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By Tom Marshall
Nearly 90 people were on-hand recently to hear the first debate by candidates for San Clemente City Council. Sponsored by the San Clemente Historical Society, 11 of the 12 candidates discussed their views on the issues including two questions pertaining to historical preservation; one of which is the subject of this column. All candidates profess support for historical preservation. They differ mainly in nuance.
The Historical Society has fought for years to limit buildings on Avenida Del Mar and at the top of Del Mar along El Camino Real to two stories. All 11 voiced support for that position. As land use attorney and candidate Dan Bane put it, “We don’t want to overshadow these buildings…Limit heights to make sure our historic resources are protected.”
A couple of our neighboring towns took a jab at the candidates as a result of this question.
Candidate Jackson Hinkle lives near the Historic City Hall at the top of Del Mar and promises, “I will uphold the two-story limit and make sure San Clemente doesn’t become another Huntington Beach.”
Candidate Bernie Wohlfarth explained how he once took a cruise along the Orange County coast and noted, “The shoreline along San Clemente is awesome. You get to Camp Pendleton. It’s wide open spaces. At Oceanside, it was disgusting; high-rises right on the bluffs.”
Ed Ward agreed.
“If you take a look at beach communities up and down the coast, you see those communities have gotten away from their cultural heritage. What makes San Clemente so incredible is not just the beaches, the weather, the people; it’s the historical significance.”
Candidate Gene James moved here from another coastal city.
“All it took was one walk down Del Mar to know this is where I wanted to live,” he said.
Avenida Del Mar business owner and candidate Mikii Rathmann champions the vibe of the street, but cautions, “Maintaining that village culture for which we have won awards comes with responsibility. We need people…renting space in those buildings to support this community.”
As candidate Wayne Eggleston put it, “We do not want higher density downtown. Parking is an issue.”
Candidate Don Brown was on the Planning Commission when the issue first came up. “We voted three or four times. The vote was always six to one in favor of three stories. I was the one vote (against).”
Candidate Jake Rybczyk took it a step further. “I would look into extending it to the T-Street area.”
A former city employee, candidate Laura Ferguson said, “By maintaining these design guidelines, it helps protect San Clemente’s heritage…while providing a special meaning for residents and visitors.”
The only current councilmember running for re-election is Kathy Ward (no relation to Ed Ward). The two-story limit is now law, however, “There can be three stories where a slope will allow a third story to be tucked underneath.” So the issue will continue.
Candidate Tiffany Robson Leet did not attend.
In the next column, we will present the candidate views on establishing historic districts in San Clemente.
Tom Marshall is a member of the board of directors of the San Clemente Historical Society and a retired journalist.