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By Mayor Kathy Ward
It is always rewarding when issues get resolved and ideas come together. When these are city issues, it takes time and a team to get things done.
That team is our staff, the council and residents. We all work together for the good of our city. When there is an initiative that requires planning or zoning, it is a process consisting of a series of meetings that provide for public participation and input.
The largest city process was updating our city’s General Plan. It began with a large group of citizens on the General Plan Action Committee. They met publicly for two years to study all areas of our city.
The process then went to the Planning Commission for more deliberation and public meetings; and when it finally went to the city council, the council went through the draft, page-by-page, before voting to approve it.
Some people may not know that we have a General Plan that sets out how areas can be developed, including guidelines for design that can include limits to height and density. These guidelines are built into our zoning code.
There are policies to mitigate traffic, visual, and noise impacts. These policies apply to any new development in our city. Two areas of priority in the General Plan are North Beach and South El Camino Real. This focus has led to North Beach’s revitalization, which is almost complete.
South El Camino Real has two approved projects for the corners of the Valencia intersection. The last empty lot remaining at that intersection, often called the Christmas tree lot, has interested parties looking to develop it. This is welcome news to all residents who have waited decades for this area to be improved.
I have reached out to the Architectural Guild of Orange County to assist and lend their expertise in planning a new landscape plan for the offramp at El Camino Real. I believe new landscaping will complete the revitalization of this area that has long been impacted by the freeway, and anything planned for that area will require council approval.
If you have not heard, the issue of whether a toll road is being built through our city has been answered. San Clemente signed a cooperative agreement with the County of Orange and Orange County Transportation Authority that memorializes an agreement of what transportation projects will be built. This includes an agreement that there will be no road built through the middle of our city.
Having the threat of a toll road hanging over our city for so long was unfair to our residents and detrimental to city operations and planning. I personally want to thank Sen. Patricia Bates for her support of legislation; Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, for leading all parties to an agreement; and Mayor Pro Tem Gene James, for his representation of our city with me as directors on the TCA board and his work on this agreement.
Thank you to the city council majority, the Board of Supervisors, and the OCTA Board of Directors for recognizing good transportation solutions for South County. Thank you to all the residents who worked so hard to protect San Clemente’s open space and all of you who fought to keep it.
With the good news that transportation projects have now been set for our region, our residents can remove the “No Toll Road Through San Clemente” stickers from your cars. I will be removing mine.
Like I said before, it’s rewarding when issues are resolved.
Kathy Ward, appointed mayor of San Clemente for 2021, is a city councilmember who was elected in 2014 and reelected in 2018.