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Landlord Slams Proposed Ban on 3-Story Buildings

The owner of a Camino Real building north of Del Mar is gathering support against a downtown height moratorium backed by San Clemente's Historical Society.

Jim Eckel is angry about a .

"We object to people who are non-elected and who are self-appointed saviors of the soul of San Clemente [trying] to take away other people's property rights because it doesn't look quaint," Eckel said. "I'm just taken aback by the chutzpah."

Eckel owns a building north of Olen Properties' controversial development project near the historic San Clemente City building.

So far, Eckel said, he has gathered support from a dozen other downtown property owners who represent about 20 properties. Last month, they formed the Commercial Property Owners Association of San Clemente to fight the height moratorium idea making its way through the city's general plan update, which will set the course of zoning and development for the next decade.

Eckel said he's started to collect a database of about 150 downtown property owners, about 60 percent of whom live in San Clemente. He's hoping to enlist more support from them.

As he sees it, the city already has a rigorous two-year permitting process for every new addition.

"We have to go through one of the longest gauntlets of approval processes in south Orange County," Eckel said.

The campaign started in response to the , which would be a mixed-use, three-story project housing retail on the first floor and living space above.

Referring to a survey of residents, President Georgette Korsen said Olen's plan would ruin downtown's character.

“When such an overwhelming majority of residents assign ‘highest priority to preserving the unique village characterof San Clemente, it wouldn’t seem that they’re looking to forever alter the heart of the downtown district by implementing three-story zoning,” Korsen said in a society statement.

Olen architects have pointed out that the most recent version of the plan sets back the third story and opens up courtyard space next to the old city building. They assert that would negate the Historical Society's concerns about dwarfing the historic structure.

Meanwhile, Eckel urged people "who believe in property rights" to come to the Aug. 29 Planning Commission meeting as a counter-protest against Historical Society members who plan to show up in red to support the moratorium.

The commission meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Council Chambers, 100 Avenida Presidio.

Tom Barnes August 24, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Interesting. This is now a property rights issue. How about the old adage: "your freedom to swing your arm ends where the other man's nose begins." The 3-story Olen building is a big swing of the arm hitting the "Spanish Village by the Sea" right in the nose. Once the first 3-story gets in and sets the precedent the others that follow will block the air, sun, and sky from view in the downtown T-zone. Is this what we want for San Clemente—a Huntington Beach South?
JENIFER MASSEY August 24, 2012 at 05:22 PM
I sold real estate for 22 years and half of my buyers bought in San Clemente. Why ? All I did was drive them down Avenida Del Mar to the Pier. I didn't say a word. Compared to all the surrounding towns with no village core or overbuilt ones San Clemente sold itself. They all fell in love with San Clemente's magical charm. Let's not let the profits of a few destroy the enjoyment of the many who are our citizens and visitors.
George Proctor August 24, 2012 at 11:41 PM
As a Harvard trained Urban Designer, licensed Architect and Professor of Architecture, I have looked at this project out of professional curiosity. For context, I am not a fan of homogeneity and the imposition of style - a very poor substitute for design- and I also find delight in San Clemente's heterogeneous design character. However, I also appreciate that property owners desire greater completion of the village-like character in the old downtown. It strikes me, as a credentialed professional, that this proposal should satisfy anyone truly wishing to see the Spanish Village idea upheld. The project  has been designed well within the Ole Hanson vision, INCLUDING the proposed HEIGHT. The caricature offered by those opposed to the project suggests the negative image of a 3 story big-box, very much at odds with the designed building profile -  which  steps down the hill from Avenida de la Estrella in the delightful tradition of a white-stucco-red-tiled mediterrnean structure. If anything the community should be thrilled that a portion of the 'Village-by-the-sea" might finally be implemented as intended. More projects like this are what it will take  to fill in the 'missing teeth' on El Camino Real, fulfill Ole's vision, and add vitality to the life of downtown. 
David Koch August 24, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Evidently Tom and Jenifer don't own property on Del Mar. San Clemente already has 3 story buildings and the Olen development is a marked improvement over the existing building (that looks like a 'nose). Shouldn't San Clemente property owners and residents be looking toward the future vs.trying to preserve a 60's vintage downtown? David Koch
Tom Barnes August 25, 2012 at 05:15 AM
Mr. Koch, 1. If I owned property on Del Mar I would not want it diminished by 3-story buildings. 2. I do not accept the proposition that the only way the Olen building can be improved is by making it 3-stories. How about improving a 2-story structure? 3. Those who do not like "vintage San Clemente" could move to non-vintage Huntington Beach. 4. All of this reminds me of the Vietnam War dictum that "we had to destroy the village in order to save it." We now argue that we have to destroy our Spanish Village by the Sea" by building 3-story buildings in order to save it. 5. The issue is not so much about the Olen building as it is what will follow.
Sam August 30, 2012 at 06:04 PM
In what unreal universe does a 3 story building diminish the aesthetics as seen by naysayers to this proposal? Check the Internet and you'll see that 3 story buildings are commonplace in many, if not most, Spanish Villages in the USA and in of all places, Spain!
Raad Ghantous September 02, 2012 at 06:43 PM
This discussion is right on schedule and has been experienced by a number of communities up and down the coast with unique character and historic downtowns or more accurately here village character and center. Often this community based discussion is triggered by a General Plan update or such exercise so for any opposing this current and timely free speech and democratic discourse and discussion I suggest they might want to allow for this most basic of American patriotic pillars to take place and avoid the name calling and mud slinging. There is an old saying that states "Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones". Lets just say that it is in the best interest of the community and not just for those few who may stand to benefit financially that San Clemente be given a chance to honestly and openly define its future course. If the dirt and the mud slinging and slandering intensifies one thing is for sure....ALL SIDES will be marked and mired by the ugliness to follow and the effect of that will last a lot longer than the issue at hand being debated.
Robert Fitzpatrick November 16, 2012 at 07:19 PM
What I see here is a serious over reach of local government. They tax, license fee this, license fee that, occupancy permit and countless other ways to tax the local merchant. Try opening a store and see the hell San Clemente will put you through in order to open your doors to just offer your service and make a living. Did everyone lose sight that these city employees are public servants? That means, we pay them and they work for us. When the servant and employee starts acting like the boss... It's time for a change don't you think?

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