By Shawn Raymundo
The Rancho San Clemente Business Park Association and the Emergency Shelter Coalition recently finalized a sale agreement for 10 acres of open space property along Avenida Pico, where the nonprofit intends to develop a shelter for the homeless.
Ed Connor, an attorney representing the homeless advocacy group, confirmed that escrow closed late last month for the 10 acres, comprising a pair of land parcels located on the north side of Pico opposite Calle del Cerro.
The finalization of the sale comes more than a month after business owners voted 2-to-1 against ESC’s request to terminate the CC&R’s. The termination of the CC&R’s—or rules and guidelines over the property—had been a condition of the deal, but ESC decided to move forward with the sale, anyway.
Another condition of the sale agreement guarantees that ESC won’t build a shelter within the main part of the business park, which lies within the city’s Emergency Shelter Overlay Zone—the area of the city where emergency shelters can operate.
To comply with the state’s mandate under Senate Bill 2 that requires local municipalities to come up with a plan for providing homeless shelter access, the city, back in 2016, identified the Business Park as a section in the Overlay. Commonly referred to as an SB2 zone, the Overlay allows as many as 70 shelter beds for the homeless.
Acknowledging that many in the community are staunchly opposed to the group’s efforts to build a homeless shelter in San Clemente, Connor cautioned that they shouldn’t lament just yet, as ESC is likely to encounter some bureaucratic roadblocks.
“As everyone knows, the property is subject to open space zoning restrictions and permitting requirements that will pose rather formidable obstacles to ESC’s ability to construct an emergency shelter complex on the property,” Connor said in an email.
One such restriction is the city’s Measure V ordinance, a voter-approved initiative that mandates any open space project covering more than one acre has to go to a vote of the people. It was unclear, as of this posting, how large of a shelter facility ESC is planning.
“Nevertheless, where there’s God’s will, there is a way,” he said in the email, noting that the Coalition is seeking divine intervention in the hope of constructing the shelter. “That is why ESC decided to buy the property. We are simply trying to put our religious beliefs into action.”
Connor went on to quote Biblical scripture, citing the words of the Jewish prophet Isaiah, who said, “Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.” He also explained that Jesus, a central figure in the Christian faith, instructed followers to provide food, drink and clothing to those in need.
Bob Adams, president of the Business Park Association, was not immediately available to comment, as of this posting.
The Coalition purchased the two parcels from the Rancho SC Business Park for $19,500. According to the Association, the land had a low appraisal value of $12,000 because of the open space restrictions.
The Association, which said it has spent an average of $20,000 annually for maintenance-related costs, had wanted to offload the property for years. At one time, it offered it to the city, but city officials weren’t interested.
That was until news broke of the sale agreement with ESC last October. While the property was still in escrow, the city of San Clemente, as well as Olen Commercial Properties, had expressed interest in purchasing the land for $20,000 if the proposed sale fell through.
City officials, including Mayor Dan Bane, previously explained that the city wanted to acquire the parcels and turn them into a conservation easement as a means of preventing one of the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ proposed toll road route extensions.
Assistant City Manager Erik Sund said Wednesday, Feb. 5, that the city’s offer still stands.
In a follow up email to the San Clemente Times, Connor said that ESC’s plan to build a shelter could help the city achieve its goal of blocking one of the TCA’s potential routes—Alternative 14, which would extend the 241 Toll Road down near the western border of Rancho Mission Viejo, cross over La Pata and join Interstate 5 by Avenida Pico.
“Ostensibly, that is why the City wanted to buy the property,” Connor wrote. “The problem is that merely owning the land in the name of the City would not stop the TCA from condemning the property for the 241 extension. Instead, something needs to be built there that the TCA would not be likely to displace, and the courts would tend to protect, such as a shelter complex for the homeless.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include additional comments from the city and ESC
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.