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By Eric Heinz 

According to documents obtained by the San Clemente Times, property owners in the Rancho San Clemente Community Association have been notified that if they don’t address the debris left from what appear to be homeless encampments, they must clear the refuse within a certain amount of time or face a $100 fine.

Warnings like these are given to people following a complaint submitted to the city’s Code Compliance Services. The city’s policy is to give people “correction notices” following the complaint.

The documents obtained showed photos of tents and what appear to be encampments. Similar human activity has been found in various areas around San Clemente, such as the encampment on Avenida Pico and Calle Del Cerro and Calle Frontera that was removed a few months ago.

“What we do is we respond to complaints from the public and monitor areas that are brought to our attention, and we’ve had responses to illegal camping on undeveloped land,” said Cecilia Gallardo-Daily, the city’s community development director. “We identify a violation and notify the owner of the violation and provide them an opportunity to make any corrections to come into compliance.”

Gallardo-Daily said regular monitoring of the open space by the owners is the way they should check for illegal camping or illegal dumping.

“We have noticed an increase in the number of complaints in the last couple of months,” she said. “I think it could be a combination of more people camping in the areas and the visibility of the campers. If they’re hidden from view, we’re not going to get the complaints maybe; however, the camping that we have identified has been pretty apparent to the people who are filing the complaint. And they seem to be identifying it in places where we haven’t had complaints before.”

Gallardo-Daily said people can ask for an extension of the time they need in order to have the debris removed if there is an exceptional amount.
Not all complaints warrant a correction notice, she said.

“We don’t want to issue citations; we want the violation to be corrected,” Gallardo-Daily said.

Prosecuting someone who is accused of trespassing on commercial property in the provisions of the California Penal Code and the District Attorney has been allowed, but prior to an ordinance Council will consider on Oct. 18, the city did not have the authority to enforce them through municipal code citations, according to the city.

“Owners can set reasonable parameters for the use of their business properties,” the city’s agenda report stated. “The proposed ordinance creates an additional tool to help business owners remove unwanted trespassers from their property and the associated disturbance to the business and community.”

The agenda report also stated anyone found guilty of this would be assessed a misdemeanor, and in certain circumstances, if the alleged offender continues to trespass, they can be arrested.

The ordinance, if it is adopted through a second reading at the Oct. 18 City Council meeting, will take effect 30 days from its adoption. If you notice illegal activity on your property, the city asks you to call Code Compliance Services at 949.366.4705 or Orange County Sheriff’s Department at 949.770.6011 for non-emergencies or the San Clemente office at 949.361.8224.

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