San Clemente Times
California’s Spanish city by the sea was thrust into multiple debates regarding the municipality’s policies, social responsibility and the way in which locals see their hometown as it is, was and will be. As residents fight to not only keep their hospital open but regulate short-term homes and sober living facilities, we look back at what shaped 2015 and what happened in San Clemente.
The much-anticipated work on the Ole Hanson Beach Club began after years of delays and budgetary juggling. Although the original budget for the refurbishments to the historic landmark was near $1.5 million—slated to address water damage issues—the cost of the improvements is now more than $4.6 million, as additional problems surfaced.
The project now includes significant repairs to the roof, a remodeling of the interior of the facility and changes to some of the exteriors on both the land and pool sides, as well as access improvements for the pools.
The OHBC is scheduled to open in April 2016 with construction to be completed in March. City Council members said there is already a waiting list for swim lessons and other reservations.
After more than four years and dozens of meetings and hearings, the San Clemente City Council approved a new General Plan, along with a bicycle and pedestrian master plan and two other associated documents, which would shape many decisions for the remainder of the year.
The General Plan has had multiple amendment proposals since its adoption proposed to the City Council as well as the Planning Commission.
It took more than eight months and 10 public hearings to work out the fine details of the overarching plan.
The organization Save San Clemente Hospital began exploring new ideas to have a freestanding emergency room in the city, with the support of legislators Sen. Patricia Bates and Assemblyman Bill Brough, both of whom represent the districts of San Clemente. Although an alternative to change the designation of the hospital is unlikely, two bills the representatives have authored would allow for a freestanding emergency room in San Clemente. The bills are scheduled to be discussed on Jan. 12 and 13 in a legislative health committee hearing.
A project 10 years in the making, Courtney’s SandCastle at Vista Hermosa Sports Park opened. The playground is named after Courtney Smith, a graduate of San Clemente High School,
A portion of the park became a center for children with disabilities to celebrate all five senses, as well as a pair of water features, including a simulated tide pool and musical panels and a path along which children can touch and smell different varieties of plants designed to stimulate the senses. The second phase completed the park, which opened in 2012 along with the rest of Vista Hermosa Sports Park, and was designed to be accessible to children of all ability levels.
The issues surrounding signage almost determined the fate of Estrella Plaza, which is now slated to open in the spring. Due to the city’s sign ordinance, some of the retail outlets had concerns about their local visibility and almost pulled out of the project altogether. In March, the retailers said the signs were a “must-have” and they retained the opportunity to pull out of their lease without the approval of their proposed signage. A compromise between the retailers and the city was eventually reached.
San Clemente’s new trail system opened as part of the Sea Summit residential development.
The four-mile system was officially opened almost a year to the day that Taylor Morrison purchased the residential development from Lehman Brothers. As part of the development, the developer was bound to complete infrastructure projects, including West Avenida Vista Hermosa through to Avenida Pico (which opened earlier in April), the trail system and five parks, some of which had been started by Lehman.
San Clemente High School experienced a tragedy when student Saylor Voris died April 14 after a lengthy battle with a rare form of leukemia. Voris was honored throughout 2015 by her fellow cheerleaders and there was a podium for her at every varsity football game. Many students at SCHS said Voris was an inspiration to them.
San Clemente High School was dealt another blow to its community when popular principal Michael Halt was turbidly ousted by the Capistrano Unified School District. Although CUSD officials said Halt was not removed for criminal actions, the district has failed to this day to provide any details as to why he was removed from his position.
Hundreds of parents, students and teachers protested his firing at CUSD Board of Trustees meetings in an effort to understand the action. At one meeting, SCHS patrons stayed for more than five hours as the board met in closed session to discuss what it deemed a “personnel issue.” Eventually, in June, the board ruled Halt could remain a principal within the district but could not return to SCHS. Halt eventually became principal of Estancia High School in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. The issue would become the catalyst of future discussions of a proposal for San Clemente to create its own school district.
San Clemente implemented a new water rate structure for penalizing people who overuse water, making the rates subject to a new tiered structure. The city announced in November that it had collected nearly $1 million in fees since the rates were implemented. Later that month, the city said it would conduct a new drought study to reduce rates. “If continued water reductions are achieved, there may be consideration to potentially lower the penalties or modify the restrictions to water allocations imposed by the Water Conservation Ordinance,” a city press release stated.
The Smithsonian National Museum of American History accepted multiple items from the Surfing Heritage and Cultural Center, which was celebrated with a weekend gala in Washington, D.C. Many of the items were from surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku and the film The Endless Summer.
The San Clemente Library opened for the first time in about 18 months on Monday to an attendance of about 100 people—some waiting outside the door before opening, branch manager Karen Wall said. There also were about a dozen new submissions for library cards.
The majority of open space left on shelves is going to be stocked in the next few weeks, Wall said.
“Mostly where you’re seeing empty shelves is where we have room to grow,” Wall said. “The only areas that are not stocked fully are some of our magazine racks.”
Wi-Fi is up and running and so are the new computers, and the new children’s section is open.
Most of the staff members have returned, but there is a new librarian and librarian assistant, Wall said. Wall also said they are looking to expanding the children’s programming.
City officials said a steep increase in the number of complaints of disruptive behavior, too much tobacco smoke, loud swearing and other excessive noise compared to last year prompted the City Council to pass 10-month moratoriums on the establishment of sober living facilities and sober living homes, in order to provide more time for city staff and City Council members to examine the issues regarding sober living commercial facilities and residences
It is unlikely the city will be able to ban sober and residential drug treatment living altogether, City Attorney Scott Smith said at the time, because of federal and state laws and other case law in which municipalities were unable to abolish similar sober living facilities.
One of the main topics of discussion among neighborhood groups has been the number of residences that have been established in a small area. Because of decisions recently rendered in the courts from nearby cities, such as Newport Beach, San Clemente City Council has not put a complete ban on sober living facilities, as judges have ruled in some circumstances cities cannot completely prohibit them.
Smith said the urgency ordinance moratorium can last a total of two years before the city would have to establish some kind of regulation or code or drop the ban altogether.
In July, the city enacted a 45-day moratorium.
In September, a three-judge panel in the California Appellate Court upheld a lower court’s decision regarding the reimbursement of the Beach Parking Funds in San Clemente that were challenged by plaintiff Daniel Walker as the trustee and others. The judge has ordered the $10.6 million in the fund be returned to the people who had to pay it.
Local attorney Brad Malamud has championed this lawsuit since its beginning in 2012.
The parking fund was established in 1989 from new development as a way to assist beach coastal parking throughout the city. Originally, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled the beach parking fund had to be returned to the residents as it was not being used for its specific purpose in a timely manner.
The city will have to find a method that is equitable to return all of the $10.6 million to the taxpayers who contributed to the fund over the years. Malamud said because the tax rates have changed over the years, it will have to be broken down by who paid and when.
The city petitioned the ruling to the California Supreme Court, but it was dismissed in November.
San Clemente’s Park Semper Fi celebrated its 10th anniversary. The park was founded by the Heritage of San Clemente Foundation, headed by city Planning Commissioner Wayne Eggleston.
The park is maintained by a group of volunteers. No dogs are allowed, but occasional debris finds its way up there. Eggleston said he comes to the park to do whatever tasks are needed, but someone from the foundation is at the park every day.
Former Mrs. Orange County Meghan Breanna Alt, 25, of Irvine (a former San Clemente resident) was charged on Friday, Oct. 9, with multiple counts of child pornography and lewd acts on a child, authorities said.
The child pornography consisted of photos of a 4-year-old female family member of Alt’s taken between Jan. 1 and Oct. 7, showing the child posed in a sexually explicit manner. The photos were sent via cell phone, in exchange for cash and gifts, to a Marine stationed in Southern California, the release said.
Investigators began working on the case after receiving information from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Alt has since denied the charges.
The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the permit for Southern California Edison to store spent nuclear fuel in dry-cask storage on site at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
SONGS already has above-ground dry storage as well as wet storage of the fuel in storage tanks.
The new dry-cask storage units, contracted through Holtec International, will hold about 3.6 million gallons of spent nuclear fuel. SCE representatives said they need about 80 additional canisters in order to store the fuel at the facility. An inspection will take place once every 10 years.
The Outlets at San Clemente came to fruition this year, opening multiple retail stores right in time for the holidays. For almost 20 years—and a series of ownerships since the 1970s before that—the Outlets project sat dormant in planning and fiscal limbo. Following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008, Craig Realty Group had been rearranging the plans for the mall until construction began in 2014. The second phase of the project is expected to begin in 2016, and more restaurants and retail stores are continuing to open.
People around Orange County and as far as Arizona and San Francisco were mystified by a strange white light that streaked across the night sky on Nov. 7 According to a Nov. 9 press release by the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) public affairs office, the light was from a test fire of an unarmed Trident II D5 missile, performed in order to “obtain valid reliability, accuracy and performance factors for use by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and USSTRATCOM.”
Social media was abuzz with people who captured the incident on video.
City Council approved the enforcement of fees for organizations to conduct business on public lands such as parks and beaches within the city. Activities consisting of more than 30 or so people will also need permits.
After the city’s Planning Commission approved the Coastal Land Use Plan in June, the Capistrano Shores, Inc. organization fought back to change some of the provisions regarding revetment walls to protect their homes as well as building new structures or repairs. At the latest City Council meeting, the issue had been tabled to the Jan. 19, 2016 meeting, as the city’s staff will continue to look at options to amend the plan to fit the mobile home park’s unique needs.
Bob Baker was selected by City Council to be the mayor of San Clemente for a second time. Kathy Ward was selected as Mayor Pro Tem.