Just because the city refused to abide by Senate Bill 2, requiring all California cities to designate zones where a group can buy or lease land and develop a shelter without needing discretionary approvals from the city, the issue of homelessness in San Clemente has not gone away. And neither have their advocates. I worked with IHOPE while it was here in the city. It was a place where homeless people could get a lunch, shower or wash their clothes. Counseling was also available. There have been ongoing efforts by a group of dedicated citizens working to establish a shelter here in San Clemente. They have been met with opposition from the city time and time again as well as from residents who shouted, “Not in my backyard!”
It is unfortunate that it takes a “law” to force a city to care for their less fortunate neighbors, but that is what SB2 does. Last Friday, an Orange County Superior Court judge struck down San Clemente’s ordinance governing homeless shelters, ordering the city to scrap it and pass one that makes it easier to start a shelter. The judge ruled in favor of a coalition of law firms that sued the city in 2014. They argued that the city’s ordinance, adopted in 2014 to comply with a state mandate to facilitate shelters, made it nearly impossible to start one in San Clemente.
The judge ordered the city to “set aside the ordinance and adopt one that establishes at least one zone in town where shelters are permitted by right, without needing discretionary approvals. The city also must set standards designed to encourage and facilitate the development of shelters in suitable locations,” the ruling said.
Compromises were offered to the city numerous times but always rejected. I am wondering why my neighbors here in San Clemente and my city councilperson are so opposed to helping the less fortunate. No one should be without a place to live. The street corners and park benches are not a substitute. While many of these folks could certainly use medical attention, others are simply down on their luck temporarily.
Many cities are working hard to establish a “no homeless city.” Among them are Phoenix and Salt Lake City, who have found it much cheaper to provide housing than leave people unsheltered. I believe San Clementeans can step up and become the city that Ole Hanson visualized. Instead of turning a blind eye, let’s extend a helping hand.