By Eric Heinz

Gabriel Perez started as the new planner of the city of San Clemente on Oct. 22, coming from the city of La Quinta.

Perez said he wants to make the planning process at the city more accessible, maintain historic districts and to modernize some of the amenities it provides.
“I actually grew up as a child in Escondido, so going to the beach I would go to either Oceanside or San Clemente, and when I visited San Clemente I always thought it was a well-managed and beautiful city, and I thought (working here) would be a good career choice,” Perez said.

Perez has been working in civil planning since 2004 and obtained his bachelor’s degree in urban planning from UCLA. He moved his way up to senior planner before moving to Riverside as a principal planner.

One criticism of the planning department from the public recently is the lengthy time it takes to get permits for projects. With the city’s massive General Plan and historic overlays, depending on where a project is located and what it seeks to achieve can take considerable time. Perez said he has been made aware of these concerns and hopes to address them immediately.

“I think that’s one of the reasons the community development director brought me on board; I have experience with…trying to improve the development review process for businesses and the development community and residents,” Perez said. “My prior experience had a lot of focus on metrics and making sure the review process was timely. So what I’m doing now is meeting with representatives from the development community and businesses to get their perspective of what they think is going right with the process at the city of San Clemente and what we can improve on.”

An online permitting application process is not yet in place, but Perez said getting one up and operational is one of his goals.

Gabriel Perez started as the city’s new planner on Oct. 22. With the tight requirements the city has on its building permits and specifics, his position has significant responsibility in addressing the city’s needs. Photo: Eric Heinz
Gabriel Perez started as the city’s new planner on Oct. 22. With the tight requirements the city has on its building permits and specifics, his position has significant responsibility in addressing the city’s needs. Photo: Eric Heinz

“I definitely see some areas where we can use more state-of-the-art technology and accept plans online instead of having people come to City Hall,” Perez said. “(We want to) really create a more customer-centric experience for a lot of our residents and the development community.”

Perez said that he’s spoken with the representatives of the Planning Commission, the governing board of the department he’ll oversee. Planning Commission is the only municipal body other than city council that has outright authority; however, its decisions can be appealed to and overturned by the city council.

“I’ve been able to meet with planning commissioners individually, just to kind of get their perspectives. Some of them haven’t been here a long time, while others have been here a while,” Perez said. “They definitely have a good sense of the historical perspective, and I’ve been able to hear about what’s important to the community, and those things matter at the end of the day and are sometimes part of the decision-making process.”

Perez said he sees a lot of value in the historic districts and promoting them.

“Sometimes homeowners don’t understand the historic value of their property, and we want to work with the Historical Society to be able to tell the story of San Clemente better,” he said.

Perez said the historic aspects of San Clemente have helped maintain its commercial districts and utilized the city’s scarce remaining undeveloped land (that isn’t protected as open space).

The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 16.

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comments (2)

  • my units have more parking than the casino and miramar put together and im told i don’t have enough for my four plex why ..
    , Our city’s historic ASSets bring attractive nuisance and blight to our community and need to be rethought out
    be careful the special interests in san clemente will rob the citizens blind as they’ve done in the past
    looking forward , residents first
    ::::::::( -:P

  • Let’s hope Mr. Perez will be the change this city needs to catch up with all the other coastal cities in Orange County. Dana Point is a perfect example of how another coastal town grew up and left us in the dust.

    After 43 years in this City I am ready for us to become the great beach town that Ole Hanson dreamed of. We have tried pathetic enhancements like cheap paver sidewalks on Del Mar and sad little trees along El Camino Real that after 15 years are still sad little trees.

    There is no vision, no development plan, no concept of how we move from an ugly second class beach town to a truly first class California residential and resort city.

    If that offends you, drive up the coast, through Dana Point, South Laguna, Laguna, Corona Del Mar and Newport Beach. See how beach communities can be attractive places for the residents and tourists. With a little vision, some creativity and talented leaders, these cities have become world class places to live, world class cities to visit and spend money.

    Our claim to fame is a Development Department that is obstinate, over bearing, rude and arrogant enough to tell architects and homeowners how their project should be designed. A Building Department that seems more dedicated to making development a trial than an achievement.

    When I wanted to rebuild on my property I struggled to find a decent general contractor who would take a project in this city. Builders, engineers and developers generally avoid San Clemente like the plague.

    We need City employees who are really talented and creative. We should not be a refuge for planners, engineers and other building department people who would not be welcome in more progressive cities. We need to find the best available city employees in all the City departments, whether Building, Safety, City Hall or any other City services.

    Mr. Perez, are you part of a new generation of City leaders who are capable of bringing new ideas, new energy and talent to take us on a new journey of excellence?

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