As the San Clemente Planning Commission continues to refine the massive policy package that will govern development in San Clemente over the next decade, the most contentious point continues to be a proposed ban on three-story buildings downtown.
Some have accused the pro-ban side, led by the San Clemente Historical Society, of advocating an overly blunt instrument to keep the city's vital village character and human scale.
"We have been working to preserve more or less what is already here while offering owners certain options, as well as working to promote architectural interest and beauty," Planning Commissioner Jim Ruehlin said at the commission's fourth meeting on the subject Tuesday night.
The commissioners, who have been reviewing the new general plan before sending it to the City Council for final approval, decided to oppose a ban on three-story buildings.
General Plan Advisory Commissioner Richard Boyer said although a two-story limit may not be the most elegant policy, many citizens don't trust city government to preserve the downtown's character.
"It's no secret San Clemente hasn't had the most responsive government," Boyer said. "Two stories is probably not good public policy, just as a three-story limit isn't."
The solution? Form-based codes, say some on the Planning Commission and City Council candidates Jim Dahl and Mike Mortenson. These zoning rules are developed in a process of public design charettes and architectural consultation that takes into consideration the full streetscape, as in a building's relationship with other buildings and with elements of the roadway and public spaces.
Proponents look at this type of zoning as a more surgical approach to maintaining both San Clemente's village character and property rights of
But a large swath of the community remains skeptical. Alan Korsen of the San Clemente Historical Society, along with its new president said the current general plan draft wouldn't protect historic downtown San Clemente.
"I have yet to see who would determine who gets to put up three stories [and who doesn't]," Korsen said. "There's nothing here that's going to help retain the small-town feel."
Council candidates Bob Baker and Chris Hamm have echoed comments by members of the historical society, accusing other candidates of kowtowing to business interests.