LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Don't Let Tall Buildings Overwhelm Downtown

San Clemente resident Larry Culbertson calls on the City Council to prohibit new three story development in the Avenida Del Mar/Camino Real area.

A controversy is unfolding in San Clemente that could become as big as North Beach, Ralph’s, and Marblehead signage. I hope our City leaders listen to the people this time.

The dispute centers on the historic heart of San Clemente, Avenida Del Mar. At question is whether we should allow the predominately one-story street scene to be replaced with far more intensive new development comprised of three-story buildings.

Related: Plans for Camino Real Project Draw Protest from Historical Society

Related: Committee: No Downtown Buildings Higher than 2 Stories

In preparation for the State required rewrite of our General Plan, city officials commissioned a consultant to conduct a study to find out what residents wanted for our City. After an enormous outreach to the community to collect opinions, “Vision San Clemente 2009,” was produced.

Eighty-six percent of residents responded that their “highest priority” was to preserve the “unique village character” of San Clemente. Almost 100 percent wanted to preserve the “small-town atmosphere and unique village character” of San Clemente.

Our City Council appointed a volunteer citizen committee to advise and oversee the writing of the new General Plan. That committee has been painstakingly drafting the concepts and wording of each part of that plan for the past 25 months.

Last month they tackled the Land Use section of the plan. The committee voted to incorporate language into the General Plan that would allow one or two stories on Avenida Del Mar, but not three stories.

The concept of limiting building height on Avenida Del Mar was discussed at the March 7 and March 21 Planning Commission Meetings.

But it was decided that the subject was too complicated and it would be better to defer a vote on the subject until a meeting or workshop devoted to just that subject could be held. Four of the six Commissioners present indicated that they leaned toward allowing three stories.

The Vision San Clemente 2009 survey indicated that the one story look of Avenida Del Mar was an important part of the “village character” that exists there. I surveyed the 100 and 200 blocks of Avenida Del Mar, and found there are 54 commercial properties.

Two lots are vacant.

Of the 52 commercial buildings, 33 are one-story, 16 are two-story, and only three are three-story. That calculates to 63 percent of the commercial buildings on Del Mar are one story! Ninety-four percent are either one or two stories. Less
than 6 percent of the buildings are three stories.

How can anyone possibly reason that replacing any of the 49 one and two story commercial buildings on Avenida Del Mar with a three story behemoth will enhance or preserve our “small town atmosphere and unique village character?"

We must convince our Planning Commission and City Council to not allow a three story takeover of Avenida Del Mar.

Lindsey Hanson April 10, 2012 at 08:58 PM
That building would be WONDERFUL with just two stories. I hop they can make it happen. What is there now is such and eyesore. This could really spruce up the place.
george gregory April 11, 2012 at 05:07 PM
better upper story set backs would also help creating a vee or a valley instead of a concrete canyon
Tom Barnes April 11, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Let's see 94% of the buildings in the T-zone are one and two story and three buildings are three story. An interesting question is when did the three buildings that are non-conforming or three story go in. Is it after the 2006 change to allow three stories or were those structures built in the distant past? The key issue of the proposed Olen building is precedent. Does San Clemente want to set a precedent by allowing three story buildings in the modern era? The City Staff, DBA & Chamber of Commerce does but what about the rest of the city? Just where does the usually "silent majority" stand on this issue. It is time for a public debate on this issue.
J Tarr February 11, 2013 at 11:18 PM
I think it's a shame that the Olen 3-story redevelopment fell through...now we are stuck with an eyesore, which certainly does not add charm to the del mar area. Property values and business revenues would have soared, along with city tax revenue - all of which is needed. City of San Clemente needs to accommodate growth or it will become even more run-down and crime will increase. Wake up!


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