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Fred Swegles
Fred Swegles

By Fred Swegles

If you could get your hands on one of the most enticing patches of vacant land in San Clemente, what would you do with it? What could you do with it?

That’s the question of the week, San Clemente. A “for sale” sign recently appeared on a vacant lot at 524 E. Avenida Pico. You may remember it as former site of The Burger Stop, a longtime local taste bud favorite.

Caltrans demolished The Burger Stop and an adjacent Shell station in order to widen Avenida Pico and enlarge the southbound Pico on-ramp onto Interstate 5. Burger Stop fans gave their choice eatery an emotional send-off in 2016.

During the I-5 construction, contractors used the vacated land for equipment storage. In the end, the widened and realigned roads shrank the site. What remains is 11,009 square feet of land, zoned for commercial use.

It’s up for sale, listed at $400,000 by San Clemente brokers Dan and D.J. Yeilding at

The lot occupies one of San Clemente’s premium street corners, Pico at I-5.

Broker Dan Yeilding acknowledges it may be a challenge to develop, installing curb cuts where exiting would have to be right-turn-only, near or into a right-turn-only lane onto southbound I-5.

It did seem, however, that both the Shell station and The Burger Stop were able to operate with curb cuts at that same location for decades with no traffic problem, right up to the time the I-5 widening project took over the site.

Of course, it’s a smaller site now.

The Yeildings say they asked city hall what it might take to devise a plan the city could approve. The city’s reply, they said, was that staff would need to see a plan.

The landowner has agreed to offer prospective buyers an extended period to work out a plan acceptable to the city, the broker said.

This 11,009-square-foot vacant lot at 524 E. Avenida Pico is left over from the recent I-5 widening project. Now it's up for sale. Any ideas, San Clemente? Photo: Fred Swegles
This 11,009-square-foot vacant lot at 524 E. Avenida Pico is left over from the recent I-5 widening project. Now it’s up for sale. Any ideas, San Clemente? Photo: Fred Swegles

So, readers, what do you think is possible and what would you like to see?

Let’s be real and forego any jokes about trying to wedge an In-N-Out Burger franchise onto the lot. In 2004, a 3-2 vote of the city council turned down In-N-Out’s proposal to replace a Carrows restaurant with a 3,348-square-foot In-N-Out restaurant with a drive-thru at 620 Avenida Pico.

That’s on a piece of land five times bigger than the site up for sale now at 524 Pico. On that former Carrows site, construction is starting now on a city-approved Starbucks.

What else might work at 524 Pico? Maybe something less intense like a reborn Burger Stop? Or some other kind of business that could make use of a primo location without impacting traffic any more than Burger Stop and a Shell station did?

One thought, suggested by the broker, is that a buyer could seek access to the vacant lot via the post office’s public driveway.

There must be some creative soul out there who can think of something that would work. At a gateway into San Clemente, it’s worth some brainstorming.

Fred Swegles is a longtime San Clemente resident with more than 46 years of reporting experience in the city.

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