By Eric Heinz 

Owners of short-term lodging units in San Clemente have opined against the city’s laws that govern them since they were adopted in 2016. Now that the first 18-month grace period on those types of vacation dwellings has passed, entities are looking for clemency from the courts.

San Clemente Coastal Access Alliance and the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation filed a joint lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court on Nov. 26 asking the court to allow for short-term lodging units (STLUs) within the coastal zone—any area within about 1,000 yards from the shoreline within San Clemente.

City staff is currently working with the California Coastal Commission to finalize its Coastal Implementation Plan following the February approval of the city’s Coastal Land Use Plan, all of which give more or broader local authority to municipalities in issuing coastal development permits and requirements.

Coastal Access Alliance hopes the court will restrict the city’s authority to approve STLUs within that zone due to what it claims are violations of the California Coastal Act.

The city’s laws were amended in 2016 due to outpouring public resistance to them. At the time, residents claimed STLUs were hampering their designated parking, creating a mess in neighborhoods—as they should be treated like businesses, they argued—and visitors were partying late into the night.

The new laws established zones where STLUs (and by association of maximum occupancy, sober living homes) could operate. The laws also require STLU operators to apply for permits, cannot operate less than 300 feet from another STLU and the amortization period of operation ends in about eight years.

Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation is a nonprofit comprised of activists who seek to protect the country’s coastal waters by providing consultation and resources, its website stated.

City Council on Tuesday adopted a “good standing” clause to its STLU ordinance, allowing operators who haven’t been cited by the city to apply for operation. The city also voted to submit to the Coastal Commission an amendment that would set the date of cumulative home restoration in the coastal zone to begin in 2018 rather than 1977.

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