With an expired lease, city and Chamber of Commerce struggle to reach new agreement

By Jim Shilander

The future of the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce building on North El Camino Real is somewhat in doubt as the organization negotiates a new arrangement with the city for the property.

The chamber currently leases the space at 1100 N. El Camino Real for $100 a year, as part of the organization’s partnership agreement with the city. The chamber owns the building itself, but the city owns the land it sits on.

However, that lease was up at the end of last year. Lynn Wood, the chamber’s president said the city, “didn’t go for renewal,” with the former terms.

Wood said the chamber and city have been in negotiations for purchasing the property itself, but there was a disagreement on its valuation. The city’s assessment puts the property’s value at $500,000, but a county figure used by the chamber is significantly lower at just $50,000.

Chuck Narey, the chamber’s chief financial officer, said initially the organization’s preference was to continue with the lease, but now that had shifted and they favor purchasing the land outright. Narey said putting a price on the land was difficult because there was a lack of comparable properties in the city from which to draw a price from.

Wood said if the chamber and city cannot come to a new lease or purchase agreement, the organization would consider moving elsewhere, perhaps to one of the business parks in town, and tear down the current building. The tear down would be necessitated by provisions of the lease that state the chamber has to restore the land to its original state.

Also at issue is the chamber’s relationship with the council. Mayor Bob Baker and Councilman Chris Hamm were both elected last year without the support of the chamber. A political group supporting the two candidates accused the chamber of accepting “kickbacks” in the form of taxpayer funds the organization received for operating the city’s banner program.

Charles Mann, who heads the political action committee that supported Baker and Hamm during the election, apologized after the election was held, saying that his organization misunderstood the relationship between the chamber and its own political action committee. Baker has, in the past, voiced concern about using city funds to support business organizations such as the chamber and the Downtown Business Association.

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