The San Clemente City Council held unanimous votes Tuesday night, June 20, that reestablishes the Coastal Advisory Committee, continues the Amphitheater Committee and forms an Arts and Culture Committee.
Councilmembers discussed the city’s various committees and commissions, with the primary focus being on the Amphitheater and the Coastal Advisory Committees.
The Amphitheater Committee, formed last August, comprises citizens appointed by councilmembers who were brought together to discuss the funding and placement of a potential amphitheater in San Clemente.
The main issues the council discussed were the committee’s failure to set a meeting schedule and the absence of city staff assigned to guide them. Councilmembers expressed concern for the lack of progress that the committee was making.
Speaking on behalf of the committee, Amanda Quintanilla, who was appointed as a member by Councilmember Victor Cabral, stated that members had not yet met simply because of scheduling issues.
Given the concern over having concrete progress being made, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Knoblock made a motion to appoint staff to coordinate the meetings and receive a report from the committee in no later than three months.
Councilmember Rick Loeffler put forth whether the committee should have an expanded purview, such as putting it under a category of “fine arts” rather than the more specific category of “amphitheater.”
“Just looking at the amphitheater is great, but there are other opportunities to look at expanding the fine arts, creative side of our city,” said Loeffler.
Other councilmembers agreed as many expressed a desire to expand the amount of art and theater events in the city.
Councilmember Mark Enmeier pointed out an issue with the expansion of topics of the committee, as it would require broader expertise. With a larger scope suggested, the council proposed a solution to make a separate Arts and Culture Committee and continue the existing Amphitheater Committee—each having five members.
The council agreed to continue the Amphitheater Committee and voted unanimously to create a separate Arts and Culture Committee that would meet bimonthly.
The reestablishment of the Coastal Advisory Committee emerged as a more disputed issue as councilmembers went back and forth on the necessity of a separate committee for beach and ocean upkeep.
In June 2021 the City Council disbanded the Coastal Advisory Committee, merging its efforts with the Beaches, Parks, and Recreation Commission.
Speaking to the importance of the separate group, Susan Ambrose, the former chairperson of the Coastal Advisory Committee, reminded the council of the goals and objectives members set, many of which, she stated, came to fruition.
According to Ambrose, a member of the Beaches, Parks and Rec Commission, the committee’s yearly plans it previously submitted were always approved by the City Council.
Some of the previous committee objectives mentioned were maintaining San Clemente beaches, beach profiles, monitoring and assessment of the sand, sand replenishment and identifying sources of sand availability twice a year.
Citizen Donna Vidrine also found issues with the disbanding of the advisory committee at a time when San Clemente is experiencing dramatic sand loss and water quality issues.
“The city parks commission lacks the means to address coastal issues with the scientific approach,” said Vidrine. “The Coastal Advisory panel ensured coastal sources were being taken care of, raised community awareness on issues like the Clean Ocean Program, and made sure the city followed ocean regulations.”
Advocates for the committee echoed the sentiment that it served as “eyes and ears” of San Clemente, both in its economic vitality and beach and ocean oversight.
Since Coastal Advisory was dissolved, some of the city’s other subcommittees have been burdened by the issues it once handled, Councilmember Victor Cabral said. He urged the other councilmembers to reestablish the committee because of its help over the years.
Knoblock stated he was not eager to reinstate the committee as the decision to merge the Coastal Advisory Committee into the Beaches, Parks, and Rec Commission was made for the reason of government expediency.
“To create another layer of bureaucracy or governmental review would be to invite more discussion and analysis at a time when action, I think, is required,” said Knoblock.
Mayor Chris Duncan countered, stating the committee would give interested citizens an outlet for input and ideas.
Not only would citizens be engaged, added Loeffler, but experts who live in San Clemente could provide valuable specialist insight.
Adding to the debate further, Duncan noted that the Beaches, Park, and Rec Commission has consistently been more focused on the recreation aspects, making it harder for members to focus on the coastal issue to the best of their ability.
Cabral also disagreed with the bureaucracy concern and didn’t see the reinstatement as slowing the process. He added that the committee’s ability to pull from a “talent pool” that is present in San Clemente make it a resource to run issues by, rather than a barrier to success.
The council voted, 5-0, to keep the Beaches, Parks, and Rec Commission at seven members, and introduce an ordinance reinstating the Coastal Advisory Committee with five members.
The council is expected to formally adopt the ordinance in a second reading at its next scheduled meeting in late July. Afterward, the city will advertise the open seats for which citizens can apply.
Knoblock said that with his vote of approval, he hopes to see the committee be a means for action, not a governmental hindrance.
In future meetings, the council agreed to discuss changing some of the committee meetings from bimonthly to monthly to improve productivity.