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By C. Jayden Smith

San Clemente City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday, May 3, to initiate an ordinance that intends to regulate public bicycle repairs.

In Councilmember Kathy Ward’s absence, the council directed staff to start the process of amending the city’s Municipal Code in an attempt to limit bicycle thefts and resale of parts.

Although the Public Safety Committee previously voted to recommend that the council not initiate the ordinance, in part because of concerns over enforceability, the council went in the other direction.

Similar ordinances from Long Beach and Huntington Beach have been enacted in an effort to reduce bike thefts and property crimes, setting the table for Tuesday’s decision.

Long Beach’s version, which was enacted in 2018, prohibits the assembly or disassembly, sale, distribution, or storage of either three or more bicycles; a bicycle frame with cut cables; two or more with missing parts; or at least five separate parts on public property such as a sidewalk or park.

Huntington Beach, which followed suit in 2020, posted an ordinance with the same restrictions.

Rick Loeffler, a member of the Public Safety Committee who was absent from the aforementioned vote, spoke on Tuesday night to champion the ordinance. He cited a press release from the Long Beach Police Department that noted a significant reduction in bike thefts following the passage of its own ordinance.

Loeffler downplayed any doubts regarding enforceability, in that the impact of the ordinance’s enforcement would ultimately be less than that of another factor.

“It’s voluntary compliance (that) I think will have a significant effect on this,” he said. “You have a law against doing it on public (property), people don’t want to mess with the police over something so minor.”

As part of city staff’s input during the Public Safety Committee meeting, Adam Atamian, deputy director for the Community Development Department, recommended adding more to the city’s own ordinance in relation to Long Beach’s.

Atamian explained that San Clemente would benefit from more restrictive rules.

“Even the Long Beach ordinance still allows somebody to have quite a number of full bicycles and parts of disassembled bicycles, along with quite a number of bicycle parts,” he said.

Councilmember Steve Knoblock called bicycle thefts and related illicit activity a “serious” local issue, recalling time spent in the North Beach area last week where he saw numerous bikes and parts right across from Beach Hut Deli.

He added that the ordinance would improve the quality of life within the city and eliminate “bike chop shops,” which are organized efforts to break down stolen bikes and sell off parts before police services can reclaim the bicycle.

Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan shared his own experience near Beach Hut Deli, regarding a visit he took Tuesday afternoon during which he and a resident spoke with two deputy sheriffs working with Park Rangers in the area.

“One of the things that became evident was that the more tools (deputies) have, the more ability they have to control what goes on in that North Beach area that has become very difficult to manage,” Duncan said. “It just so happened that individuals had a bunch of bikes in the same location that Steve saw; I think this ordinance would have helped.”

That interaction encouraged him to shift his thinking from a stance that normally follows guidance from the Public Safety Committee.

Another vocal supporter was Mayor Gene James, who felt bicycle theft is a pressing issue along with the number of parts seen in homeless encampments across San Clemente.

City Manager Erik Sund confirmed that the resulting ordinance will combine input from multiple sources within the city government.

“With the latitude given to direct staff to draft an ordinance, it’ll be a potpourri of staff input, as well as using Long Beach and other ordinances to make sure we have a very seal-tight ordinance to enforce,” Sund said.

He estimated that the first reading will occur in June.

C. Jayden Smith

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.

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