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STEVE KNOBLOCK, San Clemente Councilmember

It’s campaign season, with all that it entails. I had to chuckle at Jim Smith’s letter stating that we need to be protected from future “Knoblocks” because of open space issues 15 years ago. 

By way of background, 15 years ago, Pacific Golf Course (now Bella Collina San Clemente) asked to convert nine holes for senior and single-family units. They offered a $20 million incentive fee, funds needed to build the Vista Hermosa Sports Park/San Clemente Aquatics Center, so taxes on our citizens to build it would not need to be raised.

The proposal was too large and was not approved. Pacific Golf came back with a modified proposal, reducing the development footprint by 13 acres and reducing the housing by around 100 units. 

It was a difficult call, with lots of good people on both sides. Ultimately, the majority of the council voted to approve. A referendum by the opponents prevailed, which halted the project.  The referendum process is to be applauded as the essence of true democracy and citizen participation.

To fund the Sports Park, the city subsequently sold city-owned open space, for $18 million to Target. Many of the same people also opposed the Target sale. The funds from the sale of open space land to Target resulted in the construction of the Sports/Aquatics facility for San Clemente’s growing youth population.

It substantially increased the sales-tax revenue and added to our roster of amenities, a conveniently located major retailer. The sports park is now one of the premier recreational gems in our beautiful Village by the Sea.

Tough decisions to maintain our public safety and quality of life are not always supported by everyone and can be unpopular with many. Hyperbole about “bulldozing” open space is not anyone’s goal.

My goal is to focus on the future by getting more sand on our eroding beaches and provide unlimited fresh water supply to our residents through the desalination plant proposed at Doheny Beach. 

I applaud the 11 other San Clemente residents who have stepped forward as candidates to help lead our wonderful town.

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