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Fred Swegles

By Fred Swegles

In 1991, on the corner of Avenida Pico and El Camino Real, a large commercial development known as The Gallery was planned to be built—a dramatic change to North Beach.

Over the years, The Gallery has been downscaled from proposed four-story versions to one- to two-stories. The developers were told for years to maintain ocean-view preservations as seen from up Avenida Pico.

Back in 1998, the California Coastal Commission approved a 45-foot-high, 27-unit, timeshare building with 9,350 square feet of retail, food service and 116 parking spaces at 1801 N. El Camino Real. It would have four levels and a basement, 15,200 cubic yards of grading cut and 550 cubic yards of fill. 

That was never to be. Far downscaled today, the project site—22,090 square feet for 1.8 acres—has potential for a boutique hotel, developing an open-looking, lower profile that requires city approvals. 

About 31 years later, The Gallery remains one of several commercial sites around San Clemente that are either in progress at various stages or are under review, with developers continuing to work on revised plans to address issues city staff had previously raised.

For The Gallery, for instance, city staff issued comments in 2018 to the applicant, who “indicated that they intend to resubmit updated plans but have not yet done so. The proverbial ball is in their court.”


Meanwhile, San Clemente is seeing about a couple dozen other new business projects around town—the largest being a four-story hotel with 130 rooms and a conference center.

To be known as The Lodge at San Clemente, the project looks to construct the new hotel on 8.3 acres at the Outlets at San Clemente at 401 W. Vista Hermosa, next to Chick-fil-A.

“A hotel was approved with the Marblehead Coastal development in 2004,” says Jonathan Lightfoot, the city’s economic development officer. “However, they would like to modify the design to allow to add a rooftop deck with ocean views.”

Lightfoot explains that the amendment, which proposes to increase the allowable height limit from 45 feet to 62 feet, hasn’t yet been approved by the Planning Commission or City Council.

City staff said that this change would require an approval by councilmembers at a public hearing before the hotel could move forward with a plan.

The Outlets at San Clemente has modifications in the works for three buildings up to 23,940 square feet at 395 Avenida Vista Hermosa, where COVID-19 testing took place recently. And new cinemas at the Outlets, Metropolitan Theaters, is hoping to open by March.

Construction of the new In-N-Out Burger on Avenida Pico, near the 5 Freeway, is still waiting to get underway, as the city and the applicant continue to address concerns with the grading plans. Photo: Breeana Greenberg

The new In-N-Out Burger, a one-story 3,882-square-foot building on 1.8 acres at 115 Via Pico Plaza, is among a number of In-N-Out projects going up around the country.

“They resubmitted grading plans in early November,” Lightfoot explains, “but the city’s consultant issued a letter on Nov. 22 indicating that not all corrections had been addressed.”

The building permit was approved in July. In-N-Out recently submitted revised grading plans on Jan. 28. Both building and grading permits must be approved before they can be released to the developer and construction can start.

The Chevron at 515 E. Avenida Pico is proposing to demolish its convenience store and replace it with a new one and add a car wash. However, those changes are presently inactive.

The Beach Hut Deli in North Beach is nearing completion at 1844 N. El Camino Real, as it’s expected to open in Spring 2022. The new restaurant will include a rooftop clock tower as part of remodeling of what had been Kaylani Coffee Company at North Beach.

After years of construction and development, the Beach Hut Deli in North Beach is almost ready to open. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

The Miramar Event Center and Restaurants continue construction and renovations of the landmark 1938 cinema building and one-time 1946 bowling alley. The project on the historic sites at 1700 N. El Camino Real has an expected opening of 2022.

“The food hall building permit is approved but is awaiting OCFA plan check approval,” city staff states.

La Colombiana, at 1640 N. El Camino Real, is proposing a restaurant expansion by 6,098 square feet.

Los Molinos Brewery at 151 Calle de Los Molinos began construction last year but has been delayed, expected to be ready in early 2022.

Publik House, 1531 N. El Camino Real, proposes remodeling the former 19,979-square-foot San Clemente Art Supply building for special events, a café, offices, expanded space, as well as indoor and outdoor entertainment.

Renovations are underway to convert The Grill, a breakfast and lunch spot near downtown that closed last summer, into a new seafood restaurant called Seasurf Fish Co. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

“After the city approved the entitlements for the project, they had to get Coastal Commission approval,” Lightfoot says. “They are now working on getting their construction approvals from the city.”

San Clemente Ranch Market, 101 W. El Portal, plans to expand with a 5,300-square-foot commercial building, including an outdoor display and storage addition, on a 27,072-square-foot lot.

Nomads Canteen is proposing extending outdoor seating at 102 Avenida Cabrillo.

The Grill recently closed at 202 N. El Camino Real. There’s an application for a use permit at the site “to allow for the sale of beer and wine by a new restaurant, Seasurf Fish Co.,” city staff states.

Zov’s Restaurant proposes a two-story commercial restaurant including indoor and outdoor dining on 8,000 square feet at 155 Avenida Del Mar.

The Del Mar Restaurant, a new two-story establishment that will include live entertainment, will be the latest addition to the downtown corridor’s restaurant scene. Photo: Shawn Raymundo

Del Mar Restaurant is going up, combining four lots at 226 Avenida Del Mar and replacing an office building with a two-story restaurant. It will include live entertainment and 16,000 square feet, to open in 2022.

Mikey B’s would like to remodel and expand the former La Tiendita restaurant at 114 Avenida Victoria to include a restaurant, two commercial suites on a second floor and a third-floor residence and rooftop decks on 4,000 square feet of space.

Shoreline Dental plans to demolish the former Tommy’s Restaurant at 1409 El Camino Real for a two-story, 6,000-square-foot new building including a dental office and general offices.

The Valencia Building, a former gas station and Top Tune car service at El Camino Real and Avenida Valencia, proposes a ground floor restaurant, office suites upstairs and underground parking.

La Galette, at 612 Avenida Victoria, plans to extend into three vacant suites for additional dining.

Plaza by the Sea, home to Stater Bros., has permits to build a drive-thru for two tenants at 610 Camino de los Mares, next to Round Table Pizza. Also, 4.4 acres of facade upgrades at the Stater Bros. site were completed in 2019.

OceanView Plaza is planning site improvements including new patio furniture, landscape, and lighting on 13 acres at 638 Camino de los Mares.

Zebra House Coffee is named as the drive-thru tenant for one of the two commercial buildings in the works at the west end of the Target parking lot on 990 W. Vista Hermosa.

Drift Distillery is proposing expansion at 940 Calle Amanecer in the Rancho San Clemente Business Park.

Station Brewery, at 1130 Via Callejon in the Rancho San Clemente Business Park, is planning a new microbrewery with a tasting room, plus accessory structures including grain silos and outdoor dining in conjunction with a sandwich shop there.

The project is presently inactive, looking possibly at resubmittal.

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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