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Featured Image: Pictured is a rendering of The Lodge at San Clemente, the 130-bed hotel that’s planned to be constructed adjacent to the Outlets at San Clemente. Rendering: Courtesy of City of San Clemente

By C. Jayden Smith

Development within San Clemente has been a polarizing subject for years, and as the San Clemente City Council has recently found, the topic will remain so.

At the tail end of the council’s previous meeting on March 1, Mayor Gene James mentioned several comments that councilmembers had received from concerned citizens through email, regarding a planned hotel, The Lodge, at the Outlets at San Clemente.

The flood of public opinion came after the San Clemente Times published an article discussing the various construction projects for businesses around town, according to James. Particularly, people were worried about a proposed amendment that would allow the hotel planners to increase its maximum height limit under the city’s General Plan from 45 feet to 62 feet, allowing for a rooftop bar and venue on top of the fourth floor.

“That has created a wildfire of calls to me and emails, some of them council has received, many (were) just sent to me,” James said, adding: “It doesn’t appear there’s been any movement by (Steve Craig, owner of Craig Realty Group) on that hotel for two years.”

He then asked for staff to communicate with the Craig Realty Group, owners of the property and the Outlets, to learn whether the intent is present to increase the hotel’s height or whether there will be any future movement.

Craig Realty, the Newport Beach-based real estate development company, had filed its application to add the rooftop deck in late 2019.

City Manager Erik Sund said it was appropriate for them to reach out and confirm the status, as his office had also received calls and emails on the matter.

Some residents within the Marblehead neighborhood, located across Interstate 5 on Avenida Vista Hermosa, have expressed a significant amount of concern, which James touched on in an email to the SC Times on March 4.

“There is nothing more disconcerting than fear of the unknown, and I hope Craig Realty can have an understanding of the angst this project has created,” he wrote. He added that “our residents, particularly those in Marblehead, deserve a response on what are the plans for the hotel.”

As of this posting, Craig Realty had not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Teresa Hess has lived on Avenida Platanar within the community since 2018, after living in Mission Viejo for 20 years and saving with her husband to find their dream home with an ocean view in what she knew as a “sleepy beach town.”

They knew what they were getting with the Outlets already established nearby, but now, like others in her community, Hess is concerned about how the increased height would block their ocean view and decrease their property value. She added in an interview with SC Times that the difference in price between a house in Marblehead with and without an ocean view was around $200,000.

“The value of that ocean view is just exponential,” Hess said. “And in addition to the height, we’re horribly concerned about the rooftop bar that they’re proposing.”

She recalled how she had almost been hit by cars near the shopping center on multiple occasions, especially with the South OC Cars and Coffee events and a perceived lack of sheriff’s deputies patrolling the area.

Now, with the popularity of Chick-fil-A and the proposed rooftop bar, Hess is additionally unsettled by the increased noise and danger that could harm the Marblehead community.

“We’re worried that other people in the area don’t realize that (the decrease in home values is) going to happen, because there’s other people in my neighborhood who will literally lose their entire ocean view,” she said. “I think they just don’t know what’s going on.”

Through conversations with neighbors, Hess learned none of them knew about the amendment and were happy about it, which would continue the trend of conflict between Marblehead and the Outlets.

She also said yes in response to a question on whether residents would show up to a public hearing on the matter.

Another Marblehead resident, Denise Zivolich, voiced her opinion in an email to the council that she shared with SC Times. She thanked the council and the Planning Commission for their previous work in denying a proposal to put up lights on the outside of the shopping center that would face the freeway and her neighborhood, and she asked for their continued help.

Like Hess, Zivolich wrote that the hotel’s current four-floor proposal would “greatly impede” the view of the ocean and of Catalina Island from her home, and that an extra floor and a rooftop bar would certainly block it.

“While Mr. Craig’s argument is that it is simply a rooftop deck, it will be covered for guests’ comfort, and that, in essence, creates the same view impediment as an entire floor with a roof,” the email read. “In addition, the noise of entertainment and voices, and necessary outdoor lighting, will make its way across the freeway into our homes at all hours of the night.”

She added that the nonstop noise created by the rooftop entertainment would be “unacceptable,” said the bar should be enclosed, and made two more smaller requests.

“While we understand many unaffected San Clemente residents might roll their eyes at my request, please keep in mind that my husband and I, as well as many residents here, worked very hard in order to retire in San Clemente and purchase a home with a view,” Zivolich said. “We all paid dearly for these views and were told there is a guaranteed view corridor down Avenida Vista Hermosa.” 

Beverly Wiesen, who also lives on Avenida Platanar and moved to Marblehead after living in Huntington Beach, also emailed the SC Times.

She wrote that she had “absolute distrust” of Craig Realty and its officials, also expressing  concern about the possibility of nightly noise floating from the bar and into her neighborhood.

“A five-story building will absolutely ruin our skyline and become a monstrosity that will ruin many views,” the email read. “Mine will actually be fine, but many on (Calle) Cidra and (Avenida Oliva, the street closest to the Outlets) will lose their views completely.”

“Our town needs a nice hotel, for sure, but there is a classy way to accomplish this and another way that will absolutely ruin the charm of this seaside community,” the email added.

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.

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