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LARRY CULBERTSON, San Clemente Historical Society president
A proposal for a different use of the historic building at 1531 N. El Camino Real will be going before the San Clemente Planning Commission on Jan. 21. They want to use the building as a special events center, café and office, tentatively called “Publik House.” They are seeking permission for indoor and outdoor amplified sound, full alcohol service, ancillary church services, valet parking and parking waivers.
Architecturally, the building is one of the more interesting commercial buildings in San Clemente. It was designed by Virgil Westbrook and built in 1929. Westbrook was one of Ole Hanson’s favorite architects. He designed the Beach Club, Historic City Hall at the top of Avenida Del Mar, and many other historic buildings in San Clemente.
The prominent street view of the building features two divided-light fixed windows set in arched openings. The left side, also highly visible from the street, is at least equally and probably more architecturally rich.
It is dominated by an oriel window with stucco grill below and red tile roof above. An exterior stairway with a solid stucco balustrade provides the finishing touch. Old Virgil really knew how to design a building.
The project proposes many significant alterations to the property, but the worst part of this project is “the wall.”
For the past 90 years, there has been a quaint garden adjacent to that left or north side of the historic building. It provides an open line of sight for northbound motorists and pedestrians to appreciate the beauty of this building.
The project proposes to install a 7-foot wall running just inboard of the sidewalk from the historic building to the driveway, then perpendicularly in from the sidewalk. This solid wall would have solid sliding wood gates.
The effect of this “Great Wall” would be catastrophic for the appearance of the historic building. There is no wall like the one proposed anywhere on North El Camino Real that we could find.
Please take a drive by 1531 N. ECR and check out this fine example of Ole Hanson Era architecture. If this project is approved, you will not get another chance. Let the planning commission know what you think.