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By Shawn Raymundo
A homeless advocacy group’s desire to purchase land from the Rancho San Clemente Business Park and develop an emergency shelter is currently in jeopardy, as business owners within the park last week voted down a request to terminate the parcels from the association’s CC&Rs.
The business owners voted 2-to-1 against the termination of the CC&Rs—or rules and guidelines over the property—that was a condition of the sale agreement between the Rancho SC Business Park Association and Emergency Shelter Coalition.
According to Bob Adams, president of the Rancho SC Business Park, the association met on Thursday, Dec. 19, to open and count the ballots, with the results being about 26 votes in favor and 52 votes against.
“They can back out if we don’t remove the CC&Rs, and the people said, ‘No, don’t remove them,’ ” Adams said, adding that ESC “themselves told us months ago that if it didn’t pass, they weren’t going to move forward. It’s up to them now.”
Following the results of the vote, the association sent a notification to the coalition, giving them until early January to decide whether to proceed with the sale or not.
When San Clemente Times emailed Ed Connor, an attorney representing ESC, for comment, he replied that he and the group had just learned of the results of the vote and were quite disappointed by the outcome.
As for the next steps, he explained that they haven’t had a chance to confer with their real estate counsel to discuss such matters and suspects that the holiday schedules are likely to complicate their ability to do so.
This past October, the nonprofit organization and the business park entered into the sale agreement, as the association was looking to sell two parcels it owns within the city’s open space on the north side of Pico, opposite Calle del Cerro, for $19,500.
The two parcels, amounting to 10 acres, have an appraised value of $12,000—a low appraisal because of open space restrictions. According to the association, it spends an average of $20,000 annually to maintain that land, which doesn’t provide any “economic benefit.”
“We want to get rid of it; it’s a liability to the Business Park,” Adams has previously stated.
Another condition of the sale agreement was a guarantee that ESC wouldn’t develop a homeless shelter within the main part of the business park.
In 2016, the city identified the Rancho SC Business Park as a section in its Emergency Shelter Overlay zone, establishing the area where emergency shelters can operate within the city. The Overlay zone allows as many as 70 shelter beds for the homeless.
The unveiling of the vote on whether to terminate the CC&Rs had been delayed from late October to this past week, as some of the business owners didn’t receive the appropriate number of ballots the first time around.
Business owners in early October were given 30 days to submit their ballots. However, after park leadership learned that not everyone received the correct number of ballots—some business owners own multiple properties—they decided to resend the ballots around mid-November, giving the members another 30 days to vote.
The Business Park Association had previously noted that any proposal to develop on that land will face obstacles because of the open space restrictions—primarily the city’s Measure V ordinance. Measure V, a voter-approved initiative, mandates that any open space project more than one acre has to go to a vote of the people.
The association has stated that it’s unclear how ESC intends to “circumvent the open space restrictions . . . but they are willing to assume that risk.”
Connor had previously acknowledged the “tremendous challenges” the group would have faced “in trying to change the land-use designations for the property so that a shelter could be built there.”
If the sale is terminated, the association already has a couple of potential buyers lined up to purchase the property for even more than what ESC was offering. After news first broke of the potential sale with ESC, the city of San Clemente and Olen Commercial Properties also made their interest known in purchasing the parcels.
According to Adams, both prospective buyers have offered to put down an additional $500 for the property, establishing the price tag at $20,000.
City Manager James Makshanoff, who recently announced his resignation from the city, previously told SC Times that the city is interested in purchasing the property and turning it into a conservation easement that could thwart one of the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ proposed toll road extension options.
Adams said ESC has until Jan. 2 to decide its next move.
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.