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Fred Swegles

By Fred Swegles

From 1980-1994, some eye-popping ideas were floated to try to save San Clemente’s landmark from demolition/development.

Imagine if you visited Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, finding the historical landmark superbly preserved but at what cost? Development all around it. Here is a 1980 concept that fell through.

Above are three 1990 sketches by a firm the city recruited. The firm withdrew, after public backlash.

A jaw-dropping 1992 hotel idea to save the Casa. (Yikes!)

A more modest version that followed. (Um, no.)

And with the Casa circled, here was a 1994 no-go.

Ultimately, the city and a foundation restored the Casa without compromise.

Fred Swegles grew up in San Clemente before the freeway. He has 50 years’ reporting experience in the city and can be reached at

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