By Councilmember Gene James
I have always promoted public safety and quality of life in San Clemente as the two cornerstones of my agenda on city council, and I will never waver on these two fundamental goals.
Safety and providing a great life for the citizens and taxpayers of San Clemente are the council’s primary duty. With that in mind, it is critical we ensure economic vitality in San Clemente with a thriving business community. It is a healthy economy that allows us to adequately fund public safety and city services.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation’s economy has suffered unprecedented damage, and it is critical we all work together to do everything possible to mitigate the potentially devastating impact on our local economy.
It has always been my priority as a member of your city council to address the immediate needs of our small businesses. That is why it was imperative when council pushed for several measures to assist local restaurants in allowing outdoor dining at more than 50 locations.
Council also approved temporary banners within reason to advertise all businesses that are open and ready to serve customers. The next step is to bring some uniformity to outdoor dining to improve aesthetics and to create enhanced safety measures.
I am incredibly pleased to report city staff is in constant and highly effective communications with the San Clemente Downtown Business Association (DBA) and the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce on how to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our businesses.
At my urging, the city appointed Jonathon Lightfoot as the economic development officer whose primary focus is to support our businesses. Through a newly developed grant program from the county, more than 120 of our small businesses have received $10,000 grants to assist with rent, payroll and other expenses.
During this time, Chick-fil-A has opened at the Outlets, where work has also continued on the Metropolitan Theatre, and the highly anticipated iconic Miramar Theater at North Beach is slated to be completed in early 2021.
Our business community is our economic engine, and San Clemente must be looked upon as a city that is beyond business-friendly. I will continue to push city management to expedite our planning and permitting processes.
An improved partnership with our business community must be a priority with a clear strategy for economic development and COVID-19 recovery. I will pursue the formation of a Business Council consisting of representatives from the Chamber, DBA, city staff, business leaders, Planning Commission and two councilmembers.
It is in the interest of all of us in this great city to see our business community survive COVID-19 while our public safety remains strong and our quality of life is one of envy for all other cities.
The past few months have been extraordinarily difficult, but keep in mind, together we will overcome these particularly challenging times.
Gene James is a councilmember who was elected in 2019.