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Lee Strother, San Clemente
The San Clemente Times Oct. 26-Nov. 1 edition reminded me of a proposal made to the city 30 years ago to turn the Toledo Canyon bluff top into a park. The city opted not to because of costs. But, it agreed that the site “would provide an excellent bluff-top park” and “would also preserve a small slice of our vanishing bluff for the public to access and view the ocean.” The city’s cost concerns were motivated by the owners’ claims that the lots were valuable for building expensive houses on the bluff. Thirty years later, no houses have been built on this bluff for the obvious reason that it’s a landslide area that already has destroyed all of the houses that had been built on the lots that remain undeveloped. In 1998, an adjacent landslide damaged several existing houses, necessitating the construction of a large, unsightly retaining wall. The owners of the bluff lots still claim that they are valuable for development purposes. But, the California Coastal Commission, in an extensive record, has rebuffed all efforts to develop those lots, consistently stating that the landslide issues make it unclear whether development can ever be found consistent with the Coastal Act.
The SC Times article in the edition on Page 3 about the St. Andrew’s parking lot reminds us that “(T)here are many landslide areas throughout San Clemente.” That also should remind us of the folly of any plan to build on the even more hazardous Toledo Bluff. And the SC Times article on Page 5 on the Beaches, Parks and Recreation draft master plan confirms that we were right 30 years ago. A recent survey shows that the public still wants “new parks in certain open spaces and connecting parks with existing trail systems.” I can’t think of any open space in all of San Clemente that better fits this description—an open bluff for public viewing of the ocean, the islands and the coastline from Dana Point down past Cotton’s Point—sitting above and connected by footpaths to the beach trail.