Residents of the Capistrano Shores Mobile Home Park are fighting to keep from getting kicked off their plot on Pacific Coast Highway in North Beach.
As the city embarks on its 10-year planning process, city leaders are considering a Costal Element that calls for the park to be acquired for public open space. While city staffers and appointees have stated unequivocally that they have no plans to acquire and clear the park, home to 90 households, its residents think the proposed planning documents say otherwise.
In the 1990s the city changed the zoning from light residential to open space, said San Clemente Associate Planner Jeff Hook. But that doesn't mean the park can't stay where it is indefinitely.
"Under certain instances, it can continue to exist," Hook said. "But there are limitations to what you can change. It's a legal non-conforming use. There is no real program for changing anything we've done in the past."
What pushed the Capo Shores board into action was a provision in the draft general plan -- the package of zoning and land use direction that will govern development in the city for at least the next decade -- that called for the eventual disbanding of the park and converting it to public recreational use.
One of the measures in the Coastal Element of the general plan called for the city to "strictly enforce the city's municipal code regarding non-conforming land uses on the existing, non-conforming Capistrano Shores Mobile Home Park. Investigate alternatives and feasibility for acquiring said land for public ownership."
Attorneys Sue Loftin and Sherman Stacey, attorneys for the park’s residents, have written letters to the San Clemente Planning Commission calling for the removal of "all language, directly or indirectly, stating or suggesting that the park be eliminated and revert to the city be stricken from the General Plan and Coastal Development Plan," as Loftin's letter states.
San Clemente Planning Commission Chairman Lew Avera in a meeting last year also reiterated the city's position that it didn't want to take Capo Shores' land.
The attorneys also seem to be using the general plan process to jockey for a rezoning of their land back to residential, which would make the property more valuable.
Loftin states in her December letter that "serious questions arise" as to whether the 1995 downzoning was legal or not. She said the move was done without council justifying the policy and without notifying the residents of Capo Shores.
Loftin said the board declined to comment for this story, pending what they hear back from the city.
Even if the city wanted to rezone the park, Hook said officials would run into problems: Since 2005, any reclassification of open space-designated land would require approval by voters, he said.