblehead Coastal’s commercial and residential development will be the last major changes for the city in the foreseeable future but that each will make some real changes to the city.

“We are on the cusp of great changes, powerful changes that will affect us,” Brown said of the several large-scale projects set for the next four years. “San Clemente is riding a wave of change.”

On the infrastructure side, Brown urged patience for San Clemente motorists who might be in for a frustrating few years as the $275 million widening project, which will be completed in February 2018, gets going. He noted that Avenida Vista Hermosa would be completed before significant reconstruction work began on Avenida Pico, which would give an alternate route for traffic within the city. La Pata’s anticipated 2016 completion would also help ease traffic as the I-5 widening work continued, he said.

The city would make an effort to improve communication with residents, Brown said, as well as finding temporary measures to help keep businesses alive, such as relaxed sign ordinances. A similar effort was undertaken in San Juan Capistrano during work on Ortega Highway.

The city is also working through the fiscal impact that will be felt by the Outlets at San Clemente Plaza, slated for opening in fall 2015. Craig Realty Group, developers of the project, have projected $157 million in revenue in its first year, with annual revenues of $400 million once built out fully. The city would receive 1 percent of sales tax revenue. Brown said the city was in a more advantageous position than some of its neighbors, not having to rely on transient occupancy taxes or sales tax revenue, but that ultimately limited some of the things the city could try to do.

Brown noted that when he initially ran for council, he had latched onto the idea of increasing tourism to provide a larger tax base. But while on the board, he discovered that the city was much more reliant on the contributions of residents.

“I still believe in increasing tourism, but not at the expense of our residents,” Brown said. “The city will change, but we need to make sure that change is for the better.”

State Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, who emceed the event, also provided a state level update. Harkey, who term out this year, is running for a seat on the State Board of Equalization.

Harkey, a Republican, was somewhat complimentary of Gov. Jerry Brown, though she still had major disagreements about the need for reforming the state’s business taxes and regulation. The budget had been balanced, though doing so required increased taxes, she noted. Her previous opinion that the state had not been effectively governed since the end of Pete Wilson’s term in 1998 would have to be revised, she said, though the state’s business policies remained “onerous.”

“Like the policies or not, we are being governed,” Harkey said, noting that the budget also included reserves. “Our house was on fire. We were bankrupt. Now, we’ve fixed the holes in the road.”

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