By Jim Shilander
The San Clemente City Council voted Tuesday to move forward with plans to build a parking lot at the city-owned site along El Camino Real in North Beach despite the city’s recent loss of Beach Parking Impact Fee monies. The final shape of the lot, however, is still to be decided.
Instead, the city will utilize $835,000 of approximately $1.2 million in a developer improvement fund created in 2005 with Talega developer fees. The money had been set aside to target North Beach revitalization.
A preliminary plan prepared by the city provided 33 parking spaces, with one access point. The city’s proposal also included a decorative archway and other architectural features modeled after other city landmarks.
Residents of the area said the lot was necessary. Don Slater said the North Beach Community Association was supportive of the proposal, calling it an important component to the future of North Beach with increasing business in the area.
Slater said he, personally, often had difficulty finding place to park due to beachgoers or others utilizing North Beach businesses parking in the neighborhoods.
Resident Ricardo Nicol, who presented his own version of the proposal when the council approved the project last May. He criticized the new proposal as being too similar to that one. He worried that adding superfluous architectural features might detract from the three historic facilities in the area, Casino San Clemente, the Miramar Theater and Ole Hanson Beach Club.
Staff defended the design by noting that they had received direction to try and maximize the number of parking spaces at the site, rather than adding a bus turnout or other feature.
The council voted 4-1 to move forward with the project despite having some concerns.
Mayor Tim Brown said many features could be “value engineered” to be less costly or removed entirely, such as a proposed charging station for electric vehicles.
Council members Lori Donchak and Chris Hamm expressed concern that a single access point with traffic coming in both directions in the lot was too reminiscent of other city projects with reputations for bad parking, such as Trader Joe’s on Camino de los Mares and the Ralphs on South El Camino Real.
Councilman Bob Baker, who voted against the project, called it a “terrible waste of money” that wouldn’t alleviate parking issues. He pointed to past city parking studies that showed there was plenty of parking in the area. He compared it to building a church to accommodate the numbers for Easter Sunday.
Staff will return at a future meeting to discuss potential new designs for the lot, including incorporating different circulation methods.