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By Mayor Tim Brown
The city of San Clemente is uniquely gifted with a wealth of assets. While its famous beaches, historic properties and engaging downtown easily come to mind, some of the greatest attributes of the city are not quite so obvious. One of these is the many family-oriented and attractive residential neighborhoods, not always common in coastal cities. These are places residents can be proud to call home. And it is the combination of all of these assets that makes San Clemente a world-class city in which to live, work and play.
However, due in large part to the attractiveness of our coastal neighborhoods, the city has also been a favorite location for businesses seeking to exploit our incredible coastal resources and hometown charm.
Beginning a few years ago, I witnessed the transition in many of the city’s most cherished neighborhoods. Our residential neighborhoods were quickly being overtaken by commercial lodging businesses. For example, in 2010, there were approximately 50 short-term lodging units (STLU) in the city. By the beginning of 2016, there were 512.
Though these problems were not new to California, the experiences of other coastal cities that were similarly affected did not provide a clear solution. Very obvious was the immediate need to take action to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods while protecting the legal rights of property owners. With a tremendous amount of public input from both residents and business owners, the city adopted ordinances to regulate STLUs and boarding houses. At the same time, the City Council was very clear to city staff that we wanted to ensure that these new regulations would be effective by reviewing them in the future.
At a recent City Council meeting, city staff presented statistics on the state of the short-term lodging industry in San Clemente today as compared to a year and a half ago, as well as the city’s enforcement of the new regulations. The statistics show that the high of 512 STLUs in 2016, the city has reduced the number to 225 and has found the new permitting process successful at locating new STLUs only in the areas approved for short-term residency. On the enforcement side, city staff are now able to aggressively pursue properties that are ineffectively operated and negatively impacting the neighborhoods they are located in. Since the adoption of the ordinances, city staff have received 262 complaints, which turned into 136 enforcement cases regarding violations of the STLU regulations, resulting in many citations for noncompliance. Additionally, the city has revoked two STLU operating licenses from property owners receiving three or more citations at their STLU. Along with this enforcement, the city has actively responded to neighborhood nuisances stemming from boarding houses.
Though these uses still affect some residential neighborhoods, what is clear at this point is that the city has effective tools in place to deal with problem properties. While not every violation turns into a citable offense, the city is committed to ensuring the enforcement of the protections put in place to maintain the high quality of our residential neighborhoods. For nuisance issues related to STLUs or boarding houses, please contact the City’s Code Compliance Division at 949.366.4705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you and your family happy holidays!
Tim Brown was selected as the new mayor of San Clemente on Dec. 5.