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By Cari Hachmann

Advocates of “Save Trafalgar Canyon” are saying the city of San Clemente has mistakenly approved plans for a near 9,000 square-foot residential property, complete with a house, deck and garage, to be built in Trafalgar Canyon.

“For decades, applications to develop Trafalgar Canyon have been denied by the city of San Clemente,” a letter written by San Clemente resident Steffen Mckernan stated. “The canyon has been protected since before the Coastal Act made building in all coastal canyons illegal in the 1970s.”

According to Save Trafalgar Canyon’s website, the project was approved by the city and on May 31, the Coastal Commission has recommended an “Approval with Conditions” for the proposed development on a vacant coastal canyon lot at 217 Vista Marina.

On behalf of their clients, Friends of Trafalgar Canyon, a Hermosa Beach-based environmental and land-use law firm, wrote a letter on May 20 to the Coastal Commission outlining its objections to the project and recommending its denial.

Attorneys at Chatten-Brown, Carstens & Minteer attest that the proposed development would exist in an area designated in the certified San Clemente Land Use Plan as coastal canyon and also contains an environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA). Residential development in ESHA or ESHA buffer areas is prohibited by the Coastal Act, the law firm stated.

“The project is proposed in a coastal canyon, where the City of San Clemente’s Municipal Code prohibits encroachment by new development,” the attorneys’ letter stated.

California’s Coastal Act was enacted in 1976 to enhance public access to the shoreline, protect coastal natural resources and balance development and conservation.

According to the Coastal Commission’s May 31 staff report, the Vista Marina project proposed by applicant Graham Property Management includes construction of a new three-story, 25-foot tall above natural grade, 5,165 square-foot, single-family residence with a 1,239 square-foot garage, 1,931 square-foot terrace/deck area, grading stabilization and a retaining wall surrounding the development.

The Coastal Commission is expected to vote on the project’s application on Friday, June 14 in San Diego. Advocates are asking for any concerned residents to attend the meeting. For more information, visit Read the full Coastal Commission’s May 31 staff report online.

Trafalgar Canyon is one of seven coastal canyons in San Clemente identified as containing environmentally sensitive habitat.
Trafalgar Canyon is one of seven coastal canyons in
San Clemente identified as containing environmentally sensitive habitat.

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