By Councilmember Laura Ferguson
As councilmembers, it is our duty to protect San Clemente neighborhoods and preserve our residents’ quality of life.
It is our responsibility to ensure equitable application of this premise in all neighborhoods, so the physical environment offers as much peace and safety without interference to the greatest extent possible.
It saddens me to see of late what has happened to cause residents, in various parts of town, a tremendous amount of stress.
There was consideration given to a potential sale or lease of city-owned land for a gas station/mini-mart/24-hour car wash at Vista Hermosa and La Pata, which was contemplated for years when not a single resident expressed support to council either in writing or orally at council meetings.
In 2019, a prior city manager stated at a council meeting that a resident survey showed strong support for a gas station, but it turned out that a survey was never done. I am glad the desires of the people prevailed, as council, on a 3-2 vote, decided to not pursue this use for the land.
There was a non-disclosure agreement that we, the people, did not know about, but staff knew of months before it became public that Amazon was considering a project here. Residents expressed to the City Council their fears of pollution, noise, traffic and decreased property values, and more than 5,000 signed an online petition in opposition.
The project never made it to the City Council, as the application was withdrawn.
There is now concern among Shorecliffs homeowners residing near San Gorgonio Park who have endured unbearable noise from pickleball play from sunup to sundown seven days a week.
When council voted to relocate pickleball courts from the south end of town at San Luis Rey Park to the north end at San Gorgonio Park, staff informed council that notices were sent to residents adjacent to the park, and staff said they did not hear from anyone.
Recently, residents informed council that the minimum 300-foot distance for public notices was used, and some of those residing closest to the park did not receive notification.
Unfortunately, the noise was shifted from one neighborhood to another. When it comes down to it, pickleball simply should be played away from residential living and placed at Steed Park, like the skateboarding park, which is another fun, yet loud sport.
Though council agreed Steed Park is the most suitable location and will expedite this, it will take more than a year. It was my hope, and I made a motion to immediately end pickleball play at San Gorgonio Park and build courts at Steed Park.
City Council has the authority to allocate funds to address immediate quality of life, emergency and safety issues; however, my motion failed. I also made a motion to include the construction of a sidewalk alongside San Gorgonio Park, where none exists, but council did not provide support.
The estimated cost is $500,000, and I believe this is a small price to pay to increase the peace and safety in the neighborhood and the park, which in addition to pickleball, also serves baseball, soccer, basketball, picnicking and playground play.
As councilmembers, we can disagree about policies or projects, but we must never disagree on how we treat residents and their neighborhoods.
I appreciate the people of all neighborhoods in San Clemente who have brought their concerns to council’s attention. I say, keep engaged and keep the fire lit. Your neighborhoods are worth fighting for.
Thank you for letting me be your advocate. I am proud to work for you.
Laura Ferguson was elected to the San Clemente City Council in 2018.