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By Eric Heinz
An Orange County Superior Court judge made a tentative ruling on Friday that the city of San Clemente has not complied with an order to provide sufficient opportunities for an emergency or homeless shelter to be established.
Furthermore, the judge set an injunction on the city’s right to grant building permits in certain areas of San Clemente. These orders do not affect residential areas. The city also cannot issue zone changes or variances or subdivision maps for any community commercial, neighborhood commercial, mixed use, or industrial properties located in the following areas until the city has substantially complied with the order.
Since Friday, the areas where the city cannot issue such things to include the West Pico Corridor Specific Plan (including Calle de Industrias, Calle de Los Molinos, and the Staples Shopping Center); South El Camino Real; North El Camino Real; Del Mar/El Camino Real; Pico/El Camino Real; Camino Capistrano/El Camino Real; Camino de los Mares; and Los Mares/Estrella.
The city was sued by the Emergency Shelter Coalition, which is comprised of various organizations, in late 2014 because they believed the city was harboring public land slated for emergency shelters, making it difficult for potential shelter providers to successfully establish one.
In July, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled the city was still out of compliance with Senate Bill 2, which requires California towns and cities to, through zoning, designate areas where a shelter could be built. So the City Council amended the zoning in the Rancho San Clemente Business Park, which has commercial areas, to allow for an emergency shelter.
Opponents of this decision claimed at various meetings that allowing a shelter in that area would be a fire hazard due to people camping in the grass when it’s dry in the summer; that it would be unsightly; and that the city is taking more than its fair share of responsibility for the area’s homeless population.
Currently, the city is seeking comment and suggestions from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), which oversees enforcement of SB 2.
Cecilia Gallardo-Daly, the city’s community development director, said the city submitted its housing element revisions to the HCD but have been waiting for the department to return its findings and comments.
Gallardo-Daly said HCD has 60 days to produce comments to the city and that the judge was amenable to waiting to see what the department says.
“We did find out they (HCD) had completed a preliminary review and will be taking a look at those comments this week, so we’re hoping something will be forthcoming later this week,” Gallardo-Daly said.
So far, Gallardo-Daly said the city’s building and permitting departments have not said there has been a large backup or delay in permits requested.