By Eric Heinz
The Miramar Event Center rehabilitation project took possibly its largest step closer to fruition on Friday, Dec. 15, when the California Coastal Commission unanimously approved its application to establish a new theater and restaurant quarters.
The Coastal Commission put in a set of conditions to its vote, requiring the owners of the Miramar, El Camino Real Estate Holdings, LLC, and the city of San Clemente to devise transportation plan, parking monitoring plans and areas of additional parking resources including bicycle racks. The conditions also include the need for reduction of hazards caused by construction and water runoff.
During the Coastal Commission meeting, the commission’s staff said the applicants had agreed to all the conditions set forth.
Although the Miramar Event Center has passed all government application approval, building permits will still need to be issued by the city.
Parking has been at the heart of the debate of the Miramar project since plans were submitted to the city last year. The city of San Clemente conducted a parking study that stated the North Beach lot and adjacent parking areas were not filled even during peak usage times, calculated every Thursday.
Former San Clemente Community Development Director Jim Holloway, who advocated for the Miramar project approval, said they conducted their own parking studies during the holidays and it showed similar results.
At a meeting on Oct. 17, the City Council granted the Miramar 92 parking waivers regarding the number of spots available for the size of the business. The city has also committed to finding and establishing additional parking if lots are still not sufficient after the establishment reopens.
The theater is expected to house 435 seats and the bowling alley will house four or five restaurants and an outdoor bar. Fifty seats will be allocated for the indoor portions of the restaurant and another 150 in an outdoor patio.
Larry Culbertson of the San Clemente Historical Society said allowing the project to move forward will ensure the building maintains its historic integrity as well as improve the business atmosphere in North Beach.
Some people who spoke during the Coastal Commission meeting said there are not enough parking spots in the area and that approving the project for food and beverage as well as entertainment would overflow the North Beach area. Residents said visitors will crowd the public parking they use on a daily basis.
Other critics said they don’t believe the Miramar will come to fruition because it’s stayed vacant for a quarter century and has fallen into squalor. The inside of the building in uninhabitable and you need a mask to enter it.
“They’ve cared nothing about the upkeep, and it became a haven of transients and an unsafe area for skating,” said Linda Sadeghi, owner of Casino San Clemente, which is located across the street from the Miramar.
Marc Spizzirri, one of the primary operators of the LLC that owns the Miramar, said during a phone interview on Dec. 15 that he plans to lease the building to event organizations and restaurants.
“The immediate plan is to put the lease sign up, maybe after holidays or next week, then start collecting interest from potential tenants, then put a layout together that suits the needs of the tenants, then building permits,” Spizzirri said.
Spizzirri purchased the Miramar in 2007, but his clear title of the property was tied up in a lawsuit, at the same time the Miramar was put on the market in 2011. Since gaining clear title, plans were put in place to renovate the dilapidated theater and bowling alley.
“There are people that hung in with us for 10 years, and it’s (caused) a lot of frustrations, but Jim (Holloway) and Wayne (Eggleston) and (then)-Mayor Kathy Ward were helpful,” Spizzirri said. “The community support was wonderful.”