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By Eric Heinz
San Clemente has a homeless problem—on all fronts.
From the discourse at city council meetings to the litany of Facebook contingents, the city at-large isn’t getting any closer to finding a solution, and Tuesday provided an unbridled display of what that means.
As the city is now being sued by Orange County Catholic and its cohorts that wield the sword of the ACLU, San Clemente is scrambling to find a solution to its most visible blemish at North Beach.
In 2017, residents in San Clemente asked the city government not to place a homeless shelter, basically, anywhere. Now they’re asking for an emergency temporary shelter to address the humanity that’s spilling over in North Beach.
The Tuesday, March 19, San Clemente City Council meeting saw a deluge of anger that had been culminating since the Ninth Circuit Court ruled cities cannot remove people from camping in public places if they do not have a place for them to go.
Gene James, who ran for city council in 2018, had a few ideas of his own to address the issues.
“I’m confident…we can overcome the nonsense of the ACLU and a Clinton-appointed judge (Judge David O. Carter, who is presiding over the case),” James said. “Kudos for removing the vegetation at North Beach (on Tuesday) and the maintenance on the hill leading up to Ole Hanson (Beach Club) yesterday. As I sit here and watch, we have five or six city workers waiting to do (work) on the clock as we handle these reprobates with kid gloves, to be honest with you.”
James said he wants to look at placing decomposed granite on the embankment to OHBC; otherwise, “It’s just a motel for them.”
One woman was removed by Mayor Steve Swartz after she led a verbal attack against a woman from Capistrano Beach. The woman speaking had just introduced herself before there was a profane outburst from the back of the Council Chambers.
David Thompson said that he’s almost been run over by drivers who try to photograph and video the homeless people at North Beach.
“I’ve seen the after-effects—people who said they’ve been firebombed…stalked, and harassed because they’re homeless,” Thompson said. “I’m not for the enabling of homeless; I know it’s a dance working through this whole thing.”
Thompson said he was sympathetic, but that the vigilantism and stalking are going too far.
“It’s not okay to attack people. To me, that’s crossing the line,” he said.
San Clemente City Attorney Scott Smith said that the council decided to look for areas where temporary shelters of a number of beds can be placed. People who spoke also said they wanted to see which homeless people the city should be responsible for due to their local ties and willingness to accept services.
“We will look for an immediate interim shelter and follow up with the sheriffs,” Ferguson told the San Clemente Times following the meeting. The locations the city seeks were not disclosed during the meeting.