By C. Jayden Smith
Within a climate where San Clemente residents have grown more leery of construction that could reduce their ocean views, the City Council declined to seek a protective ordinance in the city at its Oct. 4 meeting.
Mayor Gene James had motioned for the council to discuss the item and directed staff to research view protection ordinances that exist in municipalities such as Del Mar and Laguna Beach.
The agenda report found that such an ordinance in San Clemente would “significantly increase the time frame of the development review process,” and that enforcing view “rights” could become a tedious and legal issue. The city also said such ordinances modify zoning regulations related to height limits and mostly apply to zones with two-story height limitations.
“It’s already really hard to get development going in our city, and this would probably slow it down even more,” said Mayor Pro Tem Chris Duncan as the council reached a conclusion. “We think the protections are essentially in place enough that we don’t need new ordinances that would potentially slow down smart development.”
Deputy Community Development Director Adam Atamian reported that the ordinances mainly pertained to vegetation on residential developments, not commercial or mixed-use.
Atamian noted that Del Mar and Laguna Beach’s zoning codes and design review processes required extensive scrutiny to determine whether private property views would be impacted.
Councilmember Kathy Ward recalled that in the lengthy process of updating the Centennial General Plan in 2013, city officials determined the necessary design guidelines to deal with the mostly infill development that has occurred given the built-out nature of the city.
She said that the city simply needed to follow the General Plan and speak up when people attempt to build denser or higher structures.
“The General Plan was to give development certainty to developers and contractors, so they knew what our standards were, and for our residents … so that they knew what we would approve and what we would not approve,” said Ward.
She added that a view protection ordinance wouldn’t greatly benefit San Clemente regarding new developments that do not happen often—a sentiment that Duncan echoed.
Ward also said that it would be best to punt any discussion about an ordinance regulating vegetation to a time when staff was increased and better suited to handle such an initiative.
“As I look (at) and read things, I have a concern that this becomes a property-rights issue, and I have a concern that it’s going to create litigation,” James said, before Councilmember Steven Knoblock affirmed the point.
Though James added that he wished he could protect all residents’ views with the wave of a magic wand, he agreed with city staff’s recommendation to only receive and file the report.
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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