Area residents continue to push for improvements, attract business
By Eric Heinz
Although the North Beach area has been a location of some controversy regarding development and economic improvement in the past few years, some new projects are coming to fruition.
What makes development take longer in the area, from North El Camino Real to the beach and connecting with the Pacific Coast Highway, is most of North Beach falls within the California Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction, meaning most projects must be approved by it.
Recent projects that didn’t get the stamp of approval include the parking lot that was debated for about two years on the corner of PCH and El Camino Real. Another project that did not get approved by city government was a roundabout with low-water landscaping, planned for the intersection at Boca De La Playa and Calle Las Bolas.
Rey Harju, president of the nonprofit North Beach Community Association, formed four years ago, said there is potential for the North Beach area, but some things need to improve, such as infrastructure and accessibility to businesses. Sidewalks leading into the area also have been lacking either due to a lack of obtaining easements or city approval.
As far as attracting new business to the area, a couple commercial locations have been filled in the last year or two, such as La Colombiana restaurant, Ellie’s Table and Album Surfboards.
“There’s just a lot of gaps in North Beach,” Harju said. “We just want to encourage making this place a better place. A few of these locations have been vacant for three years.”
Harju has attended recent City Council meetings speaking on behalf of improvements residents would like to see, such as more parking and infrastructure improvements.
Some of the more ambitious projects will take time, Harju said. Because the Miramar Theater is a private location, there’s little the association can do.
However, Amber Gregg, associate city planner, said there have been recent discussions regarding the theater.
“We meet with people all the time and then nothing happens and we have no formal application, but we’re excited when there’s discussion on it,” Gregg said.
The Ole Hanson Beach Club improvements, which have taken place over four years, are expected to finish in spring 2016. Another project approved by the CCC is the PCH beach trail for biking and pedestrians. This would allow people to seamlessly travel from the middle of San Clemente at Calle Estacion to San Juan Capistrano (with a couple interruptions between) with a barrier between traffic and pedestrians.
A few residents in the area said they would like to have the area designated as an historic district in order to boost tourism to the area.
City Planner Jim Pechous said more projects have been discussed recently regarding North Beach.
“With Marblehead developing out, I think there’s a lot more focus on some things down there,” Pechous said, referring to the ongoing development of the Outlets at San Clemente and adjacent real estate projects. “Once one good thing happens, a few more things will fall in place. What we’re looking for is something that can be an amenity to the city.”
“We’ve definitely had a lot more interest in North Beach and the hole in the ground,” Gregg said. “We did a pre-application on the gallery site (on the corner of Avenida Pico and El Camino Real). There was one that went through preliminary process. They’re going back to the drawing board right now and proposing a one- to two-story development.”
A few more refurbishment plans have been in the works, but they are still in the preliminary phases, Gregg said.