The midterm elections and multiple openings on the San Clemente City Council represented a significant part of the 2022 news cycle in San Clemente.
Candidates seeking to improve the area received opportunities to detail their visions for a better future, as well as meet with constituents to discuss what was on the minds of the public.
Tragically, this year saw many well-known faces around the city pass on or move into the next stage of life, whether through retirement or promotion.
Here is a look at the stories that impacted San Clemente the most.
The year began on a somber note, as friends and fellow San Clemente residents gathered to honor Los Angeles County firefighter Jonathan Flagler. Flagler died on Jan. 6 from complications related to fighting a fire in Rancho Palos Verdes.
A survey of 990 residents gave insight into the public consciousness regarding whether to establish a hospital in town again. More than 80% favored creating a new hospital, but Hospital Subcommittee members Mayor Gene James and Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan were adamant in saying the concept was infeasible in part because of a lack of operating interest.
Jim Dahl, a retired firefighter and former San Clemente mayor who served on the City Council from 1996 to 2012, died on Jan. 12 at the age of 78. His peers had appointed him mayor four times, and Dahl was an active member of the San Clemente Exchange Club.
Local diners said goodbye to The Fuel Shack, a health food restaurant run by bubbly owner Yolanda Quam that closed after roughly three years.
To end the month, the City Council introduced a ban on electric bicycles near city beaches, the Beach Trail, and the Municipal Pier, as well as another ordinance aimed at reducing stolen shopping carts.
Disappointing news came when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chose not to fund the San Clemente Shoreline Project in a round of funding opportunities, delaying the necessary $9 million share that the federal government would provide to put around 250,000 cubic units of sand on the city’s main beach from Linda Lane to T-Street.
A neighborhood parade celebrated World War II veteran and San Clemente resident Tony Cappa’s 100th birthday, as the town once again showed its love for veterans and those continuing to serve the country.
The family of Kurt Reinhold, the homeless 42-year-old Black man who was shot and killed by an Orange County Sheriff’s deputy in San Clemente in September 2020 during a jaywalking incident, did not receive the result they had desired.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer cleared Deputy Eduardo Duran of wrongdoing, and a letter detailing the investigation reported that the involved deputies had reason to believe their lives were in danger when Reinhold allegedly reached for an officer’s firearm during a physical struggle.
Local foundations PierPride and the San Clemente Sunrise Rotary helped illuminate an American flag at the end of the pier by partnering to install a light fixture.
In a contested 3-2 decision, the City Council voted down a pay raise proposed by Mayor Gene James that would have increased councilmembers’ monthly stipend from $400 to $880.
James and Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan were chosen to comprise another subcommittee, this time focusing on addressing human trafficking. They joined forces with the Public Safety Committee and the i-5 Freedom Network to limit illicit activity in businesses such as massage parlors.
In an effort to localize South Orange County water resources, the South Coast Water District began meeting with councilmembers to discuss its Doheny Ocean Desalination Project and had a vocal supporter in Councilmember Steve Knoblock.
Restaurants downtown received an approval from the council to bring back parklets for outdoor dining, although with a few conditions that included an increased participation fee.
President Joe Biden’s signing of a $1.5 trillion appropriations bill delivered the long-awaited funding for the sand replenishment project.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, San Clemente organizations displayed support for Ukrainians by decorating Avenida Del Mar with blue and yellow ribbons.
The local community turned out to honor the life of Jim Dahl in a festive manner by donning Hawaiian shirts at his memorial service.
San Clemente Times sat down with brothers-in-arms Don Brown and Larry Rannals, who reunited in San Clemente decades after serving together with the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam in 1968.
Residents and businesses were required to subscribe to organic waste collection services, per an ordinance approved by the council, in an effort to improve compliance with state law.
Rookie brewers Shawn Haven and Roman Krecu combined to make noise in the Los Molinos Business District by opening the Los Molinos Beer Company.
At a community roundtable discussing health care options in town, the Hospital Subcommittee again declared that the city could not bring a hospital to fruition, in part because of a minimum $200 million startup cost.
Kurt Reinhold’s story continued in San Clemente when Reinhold’s family and groups such as the South Orange County Black Lives Matter held a demonstration and march, starting from outside the local hotel near where he was shot and ending at Historic City Hall in downtown.
Another act of Ukrainian support happened when Truman Benedict Elementary raised nearly $5,000 toward World Central Kitchen’s efforts in feeding refugees from the war-torn country.
During his State of the City speech, Mayor Gene James commented on the city’s commitment to bringing in outpatient health care options, its balanced fiscal budget and its efforts to pay down the remaining unfunded pension liability.
Resident Lois Lynn McNicoll pleaded guilty to entering the restricted U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot in a deal with federal prosecutors that eliminated three other criminal counts. McNicoll was later sentenced to 24 months of probation, 80 hours of community service, and $500 in restitution, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The city addressed the increasingly popular trend of using electric bicycles by focusing on education efforts.
James honored local community activist and ocean lover Ken Nielsen after he died at the age of 75.
San Clemente breweries Lost Winds Brewing Company, Pizza Port, and Delahunt Brewing all found success in the 2022 World Beer Cup, winning medals within a few of the 100-plus style categories.
The council approved initial steps to battle human trafficking that included directing staff to delegate one person to work with massage parlors in town and determine time to conduct two random inspections per year of each business the city wanted to monitor.
Councilmembers also voted to have staff produce summaries of campaign disclosure statements and revamp the city’s website to ease public access to information after a watchdog group graded San Clemente poorly on its campaign finance transparency.
After announcing her candidacy to challenge incumbent Congressman Mike Levin to represent California’s 49th District in the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2021, Fifth District Supervisor Lisa Bartlett totaled 10.5% of votes in the Primary Election. Levin (49.9%) and challenger Republican Brian Maryott (18.5%) would go on to have a local rematch that originated during the 2020 Presidential Election.
In his bid for the 74th State Assembly District, Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan gained 47.1% of votes in the Primary Election against incumbent Assemblymember Laurie Davies. The two would face off against each other in the November General Election.
Joy Shirkani-Monson, a San Clemente resident, marked her 30th year of participating in the famed Pageant of the Masters.
Demonstrators gathered near Historic City Hall after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The city announced its 2021 and 2022 honorees for the Wall of Recognition, which included artist Lisa Spinelli and volunteer Don Glasgow, as well as community figure Don Brown and longtime journalist Fred Swegles.
In the midst of numerous vacancies that impacted government efficiency, the city pushed to increase office staffing.
Following a three-year hiatus, the 45th San Clemente Ocean Festival brought a variety of thrilling competitions and fun back to the beach.
Tabay Atkins, a San Clemente native and yoga expert, opened his long-awaited venture of a vegan food truck in an attempt to provide a more appealing version of healthy food to locals.
The council declined to join the Clean Energy Alliance, a group of North San Diego County cities that provide an alternative, renewable energy option to the investor-owned utility San Diego Gas & Electric. Fears of another possible battle with an overbearing Joint Powers Authority guided the councilmembers’ votes, save from Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan.
Casino San Clemente owner Linda Sadeghi spoke to SC Times about her efforts to restore the old dance hall and event venue to prominence after 85 years of existence.
Volunteer organization Family Assistance Ministries received a yearlong extension from the council to stay at its current Rancho San Clemente Business Park location as the organization prepares to possibly move.
Residents had the opportunity to comment on the Orange County Transportation Authority’s proposed improvements to Interstate 5, one of which includes adding a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane in both directions from the Avenida Pico exit to the border with San Diego County.
The Public Safety Committee discussed the next phases of working to limit human trafficking in town, with ideas such as recognizing hotels and motels for complying with state law.
A special Saturday meeting was required for the council to strike a potential “pro-life” resolution proposed by Councilmember Steve Knoblock from a future agenda. A vocal contingent of community residents attended to lambast Knoblock for wanting the city to declare itself against abortion and having abortion clinics in town.
After nearly nine years working with the city and just over one as the city manager, Erik Sund left San Clemente to take the same post in Big Bear Lake.
The council also voted down another Knoblock resolution, this time being one that would increase public trust in elections by suggesting changes such as voter identification requirements to the California State Legislature.
Community activist Courtney Smith died at 25 following complications from her lifelong condition of spinal muscular atrophy. Smith was the namesake of the playground Courtney’s Sandcastle.
St. Clement’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church was the site of a neighborhood gathering to seek improved safety measures following two violent incidents near Max Berg Park. The meeting concluded with enough interest to initiate a Neighborhood Watch group.
In the wake of Erik Sund’s departure as the city manager, the council appointed governmental veteran Sean Joyce to the position in an interim capacity.
The council and the Planning Commission met for a joint session to discuss MemorialCare’s proposal to build a 250-unit senior housing project and medical office on the site of its former hospital at 654 Camino de los Mares.
Accomplished skateboarder and resident Jaime Owens celebrated the first few months of his new magazine operation, one that looks to bring unique stories in the industry to light.
The city entered a 30-year agreement with the Santa Margarita Water District for the treatment of wastewater from the Talega area, and also voted to explore the process of potentially having its water district annexed into another district.
Providence announced that it would build a satellite health care facility in San Clemente, as well as another in Rancho Mission Viejo, as part of a $712 million expansion.
At two public forums, candidates for three open spots on the council addressed questions that concerned public safety spending, homelessness, affordable housing and the business community. Councilmembers Laura Ferguson and Kathy Ward both declined to run for reelection.
The month ended with Amtrak and Metrolink announcing another suspension of passenger services through the city after movement on the tracks in south San Clemente was detected. The move halted all commuter train access between Oceanside and South Orange County.
The South Coast Water District received vocal support from the council, as the district prepared to present its desalination plant to the California Coastal Commission. The state agency would later voter to grant the district its necessary permits to get the project started.
Following the Planning Commission’s vote against recommending MemoricalCare’s mixed-use project for council approval, officials with the medical group nevertheless vowed to pursue the council’s opinion on its plans. The commission cited concerns over size and parking, among others.
Local inventor Bob Sandelman released a modern, electronic clock and calendar that are both designed in the shape of a crossword puzzle.
City staff learned of the resignations of longtime employee and City Clerk Joanne Baade and City Treasurer Mark Taylor. The council decided to begin a recruitment process to seek replacements for the outgoing officials’ terms that were set to end in 2024.
Fred Swegles, a beloved local career newsman and a San Clemente Times columnist, community figure and lover of all things San Clemente, died at 74. Swegles had covered San Clemente and other nearby towns for more than 50 years.
The council approved issuing a request for proposals for legal services beyond Best Best & Krieger, with which the city has contracted since 2015.
Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan and Councilmembers Laura Ferguson and Steve Knoblock voted to approve MemorialCare’s $84 million mixed-use project in a controversial 3-2 decision. The project reserved 8% of units for very low-income renters, meeting state law standards for affordable housing that allowed it to bypass city development rules such as building height.
City officials heard from residents about crime and homelessness during a town hall that discussed public safety.
Amid coastal erosion that led to the suspension of rail services through San Clemente, communities such as Cyprus Shore sought methods to protect residents and houses from further damage.
OCTA began the emergency construction project to stabilize the tracks in South San Clemente.
The General Election saw incumbent Laurie Davies hold on to her 74th Assembly District seat by beating Duncan, and Mike Levin retain his spot representing the 49th Congressional District. As the top two vote-getters, Victor Cabral and Mark Enmeier won two of the vacant seats on the council, while Knoblock narrowly edged out Donna Vidrine to remain on the dais.
The city also swore in Laura Campagnolo as the new city clerk and Charlie Smith as the new city treasurer.
Councilmember Ward spoke to SC Times about her time on the council that spanned eight years and two stints as mayor.
The new council appointed Chris Duncan to the position of mayor and Knoblock as mayor pro tem for 2023.
South OC Cars and Coffee, a weekly event at the Outlets at San Clemente, was included in the Outlets’ list of events permitted by the Planning Commission.
San Clemente Police Services Capt. Tony Benfield was promoted to OCSD’s commander of the Investigation Division, prompting the city to seek a new police chief.
The council formally approved the project agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out the San Clemente Shoreline Project.